Welsh National Opera (WNO) has announced details of its forthcoming autumn 2023 to summer 2024 programme. The highlight of the season is the Welsh premiere of Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar (Fountain of Tears, 2003).
Sung in Spanish, the twice Grammy Award-winning work sees flamenco meet opera. It reimagines the life of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca through a flashback of memories by his muse, the actress Margarita Xirgu.
In the director’s chair is the internationally renowned and Olivier-winning choreographer Deborah Colker. Matthew Kofi Waldren returns to WNO to conduct the production.
The cast includes Argentinian soprano Jaquelina Livieri as Margarita Xirgu. Colombian soprano Julieth Lozano sings the role of Nuria, a student of Xirgu, with flamenco singer Alfredo Tejada as Ruiz Alonso, the Falangist who arrested Lorca.
The autumn season is completed with a revival of Sir David McVicar’s acclaimed production of Verdi’s much-loved opera La traviata (The Fallen Woman, 1853). Based on Alexandre Dumas fils’ novel, La Dame aux Camélias, the story is a classic tale of thwarted love, scandal and self-sacrifice.
The revival will be directed by Sarah Crisp and conducted by Alexander Joel. It will feature Russian soprano Olga Pudova as the elegant courtesan Violetta Valéry who faces the choice of giving up her glamorous lifestyle for true love with the penniless aristocratic poet Alfredo Germont, played by Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim. Joining them is African-American bass-baritone Mark S Doss as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father.
Both productions will open at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre before touring to Llandudno, Bristol, Plymouth, Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Southampton.
WNO Orchestra will perform a special one-off concert at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, on 29 October under the baton of WNO music director Tomáš Hanus. The programme will feature Brahms’s First Symphony, alongside Tchaikovsky’s overture-fantasy Romeo and Juliet, and Richard Strauss’s masterful Four Last Songs, sung by Israeli soprano Chen Reiss.
Hanus commented: “The orchestral concerts we deliver at St David’s Hall as part of the Cardiff Classical Series are an important part of our work, and an opportunity for us to provide people with moments of joy through the power of live music.
“I am very proud to work so closely with WNO Orchestra who are recognised internationally for their excellence both operatically and for concerts, as demonstrated by the honour of them being selected to play the opening concert of the 2023 Prague Spring International Music Festival.”
Autumn will also see a continuation of WNO’s concert for families, Play Opera LIVE. The concert will provide a fresh take on opera and classical music, including orchestral playing, song and performance, with a space-themed show presented by Tom Redmond.
Opening in Cardiff, Play Opera then tours to Llandudno, Bristol, Plymouth, Birmingham and Southampton along with the main tour. This will be the first time for Play Opera to visit Bristol.
Heading into 2024, the WNO Orchestra will embark on a new year concert tour in January throughout Wales and south-west England. The spring season then kicks off with a new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte (Women are Like That, 1790).
Max Hoehn will direct this retelling of the opera as a coming-of-age tale which will take audiences back to school as four sixth-formers discover the highs and lows of falling in love. Tomáš Hanus conducts.
British soprano Sophie Bevan returns to WNO to sing the role of Fiordiligi. Completing the foursome of young lovers are American mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Decker as Dorabella, Russian-Ukrainian tenor Egor Zhuravskii as Ferrando and British baritone James Atkinson as Guglielmo, all making their role debuts. Also joining the cast are Welsh soprano Rebecca Evans as Despina and Italian baritone Fabio Capitanucci as Don Alfonso.
A new production – and a first for WNO – of Britten’s Death in Venice completes the spring line-up of operas. Based on Thomas Mann’s novella of the same name, the story follows writer Gustav von Aschenbach as he journeys to Venice to liberate his writer’s block where he becomes infatuated with the youthful and beautiful Tadzio.
Olivia Fuchs returns to WNO to direct this new production, while conductor Leo Hussain will make his debut with the company wielding the baton. British tenor Mark Le Brocq will make his role debut as Aschenbach, with eminent British baritone Roderick Williams as the Traveller/Old Man guiding him towards his fate. The countertenor role of the Voice of Apollo will be sung by Alexander Chance.
The spring operas will open in Cardiff before touring to Llandudno, Southampton, Oxford, Bristol and Plymouth.
“Opera is both visually and musically spectacular, and it’s no coincidence that two of our new productions for this year – Ainadamar and Death in Venice – will contain dance elements and take us on a musical journey to other countries,” commented WNO general director Aidan Lang.
“With a CV including choreographing the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics and a Cirque du Soleil production, we are particularly looking forward to welcoming Deborah Colker to WNO to direct Ainadamar. This opera offers our audiences something completely different to what they may have previously experienced with this artform.”
WNO Orchestra’s spring concert will be Opera Favourites – a selection of some of the best-known pieces in the operatic world. The concert will feature well-known arias, choral and orchestral numbers including music by Mozart, Verdi, Britten and Puccini. It will tour to Cardiff, Llandudno, Southampton, Bristol and Plymouth.
WNO will also take admission-free concerts to schools in Cardiff, Llandudno, Southampton and Plymouth. These fun concerts will introduce children and young people to opera and classical music, featuring short pieces of music from the worlds of opera, TV and film that are familiar, while also including repertoire which they may not have heard before.
WNO Orchestra and Chorus under Tomáš Hanus will perform a second concert at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, on 21 April 2024 as part of the Cardiff Classical Series. The programme culminates in Mozart’s timeless choral masterpiece Requiem, preceded by a first half featuring Schumann’s Fourth Symphony and Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine.
Finally, the summer season will see WNO perform Puccini’s triptych of one-act operas, Il trittico (The Triptych, 1918), for the first time. This new production, directed by Sir David McVicar, is a rare opportunity to experience all three operas, Il tabarro (The Cloak), Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, in one night, as the composer intended. WNO conductor laureate Carlo Rizzi will conduct.
Il tabarro explores an unhappy marriage with murderous consequences. Suor Angelica follows a nun’s sacrifice and yearning for her family when sent to a convent to repent her sins. Gianni Schicchi tells of deception and greed as a family dispute over a missing will.
Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Justina Gringytė returns to WNO to sing Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica, and South African soprano Vuvu Mpofu will sing three roles: Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, Suor Genovieva in Suor Angelica and Young Lover in Il tabarro. Greek soprano Alexia Voulgaridou (Giorgetta in Il tabarro) is also confirmed.
Lang continued: “I’m delighted that we’re going to be bringing our audiences three operas which have never been performed by the company before. In addition to our opera productions and orchestral concerts, our programme and engagement activity, of which we are very proud, continues to have great impact in our communities and uses opera to benefit lives through music.”
Full cast, venue, date and tickets are all available from WNO.
The cast rehearses Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, which receives its Welsh premiere this autumn with Welsh National Opera.