Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

How to Reach 30 Years

At Mid Wales Opera

Mid Wales Opera- 30 Years , Powys and All Points , March 7, 2019
At Mid Wales Opera by Mid Wales Opera- 30 Years In his 1996 book “Stage Welsh” critic David Adams sought to demonstrate what he saw as a culture of vitality. He listed the companies of Wales who had been active in the course of a single week. All, save one, were to be gone within a few years. It is a rough world making theatre here. A guarantor of survival for a company is to get itself a building, because they are not easily vacated. Look only to the landscape of the felled: not only those that David Adams relished a generation back but Theatr Powys, Earthfall, Mappa Mundi, Theatr Pena...

So to make a thirtieth anniversary in this Darwinian environment is an accomplishment. This season two of the indomitable are out in full vigour. Arad Goch is author again of its Agor Drysau festival and Mid Wales Opera is out across all corners of Wales with its full-blooded “Tosca.”

A number of factors aid longevity. Six words, for a start, are good, all beginning with “c”. In fact the six are not just interlocking but are self-reinforcing. The qualities for flourishing are by no means exclusive but embrace clarity, certainty, confidence, competence, continuity, candour.

Before tackling these qualities critically a little biography needs to be got out of the way. The company has featured frequently on this site. My first encounter was in 2001 in little Theatr Felinfach. The “Cosi fan Tutti” of that year was small-scale. A big chorus needs a big budget but flair does not. It had a wit and panache to it to match the big beasts of opera.

Not every year has been at the same peak but 2018 was a good year. My review of April 6th last year was headed “Three Hours of Lyric Flow: MWO at its Peak” and it duly went on to my best of the year round-up.

Confidence. Confidence is at the heart of accomplishment. No company in Wales is as assiduous in pursuing critical feedback. My article on the Senedd enquiry into the arts of 24th February 2018 had a heading “From Neath & Newtown: Sense & Purpose”. It coupled Mid Wales Opera with Theatr Na nÓg and included the line “Both explicitly regard critics as a part of the ecology.” In the case of Mid Wales Opera the quality of production is strong enough to attract the opera critics of the London broadsheets. But as the article also noted “the company values critical response, even critics who are in Wales.”

Importantly, it is not a fawning relationship which is where confidence comes into play. So “Eugene Onegin” left a line in its wake that recorded “three hours of glorious singing in a production of scale and confidence.” But then for the twenty-fifth year it was a small coup to attract Jonathan Miller. The critical response was that the musical side outclassed the dramatic by some way. This site at “Don Giovanni” in 2012 saw a lot of visual inconsistency in Mozart-goes-to-the-Bayou.

But then there have been days of bliss. “Albert Herring” in 2013: “the quality of diction on this leg of the tour is superlative throughout.” “Acis and Galatea” in 2014: “Nicky Shaw’s set is a magic box, revealing ever new tricks and perspectives throughout the hour and a half of Handel’s near unbroken melodic grace. The shepherds hardly suggest they have ever done a day’s work in the fields. In their creamy waistcoats and knee-length britches they look as if they are in preparation for a Watteau-esque fếte galante....Director Miskimmon and lighting designer Declan Randall achieve some effects of exquisite emotion...the audience response is rapturous."

And then there was “Noye’s Fludde” in 2011. “Participating in the arts- “the importance of taking part, not just consuming” ran the review's opening. The numbers involved awed. “The fifty-strong orchestra comprises a core of professionals augmented by musicians under the aegis of Ceredigion’s Music Services. A small drummer, for instance, eleven years old started four years ago with a local samba group...the onstage singers, in the main below the age of ten, by this point number two hundred and forty. The combined sound is colossal, the effect deeply emotive.”

There is another word that begins with “c”. Community will be the topic for the concluding article.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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