Cardiff-based company Welsh National Opera (WNO) first revealed information about its 2022-23 season back in May of this year. The company has now announced further details of the world premiere, new production and orchestra concerts that comprise its spring 2023 programme.
Wales’s national company’s 2023 season opens with the world premiere of Blaze of Glory! Written by composer David Hackbridge Johnson with a libretto by Emma Jenkins, the opera combines traditional Welsh harmonies with the a cappella sounds of the 1950s, with operetta, gospel and big band also added into the mix. The cast and WNO Chorus will also be joined by local male voice choirs who will sing prior to each performance.
Set in the 1950s, Blaze of Glory! follows a group of Welsh miners as they embark on a musical journey to reform their male voice choir after a local mining disaster.
The opera sees the miners and a group of strong-willed women, led by their heroic chorus master, Mr Dafydd Pugh, embark on a series of adventures that lead them to the Eisteddfodau – an annual festival of Welsh culture and music – and beyond.
This world premiere will be staged by director Caroline Clegg; she is joined by conductor Stephen Higgins and designer Madeleine Boyd. It marks the second time Clegg and librettist Jenkins have worked together, following their successful collaboration for 2019’s Rhondda Rips it Up!
The production features Welsh singers in star roles. Soprano Rebecca Evans is Mrs Nerys Price, tenor Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts is the chorus master, Mr Dafydd Pugh, and countertenor Feargal Mostyn Williams is Bryn Bevan. The cast also includes former WNO associate artist English tenor Adam Gilbert as Emlyn and Zambian-born baritone Themba Mvula as Anthony.
Blaze of Glory! will receive its world premiere at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, on 23 February. It then tours to Llandudno on 1 April, Milton Keynes on 22 April, Bristol on 25 and 29 April, Birmingham on 6 May and Southampton on 20 May.
WNO is also set to stage a new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute under the baton of the company’s music director Tomáš Hanus. Daisy Evans returns to WNO to direct the work, with sets and costumes designed by Loren Elstein.
This new production puts an immersive spin on an operatic favourite, which will be set in a world of fantasy and adventure. The double cast will feature Welsh tenor Trystan Llŷr Griffiths and South African tenor Thando Mjandana sharing the role of Tamino, and sopranos Raven McMillon and April Koyejo-Audiger both making their WNO debuts as Pamina.
The iconic coloratura role The Queen of the Night will be shared by sopranos Samantha Hay and Julia Sitkovetsky, and Papageno the bird-catcher by baritones Quirijn De Lang and Neal Davies.
The Magic Flute opens in Cardiff on 5 March, and will tour to Llandudno (29-31 March), Milton Keynes (19-21 April), Bristol (26-28 April), Birmingham (3-5 May), Southampton (16-18 May) and Plymouth (26-27 May).
WNO’s general director Aidan Lang said: “I am looking forward to audiences experiencing our new production of The Magic Flute which continues to enchant audiences with its timeless tale of the magical power of music to overcome darkness and bring us towards truth and light.”
Heading into summer, a new production of Bernstein’s operetta Candide will open in June. Based on the 1759 novella of the same name by Voltaire, Candide is in love with Cunégonde. Dr Pangloss, their tutor, teaches them that everything in this world is for the best, and part of God’s universal plan. Candide is then subjected to a series of disasters to test this theory.
Conducted by Karen Kamensek and directed by James Bonas, the confirmed cast includes British tenor Ed Lyon in the title role, South African-born soprano Vuvu Mpofu as Cunégonde, British mezzo-soprano Madeleine Shaw as The Old Lady and Surrey-born baritone Mark Nathan as Maximilian.
Candide will open at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, on 22 June, before touring to Truro (28 June), Llandudno (5 July), Oxford (8 July) and Birmingham (12 July).
“It can at times be difficult to see through the darkness, but our rich spring season will hopefully show how music has the power to bring light and joy to our lives,” Lang concluded.
Tickets for all productions are on sale now.
A new production of Bernstein’s Candide forms part of Welsh National Opera’s 2023 season, which also includes the world premiere of Blaze of Glory!