Welsh National Opera (WNO) has announced full details of its spring season for 2022, featuring Mozart’s Don Giovanni (1787) and Janáček’s Jenůfa (1904). The company’s critically acclaimed new production of Puccini’s Madam Butterfly (1904) which premiered in autumn 2021 will also be returning to the stage.
The spring season opens with a revival of John Caird’s 2011 staging of Don Giovanni, with designs by John Napier. Based on the tale of fictional libertine Don Juan, with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, Don Giovanni follows the demise of opera’s legendary seducer as his roguish womanising ways catch up with him and he meets his end through a force from beyond the grave.
This production will be directed by Caroline Chaney, while Tobias Ringborg is set to make his conducting debut with the company.
Baritones Andrei Kymach and Duncan Rock will also make their company debuts, sharing the title role. Kymach won Cardiff Singer of the World in 2019, and Rock is fast establishing himself as an outstanding young singer and performer; he also specialises in nutrition for voice and works with singers and actors to nurture their voices to help advance their careers.
British soprano Sarah Tynan (Donna Elvira), Australian bass Joshua Bloom (Leporello) and British baritone James Atkinson (Masetto) are also performing with the company for the first time; they share their parts with Meeta Ravel, Simon Bailey and Gareth Brynmor John, respectively.
Sopranos Marina Monzó and Linda Richardson share the role of Donna Anna. Tenors Trystan Llŷr Griffiths and Kenneth Tarver take on Don Ottavio, and former WNO Associate Artist Harriet Eyley and current WNO Associate Artist Isabelle Peters split the role of Zerlina. British bass James Platt sings il Commendatore.
Continuing the company’s Janáček series, Eloise Lally makes her directorial debut with WNO bringing Katie Mitchell’s 2008 production of Jenůfa back to the stage. WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus conducts the production.
Jenůfa is the story of a woman with a secret that will bring shame to herself and her family, by having a child out of wedlock. She hopes to marry the father, the drunken and womanising Števa, before the secret is revealed, but her interfering stepmother, Kostelnička, has other plans.
English soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn makes her debut with the company as well as a role debut as the titular character. Also making his debut with WNO is Slovakian tenor Peter Berger singing the role of Laca, which he shares with British tenor Peter Auty. Sopranos Angela Denoke and Eliska Weissova share the role of Kostelnička.
WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus commented: “Janáček is a composer that is very close to my heart and my history, equally he was a composer that still has a lot to say that can speak to audiences today. Jenůfa is one of the best operas ever written and I want to make sure it is done to the highest level. I am looking forward to presenting this piece to audiences in Cardiff and also on tour so as many people as possible can experience this wonderful music.”
WNO’s new production of Madam Butterfly, which premiered in the company’s 2021-22 season, also returns for the spring season. Directed by Lindy Hume and conducted by James Southall, this critically acclaimed production explores socially relevant themes of Puccini’s classic tale. Told through a 21-century lens where love is a commodity, this production provides perspective on the relevance this story still has today.
Greek soprano Alexia Voulgaridou returns to the role of Butterfly (Cio-Cio-San), sharing the stage with Italian tenor Leonardo Caimi as Pinkerton. British baritone Gareth Brynmor John takes on the part of Sharpless, with British bass-baritone Keel Watson, American tenor Tom Randle, Indian-Scottish bass-baritone Neil Balfour and British mezzo-soprano Kezia Bienek returning to complete the cast.
WNO General Director Aidan Lang said: “While the difficulties that Covid-19 creates have not yet gone away, we are nevertheless looking forward to presenting our spring season. One of the strengths of opera is that the great works can transcend time, their central ideas being as relevant to our lives today as they were at the time they were written.
“In some cases, such as with the amoral Don Giovanni, we view his actions today through a new, more contemporary lens. What chimes so strongly with Janáček’s extraordinary Jenůfa is how the terrible actions of the opera happen because of the belief that they are being done for the right reason. And the emphasis in our production of Madam Butterfly on its young titular character being trafficked as part of a pleasure package has unfortunately proved to be timely, given recent revelations.”
Part of WNO’s outreach programme to open up opera and classical music to young audiences, Play Opera LIVE will premiere at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre on 13 March, before touring to venues in Plymouth, Llandudno, Southampton and Stafford. The concert features the WNO Orchestra and guest soloists performing a programme of opera favourites, as well as music from West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz and other well-known numbers.
These concerts provide an opportunity for young people to experience a live performance; for many this might be their first introduction to opera and classical music. There will be a host of pre-show workshops and foyer activities in each venue which showcase all aspects of an opera company from wigs and make-up to props and costume.
WNO’s Youth Opera groups will join forces for a full-scale performance of The Black Spider (1985) at Wales Millennium Centre’s Weston Studio in May 2022. Judith Weir’s creepy, comic tale travels back in time from the present day to the Middle Ages. In ancient Poland a mysterious green man offers to protect a village from their evil landlord in exchange for the beautiful Christina’s hand in marriage, while in modern times, excavations at the village’s church unleash a curse.
The opera will be performed by WNO Youth Opera members in South Wales aged 10-18 years. Rhian Hutchings returns to WNO to direct, with WNO Youth Opera Musical Director Dan Perkin conducting. Vocal direction is by Sian Cameron and design by Bethany Seddon.
All productions in WNO’s spring season open at Wales Millennium Centre, before touring to venues in Milton Keynes, Bristol, Plymouth, Birmingham, Llandudno, Liverpool and Southampton. The spring season is open now and runs to 14 May. Tickets are available from WNO’s website.
Soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn sings the title role in a revival of Janáček’s Jenůfa, part of Welsh National Opera’s spring season.