The O Word
Join journalist and opera enthusiast Gareth Jones as he explores the world of opera, both on stage and off. With guests ranging from internationally-renowned musicians to leading figures in arts, culture and beyond, Gareth tries to answer some of opera’s burning questions.
Episode One: What does it take to be an opera singer?
Gareth sits down with tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones to discover what it takes – physically, mentally and spiritually – to be an opera singer in 2020. At a time when many singers face isolation away from the stage, how important is it to stay positive and active? What methods can be used to protect and maintain a voice during lockdown?
Episode Two: Is there a future for opera?
Does opera have an image problem? Gareth looks to the future of opera with Aidan Lang (General Director, WNO) and James Clutton (Director, Opera Holland Park. Gareth is also joined by leading figures in youth opera; Dan Perkin and Sian Cameron, to discuss the intricacies of training opera’s next generation.
Episode Three: How do you write a new opera? – The Music
Gareth investigates how contemporary writers approach creating an opera from scratch. As opera is a medium known for reviving and reinventing established works, what are the essential components needed for a brand-new opera to be representative of today? Celebrated composer Will Todd explains his process and performs extracts from his new opera Migrations.
Episode Four: How do you write a new opera? – The Libretto
Gareth meets writers Shreya Sen-Handley, Edson Burton and Miles Chambers, to discover more about their unique approaches to writing a libretto for the first time. Acclaimed librettist Emma Jenkins, known for works such as In Parenthesis, also joins Gareth to discuss her writing process.
Episode Five: Is singing good for you?
Gareth talks to WNO producer Jennifer Hill about the formation of Welsh National Opera’s Cradle Choir, a project which brings together 96 primary school children and people living with dementia for a shared choral experience. He also its down with Celi Barberia from the Sing Up Foundation to discuss the wider implications and health benefits of singing. Can singing really improve your physical and mental health?
Episode Six: What does it take to be an opera singer?
Gareth returns to question ‘What does it take to be an opera singer?’, this time sitting down with Soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams. Together they discuss Mary Elizabeth’s career to date and consider what lies ahead for the opera world in challenging and uncertain times.
Episode Seven: Why do we need a critical voice?
Gareth invites leading arts critics and correspondents for a roundtable discussion about the importance of a critical voice in opera and live performance. Joining Gareth is The Telegraph’s Rupert
Christiansen; journalist and composer Steph Power; regional journalist and blogger Diane Parkes and BBC Radio 3's Nicola Heywood-Thomas.
Episode Eight: Why do we need conductors?
Gareth meets WNO Female Conductor in Residence Tianyi Lu to find out more about the role of a conductor in opera. Gareth also sits down with British conductor Alexander Joel and David Adams from WNO Orchestra to discuss the challenges they face during a live performance.
Episode Nine: Is opera relevant to young audiences?
Gareth interviews young opera singers and enthusiasts to establish whether opera is relevant to their generation. Featuring baritone John Ieuan Jones, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama student Rosie Rowell and Max Catalano from Cardiff University’s Operatic Society.
Episode 10: What does it take to be a conductor?
Gareth meets Welsh National Opera’s Music Director Tomáš Hanus to discuss his career to date and to discover what it takes to work as a conductor on an international scale.
Episode 11: How important is philanthropy for opera?
Gareth meets with donors and fundraisers to discuss how philanthropy ensures the future survival of opera. Delving beyond works seen on stage, Gareth investigates the different ways in which donations can bring the art of opera to schools, care homes and community hubs across the UK.
Episode 12: How do you direct an opera?
What is the difference between directing a play and directing an opera? Opera director Daisy Evans talks to Gareth about her unique approach to directing, how she got started in the industry and why a kebab van was an essential component of her recent production of Don(er) Pasquale!
An Artist's Journey
In this three-part special, we explore the journey of an artist from their first exposure to classical music through to their first professional performance. Guest hosts Natalya Romaniw, Tim Rhys-Evans and Tianyi Lu reflect on their own musical journeys while considering the major milestones in a young artist’s trajectory from their youth and vocational training to their first steps towards a professional career.
Episode One: First steps
Soprano Natalya Romaniw explores how the early experiences of classical music in youth can shape the perspective of an artist. Reflecting on her own experiences of singing with WNO Youth Opera, she catches up with her friend and fellow soprano Rhian Lois in a roundtable interview which also features Abigail Kelly (WNO Youth Opera Leader in Birmingham) and Ruth Rosales (Bassoonist & Animateur). Natalya also meets with three young participants to find out more about what drew them to sing opera at such a young age.
Episode Two: Training
Conductor and Music Director Tim Rhys-Evans investigates the process of studying at conservatoires and universities, while discovering more about the day-to-day life of an artist in training. Providing his own insight on this process as Director of Music at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Tim meets with Clair Rowden from Cardiff University's School of Music alongside students and graduates to discuss the differences between university and conservatoire education.
Episode Three: Becoming a professional
Conductor Tianyi Lu discusses the first steps a graduate takes towards a professional career. Tianyi is joined by soprano Elin Pritchard, baritone Oscar Dom Victor Catellino, Head of the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artist’s Programme Elaine Kidd and Head of Artistic Management at WNO Kathryn Joyce.
In this new three-part special, we explore how opera can reflect modern life. Our hosts delve into the history of opera, discovering how traditional productions have been adapted and new commissions have been created, both to portray contemporary themes and hold up a mirror up to our society.
Episode One: Carmen Now and Then
Gareth Jones speaks to Cardiff University lecturer Clair Rowden and together they explore how Carmen has evolved over the years since its premiere in 1875. Gareth is also joined by director Oliver Lamford who talks about his involvement in a recent production of Carmen that was reinterpreted for a post-‘me too’ era.
Episode Two: Figaro Forever
Gareth Jones is joined by renowned opera critic Rupert Christiansen as he delves into the history of one of opera’s most enduring characters, Figaro. Director David Pountney also chats with Gareth about how he built on The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro to create his sequel Figaro Gets a Divorce.
Episode Three: Songs for the future
Gareth Jones explores new opera commissions, looking back at some of WNO’s original works and discovering how they portrayed contemporary themes. He is joined by the cast and creatives from WNO’s recent commission A Song for the Future, a collaborative project with Oasis Cardiff, in which a community of refugees and asylum seekers devised and performed an opera in response to their personal experiences.