Category Archives: Opera & classical

The Get the Chance 2019 Cultural Highlights

Sian Thomas

1) http://getthechance.wales/2019/10/30/review-heartsong-by-tj-klune-by-sian-thomas/. I was so excited for this book to come out and it really delivered. It’s on one of my favourite series with an exceptional way of world building and atmosphere, and the way the characters act towards each other and their surroundings is incredible. It’s funny, loving, and full of action, and I love it.

2) http://getthechance.wales/2019/05/02/review-every-word-you-cannot-say-by-iain-thomas-by-sian-thomas/. Another amazing book from Iain Thomas. Also it’s very new and different! Bright, too. Since the I Wrote This For You collection all have white/grey colour schemes, this one being bright blue was a lovely change. I adore it – it’s got some really powerful words in it, too.

3) http://getthechance.wales/2019/03/02/review-how-to-train-your-dragon-3-by-sian-thomas/. End of an era! I loved this series when I was in my early teens and kept a close hold of it all the way until the end. I cried when I saw it in the cinema, at the end, when Hiccup and Toothless went their separate ways and then saw each other again a good number of years later. An amazing film about people and creatures and their relationships. Also, visually stunning. Animation is a top tier medium.

Personal: I finished my first year of university this year, and did so well in my classes that the university gave me a cash prize. There was a chance for people to win £1000 by getting a really good mark for their first year, and I had no idea about it until I received an email saying I’d won. Which was amazing news! It made me really proud of my both my actual work and my work ethic from the first year. It was a big academic confidence boost!

Barbara Michaels

With such a cornucopia of goodies on offer theatre-wise during the past year, it isn’t easy to single out just three.  For my money, two of these have to be musical theatre productions: Kinky Boots and Les Misérables, both staged in the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre.

First on my list has to be Les Misérables.  Cameron Mackintosh’s production, first staged almost a decade ago to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Les Mis, once again proved what a sure-fire winner it is. Grand theatre at its best, top of the tree for music, lyrics, storyline et al.  A privilege to watch, all presented by a multi-talented cast, among them Welsh actor Ian Hughes as a nimble-footed Thenardier who brought the audience to its feet on opening night with his uproariously funny rendering of Master of the House. 

Closely followed, I must admit by Kinky Boots which was, start to finish, a joy to watch.  So much more than “Just another musical,” it has at its heart a subject which nowadays is treated in most cases empathetically but which was by any means the case only a few short years ago.  I refer to transgender. Kinky Boots tackles this head on, with the occasional heartbreak mixed with the fun and verve which is characteristic of this amazing show, all dished out by a superb cast.

On to number three – also at the WMC, home of Welsh National Opera who once again proved what a top-notch company they are with their new production of Bizet’s Carmen. An operatic sizzler with wonderful music, the story of the torrid but doomed relationship of the gypsy girl Carmen and her solder lover is given a contemporary twist by director Jo Davies which works brilliantly, with the added advantage of French being the native tongue of mezzo soprano Virginie Verrez in the title role. With the mesmeric Habanera in Act I, wonderful music and at times gut-wrenching libretto, this Carmen is proof – if, indeed, proof was needed – that a new slant on an old favourite can actually work.

And now to the best “Cultural experience.”  I am going to go off piste here, for to my mind it has to be the film Solomon and Gaenor, given a twentieth anniversary screening at Chapter with the film’s writer/director Paul Morrison, producer Sheryl Crown and leading lady Nia Roberts on stage afterwards for a Q and A.  The Oscar-nominated and BAFTA award-winning film, with dialogue in Welsh, English and Yiddish, set in the Valleys back in the time of the Tredegar riots, tells the story of forbidden love between a young Jewish peddler and a young girl from a strict Chapel going family. 

Pinpointing how attitudes have changed, despite still – as Morrison commented during the discussion afterwards – having a way to go, Solomon and Gaenor, shown as part of the Jewish Film Festival, is riveting from start to finish in a drama that is upfront and unique in its presentation.

