Welsh National Opera’s new season opens tonight (January 8th) with a new production of Verdi’s grand opera, Les vêpres siciliennes. Directed by Sir David Pountney and conducted by WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi (until 14 March), Les vêpres siciliennes is the final instalment in the Company’s Verdi Trilogy over the last three years.
Soprano Anush Hovhannisyan returns to WNO following her debut with the Company in 2018 to take the role of Hélène, with Giorgio Caoduro also returning to WNO as Guy de Montfort. Jung Soo Yun makes his WNO debut as Henri. Completing the cast for this new production are Wojtek Gierlach, Wyn Pencarreg, Christine Byrne, Robyn Lyn Evans and Gareth Brynmor John.
Raimund Bauer’s ‘Verdi Machine’ set of three interlocking frames will again appear in this production, with costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca. This new production features the third act ballet, and will be choreographed by Caroline Finn, who is Resident Choreographer with National Dance Company Wales. Six dancers from National Dance Company Wales will join the cast.
Also in the Spring season are performances of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, originally directed by Tobias Richter in 2016. With sets designed by the eminent stage designer Ralph Koltai and costumes by acclaimed film and theatre costume designer Sue Blane, this vivid production which documents the momentous occasion of Figaro’s wedding day makes a welcome return to the WNO stage.
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WNO’s Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi conducts performances of The Marriage of Figaro until 12 March when the tour will be completed by James Southall and Frederick Brown. David Ireland leads the cast as opera’s definitive extrovert, Figaro, accompanied by Soraya Mafi as Susanna, Jonathan McGovern as the flirty and flamboyant Count Almaviva, and Anita Watson as Countess Almaviva.
Jo Davies’ production of Bizet’s Carmen returns in the Spring for further performances following a successful Autumn run, this time with a new cast. American mezzo soprano Julia Mintzer sings the title role in her UK operatic debut, with Peter Auty as Don José. Also new to the cast this season are Giorgio Caoduro (Escamillo), Elin Pritchard (Micaëla), John Savournin (Zuniga) and Haegee Lee (Frasquita).
Continuing WNO’s commitment to talent development, WNO Associate Conductor Harry Ogg will conduct the Spring performances of Carmen, with WNO Female Conductor in Residence Tianyi Lu taking the baton for the performances in Liverpool.
Opening 23 May, WNO will tour a new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte aka School of Love to mid-scale venues across Wales and England. The tour follows on from WNO’s recent mid-scale productions of Rhondda Rips it Up! and Don Pasquale, and is part of the Company’s ongoing commitment to reach a wide range of audiences with a varied operatic repertoire. Directed by Max Hoehn and designed by Jemima Robinson, this new production of Così fan tutte, set in the 1970s, will take audiences ‘back to school’ as it follows four sixth formers learning about first love and all its complications.
The cast for Così fan tutte includes Rhodri Prys Jones as Ferrando, Ross Ramgobin as Guglielmo, Quentin Hayes as Don Alfonso, Nazan Fikret as Fiordiligi, Katie Bray as Dorabella and Elizabeth Karani as Despina. Frederick Brown conducts.
WNO General Director Aidan Lang says: “Verdi’s rarely performed Grand Opera Les vêpres siciliennes is a major undertaking for any company; so I am particularly proud that WNO is presenting it in our Spring Season, as it is a worthy title with which to conclude our trilogy of his works. With The Marriage of Figaro and Carmen also in our line-up, we hopefully have something that will appeal to all opera-goers, be they newcomers to the art form, or aficionados. Equally important to our productions on the main stage, however, are the projects undertaken by our Youth and Community department. Meaningful engagements with opera can come in all shapes and sizes, and the sheer range of activity that the company now undertakes truly helps us to establish our work in the lives of many who might not otherwise have ready access to our big touring theatres.”