The Royal Welsh College of Music’s (RWCMD) opera training department, the David Seligman Opera School, is set to present a new version of Humperdinck’s fairytale opera Hänsel und Gretel (1893) at the college’s Richard Burton Theatre in July.
The college is also hosting a series of fringe events celebrating this year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. Now in its 40th year, this annual competition will take place from 10-18 June at venues in Cardiff.
Hänsel und Gretel is based on the well-known Brothers Grimm fairy story of the same name, telling the cautionary tale of a brother and sister lost in a forest. The libretto was written by Humperdinck’s sister, Adelheid Wette.
Sent to the haunted Ilsenstein forest to look for strawberries, brother and sister Hänsel and Gretel discover a gingerbread house. The roof is made of cakes, the windows of licorice, and the walls are decorated with cookies. Hungry, the children start to eat. But the house belongs to a wicked witch who kidnaps them, planning to cook and eat them.
However, Hänsel and Gretel trick the witch and escape. Their mother and father have been searching for them and find the house. The children use the witch’s own wand to free the other children who have been kidnapped by the witch.
This production will be performed by students of the opera school. It is directed by Deborah Cohen. The college’s music director, conductor, pianist and coach James Southall conducts. Performances take place on 1 and 3-5 July at 7pm. Tickets cost £11-£22.
RWCMD is also partnering with Opera Rara to present two lunchtime concerts as part of a series of fringe events around the 2023 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World. The first features mezzo-soprano Kezia Bienek and pianist James Southall. They will be performing bel canto treasures from the Foyle Opera Rara Collection.
Curated and introduced by musicologist and bel canto specialist Roger Parker, the concert will feature songs and operatic excerpts by Gaetano Donizetti and his contemporaries. It will take place on 13 June at 1.15pm in the Dora Stoutzker Hall. Tickets cost £10 in advance and £12 on the day.
The second stars tenor Julian Henao Gonzalez along with Southall on the piano. It will mix well-known examples of the tenor repertoire with songs that have been hidden in the archives since their creation in the early 19th century. It takes place in the Dora Stoutzker Hall at 1.15pm on 14 June. Tickets also cost £10 in advance, £12 on the day.
A series of masterclasses, talks and workshops is also part of the fringe. Audiences can enjoy a masterclass with pianist Anna Tilbrook on 12 June at 3.30pm, with soprano Rosemary Joshua and pianist Llŷr Williams on 13 June at 3.00pm, with mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink and pianist Simon Lepper on14 June at 10.30am, and with soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Simon Lepper on 16 June at 3.30pm.
You can find out more about what goes on behind the scenes of the opera industry in a free talk with Tim Rhys-Evans and James Lea on 13 June at 10am. Composer Errollyn Warren will be hosting a composition workshop at 10am on 15 June.
Apart from the talk, all events cost £12 and tickets are available from RWCMD.
The college recently became the home of the Foyle Opera Rara Collection. This focuses on the Italian bel canto tradition and features a wealth of material which provides a unique insight into opera production in the 19th century.
It comprises an extensive collection of operatic manuscripts – many handwritten by the composers themselves – first and early editions of 19th-century opera scores, letters written by composers and singers, and a large array of other opera-related archival resources such as pictures, postcards, programmes, playbills, costume designs and press cuttings.
The college is hosting a series of free guided tours of the collection. The tours take place in the college’s Carne Foyer at 12.15pm 2.30pm and 3.15 pm from 13-15 June. Pre-booking is essential.
Humperdinck’s fairytale opera Hänsel und Gretel forms part of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama’s (RWCMD) packed programme of opera this summer.