Theatre in Wales

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Looking Forward & Looking Back

At Mid Wales Opera

Mid Wales Opera , Performing Across Wales , July 16, 2021
At Mid Wales Opera by Mid Wales Opera Powys makes up twenty-three percent of Wales; its residents account for four percent of the population. There was once, for those with memories, a Theatr Powys which toured widely. Newtown remains a centre still for a long-standing company which also tours widely.

The present phase of disease control is as difficult as any, differing jurisdictions applying either side of the border. For a company like Mid Wales Opera, whose tours take in Hereford's Courtyard and beyond, that brings extra challenges.

Performances in Wales are taking place at different speeds in the current season. Mid Wales Opera has done twenty-one mini-shows outdoors in May and June. The first audiences numbered thirty, then fifty. Sunday 25th July a gala concert is set for the gardens of Gregynog Hall. Charlotte Forrest is joined by Meinir Wyn Roberts (soprano) Llio Evans (soprano) and Huw Ynyr (tenor).

The company's theme for 2021 is “Puccini in Paris.” A SmallStages tour of Puccini’s “Il Tabarro” is hoped for in autumn 2021, a tour of “La Boheme” in spring 2022.

When the Culture Committee looked into funding for the arts the submission by Mid Wales Opera was summarised on this site, 24th February 2018, under the heading “Sense & Purpose.” The report included “The public of Wales knows exactly what it is giving and then the company lays out exactly what Wales gets in return. It is unambiguous and delivered in a clear language...If the company's level of candour and disclosure were made mandatory across the sector the culture would be stronger.”

The record of work in venues and communities goes back four decades. The reviews below belong to the last chapter.

12 March 2020 “Marriage of Figaro”

“Figaro Fizzes...The plot is a stream of schemes and ploys, concealments under curtains and in closets, disguises and discoveries. But it is also a three hour flow of lyric joy.”

05 March 2019 “Tosca”

“Small companies...not supposed to bring sizeable choruses with them. Nonetheless, seventeen singers appear on stage for the “Te Deum.”...The number of singers gives the climax a scale and a volume that were Puccini's intention...it is a result of Mid Wales Opera's deep engagement in the community, drawn from local singers and choirs, some from Aberystwyth itself. In the pit, with Jonathan Lyness conducting, are thirteen musicians of Ensemble Cymru.”

25 November 2018 “L’Heure Espagnole”

“If the ingredients for the successful production of small-scale opera in rural areas are accessibility and adaptability, then Mid Wales Opera has scored an indisputable bullseye in this highly approachable and hilarious new staging of L’Heure espagnole. In choosing Ravel’s clock-shop comedy for its second SmallStages tour in churches, small theatres and village halls across Wales, MWO has come up with a corker of a production. It will delight those encountering opera for the first time and help dismantle the notion that the art form is inaccessible and beyond reach.”

06 April 2018 “Eugene Onegin”

“...Director Richard Studer's costume design for the production is an Ingres gallery come to life. The men wear high stiff collars and flamboyant silk neckerchiefs. The women's dresses are high-waisted, the hair curled high in ringlets. For the party scenes they flit coquettishly across the stage in pure white dresses...Dan Saggars' lighting is outstanding, whether in a palace interior or capturing the northern light of a Russian garden...”

08 March 2017 “The Magic Flute”

“Over its twenty-eight years Mid Wales Opera has been a regular reliable for flair and wit. “The Magic Flute” plays to the company's strengths. It is an exuberant delight. After long service Nicholas Cleobury is now to be sighted far away. Brisbane has much to gain. In Newtown the company has a new artistic team in conductor Jonathan Lyness and director Richard Studer...The Magic Flute” has a large company for this tour. Fifteen singers are on stage and ten musicians in the pit. The pleasures of the production are many. It is the best of starts for the new artistic team.”

07 September 2014 “Carmen”

11 February 2014 “Acis and Galatea”

“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 principals, led by Jane Harrington’s Galatea and Oliver Mercer’s Acis, sing before a variety of verdant scenes. 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...The word “happy” is sung three dozen times in jubilation. The singers, arm in arm, make a charming little jump in accompaniment. Happy is as happy does. The audience response is rapturous.”

24 October 2013 “Albert Herring”

“Adam Wiltshire’s design captures the haunting eastern shoreline, the polar opposite to the Irish Sea coast. Marram grass on stage blends into a long marshy seafront overhung with North Sea clouds. Neat box hedge cones wittily cover piles of merchandise for Mrs Herring’s shop. A Union Jack leans over on a bent metal pole above a skewed Second World War pillbox. The human mind is built to read symbolism everywhere, even where not intended. A tabloid headline announces that it is the spring of 1979 and Catrin Aur’s Lady Billows has a touch of the new premier to her. Sure enough the wilting Union Jack soon disappears.”

08 September 2012 “Don Giovanni”

“Mid Wales Opera always delivers a fresh interpretation. Flickering neon signs place the action in a gaudy commercial world. Designer dresses in a shop window are consumer dreams. The symbol of Christianity, the crucifix, becomes an on-off artefact in harsh neon. “Sin will find you” reads a chapel sign tellingly.”

October 2011 “Noyes Fludde”

“...the ark rolls and pitches in the flood, the orchestra plays Britten’s storm-evoking music, and cast and audience sing alike. 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.

“…Clare Williams brings many a small touch of wit to the production...The physical loading of the animals on the ark is accompanied by onscreen animation. The drawings are by children. Each creature has its distinct movement brought to life by animator Ben Davis. A chimpanzee grins, a cat trots along with a look of self-satisfaction, squirrels hop, a peacock opens his plume of feathers...the emotional heart is the survival of the natural world, koala bear, giraffe and dozens of others...“Noye’s Fludde” is more than just moving. All these voices, that have come together, sing “I may eternal brightness see and share thy joy at last.” Joy is shared indeed. In these grey days “Noye’s Fludde” is the best corrective; it brims over with hope”

22 September 2011 “Madam Butterfly”

12 September 2011 “Madame Butterfly”
“...The era is that of Eisenhower. Pan Am is still a behemoth of global aviation, not the bankrupt of 1991...Madam Butterfly herself, in this time not long after the MacArthur occupation, sips out of a coke bottle. The television, brown and on spindly legs, shows its black and white American soap opera. A laundry basket is a gaudy red plastic...”

09 October 2009 “Marriage of Figaro”

“...For the last time the slim figure of artistic director and conductor, Keith Darlington, with his snowy hair and invariably black shirt, is to be seen leading his chamber orchestra through a great score...wit, imagination and effervescence do not require vast budgets.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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