Welsh National Opera's Autumn Season

By Evans, Rian | Musical Opinion, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

Welsh National Opera's Autumn Season


Evans, Rian, Musical Opinion


There is always a great feeling of anticipation when a new Season's line-up of productions from Welsh National Opera is announced. Such is the consistency and variety of their approach, that even somebody very familiar with their work over the years as I (being based in Cardiff) inevitably am, can't help but be drawn in. There is always something that demands one's attention and one's attendance and that augurs well for a special performance.

For me the particular attraction of the new Season is the Company's first ever production of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades. Pushkin's story is a favourite of mine, but while I'm familiar with one or two arias from the opera, I have never seen it complete. That in itself is an exciting prospect. The new production is being staged by the team who made such a sensational success of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel: producer Richard Jones, conductor Vladimir Jurowski and designer John Macfarlane.

Richard Jones describes the opera as "fantasist and hallucinatory", so it seems certain to have his trademark dark and shocking feel. It will also undoubtedly look stunning. Back in February, John Macfarlane's design for the Opera Bastille's production of Prokofiev's War and Peace was hugely acclaimed in Paris, and his second Russian epic in a year promises to be every bit as dynamic. I look forward to hearing Susan Chilcott in the role of Lisa and the shining new talent of Canadian tenor Alan Woodrow as Hermann. The opera is sponsored by the WNO Partnership and will be sung in Russian with surtitles and opens at Cardiff's New Theatre on 15 September at 6.30pm, with further stagings there on 21 and 25 September and 13 October. The Queen of Spades later tours to Oxford, Southampton, Liverpool and Bristol. with a concert performance in Birmingham.

Hot on the heels of Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame comes a new production of Gluck's Orpheus et Eurydice from the French partnership of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, who will have two productions during the Autumn run, since their Carmen is enjoying a timely revival this Autumn, These two men revere Gluck, not just for his beautiful music but also for the influence that he was to have on the French composers who followed him. Intriguingly, Welsh National Opera has opted for Hector Berlioz's version of Gluck's score, which was created especially for the great mezzo Pauline Viardot in 1859. In its turn, WNO is creating this production as a vehicle for the prodigious talents of Katarina Karneus, the 1995 Cardiff Singer of the World. That casting looks even more attractive with the Company's acquisition of Nathalie Christie, thanks to a two-year funding by the Sir John Moore's Award. …

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