- Sir Bryn Terfel returns to WNO for the lead role in Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle staged in a double bill with Stravinsky’s The Nightingale. Michelle DeYoung will sing Judit alongside Terfel’s Bluebeard.
- A new production of Bizet’s Carmen to tour across autumn and spring.
- The Verdi trilogy concludes with a new production of Les vêpres siciliennes.
Welsh National Opera has announced its artistic programme for 2019/20. The season will open with a new production of Bizet’s Carmen that will tour across both autumn 2019 and spring 2020. Carmen is well known for its high drama and passion as well as some of the most loved music in opera. Director Jo Davies takes the fiery spirit of Carmen to a Latin American setting in her new production that celebrates female strength in the face of oppression. WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus conducts, Leslie Travers and Gabrielle Dalton will create the designs for set and costume respectively. Mezzo-soprano Virginie Verrez will take on the lead role of Carmen for the autumn season with Dimitri Pittas as Don Jose, Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo, Anita Watson as Micaela and WNO’s new Associate Artist Harriet Eyley in the role of Frasquita.
Alongside Carmen, WNO will revive James McDonald’s 2010 production of Verdi’s Rigoletto with Mark S Doss (recently Scarpia in WNO’s Tosca) in the leading role. Internationally acclaimed sopranos Marina Monzó and Jessica Nuccio share the role of Gilda with young tenor David Junghoon Kim singing the role of The Duke. Autumn 2019 will also see a revival of David Pountney’s production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, last performed in 2013, conducted by Tomáš Hanus. Aoife Miskelly returns to WNO as Vixen with Claudio Otelli (Forester), Wojtek Gierlach (Parson) and Lucia Cervoni (Fox) also making a return to the Company.
This will be the first production in an annual Janáček series programmed by WNO to celebrate the composer’s work each autumn. Recently awarded the Leoš Janáček Memorial Medal, Hanus will lead this series and bring his passion and internationally-recognized expertise in the composer’s work from their shared homeland.
Commenting on the season, WNO’s Music Director Tomáš Hanus said: “I am very excited that in autumn 2019 we will be presenting two operas which both follow the fates of archetypal females. The personalities of Carmen and The Cunning Little Vixen, although seemingly unrelated are in fact both extraordinary and provocative. Additionally, the music of these two operas showcases the great inspiration, integrity and skill of both Bizet and Janáček. When Bizet wrote Carmen he did not expect the work to reach such popularity, yet its melodies have been so universally loved from generation to generation that it couldn’t help but achieve it. Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen is a multi-layered story. It’s a poetic, childlike fairy-tale, yet profoundly philosophical. In my opinion, its final scene is one of the finest opera pieces one may experience. WNO takes huge pride and responsibility in preparing each production we give and I cannot wait to deliver these two masterpieces of the operatic repertoire to our audiences.
It is also worth noting that this is the first season without David Pountney as the Artistic Director of WNO. Therefore, I am even more honoured to be able to work with him to continue our partnership, and further his exceptional relationship with WNO as he directs The Cunning Little Vixen this autumn. I am also looking forward to working with Jo Davis on the new staging of Carmen.”
Opening the spring season in 2020 is a new production of Les vêpres siciliennes; the final instalment in WNO’s Verdi trilogy. The production will be directed by David Pountney and conducted by WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi. The cast includes Anush Hovhannysian as Hélène, with Giorgio Cauduro returning to WNO as Guy De Montfort following his recent acclaim as Dandini in La Cenerentola. Jung Soo Yun makes a WNO debut as Henri. Raimund Bauer’s ‘Verdi Machine’ set of three interlocking frames will again appear in this production, with costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca whose intricate work has been at the heart of 2018 WNO productions War and Peace and La forza del destino as well as the second instalment of the trilogy, Un ballo in maschera.
