We have reached the new millennium in our look back at the history of Welsh National Opera and it marked some big moments for the Company…
We opened our first Season of the 2000s at New Theatre in Cardiff with a new production of Così fan tutte on 11 February 2000. The Season also included The Barber of Seville (which toted a certain Aidan Lang as revival producer) and Turandot.
Celebrated director and designer teams were prolific at WNO during this period, including Richard Jones and John McFarlane; Patrice Caurier & Moshe Leiser, alongside Christian Fenouillat as designer; Katie Mitchell and designer Vicki Mortimer’s productions included the world premiere of James Macmillan’s The Sacrifice in Autumn 2007, which he conducted. There were also a few David Pountney productions during the decade such as The Flying Dutchman starring Bryn Terfel (Spring 2006), which has the best cover artist story: Bryn being announced as cover for a performance in Bristol – it took the audience 10 minutes to calm down!
Our final Season at Cardiff’s New Theatre, Autumn 2004, ended with David Pountney’s new production of Chorus! – perfect to spotlight our celebrated Chorus before we moved into our brand new, permanent home, Wales Millennium Centre in November. The move happened under the leadership of Anthony Freud (1994 – 2005), with John Fisher taking the helm soon after (2006 – 2010); Peter Bellingham (2002 – 2015) working alongside them both. On 18 February 2005 we opened at the Centre with La traviata conducted by Carlo Rizzi; followed by our acclaimed new production of Wozzeck by Richard Jones set in a bean canning factory.
The decade had started with our current Conductor Laureate (Carlo), at the end of his first period as Music Director (1992 – 2001), to then return (2004 – 2008) in time for the move. Tugan Sokkhiev filled in the time between, with Lothar Koenigs taking over in 2009. At the time Maestro Rizzi commented that: ‘…He (Freud) has done so much to secure a proper home for Welsh National Opera where we are now able to mount operas that would have been impossible before…’
The new millennium saw more first time WNO appearances: including our inaugural season at Milton Keynes Theatre (March 2003); Edinburgh Festival Theatre (October 2005); and the London Coliseum (two nights of The Flying Dutchman in Spring 2006). Overseas visits included Portugal (November 2004) and four nights in March 2007 at Hong Kong’s Centre for the Performing Arts with Carlo conducting La bohème.
Other new beginnings included the establishment of WNO MAX in 2001, the original precursor to our current Programmes & Engagement department. By 2005 our Youth Opera was also in operation, performing the specially commissioned The Tailor’s Daughter in the Centre’s Weston Studio. 2007 saw our first, free, WNO’s Open House event, giving our audience and the local community a chance to see how an opera company works. The department’s successes also included the WNO commissioned Carbon 12: A Choral Symphony by Errollyn Wallen (Summer 2009), documenting the impact of coal mining on our home nation.
WNO’s work in the community continues to grow and forms an important part of the Company’s recent past, present and future.