Tag Archives: WNO

Khovanshchina, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2017

This great opera portrays late seventeenth century events in Russia before Peter the Great came to power. Musorgsky, who wrote his own libretto, invents some love interest, notably in the character of Marfa, though the true historical background and exigencies of getting operas to stage are well described in the excellent programme essays, which also …

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Der Rosenkavalier, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, June 2017

The recent cinema screening of Robert Carsen’s Rosenkavalier production (London and NY) shows a subtle emphasis on the passing of time, and this production takes a similar viewpoint but in a more overt manner. Judging by most of the costumes, the setting is presumably about 1911 when the opera was written and the passing of …

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Le Vin herbé, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2017

The French title (the wine infused drink) refers to the love potion shared by Tristan and Isolde, and at its first fully staged performance at the Salzburg Festival in 1948 it took the German title Der Zaubertrank (the Magic Drink). Wagner’s famous Tristan und Isolde was partly inspired by his relationship with Mathilde Wesendonk while …

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La Bohème, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, January 2017

For a touring production with limited scope for elaborate stage designs this is little short of miraculous. Tim Mitchell’s lighting works wonders with the rooftops of Paris, the romance and passion of Act I turning to a scene of paradise after death in Act IV as Mimi lies alone in the Bohemians’ apartment. I loved …

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Macbeth, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2016

Of Verdi’s three Shakespeare works — the others are his final operas Otello and Falstaff — this marks something of a turning point in his career, and its 1847 premiere in Florence was a huge success. In this staging by Oliver Mears, first performed in 2014 by Northern Ireland Opera where he is artistic director, …

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Figaro’s Divorce, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2016

Beaumarchais wrote a sequel to his two plays underlying the Barber of Seville and Marriage of Figaro. In La Mère coupable a brief affair between the Countess and Cherubino results in a child, brought up as the Count’s son, and this opera, to David Pountney’s libretto based on a play by Ödön von Horváth (1901–1938), …

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Marriage of Figaro, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2016

This second part of WNO’s Figaro triptych uses the same excellent design team of Ralph Koltai (sets), Sue Blane (costumes) and Linus Fellbom (lighting) as the Barber of Seville, with designs again featuring two huge walls. In this case they move apart to allow entrances, exits and a hint of deception between master and servant, …

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Barber of Seville, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2016

This is the first of a trio of operas — along with The Marriage of Figaro, and a new opera called Figaro’s Divorce — from Welsh National Opera for Spring 2016, all co-productions with the Grand Théâtre de Genève, where they will appear later. Continuity between the three is provided by the design team, which …

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Orlando, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2015

In Ariosto’s early sixteenth century epic poem Orlando Furioso (Frenzied Roland) that forms the basis for this opera, Orlando was one of the foremost warriors in Charlemagne’s court. Torn between his love for Angelica and his duty to go to war he has a nervous breakdown. In the meantime Angelica’s love has turned to the …

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The Magic Flute, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2015

The remarkable freshness of Dominic Cooke’s 2005 production is superbly complemented by Lothar Koenigs’ conducting. He invested the overture with tremendous dramatic energy and as the opera developed fully brought out its theatrical side. Theatrical it is indeed, its librettist Schikaneder having created it for his own suburban vaudeville theatre rather than an opera house, …

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Moses in Egypt, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, October 2014

Congratulations to WNO for staging a Rossini masterpiece that in its day “marked the final and complete emancipation of the bass singer … for the purposes of opera seria” (Francis Toye). Hitherto it had been conventional to restrict important bass roles to opera buffa, but here both Moses and Pharaoh are basses. The sacred theme …

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William Tell, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2014

For the first Milan production of this opera, after its earlier première in Paris, there was predictable trouble with the Austrian authorities. The scene with the apple was cut, the oppressors became the English, and Tell was William Wallace. How appropriate then that the WNO have given the first performance of David Pountney’s new production …

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Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, May 2014

This extraordinary opera by Arnold Schoenberg remained unfinished at his death in 1951, though he wrote the music for the first two acts already in the period 1930–32. The incompleteness is emphasised by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito’s WNO production (imported from Stuttgart), by beginning and ending both acts without clear boundaries. At the start …

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Boulevard Solitude, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2014

The working title for this opera, when Henze started work on it in 1950, was Manon Lescaut, heavily influenced as it was by Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1949 movie Manon set in wartime Paris. Both are ultimately based on the Abbé Prevost’s eighteenth century novella, and the WNO staging is by the same director and stage designer, …

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Manon Lescaut, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, February 2014

Who is Manon? At the end of this production, Des Grieux’s confusion is represented by two identical versions of her on stage, elegantly dressed in black raincoat and high heels. The bleak plains of Louisiana are absent, replaced by what is a running theme in this staging — the modern world of airports and train …

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Roberto Devereux, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, October 2013

Roberto Devereux formed a stirring finale to WNO’s three Donizetti operas about queens from the Tudor period. The strong cast included Leonardo Capalbo as Devereux, who sang the same role when Holland Park performed this opera in summer 2009, and his Act I duets with Elizabeth, the Duke of Nottingham, and Nottingham’s wife Sarah were …

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Maria Stuarda, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2013

In Schiller’s play Maria Stuart, the original drama for this Donizetti opera, Elizabeth I meets Mary Queen of Scots. Such a meeting never took place, but it makes for gripping theatre, and this second opera in the WNO ‘Three Queens’ series is a winner. The designs by Madeleine Boyd continue to use the sombre black …

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Anna Bolena, Welsh National Opera, WNO, Cardiff, September 2013

Three Queens is the main theme of Welsh National Opera’s Autumn 2013 season, which opened last night with Anna Bolena. This was Donizetti’s first really big success after more than thirty other operas, and its darkly dramatic atmosphere is well-served by Alessandro Talevi’s production. At the start of the opera Anne Boleyn’s power has already …

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Wagner Dream, Welsh National Opera, Cardiff, June 2013

This was the first staged production of Jonathan Harvey’s opera Wagner Dream, first performed by Netherlands Opera in Luxembourg in 2007, and in concert at the Barbican in January 2012. Harvey’s opera is set in Venice on the day of Wagner’s death in 1883, and within ten minutes the composer, very well played by actor …

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Lohengrin, Welsh National Opera, Cardiff, May 2013

At the end of this illuminating new production by the WNO, Elsa’s younger brother Gottfried assumes the symbols of power left for him by Lohengrin, causing the assembled forces of the army, except the King and Herald, to cower away. He then raises his hand against Ortrud in her glorious red dress, and she crumples, …

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Cunning Little Vixen, WNO, Cardiff, February 2013

This opera pits the timeless amorality of the natural world against the emotions and melancholy of human beings. The former is represented by the Vixen, her family, and other forest animals, the latter by Forester, Schoolmaster, Priest and Poacher. In the original story by Rudolf Těsnohlídek, based on drawings by Stanislav Lolek, the Vixen lives …

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Lulu, Welsh National Opera, Cardiff, February 2013

Alban Berg’s Lulu, mostly written in 1934, was only performed in a complete version for the first time in 1979. Berg died in 1935, and after his widow could not get Schoenberg, nor Webern or Zemlinsky, to write an orchestration of Act III she refused any attempt at completion, and so it remained until she died …

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