Barbara Elin

2019 was a brilliant year for Welsh theatre, a real abundance of riches across the stages of Cardiff. American Idiot started off the year with a bang, Peter Pan Goes Wrong brought comedic chaos, and Curtains brought the kind of vintage charm you can only usually find among the bright lights of Broadway and the West End. Narrowing it down is a tricky task, but there were a few shows that stood out among the rest for me…

#3: The Creature (Chapter Arts Centre)

In what daily seems like an increasingly unkind, apathetic world, The Creature was a beam of hope in a dark time that didn’t shy away from trauma or tragedy but which held with it the promise of a better future – if we fight for it. It seemed perfectly tailored to me and my research interests – a modern take on the criminal justice system via a pseudo-Frankenstein adaptation, it hooked into my soul and still hasn’t let go. I’m eagerly anticipating the future endeavours of this fantastic creative team.

#2: Cardiff Does Christmas – Cinderella (New Theatre) and The Snow Queen (Sherman Theatre)

The Christmas shows this year were the best I’ve had the privilege of seeing in quite some time. Cinderella was the show that reignited my long-dormant love of panto and saw the season in with festive cheer, while Sherman Theatre’s The Snow Queen was brimming with Christmas magic and a sweet tale of friendship, courage, and the fight against seemingly-insurmountable odds – a message we could all use about now.

#1: Hedda Gabler (Sherman Theatre)

It’s become increasingly apparent to me that the Sherman is the soul of contemporary Welsh theatre – consistently producing creative, fascinating and timely plays ‘rooted in Wales but relevant to the world’, as AD Joe Murphy said of his artistic vision. Their staging of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler was an utterly stunning adaptation that haunts me to this day – and Prof Ambreena Manji and I were blessed to be able to bring our Law and Literature students to the production as we’re studying the text this year. You know it’s a roaring success when the students want to write their coursework on Hedda!

Reviewing for Get the Chance has been my cultural highlight, which includes being continually in awe of the kindness and generosity of the Sherman, New Theatre and Chapter: the future of Welsh Theatre is in good hands indeed!

Losing Home, My 2019 Highlight, Les Misérables, Eva Marloes


As 2019 comes to a close, so vanishes the last hope of stopping Brexit. It is decided. Parliament has agreed our ‘divorce’ from the EU. Some feel elated, some relieved, some dejected. The morning after the 2016’s referendum, some people in Britain woke up and felt stripped of their very identity. The EU question was never about rules and regulations, trade agreements or sovereignty; it was about identity. In the political debate, only the Leave side appealed to identity. The European identity of many Remainers was and still largely is neglected. This is what makes Mathilde Lopez’s interpretation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables so poignant. It gave voice to the emotional attachment to the EU some people have always felt or have begun to feel once that belonging came under threat.

The beauty of Lopez’s take on Hugo’s masterpiece lies in interweaving the ‘small’ lives of individuals with the ‘big’ events of history. It is personal and political. It speaks of today by reaching into the past. With Les Misérables, Lopez brings together the battle of Brexit with that of Waterloo. It is a tragi-comedy that makes the lives of ordinary people part of history. Amidst the blood of Waterloo, the crisps devoured while listening to the referendum results, and the summer music of holiday-makers, we experienced the banality and significance of the Brexit decision.

The play was fun and moving. It was original, innovative, and thoughtful. It wasn’t perfect and wasn’t the best show I’ve seen in 2019 (that should go to WNO’s Rigoletto), but it was the most significant of what the country is going through. By mixing the escapism of the holiday feel with the horror of Waterloo and the shock of people watching the referendum results coming in, Les Misérables captures the closeness and distance we feel when caught in events of historical significance.

In one night, something changed radically. For European citizens in Britain, Brexit has created insecurity about their status, brought extra costs to get documentation that might allow them to stay, and has made them vulnerable to attack and insults. They don’t belong. The nostalgic identity the ideologues of Brexit have conjured is too narrow and homogeneous for some British people too. They too don’t belong. As Britain seeks to close its borders and refashion a nationalistic identity, some of us have lost their home.

In my review of Lopez’s Les Misérables, I wrote that the play appealed to faith, hope, and love. It was an acceptance of defeat without despair, a search for strength in love, not distance. Hugo described Waterloo as ‘the beginning of the defeat.’ As the first phase of Brexit concludes, it is tempting to use Hugo’s words for Brexit as the defeat of the dream of an inclusive and welcoming society, but it is not over. Nostalgia is incapable of meeting the challenge of the present, let alone of envisioning a future. That is for us to do. It is for all of us to imagine our future and rebuild our home. It begins now.

