Press Release: Welsh National Opera explores Madness for autumn season

The season launches WNO’s 70th birthday year which will see the
company stage seven new productions over the course of the year — including
two world premiËres — and a classic revival.

Opening the autumn season is a new production of Bellini’s I
; the composer’s final opera and widely regarded as a bel canto
masterpiece. Following the season theme, the heroine Elvira’s descent into
madness inspired Bellini to create one of the most exquisitely refined musical
portraits of insanity in opera.

I puritani will be directed by former WNO staff director Annilese
Miskimmon, Artistic Director of Den Jyske Opera/Danish National Opera who are
also co-producers. Following critical acclaim for both William Tell
and Moses in Egypt with WNO, Carlo Rizzi returns to conduct I
, and celebrated bel canto tenor Barry Banks returns to sing
Arturo. Rising Italian lyric soprano Rosa Feola will sing Elvira in Cardiff,
Southampton and Bristol, with Linda Richardson singing the role for the
remainder of WNO’s UK tour. David Kempster will sing Riccardo Forth and
Wojtek Gierlach, Giorgio.

One of Handel’s greatest operas — Orlando — comes to WNO in a
production that originated at Scottish Opera in 2011. It provides a fascinating
insight into musical virtuosity as a metaphor for insanity as Orlando’s
vertiginous descent into madness at the end of Act II is sublimely depicted
through Handel’s music, balancing his inner suffering with fevered anguish to
immense effect. Directed by Harry Fehr, Orlando will be set in 1940s
London during World War II, providing a fitting backdrop to heighten the
emotional impact of the story against the devastation of the Blitz.

Baroque virtuoso, Rinaldo Alessandrini will conduct the impressive cast
which includes international countertenor Lawrence Zazzo in the lead role; his
debut performance as Orlando. WNO welcomes back internationally-acclaimed Welsh
soprano Rebecca Evans to sing Angelica. Fflur Wyn also returns to WNO following
her performance in Autumn 2014’s William Tell to sing Dorinda. Robin
Blaze and Daniel Grice will sing Medoro and Zoroastro.

The season is completed with Sondheim’s musical masterpiece, Sweeney
, which explores not only the madness of the protagonist but of
society as a whole. This production promises a musical with all the emotional
impact of opera and will be a rare opportunity to hear Sweeney Todd with the
celebrated WNO Chorus and Orchestra. This production is set in the late
1970s/early 1980s and provides a fresh take on the story with echoes of
Thatcher’s Britain.

A co-production between Welsh National Opera, Wales Millennium Centre and
West Yorkshire Playhouse in association with Royal Exchange Theatre,
Sweeney Todd will be directed by WYP Artistic Director James Brining
and conducted by James Holmes in a staging adapted for WNO. This is the first
time that WNO and Wales Millennium Centre have worked together as co-producers,
and there will be an extra run of the production presented with Wales
Millennium Centre following WNO’s autumn UK tour.

The cast will feature opera and musical theatre singers with German baritone
David Arnsperger as Sweeney Todd and Scottish soprano Janis Kelly as Mrs
Lovett. Anthony will be sung by Jamie Muscato, with Soraya Mafi singing
Johanna. Welsh tenor Aled Hall will sing Beadle Bamford and Charlotte Page will
sing Beggar Woman. Also joining the cast are Steven Page as Judge Turpin and
George Ure as Tobias Ragg.

During the autumn season, WNO will be working with primary schools in
Cardiff, Bristol, Oxford and Birmingham on The Sweeney Adventures. 330
pupils in total across the four cities will take place in workshops where they
will use music and drama to explore the hardships faced in Victorian Britain
for themselves; a key aspect of the KS2 history curriculum. The project is the
third in a series of interactive adventures and follows on from the Tudors
— Killing Cousins
project in 2013 and My Perfect World in 2014.

Commenting on the season, WNO Artistic Director David Pountney says: “The
paradox of music is that it is a highly rational means of expression, much more
logically organised than the language of speech for instance, and yet it is at
the same time the supreme means of expressing all kinds of extreme emotional
states. Among these, madness has been a constant inspiration to composers eager
to test the ability of music to penetrate the most radical states of mental
disorder. Our season presents a fascinatingly wide range of musical expression
dedicated to this phenomenon, from the virtuosic roulades of Handel, via the
elegant refinement of Bellini to the raw craziness of Sondheim’s gruesome

Wales Millennium Centre will also present WNO in a concert performance of
Tosca on Monday 2 November featuring Bryn Terfel as Scarpia. Ainhoa
Arteta will perform the title role with Teodor Ilinc„i as Cavaradossi. The
performance will form part of the finale of Wales Millennium Centre’s 10th
anniversary celebrations.

Graeme Farrow, Artistic and Creative Director at Wales Millennium Centre
says: “Working collaboratively with our resident partners has always played a
fundamental role in our vision to becoming a world class Centre for the arts,
and the many successes the Centre has achieved in its first 10 years have been
reached with the support and expertise of our residents. It is our ambition in
the years to come to create new work of exceptional quality that delights,
surprises and impresses. Developing partnerships, within Wales and
internationally, is essential in fulfilling this ambition, and it’s a
privilege to be collaborating with Welsh National Opera with their inimitable
reputation for producing exciting and ambitious opera.”

David Pountney adds: “We are delighted to join with Wales Millennium
Centre to celebrate their 10th anniversary. The Centre is one of the finest
purpose built opera houses in Europe, and its presence in Cardiff has
transformed opera making for us, and opera going for people from Wales and far
beyond. As such, it is an invaluable asset to Wales’ cultural portfolio, and
a symbol of its aspiration to the highest levels of artistic expression and

Following the autumn tour, WNO will present two performances of A
Christmas Carol
at Wales Millennium Centre in December; Iain Bell’s
adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Christmas favourite. This seasonal show will
be an opportunity to experience Bell’s work prior to the world premiËre of
In Parenthesis during WNO’s summer 2016 season. The one-man show
will feature tenor Mark Le Brocq as Narrator alongside a chamber orchestra.
Conducted by James Southall, the production will be directed by former WNO
Genesis Assistant Director Polly Graham.

More information on WNO’s autumn 2015 season is available at

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