Releasing 2117 / Hedd Wyn, a brand-new Welsh language opera

5 August 2022

Ellis Humphrey Evans has become the symbol of a generation lost during the First World War. A Welsh poet better known by his bardic name Hedd Wyn won the Bardic Chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod of Wales (Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru), weeks after his death during the Battle of Passchendaele. Inspired by the poet’s story and the 1992 film starring Welsh actor Huw Garmon, Welsh National Opera commissioned a brand-new opera to commemorate the poet’s centenary in 2017. 

The three-act, Welsh language work is the artistic brainchild of composer Stephen McNeff and Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals) and was originally commissioned for cinematic distribution and TV broadcast. The audio, which features WNO Orchestra, WNO’s award winning Youth Opera, Only Boys Aloud, and a roster of soloists, was recorded in 2017 with the composer conducting and has slept on a hard drive until now. 

Working with a Company I grew up with and watched since my earliest interest in opera began has been an ideal outcome, as has collaborating with such a range of unique and diverse creative talents and the cream of young Welsh singers.

Stephen McNeff, Composer

In August 2022, the CD was released on Tŷ Cerdd Records at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Tregaron, Ceredigion. The launch saw extracts from the opera being performed live by soprano Ellen Williams, baritone Dafydd Allen and pianist Rhiannon Pritchard on the Encore stage. Dafydd, who recently joined the Company as WNO Associate Artist, was involved in the initial recording as a chorus member while Rhiannon has been involved in the project from the beginning as repetiteur.

The opera is a retelling of Hedd Wyn’ story, set in the future on the 200th anniversary of the poet’s death.  Following a nuclear disaster at the Trawsfynydd power station, where Hedd Wyn lived, communities are displaced and an intense dose of radiation has blurred the distinction between past, present and future and the Welsh language faces extinction. The enthralling drama instils a dystopian future with Welsh mythology and features a verse by Hedd Wyn himself

It was an adventure and an education getting to work with Stephen McNeff on creating the libretto for 2117 / Hedd Wyn. Everyone involved in the piece was inspired to go a step further to create this unique record. It’s great to see it make the light of day at last.

Gruff Rhys, Librettist

The CD, 2117 / Hedd Wyn is now available to purchase on Tŷ Cerdd’s website and stream on all major platforms.