(My behind the scene article on the production Les Misérables can be found here)

Rhys Payne

Bodyguard at The WMC

The biggest and boldest production I have ever seen with music that has become iconic.

Meet Fred, Hijinx Theatre Company

A fantastic piece of theatre thy showed the true meaning of inclusivity while also showing an unique art form of puppeteering.

Stammer Mouth

A fantastic and modern piece of theatre that literally gave a voice to someone who doesn’t have one.


Gareth Williams


Pavilion, Theatr Clwyd 

A sharp and witty ode to small town Wales, Emily White has produced a great piece of engaging drama out of the mundane, the everyday. With recognisable characters brought to life by a hugely talented cast, this represents an excellent debut for a Welsh writer whose talent is sure to be noticed. 

35 Awr 

Writer Fflur Dafydd continues to demonstrate why she is one of Wales’ foremost scriptwriters with this intriguing mystery drama. Her intimate characterisation and weaving narrative kept viewers gripped right to final moments of its eight-part run.


Anorac

A really important and culturally significant film, providing a fascinating insight into the Welsh language music scene. Huw Stephens deserves huge credit for spearheading it. I urge you to see it if you can’.

Samuel Longville

Cotton Fingers, NTW by Rachel Trezise and On Bear Ridge, NTW by Ed Thomas, both at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. Having returned from University in Brighton this year, it was brilliant to see the Sherman Theatre flourishing as much as it was when I left Cardiff 3 years ago. The detail that went into Cai Dyfan’s set design for On Bear Ridge was incredible to witness. His level of craftsmanship, often only found in commercial and west end theatres, was a delight to see on a smaller, regional stage.

Meanwhile, a more stripped back Cotton Fingers let its script do all the talking and was skill-fully delivered by actor Amy Molloy.

Shout out must go to Katherine Chandler for her play Lose Yourself, also at the Sherman Theatre. Although I did not review this play, it was definitely one of my highlights of 2019. Gut-wrenching for all the right reasons, its finale left the audience silent. I’ll never forget heaviness in the air at the end of play felt by everyone in the audience who just experienced something very important together.

Personal cultural event of 2019: Slowthai at Glastonbury – never before have I been so instantly hooked on an artist I’ve never listened to before. The way he riled up the crowd with his boisterous, unapologetic stagemanship was incredible to witness and I haven’t stopped listening to him since.

Richard Evans

Christmas Carol, Theatr Clwyd

A thoroughly enjoyable interactive performance that communicated much of what Dickens intended yet had a lightness of touch, an impish humour and a sense of occasion that made it well suited to a Christmas show.

Yes Prime Minister,Theatr Clwyd

Review Les Misérables, Cameron Mackintosh, Wales Millenium Centre By Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Many people have said that you can’t call yourself a true musical theatre fan unless you have seen Les Miserables and I have to be honest I watched the movie for the first time two weeks ago and while that was good, this production at the Wales Millennium Centre knocks spots off the classic film. The show managed to touch on many keys moments from the film for people who are only familiar to Les Mis through the film (myself included) but also managed to alter it enough as a stage show to be different to the other versions going around.

The thing about this show is that most people have heard of it or seen it and as there have been so many adaptations and versions the bar is already set very high. But still there manages to be a massive excitement about the show, inside the actual theatre you could feel the excitement in the air before the show even started and even during the interval. After the show, there was a massive buzz that every single person could feel. It says a lot about a show where every single person in the audience gives a standing ovation at the end. Like the film, this musical is an opera and so there is no dialogue in the entire show but instead, the whole thing is sung. This is obviously a fantastic way to promote this genre as many people say “I hate opera” but at the same time ignore musicals such as Les Mis and Jesus Christ Superstar as operas. Seeing an opera in mainstream musical ‘world’ is obviously great and it may encourage people to watch other operas when they can.

