Designed and delivered in collaboration with Fast Track Cardiff, Welsh National Opera’s Three Letters uses music and performance to tackle societal stigma around HIV in support of Cardiff’s ambitious journey towards achieving zero HIV transmissions by 2030.

Drawing inspiration from the AIDS Quilt Songbook project which began in America in 1992, Three Letters is a musical chronicle of Cardiff’s HIV past, present, and future, utilising community groups and local artists to raise public awareness of the contemporary realities of HIV.

The project began in September 2021 with a creative workshop day for over 160 Year 10 students at Cardiff West Community High School, which included sessions with writer and activist Mercy Shibemba, playwright and actor Nathaniel J Hall (It’s A Sin, First Time), and representatives from Fast Track Cardiff. A smaller group of students from the school subsequently collaborated with Mercy, composer Michael Betteridge, and singer Siân Cameron, to create We learn, we know, we understand.

The second instalment saw Mercy Shibemba collaborate with Welsh singer songwriter Eädyth Crawford and WNO Vocal Intern Aliyah Wiggins to create All These Dreams, which is about finding your voice and discovering yourself.

Inspired by the landmark film Philadelphia, the third and final instalment is an extraordinary rendition of the aria La mamma morta from the opera Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano. Here, we collaborated with Nathaniel J Hall who recites a new spoken-word text by Andrew Loretto. 

Behind the scenes