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Welsh National Opera’s Spring season of operatic ‘rabble rousers’

26th February 2018

Categories: News

Welsh National Opera’s Spring season of operatic ‘rabble rousers’

·     50th anniversary of WNO touring to Bristol Hippodrome

·     New production of Verdi’s La forza del destino

·     WNO and role debut for baritone Gavan Ring in revival of Don Giovanni

·     Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi conducts two productions in the season

Welsh National Opera presents a feast of Italian operas from three of the greatest composers for its Spring season in Bristol.  The season, entitled Rabble Rousers, will feature a new production of Verdi’s La forza del destino alongside revivals of Puccini’s Tosca and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

The Spring season also marks the 50th anniversary of WNO touring to Bristol Hippodrome.  WNO first tread the Hippodrome boards on 25 March 1968 with a fortnight of operas which, rather fittingly, included Don Giovanni. 

WNO’s Managing Director Leonora Thomson said “The company has enjoyed an excellent relationship with the team at Bristol Hippodrome and with the Bristol audiences over the years. The fact that we have been touring there for 50 years speaks for itself and we look forward to continuing this special connection for many years to come.”

Rabble Rousers

To start the season in Bristol romance and tragedy are on the menu for WNO’s revival of its production ofTosca in this thrilling story of love, lust, murder and corruption which has become one of the best-loved operas.  Featuring beautiful arias including Floria Tosca’s ‘Vissi d’arte’, the story is punctuated with twists and turns from start to its gripping finish.  Conducting of Tosca in Bristol will be shared by Tête à Tête Music Director Timothy Burke (April 11) and Carlo Rizzi (April 13).

The production will feature a double cast in the role of Mario Cavaradossi; Gwyn Hughes Jones (11 April) and Hector Sandoval (13 April) will share the tenor role, with Claire Rutter singing the soprano role of Floria Tosca.  Mark S Doss will take the role of the villainous Scarpia, and the cast is completed by Daniel Grice (Cesare Angelotti) and Donald Maxwell (Sacristan).

Tosca is followed by the revival of John Caird’s 2011 staging of Don Giovanni, with design by John Napier.  Based on the tale of Don Juan, Don Giovanni follows the demise of opera’s legendary seducer as his rogueish womanising catches up with him and he meets his end through a force from beyond the grave.  One of the most popular and much-performed operas, this has everything from murder to lust to comedy, drama and the supernatural. Don Giovanni will be revived by Caroline Chaney, with James Southall conducting.

We are delighted to welcome Irish tenor Gavan Ring who will make both his WNO debut and a role debut as Don Giovanni.  Elizabeth Watts and David Stout will return following their performances in WNO’s Figaro trilogy in 2016 to sing Donna Elvira and Leporello respectively.  The cast is completed by Miklós Sebestyén (Commendatore), Emily Birsan (Donna Anna), Benjamin Hulett (Don Ottavio), Katie Bray (Zerlina) and Gareth Brynmor John (Masetto).

The main scale season concludes in Bristol with La forza del destino directed by WNO Artistic Director David Pountney and conducted by WNO Conductor Laureate Carlo Rizzi in a personal debut for the Maestro this season.  The well-known overture sets the scene for this dramatic opera full of twists and turns that sees the heroine Leonora torn between her lover Don Alvaro and allegiance to her family.

Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones will sing the role of Don Alvaro in La forza del destino, and is joined by soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams as Leonora.  Completing the cast are Miklós Sebestyén (Il Marchese Di Calatrava / Padre Guardiano), Luis Cansino (Don Carlo Di Vargas), Justina Gringyte (Preziosilla / Curra), Donald Maxwell (Fra Melitone), Alun Rhys-Jenkins (Mastro Trabuco) and Wyn Pencarreg (Alcade).

Designer Raimund Bauer, Costume Designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca and Lighting Designer Fabrice Kebour join with David Pountney to complete the production team, and have devised what they describe as a “Verdi Machine” for the set.  This device consists of three interlocking frames which can create different shapes. 

Carlo Rizzi says: “Forza is the only major Italian opera that I have not conducted but is one of the first ones that I heard in my life, so my thoughts on this masterpiece span more than thirty years. To bring my ideas together with David, a wonderful cast of singers and the great ensembles of WNO's Chorus and Orchestra make it all the more exciting for me that I am finally performing this masterpiece. I hope that audiences of all ages will join us for the beautiful and dramatic music that Verdi has written - not just the well known overture, but all the glorious arias and choruses in this opera that drive its very compelling story forward.” 

Talking about the season, David Pountney says: “As you might expect, a season of Rabble Rousers contains a lot of demonstrably noisy people – Preziosilla banging her drum for war, Don Giovanni leading a paean to “La Liberta” and Cavaradossi bursting into vocal flames at the news of Napoleon’s victory at Marengo. The three operas of our spring season bristle with rule breakers, revolutionaries and the enemies of convention – people of unbridled passion whose characters spring out so readily from the pages of an operatic score. 

“Our new production of the season, La forza del destino, straddles conflicting worlds very much in the manner of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” - possibly not an accidental reference as it was written for St. Petersburg. It begins with an attempted elopement and an accidental murder, and these events set in train a relentless quest for forgiveness and revenge respectively which crosses a violent and unstable world torn apart by war. It always surprises me when people complain that the plot of Forza is disjointed, untidy. Lives lived in the midst of war and terror are seldom tidy, predictable or even rational. This is a world of extremes explored with epic dramatic vision by Verdi, who is branching out at this point in his career into increasingly radical and original dramatic structures. It sets the tone for a season unashamedly dedicated to the wilder side of life.”    

More information on WNO’s spring 2018 season is available at

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