One of my criticism for the film is that the time frames are at times hard to follow (I enjoy laughing about this fact in the film, every time I looked at the screen Hugh Jackman was a different age) but this stage version managed to make this one setting easy to follow. When the opening show discusses the backgrounds of certain characters, there was a blackout with the title ‘Les Miserable’ spread across the backdrop sort of like there would be in a film etc. This was obviously done to signify that the opening scene took place before the main part of the story and allows the audience to take in key and important details that will reappear later in the show. I never thought that Les Mis would be a very tech-based show as I thought it was just about authentic drama and singing but the effects they used specifically in this production were incredible. Some key technical aspects to look for in the show were how they managed to excellently stage the gunshots with lights, how a certain iconic suicide is staged and the use of high-raise buildings on stage. These buildings were flawlessly used to help cover the scene changes that happened while other scenes were taking place which was a genius way to keep the show going while also being beautiful to watch.

Every member of the cast was fantastic in this production and a special appreciation needs to give to the ensemble of this performance who clearly worked very hard both acting and singing was to support the key characters. The choruses singing was amazing and really helped to add to the drama of the show. A lot of the pressure was set on the shoulders of Dean Chisnall who took on the role of Jean Valjean as this is one of the most important roles in this musical but Dean seemed to reveal in this pressure and turned out an excellent performance. His voice was incredible throughout but a highlight for me was ‘Bring Him Home’ which was so powerfully performed that many of the audience members were moved to tears. He also managed to portray the various stages of this character perfectly including the later part of his life which shows Dean’s range of acting ability.

Marius is the character which is Supposed in love and Pursuing the daughter of Jean Valjean. This character was played by the fresh-faced Felix Mosse who fitted the role perfectly. He has a massive sense of naivety, innocence and likability about him which is perfect for the love-hungry character. Also, Felix has a youngish appearance which worked really well with this character who is apparently a student. Not only this but yet again Felix was a very talented singer who performed songs such as ‘Empty Chairs, Empty Tables’ both incredibly heartfelt and beautifully. His duet of ‘little fall of rain’ alongside Frances Mayli McCain (who played Eponine) was incredibly emotional to watch and these two clearly have great chemistry on and off stage. Felix Mosse is an actor who I look forward to seeing in future productions as I believe he has a very bright future in the performing industry. Nic Greenshields, who played Javert was absolutely incredible. His physicalisation as Javert was perfect as it showed his sense of superiority over the rest of the villagers. His voice was that of an authoritative person but also he managed to blend to the desperation of the character beautifully. Nic clearly has a high level of professionalism and experience which he truest showcased in this role. The highlight of his character, however, was their singing inability. ‘Stars’ was out of this world! It was beautifully performed with a strong sense of power behind it. Nic excelled in this role and I cannot wait to see where he end up in the performing world as he clearly has massive talent.



The two gems in this performance were Thenardier and his wife (who were played Ian Hughes and Helen Walsh respectively) who delivered many of the comical moments in this show. There were hilarious throughout and didn’t miss a single joke which can be very difficult in musical. ‘Master of the House’ was an excellent number that was not only performed excellently but also involved an astonishing sleight of hand tricks which wowed even me. The quick movement of and stealing of objects was a marvel to watch and clearly they had worked hard to make this scene as smooth and flawless as possible which should be applauded. Also, the musical number ‘Beggars at the Feast’ was also performed by this double act which they performed excellently while wearing the most elaborate and over the top costumes I have ever seen.



Overall this was a near-flawless introduction into the musical world of Les Miserable and it is definitely a musical that I would watch again if I had the chance. This is a show that loves drama and delivers it by the bucket full throughout so if you are into that sort of show them this is definitely one for you. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars.

An Interview with Sam Pullan Nominee for Young Person of the Year, National Rural Touring Awards 2019.

Hi Sam great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I am a 15-year-old who is very interested in the technical side of theatre. I do a lot in the hall which is closest to me which is Neuadd Dyfi in Aberdyfi . I help out with all types of events that happen in the hall from small touring shows, dance and talent shows to our local pantomime.


So what got you interested in the arts?

It all started when I moved down here at the age of 7, my mum became involved with Aberdyfi Players the 1st year we moved down here.

Aberdyfi Players directors Su Tacey and Des George outside the Neuadd Dyfi earlier this year with the two awards for Best Pantomime overall in their District in Wales and Best Stage Management and Special Effects. Amateur Theatre National and Operatic Dramatic Association (NODA) for their 2018 production of Aladdin.

