Theatre in Wales

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Glorious

At Opra Cymru

Opra Cymru- Wythnos Yng Nghymru Fydd , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , November 20, 2017
At Opra Cymru by Opra Cymru- Wythnos Yng Nghymru Fydd The whole world flows through Aberystwyth. This gives rise at times to unlikely meetings that rarely occur elsewhere. An audience for a South African township choir finds itself rubbing shoulders with death metal tribute fans. This Friday in November is one of those days, three events of an imposing variety playing out on opposite sides of a few feet of foyer. The five days of the annual Abertoir Fest has brought in its loyal cadre of distinctly recognisable horror aficionados. Two very strange figures, offcuts of the Addams Family, are present for the Aberration cabaret.

In the main house “Wythnos Yng Nghymru Fydd” too has attracted some recognisable figures. A Council Leader is to be seen. There is a former Chair of S4C. On a Friday night the Senedd's Presiding Officer is back in her constituency territory. The handsomely produced programme has forewords from Dafydd Elis Thomas and Carwyn Jones. Gwasg Gomer has contributed with a new sixtieth anniversary hardback edition of Islwyn Ffowc Elis' novel. This is a cultural event of significance.

What is all the more remarkable is that it is the brainchild of a minnow of a company fuelled by musical depth and experience, zeal and sheer entrepreneurial chutzpah. Opra Cymru's contribution to the culture has been hailed before on this site ever since “Macbeth” in 2012 soared to take its place in the best of the year.

So a lot of build-up. Patrick Young has fused a potent cluster of collaborators to take this production on its journey north to south. “Wythnos Yng Nghymru Fydd” plays in Barry in a venue of alarmingly large capacity. As a director he has an advantage of working with singers, like Gwawr Edwards, from previous productions- she was a scintillating presence in 2013's “Barber of Seville”. The eleven-strong Ensemble Cymru in the pit brings authority and reputation to Gareth Glyn's score. Mererid Hopwood is librettist and the University of Bangor has brought its heft too to the production.

As material for opera Islwyn Ffowc Elis’ scenario is unique. His vision of the future as bifurcated, part Shangri-la and part neo-Fascist, is not so far from other authors. Wells' Morlocks and Eloi are akin, even in this anniversary year of Swift the Dean's Houyhnhnms and Yahoos. The design displays a future of lovely brightly-coloured satins while the syringes that apply the PX300 drug are of a horrendous size. The author's vision of the linguistic future is probably both true and untrue. Its degradation is less likely to be a sole remaining speaker in a Bala siop chip. More likely is a shift to a kind of inexorable multi-sourced Papiamento. Our universe is entropic and humanity a migratory species.

Aberystwyth's stage at its peak hosts thirty-five singers. The chorus is admittedly young but in fine collective voice. For this performance its members have come south from Ysgol Glanaethy and Ysgol y Moelwyn from the company's home town. Opra Cymru runs a Promising Artists programme and its members Eleri Gwilym, Ilar Rees Davies, Gethin Lewis and Seimon Menai are all on stage. The principals are Gwawr Edwards, Siân Meinir, Robyn Lyn, Euros Campbell and Siôn Goronwy, a bass who towers over hero Ifan.

Musicologists may identify the influences on Gareth Glyn. To a lay listener it is music that never draws attention to itself- Alban Berg it isn't. It is subsidiary always to the singing, the result a hundred minutes of unbroken glorious voice. As Dr Heinkel sings in the first act “arbrawth ydi arbrawth”; indeed, and one that is triumphantly good.

The tour continues to Barry, Taliesin and Pwllheli.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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