The Welsh National Opera (WNO) has marked its 75th birthday with the release of a poem which has been specially commissioned by the company from Ifor ap Glyn, the National Poet of Wales.

The poem, ‘Intermezzo’, reflects on WNO’s humble beginnings and transformation into the world-renowned opera company it is today. It also looks at the current situation faced by all arts organisations that cannot perform at this time and gives hope for a ‘brighter stage’ for the future. Two versions – one in Welsh and one in English – have been written, recorded and released as films. They are available to watch for free on YouTube and WNO’s website.

In English:

In Welsh:

It is read by some of Wales’s best-known names including opera singer Sir Bryn Terfel, rugby legend Sir Gareth Edwards, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson, harpist Catrin Finch, singer-songwriter Caryl Parry Jones, opera singer Rebecca Evans, folk singer Dafydd Iwan and actors Dame Siân Phillips, Mark Lewis Jones and Rakie Ayola.

General Director Aidan Lang commented: “We are delighted to share ‘Intermezzo’ on the occasion of our 75th birthday and offer our heartfelt thanks to Wales’s National Poet Ifor ap Glyn for encapsulating WNO’s story in such a fitting way. We would also like to thank all those involved in the recordings for their time and support in helping us to produce these special films.”

WNO’s first performance as an opera company was a double-bill of Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry, Mascagni, 1890) and Pagliacci (Clowns, Leoncavallo, 1892) at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Cardiff, on 15 April 1946. To mark this anniversary the WNO Chorus and Orchestra has recorded a new version of Easter Hymn from Cavalleria rusticana.

Members of the chorus retrace the company’s journey by taking a history walk from its origins in Llandaff, Cardiff, to its current home at Wales Millennium Centre, culminating in a stunning performance of Easter Hymn on the Donald Gordon Stage. Welsh soprano Camilla Roberts joins WNO Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by James Southall.

A film of the performance is available on WNO’s website as well as its YouTube channel.

WNO initially came into being as the Welsh National Opera Company in 1943 when Merthyr-born musician Idloes Owen had the idea to form a national opera company for Wales and brought together a group of amateur singers including miners, teachers and doctors. The first meeting and rehearsal took place in a chapel in Crwys Road, Cardiff. Owen conducted WNO’s first performances in 1946 and continued to be the company’s musical director until his death in 1954.

“The pandemic is proving to be a difficult time for everyone and for the arts as a whole, but we must remember that WNO first emerged during a global crisis: World War II,” Lang continued. “The spirit and vision of Idloes Owen lives on through the company, and we remain confident that we will come out of this crisis stronger and look to the future with hope and optimism. The poem and Easter Hymn are both a celebration of Wales’s heritage as the land of song and a reflection on the importance of music and the arts to all of our lives.”

Welsh National Opera celebrates its 75th birthday with a specially commissioned poem, ‘Intermezzo’, by Ifor ap Glyn, the National Poet of Wales (Alex Metcalfe).