I was pretty much dragged along to watch the performance of their yearly pantomime. From the moment I walked into the hall I wanted to know how to work the lighting. Most children at that age wouldn’t have continued to think about it but after talking to mum she introduced me to Des George who runs the hall and he fuelled my interest even more. I didn’t join Aberdyfi Players straight away but it wasn’t long as I was inching to get involved with the tech side with Des’s knowledge, help and experience it has got me to where I am today.

Congratulations on your nomination for Young Person of the Year in the National Rural Touring Awards 2019.The awards recognise the valuable work of productions, venues, promoters, schemes, and staff in the rural touring sector. What is your role at Neuadd Dyfi?

Good question, I don’t feel I really have one specific role at the Neuadd, I try my best to help with as many things as I can. Obviously my main interest is lighting and sound which I help all the touring companies or events which come into the hall with.



Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to accessing high quality productions for audiences at Neuadd Dyfi?

I would have to say it would be the size of our auditorium, we have had half of the hall levelled out, but we would like it to all be retractable seating. If we did have retractable seating installed it would open up so many more opportunities.


If you were able to fund an area of the arts what would this be and why?

I have to say it is difficult to choose one area to fund, it would have to be backstage in general. From props to tech


What excites you about the arts ?

The fact that everyone comes together to form one big team and works together to create one big show. Everyone has their own part from technical to costume to performing.

What was the last really great live performance you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

It would have to be ‘I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost’ by Little Earthquake. By far one of the most mind twisting shows I have ever watched, if you get the chance ( no pun intended) to go and watch it please do. The meaning behind it is amazing but that’s all I can say about it.

The next productions to play at Neuadd Dyffi are,

Mrs Peachum’s Guide to Love & Marriage by Mid Wales Opera

Roots by National Dance Company Wales.

National Dance Company Wales are also running a free Day of Dance at Neuadd Dyfi on Saturday the 23rd of November. Booking details are below.

Review Heaven on their minds, Calvary Baptist Church By Rhys Payne

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This is the best concert-style show that I have ever seen in my entire life! This was an incredible show vocally but on top of this everything about the show was well throughout and planned. Ben Smith who organised this event had a very clear idea for the type of show he wanted and was able to execute this perfectly.

This show ran inside Calvary Baptist Church which firstly provided a beautiful backdrop for each singer. Secondly the whole premise of this concert was songs that had a connection to religion whether this was through lyrics or songs from musicals that have religious connections (eg Joseph, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar etc.) having a concept that ties together the whole show just makes for a consistent, easy-to-watch show that the audience can follow in a logical way. Ben had come up with a very clever theme for the that allowed a wide selection of songs to be sung as well as being relevant to the venue itself which is incredibly clever.

The name itself together tied the two ideas of ‘church’ and musical theatre as ‘Heaven on Their Mind’ is a song from the faith-based musical Jesus Christ Superstar which is again the entire concept of the show. I can’t express how impressed I am with Ben and the other organisers who managed to come up with this incredible branding and theme of the night as it is tremendously clever so they should be proud of this. Despite the importance of musical theatre in this night, it was made explicitly clear that this is not a musical theatre night. The show had a mixture of songs from popular shows that everyone would know to shows even the most theatre crazed people would struggle to name. Some people there would know all the musicals the songs are from as some would know none and so it was not a celebration of musical theatre rather the overall concept of the show being executed. Even those you had never heard of a musical would be able to enjoy the songs which made the show more accessible to a greater range of people.


The standard in this show was already incredibly high set from the opening number from Godspell and it seemed to just increase constantly as the show progressed. In a non-competitive way, each performer appeared to listen to the previous song and then try and top it which helped to keep the audience engaged. Every person was amazing and managed to play perfectly to their strength and so the person who chose the songs should be proud they were able to fit the songs to every singer so perfectly. This was like a west-end level show for the price of a local show, actually, this show was higher quality than many of the west-end professional shows I have seen. The talent was only aspirated as the focus was solely on the performer and their vocals. This show had no dancing, no props, no fancy lights and no MC instead the focus was just on the singers and so each person was able to fully showcase their ability and amazing talent. Even from a non-performance aspect, each individual was dressed in their smartest attire which helped elevate the event and made the audience feel as if they are witnessing an exclusive and high-calibre event (which they were.) I am not sure if this a part of a stated ‘uniform’ as such but if so, then this worked as it should have and gave the right effect to this effect while still making it visually accessible to everyone.


