Three new productions are set to make up the core of the Welsh National Opera’s (WNO) spring 2020 season, the opera company has announced.
The season kicks off with a new production of Verdi’s grand opera, Les vêpres siciliennes (The Sicilian Vespers, 1855). Directed by Sir David Pountney and conducted by WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi (until 14 March), the production brings to an end the company’s three-year Verdi trilogy.
The story is based on a historical event, the Sicilian Vespers of 1282. A successful rebellion broke out on Sicily during Easter of that year against the rule of the French-born king Charles I, who had ruled Sicily since 1266. Within six weeks, some 13,000 French men and women were killed by the rebels and the government of King Charles lost control of the island.
Something of a rarity in today’s operatic repertoire, this new production will be performed in the original French – there is a later Italian version – and will feature the third act ballet, choreographed by Caroline Finn, resident choreographer with National Dance Company Wales. Six dancers from the company join the cast.
Prior to the production opening, WNO will hold a free Opera Insight event at 11am on 26 February at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre, where Pountney and Rizzi will talk about this final instalment of the Verdi trilogy.
WNO General Director Aidan Lang commented: “Verdi’s rarely performed grand opera Les vêpres siciliennes is a major undertaking for any company; so I am particularly proud that WNO is presenting it in our spring season, as it is a worthy title with which to conclude our trilogy of his works.”
Jo Davies’s vibrant new production of Bizet’s Carmen (1875) – set in 1970s Central America – returns in spring following a successful autumn run. The new cast features American mezzo-soprano Julia Mintzer singing the title role in her UK operatic debut, with Peter Auty as Don José. WNO Associate Conductor Harry Ogg will conduct, with WNO Female Conductor in Residence Tianyi Lu taking up the baton for performances in Liverpool.
WNO will also tour a new production of Mozart’s classic comedy Così fan tutte (All Women Are Like That, 1790) to mid-scale venues across Wales and England, as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to reach a wide range of audiences with a varied operatic repertoire. Directed by Max Hoehn and designed by Jemima Robinson, this new production, set in the 1970s, will take audiences ‘back to school’ as it follows four sixth formers learning about first love and all its complications.
Rounding off the spring season is a revival of Tobias Richter’s 2016 production of The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart, 1786). Carlo Rizzi conducts until 12 March, after which the tour will be completed by James Southall and Frederick Brown. David Ireland leads the cast as Figaro, accompanied by Soraya Mafi as Susanna, Jonathan McGovern as the flirty and flamboyant Count Almaviva and Anita Watson as his Countess.
All three productions will open at the Wales Millenium Centre in February before touring venues in England and Wales between March and May.
Away from the main stage, the WNO Orchestra has a busy season lined up, which includes a tour of A Journey to Vienna, celebrating some of Europe’s finest music, with soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams, a recreation of Beethoven’s iconic 1808 concert alongside BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, and a concert under the baton of WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus as part of the International Concert Series at St David’s Hall, Cardiff.
WNO’s work to open up opera and inspire young people continues with a series of schools concerts in Llandudno, Southampton and Norwich. The company will also bring its popular Family Concert to Theatre Royal Plymouth on 18 April.
“With The Marriage of Figaro and Carmen also in our line-up, we hopefully have something that will appeal to all opera-goers, be they newcomers to the artform, or aficionados,” Lang continued. “Equally important to our productions on the main stage, however, are the projects undertaken by our Youth and Community department. Meaningful engagements with opera can come in all shapes and sizes, and the sheer range of activity that the company now undertakes truly helps us to establish our work in the lives of many who might not otherwise have ready access to our big touring theatres.”
For more information on all these events, see the Welsh National Opera What’s On pages.
The Welsh National Opera’s spring 2020 season includes productions of Les vêpres siciliennes, The Marriage of Figaro and Carmen.