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Opera Company puts human rights in the spotlight WNO announces Freedom Season     

Opera Company puts human rights in the spotlight  WNO announces Freedom Season
“This Freedom season brings together a group of works all of which touch on this intensely political subject, but as works of art, not political manifestos. It establishes that an art form often wrongly thought of as an establishment playground nonetheless has a lot to say about political and social suffering.”
David Pountney, WNO Artistic Director

Welsh National Opera presents Freedom, a season of operatic works with complementary panel discussions, talks, community engagement and an exhibition of immersive reality artwork exploring the themes of human rights, justice and political imprisonment.

Curated by Artistic Director David Pountney, the season will showcase every element of the performing company from the WNO Chorus and Orchestra through to WNO Community Chorus and WNO’s award-winning Youth Opera. In addition, young singers including Youth Opera alumni and students at the David Seligman Opera School at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) will take roles in several of the productions, demonstrating WNO’s ongoing commitment to developing young talent. The creative process will see young artists sharing the rehearsal room and concert platform alongside colleagues of international standing.

At the heart of Freedom are five operas, four semi-staged and one fully staged production. Semi-staged productions include The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti, Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie, The Prisoner by Luigi Dallapiccola and the second act of Beethoven’s Fidelio with a fully staged production of Brundibár by Jewish Czech composer Hans Krása. All operas will be performed at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre.

Partners for the talks and debates in the season include Amnesty International UK, the Welsh Refugee Council and the National Assembly for Wales among others, with the aim of stimulating conversation and raising awareness of the issues that are highlighted by the Freedom season operas and in society today.

An opera about one man’s desperate wait for a visa is Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul. It won a Pulitzer prize for its premiere in 1935 and remains acutely topical. Featuring Gary Griffiths, Giselle Allen, Leah-Marian Jones, Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Graeme Broadbent, The Consul will be directed by Max Hoehn and conducted by Justin Brown. Dead Man Walking, Jake Heggie’s first opera with libretto by Terrence McNally, will feature Lucia Cervoni, Morgan Smith and Anne Mason in the three principal roles, supported by the WNO Chorus, WNO Youth Opera alumni and current Youth Opera singers, RWCMD vocal and drama students and supplemented by conservatoire student voices. Based on a true story and book by Sister Helen Prejean, the plot follows a nun who, while comforting a convicted killer on death row empathises with both the killer and his victims’ families. This production grapples with the notion of what constitutes justice, redemption and tolerance, and is directed by Martin Constantine and conducted by Karen Kamensek.

WNO’s Youth Opera of young singers aged 10-14 years will present a fully staged production of Brundibár, a children’s opera with a message of hope and unity triumphing over an evil tyrant, directed by David Pountney. First performed in a Jewish orphanage in 1942, Brundibár was later made famous by Nazi propaganda footage of a performance in the Terezín (Theresienstadt) concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia where many of the orphans were sent. The name Brundibár comes from a Czech word for bumblebee. It will be conducted by WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus who has a particular emotional connection to the work as his mother was one of ‘The Girls of Room 28’ and took part in the concentration camp performances at Terezín and was one of the very few survivors. This will be the first time that WNO’s Youth Opera will work with the leadership team of Pountney and Hanus.

Tomáš Hanus said: “Making music and art is a powerful ingredient for the freedom of humanity and freedoms of each individual. For the children in Terezín (Theresienstadt) concentration camp, separated from their parents, music provided them with freedom in the face of a Nazi regime attempting to steal their hope and prepare them only for death. Hans Krása’s Brundibár allowed those children to breathe, to experience human dignity, friendship and beauty… sadly for most of them it was the last ray of sunshine to enter their lives before being brutally murdered in Auschwitz. All children, no matter their circumstance, deserve to feel the sunshine that the arts and creative freedom can bestow”.

A double bill of The Prisoner and Fidelio (Act II) will be performed featuring the full forces of WNO Chorus and WNO Community Chorus on the Donald Gordon stage in Wales Millennium Centre. Returning to WNO, previous music director Lothar Koenigs will conduct the evening. The one-act opera The Prisoner is based on the short story La torture par l’espérance (Torture by Hope) by Auguste Villiers and features Lester Lynch and Peter Hoare in lead roles as the Prisoner and the Gaoler, with Sara Fulgoni as the Mother. Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio is a dramatic exposition of the defeat of tyranny by love and liberty. The cast includes Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones, Emma Bell, Wojtek Gierlack and Daniel Grice.

A series of debates, discussions and talks will accompany the productions, featuring guest speakers in conversations such as The Nature of Crime and Justice, The rise of Nationalism & Minorities within, Anti-Slavery, Free Speech & Artistic Freedom, Welcoming Refugees, Human Rights Defenders and The Voice of a Child. Speakers include: Mona Siddiqui, Professor at Edinburgh University and first person to hold a chair in Islamic and Interreligious Studies; Bela Arora, Professor of Global Governance and Vice Chair of the British American Project; Claire Fox, British libertarian writer and the Director and Founder of The Institute of Ideas as well as poet and playwright Eric Ngalle Charles who himself fell victim to human trafficking.

