Bizet’s ever-popular Carmen (1875) is set to open the Welsh National Opera’s (WNO) 2019-20 season, the Cardiff-based opera company has announced. The production kicks off the season at the Wales Millennium Centre later in September, before touring venues in England and Wales.
Director Jo Davies takes the fiery spirit of Bizet’s passionate and dramatic opera to a Latin American setting in a new production that celebrates female strength in the face of oppression. WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus conducts, while Leslie Travers and Gabrielle Dalton design the set and costumes respectively. Mezzo-soprano Virginie Verrez will take on the lead role of Carmen, with Dimitri Pittas as Don José, Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo, Anita Watson as Micäela and WNO’s new Associate Artist Harriet Eyley in the role of Frasquita.
The season will also see a revival of David Pountney’s production of Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (1924), 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 marks the first production in an annual series by WNO to celebrate the Czech composer’s work each autumn. Recently awarded the Leoš Janáček Memorial Medal, Hanus will lead this series and bring his own internationally recognised expertise in the composer’s work from their shared homeland.
WNO will also revive James McDonald’s 2010 production of Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851), with Mark S Doss 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.
Rounding off the season are a new production of Les vêpres siciliennes (The Sicilian Vespers, 1855), the final instalment in WNO’s Verdi trilogy, and a revival the 2016 production of The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart, 1786). The former will be directed by David Pountney and conducted by WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi. In the latter, David Ireland will lead the cast as gregarious barber Figaro, accompanied by Soraya Mafi as Susanna and Jonathan McGovern as Count Almaviva.
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 fairytale, 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.”
A fiery new production of Bizet’s Carmen will open the Welsh National Opera’s autumn/winter season.