The Company will also revive the 2016 production of The Marriage of Figaro, originally directed by Tobias Richter and featuring sets designed by the late eminent stage designer Ralph Koltai with costumes by Sue Blane. WNO’s Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi conducts performances until 13 March when a guest conductor will take the baton to complete the tour. David Ireland will lead the cast as gregarious barber Figaro, accompanied on stage by Soraya Mafi as Susanna and Jonathan McGovern (recently André in War and Peace) as the flirty and flamboyant Count Almaviva.
These two productions are presented in the spring alongside further performances of Carmen with Julia Mintzer in the title role.
Summer will see Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel make his return to the Company as Duke Bluebeard in a new production of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, directed by David Pountney, with Michelle de Young as Judit, a role for which she is internationally acclaimed. This will be the first time for Terfel to perform in a WNO opera since Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in 2010. WNO’s Tomáš Hanus will conduct the evening of two short operas, with Stravinsky’s The Nightingale completing the double-bill. World-renowned puppeteer Mark Down will direct The Nightingale which will feature innovative puppetry from Down’s theatre company Blind Summit alongside a cast including Benjamin Hulett and Susan Bickley. Performances will be at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff and the Royal Opera House, London in June and July 2020.
A production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte especially adapted for smaller theatres and directed by Max Hoehn will also tour during the summer of 2020. Full details of the tour are to be announced, but it will comprise a series of one night performances at mid-scale venues across England and Wales, continuing the Company’s commitment to presenting opera within the reach of a wide range of audiences and communities.
During the year, WNO will continue to grow its presence on the ground in community hubs across North and South Wales, Birmingham and Southampton, bringing the emotion and drama of opera to people’s lives beyond the walls of a theatre.
A new engagement programme sees the company working closely with refugee and asylum-seeking communities as part of a five-year partnership with the Welsh Refugee Council, working with The Meena Centre in Birmingham and Oasis Cardiff. Local writers, composers and dance practitioners will work with refugees to discover and tell stories from across the world, acknowledging that art and storytelling have the power to unite people and to release narratives that inspire and provoke.
Following 2018’s ‘Where Are All the Women’ symposium, WNO will host another event in 2020 to ensure the discussion about gender politics within opera and the classical music industry continues. The inaugural event was programmed to coincide with the world premiere of Rhondda Rips It Up! in June 2018 and a second symposium will enable WNO to share learning following the establishment of the Female Conductor in Residency position.
WNO Orchestra Concerts
The WNO Orchestra will perform three concerts at St David’s Hall, Cardiff. The first in October 2019 will be conducted by Tomáš Hanus and will predominantly feature repertoire from the maestro’s homeland, the Czech Republic, to include Vltava (The Moldau) by Smetana and Dvořák’s Cello Concerto.
The second concert, taking place in January 2020, will see Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi directing the WNO Orchestra in a programme entirely comprised of works by Beethoven. This concert will be part of a series of dedicated events throughout the year across Cardiff marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. More details to be announced in spring 2019.
Hanus will again lead the Orchestra for a third major in April 2020, which will feature Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No 2 with WNO Orchestra Leader David Adams as soloist.
Looking ahead, Hanus said: “During 2019-20, WNO Orchestra’s concert performances will continue to be a staple of our work. The concerts we deliver at St David’s Hall as part of the International Concert Series allow us to express ideas and themes which are most difficult to express in words. It is a great honour to be involved in building this exceptional bond between our audience and the WNO Orchestra and Chorus. I am particularly looking forward to welcoming cellist, Daniel Müller-Schott to Cardiff in October to perform Dvořák’s inspirational Cello Concerto.
I am also very pleased that Carlo Rizzi, WNO Conductor Laureate, will be conducting one of our St David’s Hall concerts. I believe it is very important that our opera and concert audiences appreciate both art forms to be integral to what we do. Operas and concerts have some surprising and mysterious connections, complementing each other and only when combined do they form a complete repertoire.
I am very grateful to the WNO Orchestra and Chorus, with whom I have the opportunity to work so closely. Along with all members of the company, it is thanks to them that we are able to express the immense power of opera.”
For further information, visit www.wno.org.uk