Tristan und Isolde - Welsh National Opera - Cardiff Millenium Centre, 19 May 2012
Ben Heppner’s heartening return to form was one of the best things about the revival of WNO’s 20 year old Tristan on Saturday night. His expressive way with the words was built on the sensitive control of every vocal colour in his palette. A minor crack in the second act and some tiring in the third were forgiveable blemishes. His ungainly appearance only underlined his anti-heroic, supremely human portrait.
Announcing Welsh National Opera's 2012-2013 season earlier today, David Pountney took the unusual step of sharing his plans for 2013-2014 as well. He stressed the importance of risk taking and adventure, in spite of the economic challenges lying ahead.
WNO will be staging eight new productions over 2012 – 2014: a Donizetti trilogy (Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, Roberto Devereux), Lulu, Manon Lescaut, Henze’s Boulevard Solitude, Lohengrin and Nabucco. Stuttgart's production of Moses und Aron will also get a UK premiere, and the centenary of Benjamin Britten's birth will be marked with a new production of Paul Bunyan by Welsh National Youth Opera. Each season will be themed, and complemented by a series of concerts.
After several years of largely uninspired programming, Pountney's plans strike a good balance between stuff it's worth schlepping to Cardiff for and bankable revivals. Some solid casting too.
Prom 2: The Mastersingers of Nuremberg (concert staging) - Royal Albert Hall, 17 July 2010
I''m not sure why the BBC went for an English title seeing as this performance was sung in the original German. Perhaps they were worried people might pronounce Die Meistersinger as in "die, Mr Bond".
With no props and only a narrow strip of empty stage, the scope for acting was limited. The soloists were probably glad to sport the same democratic all-black uniform as the orchestra just inches behind them. Their heavy stage costumes would have been torture in the sweltering (as usual) Royal Albert Hall. The revelation that without their cunning disguises nearly all the cast were the same age is testament to WNO's wig and makeup artistry in the earlier staged shows.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - WNO at Birmingham Hippodrome, 6 July 2010
The reviews for Richard Jones’s new WNO Meistersinger have been overwhelminglypositive, and rightly so. It opened in Cardiff a couple of weeks ago, but I caught it on its mini-tour to the Birmingham Hippodrome (two nights, the second this Saturday).
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One of the most prized items is sure to be Bryn Terfel's costume from 1990’s Così fan tutte. The then-svelte 24 year old who has "always been very good humoured even when there are two women undressing and redressing him" made his operatic debut as Guglielmo in a toga-style costume.