Ben-Joseph Smith, who is a recent graduate from the Welsh academy of music and drama, sang the opening solo of this show which was a beautiful city from the musical Godspell. This song was sung beautifully and he managed to blend the softness and intensity of the song in the most perfect way. Later on, we had a section from Les Mis where Ben sang a very intense version of Stars which again sounded incredible.


Simon Jennings, who is a pastor and worship leader based in Eden Church Penarth also graced the stage with his operatic and powerful voice. His Rendition of Close every door to me from Joseph and his amazing technicolour dream coat was incredibly moving and in fact, I was in tears by the end of it. Being able to create such strong feeling from this song is an incredible act and only goes to show Simon’s talent and ability. Simon also was involved in the Les Mis section were he sung Bring him Home which is perfectly in his skill set. His powerful voice worked perfectly within this song and he was able to easily achieve the range of this song. He also covered a song I didn’t know about titled ‘why God why’ from Miss Saigon which is a song that I now have to listen to more as it is so moving and relevant in today’s society.


The biggest highlight for me was the rendition of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar which was sung by Ashley. Ashley is known for recently playing Jesus Christ in Everyman Cardiff’s open-air festival which is regrettably missed this year. To cover such an iconic and difficult song is a very big task but Ashley seemed to not even flinch at this mammoth song. I have listened to a wide range of people covering this song from local people singing a somewhat shaky version to Ben Forester in the arena tour to John Legend in the most recent adaptation but this cover was the best I had even heard. He blew spots off even the most established and professional performers who had taken on this role and he received a standing ovation from the crowd which is even more astonishing as it was the end of act one. Ashley visibly poured everything into this performance which led to an out of this world cover. This song on its own was worth more than the price of admission and now I am devastated that I missed JCS over the summer.

The opening group number from Godspell was a little shaky as people did look visibly uncertain about entrances and parts etc but it was so bad that it affected the show. In my personal opinion, the solos in this show we’re better than those in groups or duets etc as it allowed each person to fully showcase their skills and so possibly next time this should be the focus. Also, there were a few tedious links within this show to tie the theme of the show and the actual songs sang such as certain songs from Les Mis as it contains the words ‘God’ in them but this is a tiny issue that can be sanded out possibly in the next show.

Overall this is a phenomenal concert that demonstrated the skills and talents of each performer which led to a fantastic evening of performances. In all honesty, I would probably prefer to return to this event over many of the professional shows I have seen. The show itself was well thought out and constructed which was the ‘icing’ on the already ‘incredible cake’ which helped with constancy from the audience. If this show returns with a similar cast I would strongly recommend you buy a ticket as it an evening of West-end quality singing for a fraction of the price. I would rate this show 5 out of 5 stars and would give it 6 out of 5 stars if this was possible.

Review The Cunning little vixen, WNO by Eva marloes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen takes us into a magic and yet very real world of humans and animals seeking love. Mischief, irony, and melancholy are mixed in all the right doses. David Pountney’s production is full of spirit, excellent performances, an ironic libretto, and beautiful costumes to please all audiences. It is the perfect production to introduce children to opera.  

Janáček’s cinematic musical score, with a touch of Debussy, takes into a fantasy world where humans and animals are all at pains to find love. The Cunning Little Vixen is a fable on the cycle of life, yet it is no mere rustic idyll. It is infused with a sweet melancholia. The Forester, the Parson, the Schoolmaster, and the Poacher, all sigh for their lost youth and long-gone love. It is that youthful love that is now a dream, of which the Forester is reminded by the Vixen. Her mischievous provocations bring back that thirst for life and freedom.  

Aoife Miskelly, as the Vixen, excels in balancing the Vixen’s mischief, sweetness, and liveliness. Her crystalline voice combines beautifully with the seductive one of Lucia Cervoni, as the Fox, making for stunning duets. Claudio Otelli, as the Forester, gives a solid and skilful performance. Peter Van Hulle, as the Schoolmaster, and David Stout, as the Poacher, entertain and charm. The sober bass of Wojtek Gierlach, as the Parson, adds the right amount of melancholy. 

