Welsh National Opera’s (WNO) 2022-23 season will comprise six operas, including a world premiere and two new productions of old favourites by Mozart and Janáček, the national opera company has announced.
The season also includes a programme of events focused on health and wellbeing, as well as a modern version of a mid-20th century operetta by Shostakovich performed by WNO Youth Opera.
The season opens in September with a new production of The Makropulos Affair (1922). Part of WNO’s Janáček series, the opera is directed by Olivia Fuchs and conducted by WNO’s music director Tomáš Hanus. The story centres on the idea of eternal life and is based on a play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek.
The opera begins seemingly as a tale of a never-ending legal dispute between two families, but evolves into a mystery surrounding its enigmatic central character, Emilia Marty, who will be performed by British soprano Emma Bell.
The production opens at the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff before touring to UK cities. It will also be performed internationally as part of the Brno Festival celebrating Janáček and his work in November.
“As music director I am very excited by the company plans announced for the 2022-23 season,” Tomáš Hanus commented. “I am delighted to be conducting The Makropulos Affair both on the UK tour and also taking the production internationally to the home city of composer Janáček, also my home, conducting it at the Brno Festival.”
In the same month, director Annabel Arden will return to WNO to revisit her production of Puccini’s La bohème (The Bohemians, 1896), one of the great opera stories and a tale of youth, love and freedom. The opera will be conducted by Pietro Rizzo, making his WNO debut.
The autumn season continues with further performances of ground-breaking new opera Migrations, following its world premiere in summer 2022. Writers Shreya Sen Handley, Edson Burton and Miles Chambers, Eric Ngalle Charles, Sarah Woods and Sir David Pountney – who also directs the production – worked with British composer Will Todd to create a libretto of six stories of migration with some of the narratives drawn from real-life experiences.
The cast of 100 performers includes American tenor Tom Randle, British soprano Meeta Raval, British bass David Shipley and upcoming British talent Peter Brathwaite. Also featured are the Bristol-based Renewal Gospel Choir, Bollywood dancers and a children’s chorus. Matthew Kofi Waldren conducts.
On 9 October on the Wales Millennium Centre stage, WNO’s award-winning Youth Opera will give two performances of a modern production of Shostakovich’s Moscow, Cheryomushki (1959), named Cherry Town, Moscow, which will be performed in English.
Daisy Evans will return to WNO to direct the production. She will be joined by top industry professionals including conductor Alice Farnham and vocal specialist Mary King, leading the 18- to 25-year-old singers in a fully professional experience while offering audiences exceptional entertainment by emerging talent.
WNO’s 2023 season opens with the world premiere of new commission Blaze of Glory! Set in the 1950s, this feel-good opera follows the fortunes of a group of miners in a small village who embark upon a musical odyssey by forming a male voice choir to unite the community after a mining disaster.
The lead role of Dafydd Pugh will be sung by Welsh tenor Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts. Blaze of Glory! is directed by Caroline Clegg, with a libretto by Emma Jenkins. Composed by David Hackbridge Johnson, the score features close harmony singing, traditionally associated with male voice choirs, as well as operetta, big band, jive, lindy hop and African gospel music.
Conceptualised and directed by Daisy Evans, a new production of Mozart’s classic opera The Magic Flute (1791) will also be performed in spring 2023. Evans’s restyling of the libretto will provide a modern take on the story, increasing its appeal to families and building on the work’s reputation as the perfect first opera. Tomáš Hanus conducts.
WNO general director Aidan Lang said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has given us all a moment to reflect on where opera sits in our society today, and as a company, I believe we now have an opportunity to rethink our work.
“This season is programmed with a view to reaching out to our audiences and making connections between our activity and their lives, while at the same time ensuring our productions deliver strong entertainment value.”
In addition to these productions, WNO is hosting a series of projects on the themes of health and wellbeing. Wellness with Welsh National Opera is a breathing and singing programme for people experiencing Long Covid in Wales.
It was created to support the physical and emotional needs of people with the condition and will be developed and expanded to reach a wider number of people across further health boards in Wales in 2022-23.
WNO has commissioned a new work to be performed at the Weston Studio at Wales Millennium Centre in October 2022 as part of a three-year collaboration working with emerging artists through Oasis Cardiff, a centre supporting people seeking sanctuary in Wales.
Writer Sarah Woods and composer Boff Whalley will work with an ensemble of writers, artists and musicians to co-create the production, inspired by stories of global crisis and the fight for humanity. It will push the boundaries of opera and showcase the diversity and creativity of international voices in Wales, through the fusion of classical music with influences from across the globe.
“Opera is a living art form and comes in all shapes and sizes,” Lang continued. “As such, it can cover the whole range of human emotions, and WNO’s 2022-23 season is designed to express this variety.
“We want our productions to be moving and thought provoking, as well as hugely entertaining. Our audiences will be able to find connections between what is on stage and what they experience in their own lives.”
All productions are performed at the Wales Millenium Centre before touring across the UK. Tickets are on sale now; full venue and pricing information is available from WNO.
Welsh National Opera’s 2022-23 season includes the world premiere of David Hackbridge’s Blaze of Glory!, set in a Welsh mining town.