Welsh National Opera 2018/2019 season announcement

8 February 2018

Welsh National Opera is thrilled to announce our artistic programme for 2018/2019 which will include two new productions, four revivals and a selection of WNO Orchestra concerts. 

•Season opens with a new production of Prokofiev’s epic War and Peace

•Continuation of Verdi trilogy in Spring 2019 with a new production of Un ballo in maschera

•Plans for a special amnesty-themed summer season, uniting the main company with Youth Opera and Community Chorus

•Extensive orchestral touring programme in England and Wales including further family concerts 

Welsh National Opera has announced its artistic programme for 2018/2019. The Season includes a new production of War and Peace in the Autumn, the continuation of a three-year Verdi trilogy with a new production of Un ballo in maschera in the Spring.

In what will be his final year as WNO Artistic Director, David Pountney will work across all three artistic Seasons on a programme that will celebrate the breadth of his artistic direction and the influence of his creative programming on the Company. We are delighted that David will continue to work with the Company as a director in the future and will return to WNO for future projects, including in Spring 2020 to direct the final part of the Verdi trilogy, Les vêpres siciliennes. In his last year with the Company, it is testament to his artistic legacy with WNO that his production of From the House of the Dead will be performed at the Janáček Brno Festival 2018 on 2 December, home of the composer himself and of WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus who will conduct this performance.

Autumn 2018 

WNO returns to Russia in the Autumn Season with a new production of Prokofiev’s War and Peace. Tomáš Hanus will make a much-anticipated return to the main stage following a critically-acclaimed Season in Autumn 2017, joining once again with David Pountney who will direct.

Based on Leo Tolstoy’s pivotal novel, the opera portrays with charm and affection the private lives of a section of Russian aristocratic society, and then examines what happens when these personalities, along with the entire Russian people, are caught up in the maelstrom of Napoleon’s invasion in 1812. Prokofiev began writing the opera in the 1940s, and fittingly for an opera with such strong themes of both war and peace, it will be performed during the centenary commemoration of the 1918 armistice.

Robert Innes Hopkins has based his design on the wooden amphitheatre he created for WNO’s 2016 production of In Parenthesis. This provides the perfect atmosphere for this ‘collective narrative’ in which Russian society joins together to tell and celebrate the story of its survival.

This will be a performing version based on Katya Ermolaeva and Rita McAllister’s new critical edition of Prokofiev’s original score, and will be performed in English.

We are delighted that soprano Lauren Michelle will return to WNO following her performances in The Merchant of Venice to take the role of Natasha in War and Peace. The rest of the cast includes Mark Le Brocq as Pierre and Jonathan McGovern as Andrei, with Jurgita Adamonyté, Leah-Marian Jones, Simon Bailey, David Stout, Adrian Dwyer, James Platt, Clive Bayley, and members of the WNO Chorus taking multiple roles to emphasise the idea of a ‘collective narrative’.

Autumn will also include the first revival of WNO’s 2007 production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, conducted by Tomáš Hanus. This light and colourful opera is based on the Cinderella story and follows Angelina from her humble beginnings to her fairy tale ending, culminating in her final aria, Non più mesta.  

We are delighted to welcome Tara Erraught to WNO in her main scale debut with the Company, taking the title role of Angelina. Three Italian singers with an excellent bel canto reputation also join the cast in their debuts with the Company: Matteo Macchioni (Don Ramiro); Fabio Capitanucci (Don Magnifico) and Giorgio Caoduro (Dandini). Completing the cast are Wojtek Gierlach, Aoife Miskelly and Heather Lowe.

Tomáš Hanus says: ‘The centenary of the ending of the First World War is reflected in a very strong way in Prokofiev’s War and Peace. I am very much looking forward to working on this masterpiece with our wonderful Orchestra, Chorus and the soloists. This is going to be a very exciting and touching experience for all of us and for our audience. I would love for these evenings to become a very personal sharing of this touching story and beautiful music. I also hope our audiences are able to enjoy and to have fun, and experience, as Leonard Bernstein said, ‘The Joy of Music’ as we will also be performing La Cenerentola, a piece that has the power and beauty to show everybody just how beautiful music is.’

The third opera in the Autumn Season is a revival of David McVicar’s production of La traviata, conducted by James Southall. Telling the tragic tale of courtesan Violetta and her lover Alfredo, La traviata celebrates compassion, love and self-sacrifice in the face of hypocrisy. The cast will include Anush Hovhannisyan and Linda Richardson who will share the role of Violetta, Kang Wang as Alfredo and Roland Wood as Giorgio.