The revised version of the libretto by Jiří Zahrádka adds irony to the mix. The Little Vixen is a union leader and a feminist seeking to arouse the exploited hens against the patriarchal cock by appealing to their sense of sisterhood. She is a socialist revolutionary overthrowing the ‘lazy fat cat’ of a badger to get herself a home. The political nods, which may seem out of place in a fable about nature, are so well scripted to flow naturally. It is this irony that carries this opera into the 21st century. It could not be more topical.   

The production is currently on tour , further information can be found at the links below.

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

  • Fri 11 Oct7.30pmIncludes free pre-performance talkBook in advance alongside your tickets£14 – £50Book

Theatre Royal Plymouth

  • Thu 17 Oct7.30pmIncludes free pre-performance talkBook in advance alongside your tickets£15 – £54Book

Venue Cymru, Llandudno

  • Thu 31 Oct7.30pmIncludes free pre-performance talkBook in advance alongside your tickets£17 – £45Book

Birmingham Hippodrome

  • Thu 7 Nov7.30pmIncludes free pre-performance talkBook in advance alongside your tickets£22 – £56Where applicable, a 6% transaction charge may apply (excl. cash sales in person)Book

New Theatre Oxford

  • Thu 21 Nov7.30pmIncludes free pre-performance talkBook in advance alongside your tickets£13 – £53Plus £3.65 ATG transaction feeBook

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

  • Thu 28 Nov7.30pmIncludes free pre-performance talkBook in advance alongside your tickets£16 – £52Book

Review Rigoletto WNO by eva marloes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The Welsh National Opera’s Rigoletto is gripping, moving, and topical. The soprano Marina Monzo’ triumphs as Gilda in a production with sophisticated performances, notably that of tenor David Junghoon Kim, supported by a vibrant orchestra, and powerful chorus.  

Set in Washington D.C., James Macdonald’s Rigoletto is perfect for the Trump and #MeToo era. The outside events and news make this production topical. The Duke of Mantua is here a womanizer President, decidedly more charming than Trump, but just as likely to treat women as things to take for one’s own pleasure. Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered in Venice’s La Fenice in 1851 although it was set in 16th century Mantua so that it could get the placuit of the censors.  

Rigoletto reflects a male world where men own women. It is not just the Duke who imposes his will, or better, caprice, on women, but also Rigoletto, who keeps his daughter, Gilda, effectively captive in order to protect her from the Duke and any other men. Yet, Gilda, at first a young girl who never leaves home apart from going to church, becomes herself by falling in love with the Duke and by dying in his place to save his life.  

By today’s standards, this is still a rather misogynistic view of womanhood and of purity. It reminds one of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Ubervilles (1891). Tess is purified by her sacrifice. Women exercise agency only by falling in love and dying for love. They live and die in function of another, the independent-minded need not apply. Carmen is a useful contrast in this case (also part of WNO’s repertoire). She affirms her independence and of course is killed for it, but at least she doesn’t die for somebody else. 

Mark S Ross as Rigoletto shines in some parts more than others, but gives a solid performance overall. David Junghoon Kim shows he is very much at home with Verdi. His powerful voice delivers La donna e’ mobile with great sophistication and his acting is convincing. It is Marina Monzo’, as Gilda, who steals the show with her dexterity and purity of voice. The WNO’s chorus is impressive and the orchestra, conducted by Alexander Joel, gives out a beautiful intensity that befits by Verdi’s music. 

Rigoletto represents the begging of Verdi’s mature phase. It broke free from previous rigid structures of arias separate from the action. It is still suspenseful and bold. That is why the constant interruptions from the Cardiff audience, far too keen to applaud as soon as a singer completes an aria, are completely out of place. This state of affairs, which plagues most operas, shows little appreciation of how much music relies on silence and how disrespectful it is to interrupt a scene. At Rigoletto, the audience fought the orchestra and stopped the singers, who patiently waited to continue the scene. This production was worth bearing with such irksome practice.   

