WNO’s Russia-themed season with a Czech mate and some batty light relief

August 31, 2017 by

This autumn Welsh National Opera will present three Russian-themed opera under the title Russian Revolution.

The season will include performances of Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Janáček’s From the House of the Dead, based on the book by Dostoevsky.

The season is part of R17, a cultural reflection on the centenary of the Russian Revolution involving arts organisations across Wales.

Acknowledging that there are no real significant Russian Revolution operas to be part of a R17 project, WNO Artistic Director David Pountney said, “Our approach has been to present three works that in very different ways illustrate the enduring character of Russians and Russian society.”

Two of the operas are revivals of David Pountney productions Khovanshchina, from 2007, and From the House of the Dead, which helped establish  the Czech composerJanáček to UK audiences. They will be conducted by WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus.

Khovanshchina will see the return of Robert Hayward in the role of Prince Ivan Khovansky and Adrian Thompson in the role of the Scribe.  They will be joined by Mark Le Brocq as the Westernised aristocrat, Prince Vasily Golitsyn, and Miklós Sebestyén as religious fundamentalist, Dosifei.

From the House of the Dead will be the première of a new critical edition by musicologist John Tyrrell with performance suggestions by Charles Mackerras.  Unfinished at the time of Janáček’s death, this will be the first time that the opera will be performed in a version that the company believes is as close as possible to what Janáček intended. The cast will include Alan Oke (Skuratov), Robert Hayward (The Commandant), Mark Le Brocq (Filka Morozov) and Adrian Thompson (Shapkin).

Tomáš Hanus said, “I really cannot wait to be working on Khovanshchina and From the House of the Dead with our fantastic orchestra, chorus and all the soloists, and to share this with our audience. I am sure that together we will all experience an exceptional and very emotional season that will deeply enrich our lives.”

The third of the Russian-themed season is the better known Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky with another revival, this time a James Macdonald  production here directed by Caroline Chaney and conducted by Latvian Ainārs Rubikis who will make his WNO debut. He has recently been announced as the new Music Director of Komische Oper Berlin.  Swansea singer Natalya Romaniw, who represented Wales in Cardiff Singer of the world, takes the role of Tatyana and Nicholas Lester returns to WNO following his performances in the Figaro trilogy in 2016 to take the role of Onegin.  .

On a lighter note, there will also be performances of Die Fledermaus (also performed in Summer 2017), with Judith Howarth singing Rosalinde and WNO Associate Artist Anna Harvey as Orlofsky, conducted by James Southall.  The season will open in Cardiff before touring to Southampton, Llandudno, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Oxford.

More directly linked to post revolutionary Russia, on Thursday November 23 Tomáš Hanus will  conduct the WNO Orchestra at St David’s Hall, Cardiff in a performance of Shostakovich’s  Leningrad Symphony (No.7). Part of The Hall’s International Concert Series it also includes Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)

Alongside the season, the company will continue with a new programme of Youth and Community activity across the towns and cities where WNO performs, including a series of schools workshops and a schools concert in Southampton; the first performance of the Community Chorus North in St Asaph as part of the North Wales International Music Festival; a continuation of the weekly schools workshops in Cardiff; a new programme of work with primary schools in Birmingham and a Digital Teach programme in Liverpool schools. There will also be taster sessions in the autumn in Birmingham for a new Youth Opera which the company will be setting up from early 2018.

A free virtual reality (VR) experience, Magic Butterfly, will visit Llandudno’s Llawn Festival between 15-17 September, then returns to Cardiff on 23 September before touring to Birmingham and Liverpool alongside our main stage performances at these venues.  It will also be presented in London at the V&A Museum in January 2018 as part of the V&A and the Royal Opera House’s Opera: Passion, Power and Politics exhibition.

The company will also present the world première of The World’s Wife, composed by Tom Green with a libretto by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, author of the collection of poems ‘The World’s Wife’ which looks at men from history from the perspective of their better halves. The opera for solo soprano and string quartet will be presented in WMC’s Weston Studio on 15 October 15.  It is a co-production between Taliesin Arts Centre, Echo Forest and The Mavron Quartet supported by WNO.


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