Also during the Autumn Season, there will be further performances of WNO’s new ‘music hall’ style opera, Rhondda Rips It Up!, which celebrates the prominent Welsh suffragette Margaret Haig Thomas (Lady Rhondda) in the 100th anniversary year of women’s suffrage. Featuring an all-female cast, the production opens in June 2018, then will continue to tour venues across Wales and England during WNO’s Autumn Season. In the Autumn, the performances will be supported by a schools programme, Opera Engage, in Southampton whereby WNO will hold workshops with young people aged 11 - 16 who will work alongside WNO’s creative team, a composer, writer and singer as well local musicians to create and perform music hall style pieces around the themes of protest, rebellion and human rights responding in a theatrical way to the issues presented by Rhondda Rips it Up!

Janáček Brno Festival 2018

Following WNO’s autumn tour, the Company will be taking its critically-acclaimed production of Janáček’s From the House of the Dead to the Janáček Brno Festival on 2 December. The performance will be under the baton of Tomáš Hanus who will take the Company to his hometown for the first time in a celebration of the life and work of Leoš Janáček. It will also be a special moment for director David Pountney who has a long-standing association with the work of Janáček, and brought the composer to prominence in the UK with his ground-breaking Janáček cycle of operas in the 1970s and 1980s, co-produced between WNO and Scottish Opera.  

The production will be performed in musicologist John Tyrrell’s new critical edition which was premiered by WNO in Autumn 2017 and is as close a version as possible to Janáček’s original intentions.

Spring 2019 

Opening the Spring Season is a new production of Un ballo in maschera; the second instalment in WNO’s Verdi trilogy, directed by David Pountney and conducted by WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi, and co-produced with Oper der Stadt Bonn.  

Like the other operas in this Season, Un ballo in maschera is a study in Kingship, and the relationship between personal and public affairs. The private sphere reveals the tragic love triangle between Amelia, her husband Renato and her lover the King (Riccardo), Renato’s best friend. The King is obsessed with theatre and with disguise, and this builds up to the masked ball and the growing conspiracy against him from his political and personal enemies. Despite Riccardo ultimately renouncing his love for Amelia, the culmination of the piece sees Renato discovering the affair and taking matters into his own hands with devastating consequences.  

The cast will include esteemed tenor Gwyn Hughes-Jones who will sing Riccardo and Sara Fulgoni who will sing Ulrica.  

The design team’s ‘Verdi Machine’ set of three interlocking frames will again feature in this production, but will look distinctly different from the set of La forza del destino, picking up on the way the King constantly plays with truth and disguise, and loses his sense of reality in his fascination with theatre.  

Also in the spring is a revival of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux which was first performed in 2013 as part of WNO’s The Tudors Season. Carlo Rizzi will conduct the opera which is loosely based on the life of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex and his relationship with Queen Elizabeth I. The cast will include soprano Joyce El-Khoury who returns to WNO to take the role of Elisabetta. Also joining the cast are Justina Gringyté as Sara and Gary Griffiths as Nottingham.

Completing the Spring Season is a classic revival of Mozart’s ever-popular The Magic Flute, sung in English. This Magritte-inspired production features an angry lobster, a newspaper-reading lion and a fish that is transformed into a bicycle. The cast will include Mark Stone as Papageno and Anita Watson as Pamina.

WNO Orchestra concerts and touring programme

WNO Orchestra has an extensive orchestral touring programme planned in England and Wales during 2018/2019. 

The Orchestra will perform three concerts in the International Concert Series at St David’s Hall Cardiff conducted by Music Director Tomáš Hanus between November 2018 and March 2019. Two Family Concerts are also planned in Cardiff (28 Oct 2018) and Birmingham (30 June 2019) and a schools concert in Southampton (8 May 2019). In addition WNO Orchestra will take its popular and now well-established Viennese New Year programme on tour throughout a number of regional venues across Wales in January 2019 under the direction of Orchestra Leader and concertmaster David Adams. The Orchestra will also tour throughout Wales and England to a number of regional venues in summer 2019 as part of its annual residencies programme, presenting a wide range of standard orchestral programmes as well as its much-loved popular operatic classics.

Talking about the 2018/2019 Season, David Pountney says: ‘Opera has an exceptional ability to encapsulate and represent major events and movements in history. It sees them however not through the narrow eyes of politics, but from the compassionate and healing viewpoint of music. At the start of our year, in the autumn, three young women, indulgent, naïve maybe, very possibly misguided, run away in search of passion. At the end of our year, we encounter entire peoples fleeing from economic hardship or political terror. That is the typical arch of operatic expression – from intimate and private passions to the grand march of history, all given profound expression by the sublime voice of music.’