The Welsh National Opera (WNO) has revealed that it has commissioned a brand new opera exploring the theme of migration, to premiere in autumn 2021 as part of the company’s 75th anniversary celebrations. The work was originally intended to be part of WNO’s autumn 2020 season but has been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Migrations commemorates the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage taking 102 passengers to a new life in America. It explores different elements of migration, including the impact of one of the most difficult decisions many have been forced to make: to leave their homes and communities in search of a safer, better life. It’s also a story of the boldness and resilience of the human spirit in different circumstances.
The score is by British composer Will Todd and has been described by WNO as a hugely ambitious collaborative project. The WNO Orchestra will be joined by a cast of 100 including a gospel choir, a children’s chorus, Bollywood dancers, refugees and soloists from around the world.
The libretto features six stories by writers from very diverse backgrounds inspired by their own personal experiences of migration and working with refugees. ‘Mayflower’ by WNO’s Artistic Director Sir David Pountney tells the story of the group of settlers who sailed to America on the Mayflower seeking freedom from religious persecution in Britain. Sir David also directs the work.
‘Treaty 6’ by playwright Sarah Woods is about the first nation Cree people’s reaction to the experience of inward migration, displacement and colonisation. Edson Burton and Miles Chambers’s ‘Flight, Death or Fog’ is the story of Pero, an Afro-Caribbean slave owned by a wealthy merchant family in 18th century Bristol.
Cameroon-born refugee Eric Ngalle Charles has written ‘Birds’, considering migration as a natural phenomenon, a way of life. ‘The English Lesson’, also by Sarah Woods, looks at refugees and asylum seekers who experience migration as a process forced on them by economic hardship, violence or intolerance. And finally ‘This is the Life!’ by author and journalist Shreya Sen-Handley takes a humorous look at the experiences of Indian doctors in the NHS.
WNO says that this new opera provides an opportunity for the company to continue to develop its work with refugees and asylum seekers, initially started during the 2019 Freedom Season when the company began a five-year partnership with the Welsh Refugee Council. Over the next three years WNO will work with refugee community groups in Cardiff, Birmingham and Southampton through composition, music and performance projects.
Migrations is an ambitious new opera from composer Will Todd, telling the stories of the human experience of migration.