Sir Bryn Terfel is the star of the opening concert at the Cardiff National Eisteddfod this year, and for the first time ever, the concert will be performed twice, the first on Friday 3 August and then the following evening in the HSBC Pavilion in the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre. Both shows are sold out.
The opening evening coincides with the sixtieth anniversary of Paul Robeson’s visit to the National Eisteddfod at Ebbw Vale in 1958. This was a most visible symbol of Robeson’s important and valued relationship with Wales.
When the festival returned to Ebbw Vale in 2010, it was obvious that the people of Wales still felt a strong affinity with Paul Robeson and were still proud of his strong links with Wales.
Hwn yw fy Mrawd (This is my Brother) is an original and new work commissioned by the National Eisteddfod. The libretto is written by poet, Mererid Hopwood, who has won all the main literary prizes at the festival, and the music is composed by renowned composer, Robat Arwyn, who has worked with the Eisteddfod on a number of large-scale projects in the past.
The production is a celebration of Paul Robeson’s strong and powerful relationship with Wales, a relationship which began in London during the south Wales miners’ protest marches at the end of the 1920s and continued until his death. His deep affiliation with the people of south Wales, and in particular the miners, struck a chord across Wales, and this is the main focus of Hwn yw fy Mrawd.
Starring Sir Bryn Terfel as Mr Jones, a Music teacher, who idolises Robeson and everything he stands for, Hwn yw fy Mrawd tells how two different cultures came together through the strength and support of one man, Paul Robeson, and how his understanding of the miners’ fight and the oppressive way in which they were treated created a lifelong affinity with the South Wales Valleys.
Robeson’s life unfolds on stage, as Sir Bryn regales Twm, a young 16 year old boy, searching for his own hero, with stories of how Robeson came to be linked so closely to Wales. Robeson will be represented on stage through images, sound recordings, dance and instrumental music, as Sir Bryn explains why Robeson is such a hero to the people of Wales.
The production has the blessing of Paul Robeson’s family, who visited the Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale in 2010, and the Paul Robeson Trust, Wales, who have studied his life and work. Hwn yw fy Mrawd will also be supported by an exhibition on his life within the Wales Millennium Centre, and two other sessions at the festival during the week.
Swansea University is one of the sponsors of Hwn yw fy Mrawd, and the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard B Davies said, “The University’s relationship with the National Eisteddfod develops and deepens every year and we are delighted to be sponsoring this year’s opening concert.
“Hwn yw fy Mrawd is a particulary suitable event for the University to sponsor, as we have a close relationship with the Robeson family and our admiration of thie special hero, our ethos of being a Welsh universiry with an international vision, and our aspirations to develop our musical culture.
“It is a great honour to support the production which showcases the work of Mererid Hopwood, Robat Arwyn and Betsan Llwyd, which is a stage for the immense talents of Sir Bryn Terfel, Steffan Cennydd and others.”
Hwn yw fy Mrawd is also sponsored by Horizon Nuclear Power, and Gwen Parry-Jones, the company’s Director of Nuclear Operations, said: “With its inspiring story, theatre setting and calibre of performers, this year’s opening concerts look set to be some of the most spectacular yet.
“We’re proud to be supporting the shows as sponsors and look forward to a fantastic evening.”