Digital Arts Exhibition
To complement the season, WNO has curated a digital exhibition of immersive reality artworks to be exhibited at Wales Millennium Centre. Immersive work by international artists inspired by personal histories of facing prejudice and displacement by conflict will be experienced in Wales for the first time. In addition, WNO will present a newly created piece of digital storytelling in collaboration with the BBC Cymru Wales Innovation team. The programme of existing immersive experiences includes Terminal 3, The Last Goodbye and Future Aleppo which will be displayed alongside visual art installation The Girls of Room 28, L 410 Theresienstadt.

Terminal 3 explores contemporary Muslim identities through the lens of airport interrogation inspired by creator Asad J. Malik’s own personal experiences with the visitor placed in the role of interrogator. Virtual reality experience The Last Goodbye takes the first hand story of holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter to immersive levels as he guides the audience on a visit to the Majdanek Concentration Camp where he was imprisoned. Combining virtual reality with a physical model, Future Aleppo shares the testimony of fifteen-year-old Mohammed Kteish, as he attempts to reconstruct his home and his ideals for the future of Aleppo.

The Girls of Room 28, L 410 Theresienstadt is an exhibition of remembrance for the thirty girls who lived in Room 28, Theresienstadt camp – some of whom performed in the stagings of Brundibár. Although most of the girls were ultimately murdered in Auschwitz, the few survivors supported the creation of this exhibition which displays original documents from the residents of Room 28: a diary, a scrapbook, notebooks, poems, letters, essays, photos and drawings. A replica of the room itself will house these artefacts and celebrate the community and humanity that flourished there despite harrowing conditions. German journalist Hannelore Brenner, who researched and created theNew Production

The Consul – Menotti

First Night: Wednesday 12 June 2019 at 7.30pm at Wales Millennium Centre

Sung in English (with English and Welsh surtitles)

Cast Includes:

Magda Sorel Giselle Allen
John Sorel Gary Griffiths
The Mother Catherine Wyn-Rogers
The Secretary Leah Marian-Jones
Nika Magadoff Peter Hoare
Secret Police Agent Graeme Broadbent
Mr Kofner Daniel Grice

Conductor Justin Brown

Director Max Hoehn
Set Designer Misty Buckley

WNO is delighted to be entering into a five year partnership with the Welsh Refugee Council, beginning this year with a piece of developmental musical theatre called Beyond the Rainbow that will form part of Refugee Arts Week. The creative team includes refugee artists and offers professional development to artists currently seeking asylum, who are unable to work due to their status. The work will dispel the negative myths and misbeliefs that are often associated with the refugee and migrant communities. Furthermore, WNO is also working specifically with female refugees at centres in Cardiff and Birmingham to create songs around messages of sanctuary and hope.
Rosie Leach, Refugee Week Wales Co-ordinator said “Welsh Refugee Council is thrilled that artists with experience of displacement are being offered the chance to develop and share their creative skills with WNO, to learn from arts industry leaders, to gain access to employment opportunities and to share stories more widely with theatre audiences’

Ten primary schools are participating in WNO’s Freedom educational programme to receive weekly workshops with artists from WNO. The focus is for children to learn about their human rights, and explore the ideas of freedom and equality, working with music and art that promotes compassion, empathy and acceptance. As part of this learning programme, volunteer Speakers from Amnesty International UK will run human rights education workshops with children. Taking inspiration from the themes arising from the Freedom season, a group of schoolchildren will work with composers and writers to create an original song that they will perform together in June.
Rowena Seabrook from Amnesty International UK said: “Human rights belong to all of us and we are delighted to collaborate with WNO to celebrate them”.

New Production
Dead Man Walking – Jake Heggie

First Night: Friday 7 June 2019 at 7:30pm at Wales Millennium Centre

Sung in English (with English and Welsh surtitles)

Cast Includes:

Sister Helen Prejean Lucia Cervoni
Joseph De Rocher Morgan Smith
Mrs Patrick De Rocher Anne Mason

Conductor Karen Kamensek
Director Martin Constantine
Set Designer Misty Buckley
New Production

The Prisoner | Fidelio (Act II) – Dallapiccola & Beethoven

First Night: Friday 14 June 2019 at 7.30pm at Wales Millennium Centre

Sung in Italian and German (with English and Welsh surtitles)

Cast Includes:

The Prisoner
The Prisoner Lester Lynch
The Gaoler / The Grand Inquisitor Peter Hoare
The Mother Sara Fulgoni

Fidelio (Act II)
Florestan Gwyn Hughes Jones
Leonora Emma Bell
Rocco Wojtek Gierlach
Don Fernando Daniel Grice
Conductor Lothar Koenigs

Director David Pountney
Set Designer Misty Buckley

New Production
Brundibár – Krása

First Night: Saturday 22 June 2019 at 5pm at Wales Millennium Centre

Sung in English

The role of Brundibár will be played by a young emerging artist.
Cast formed of WNO Youth Opera singers.

Conductor Tomáš Hanus
Director David Pountney

Welsh National Opera  
web site
Christina Blakeman
Monday, November 05, 2018back



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