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Welsh National Opera may be based in Cardiff, but the Company has an impressive and increasing national and international profile. Birmingham has been considered our English home for many years. Originally performing at the Alexandra Theatre, with Boris Godunov in 1968, we moved to our current venue Birmingham Hippodrome in 1971 where we toured four operas in that first Season: The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, Aida and Lulu. Since then, we’ve visited most years (switching to Symphony Hall when the venue was closed for refurbishment) right up to the present day when we close our Spring tour there in May 2020.
In recent years, we have also performed Rhondda Rips It Up! and Don Pasquale at MAC, where we drew in a whole new audience to WNO, and we hope to welcome even more people in Summer 2020 when we take Mozart’s Così fan tutte to Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Beyond our on-stage activity, we have a Producer based in the city running community projects. We work with 320 school children and young people from Birmingham and Sandwell each week as well as delivering 12 Youth Opera Taster sessions in five primary schools to over 500 children last year. Our Youth Opera group, established in 2018, is currently working with composer Michael Betteridge to create their own mini opera which celebrates the diversity of families. They will perform this at the Legacy Centre in Newtown in July 2020.Young people from four secondary schools in the Black Country will watch a dress rehearsal of Carmen at Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff this term and in a programme of workshops will devise their own opera scenes in response to the themes and characters in the opera, culminating in a performance at the Black Country Museum.
Refugee families with young children attend weekly music making sessions at St Chad’s Sanctuary where they have fun playing musical games together and immersing themselves in a rich musical world brought to them by a team of opera singers and musicians. We have also been working with Mayfield Special School to devise a concert experience for young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, while our new office space at Touchbase Pears has led to a partnership with national charity Sense. This resulted in the launch of our first Birmingham Tonic Concert, welcoming people from local residential and care homes to an afternoon of opera classics and old-time favourites.
As part of our commitment to developing new talent, WNO Orchestra delivers side by side activity with students from Birmingham Conservatoire when the Company is in residence at the Hippodrome. Students receive coaching on style and technique from WNO musicians during sectionals and side by side rehearsals.
With so much going on, we’re sure to see some of you in Birmingham soon.