Welsh National Opera (WNO) has announced details of its 2021-22 season, its first since the coronavirus health crisis.
The season starts at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, in September with a revival of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (1816). This comic masterpiece revolves around the clever and enterprising Figaro, the barber of the title.
Australian baritone Nicholas Lester sings the main role. The cast also includes Maltese tenor Nico Darmanin as Count Almaviva, British mezzo-soprano Heather Lowe as Rosina, British baritone Andrew Shore as Dr Bartolo and British bass-baritone Keel Watson as Basilio. WNO’s Music Director Tomás Hanus conducts.
Also part of the autumn season is a new production of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly (1900), directed by Australian director Lindy Hume and conducted by WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi. The cast includes tenors Leonardo Caimi and Peter Autv sharing the role of Pinkerton and sopranos Joyce El-Khoury and Alexia Voulgaridou sharing that of Cio-Cio San.
This new production has been created as a socially relevant telling of Puccini’s classic tale. A series of digital talks and events exploring the opera’s themes and the relevance of this production in today’s society is also planned.
After a run of performances in Cardiff, the two productions will tour to venues in Plymouth, Birmingham, Bristol, Southampton, Oxford and Llandudno in October to December.
Tomás Hanus commented: “Having spent too long apart from my colleagues and friends in Cardiff, I am delighted to return to WNO this autumn to conduct The Barber of Seville. I look forward to standing on the podium once again, supported by the talented musicians and staff that comprise Welsh National Opera.
“It will be a privilege and joy to perform live music across Wales and England in the 2021-22 season after such a catastrophic moment in theatre’s and humankind’s history. Music has an unrivalled ability to unite people, and this is something I believe we are all very much in need of. The 2021-22 season will be a celebration of art and I simply cannot wait for it to begin.”
Heading into 2022, February will see productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787) and Janáček’s Jenůfa (1904). The latter marks a continuation of the company’s Janáček Series; it is directed by Katie Mitchell and conducted by Hanus. Performances again start in Cardiff, before touring England and Wales.
WNO’s Youth Opera groups will join forces for a full-scale performance of The Black Spider (1985) at Wales Millennium Centre’s Weston Studio in May 2022. This creepy, comic tale is by writer, composer and Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir and will be performed by South Wales Youth Opera members aged 10-18 years.
Loosely based on the 1842 novella Die schwarze Spinne by Swiss novelist Jeremias Gotthelf, the story switches back and forth between a Polish legend of the Middle Ages and a contemporary newspaper cutting about a curse on the opening of a tomb in Cracow Cathedral.
New opera Migrations, previously planned for summer 2021, will now premiere at Cardiff in June 2022, before touring in autumn 2022. The work explores different elements of migration. Five writers – Shreya Sen Handley, Edson Burton, Miles Chambers, Eric Ngalle Charles and Sarah Woods – worked with Sir David Pountney to create the libretto of six stories, influenced by the writers’ own personal experiences of migration and from working with refugees. The music is by British composer Will Todd.
The production is conducted by Matthew Kofi Waldren and directed by Sir David, who will be supported by a team of associate directors. This exceptionally ambitious project features an expanded creative team and a cast of 100 including a gospel choir, a children’s chorus, Bollywood dancers and soloists from around the world.
Finally, in July 2022 members of WNO Youth Opera will take to the Wales Millennium Centre stage in a new production of Shostakovich’s operetta Cheryomushki (1959), a satirical look at the chronic housing shortages and the difficulties of securing liveable conditions in urban Russia. Daisy Evans directs a reimagined version of the work with a modern take. Alice Farnham conducts.
As well as singers and alumni from the Youth Opera, the production will include assisting roles, technical placements and student instrumentalists, providing a unique training experience for young people interested in a professional career within opera and theatre, working alongside top industry professionals and mentored by WNO experts.
For further details of the season, including tickets and time and date information, see WNO’s website.
A revival of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville forms part of the programme in the Welsh National Opera’s 2021-22 season.