Welsh National Opera (WNO) recently revealed full details of the operas that comprise its 2023 season. also sees the WNO Orchestra performing a series of concerts. The company has also announced a series of concert highlights and wellbeing events.
The WNO Orchestra has a packed schedule for 2023. It will tour venues in England and Wales with its Return to Vienna concert, a celebration of famous waltzes and polkas. The programme includes the ‘Blue Danube’ by Strauss II, Strauss I’s rollicking ‘Radetzky March’ and Korngold’s nostalgic ‘Straussiana Polka’, among other works.
Orchestra leader and concertmaster David Adams and WNO associate artist Dafydd Allen join the tour, which kicks off at Swansea on 5 January, before heading to Bangor the next day, Newtown on 7 January, Truro on 11 January, Barnstaple on 12 January, Cardiff the next day, Southampton the next and finally St David’s on 21 January.
A highlight of the orchestra’s spring season will see the musicians taking to the international stage in May. They will perform the opening concerts of the Prague Spring International Music Festival in the Czech Republic on 12 May.
WNO music director Tomáš Hanus returns to his homeland to conduct the WNO Orchestra in a performance of ‘Má Vlast’ by his compatriot Smetana. The work is always performed at the opening concert, and in 2023 in tribute to the bicentenary of the composer’s birth.
Hanus commented: “I am delighted that WNO Orchestra has accepted the invitation to perform at the Prague Spring International Music Festival. It will be an honour and a great opportunity for the orchestra and will place them alongside some of the best orchestras in the world who have previously performed at this prestigious event.
“It will be a special moment for me to conduct WNO Orchestra in my homeland in a performance of ‘Má Vlast’, a piece which transports me back to my childhood and which is so poignant to everyone in the Czech Republic.
“When I hear ‘Má Vlast’, I ask myself how Smetana could have created something so original, so different. Music has the power to go deeper than words, and in these times, the tones of ‘Má Vlast’ bring out a self-awareness of who we are, how our history speaks to us and what meaning it has.”
The WNO Orchestra will also join in the 40th-anniversary celebrations of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in June 2023. This biennial competition has launched the careers of some of the world’s biggest opera stars, including Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, Welsh baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, German soprano Anja Herteros, American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and Korean baritone Gihoon Kim.
Under the baton of Michael Christie, WNO Orchestra will perform in a special gala concert at St David’s Hall on 16 June, featuring former competitors. WNO Orchestra will also accompany singers for the first and third rounds of the competition.
The national opera company is also running a series of community engagement and wellness activities and events. It will be hosting a series of hour-long concerts at care homes in the South Wales valleys.
The concerts will incorporate a selection of musical segments from new opera Blaze of Glory!, as well as popular repertoire from the 1950s and 1960s. Two singers will be accompanied by a pianist to provide a joyful experience for residents where they will be encouraged to sing along if they are able.
During the spring term, WNO will work with young people aged 14-18 from Scouts Cymru Explorer groups in South and North Wales on a song-writing project around Blaze of Glory!
The young people involved will watch a dress rehearsal or performance of the opera and then take part in workshops to develop and record their own songs looking at themes of identity, community and wellbeing which are explored in the opera.
The workshops will be run by writer Shreya Sen-Handley (Migrations, Creating Change) and composer Michael Betteridge (WNO Community Chorus, WNO Youth Opera), along with a WNO singer.
WNO’s general director Aidan Lang commented: “It’s fitting that our spring season is filled with opera, orchestral and engagement activity that all perfectly demonstrate the power of music.
“The story behind Blaze of Glory! explores how music can bring communities together through even the darkest of times, and the work which we will be running in care homes and with young people from Scouts Cymru alongside this demonstrates how this can be translated to many different contexts to bring people together in joy and friendship through music.”
Play Opera LIVE, WNO’s show for families, will return to Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, on 19 February for a programme of music with a dinosaur theme.
Musician and presenter Tom Redmond will introduce some well-known classics, including John Williams’s theme from Jurassic Park. He will also narrate and bring to life the music from Steve Pickett’s Dinosaurumpus, based on Tony Mitton’s children’s book, Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus.
The show will be conducted by Frederick Brown and will feature soprano Stacey Wheeler and tenor Gareth Dafydd Morris. Ahead of the performance, there will be free foyer activities and workshops – from wigs and makeup to props and costume.
Later in the spring, WNO Youth Opera will return to the stage to perform two one-act children’s operas, Jonathan Willcocks’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin and Paul Ayres’s The Crab Who Played with the Sea, along with choral repertoire. Angharad Lee will direct the performances, which will take place at the end of May in Wales Millennium Centre’s Weston Studio.
Tickets for the concerts are on sale now.
Concertmaster David Adams will lead the WNO Orchestra in a series of concerts for Welsh National Opera’s spring 2023 season.