Review Carmen, WNO by Eva Marloes

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Carmen, the story of a free-willed woman killed by a possessive man, was staged for the first time in Paris in 1875 breaking away from the rigid confines of the opéra comique and ushering in a new way of doing opera. Unlike the pieces of the opéra comique, Carmen was not sentimental or moralising; it was true. It is perhaps because of its concern for human emotions that Carmen, notwithstanding the trappings of old-fashioned gender and stereotyping, survives to today. 

Carmen is a foreign woman who does not want to be subjected to a man’s authority and is killed for it. It is uncannily topical, which is why this Welsh National Opera production is such a missed opportunity.  

Directed by Jo Davies, the WNO Carmen does not bite nor does it feast in the exuberant music of Bizet. The colourful mural of the initial curtain opens to a grim brutalist scenario. Davies sets Carmen in a grey 1970s Brazilian favela stripping it of its colour, fun, and sensuality. Davies’ direction of the opera is equally puzzling. Carmen lacks intensity and defiance. She is more girl-next-door with little scenic presence. The sensuality of the opera is left to the couple dancing on stage mirroring Carmen, who effectively steal the show.  

Last year, an Italian production of Carmen by Leo Muscato’s Maggio Musicale reinterpreted Carmen to stimulate discussion on violence against women and changed the ending of the opera with Carmen killing Don José instead of dying by his hand. https://www.sbs.com.au/language/english/legendary-opera-says-enough-to-violence-against-women-flips-gender-roles
In the WNO’s production, Carmen’s prompting to Don José to kill her is not an act of defiance, but of resignation. 

The most radical production is that of Barrie Kosky who plays with gender codes notably dressing Carmen in men’s clothes with a nod to Marlene Dietrich. Kosky has Carmen sing the Habanera in an ape costume which she throws away.

The WNO should have made a better attempt at allowing Carmen to speak to our times. The French mezzo soprano Virginie Verrez plays Carmen with grace and accomplishment. Her singing is skilful but forgettable. In the role of Don José, Dimitri Pittas shows little emotional range, while Anita Watson, as Micaela is more impressive. Overall the performances are fine. What lifts the opera is the excellent chorus, in particular the children’s chorus, and Bizet’s bold music.  

Review WNO Summer Opera Classic Concert, Theatr Hafren, Newtown. By Barbara Michaels

Conductor: Harry Ogg

Soloists: Joyce El-Khoury and Jason Howard

Soloists: Joyce El-Khoury and Jason Howard

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What a treat for opera lovers in mid-Wales to have WNO favourites Joyce El-Khoury and Welsh baritone Jason Howard performing here in their midst, in the Summer Opera Classics concert at the Theatr Hafren in Newtown. 

Under the baton of young conductor Harry Ogg, who took up his position as WNO Associate conductor earlier this summer, the concert featured both popular classical opera favourites such as La ci darem la mano from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, plus songs from musical theatre – namely South Pacific – including the universally popular Some Enchanted Evening. The latter showcased Howard’s role in the touring production of the show, providing an easy entrée for anyone dipping their toes into the world of opera for the first time; a realisation, perhaps, that the genres not infrequently have a musical reference to one another.

With the two soloists on stage either separately or together for most of the programme, interspersed with a sprinkling of orchestral items which included the delightful waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, this was a concert with a well-balanced choice of music to delight on a summer evening. Bringing her own special magic to the occasion, Joyce El-Khoury as ever, held her audience enthralled.  Her skill as an outstanding soprano is indisputable, plus the fact that El-Khoury manages to make reaching even the highest notes seem effortless.  After a majestic performance by the orchestra of the WNO which opened the concert, El Khoury’s singing of D’amor sulll’all rosee from Verdi’s Il Trovatore could best be described as liquid gold, followed by Howard’s simpatico rendering of the lyrical intermezzo from Masagri’s Cavalleria Rusticana.

A perfect pairing, this, of El -Khoury and Howard. The chemistry between these two accomplished artistes was evident in their duets, in the highly charged and musically challenging Pari, siamo soli from Verdi’s Rigoletto and climaxing in the waltz duet which forms the finale from Franz Lehar’s Merry Widow – perhaps not surprisingly as the singers are partners in real life!

It is not easy to create the atmosphere of grand opera in a concert hall or theatre with no scenery and full marks to Ogg , a slight but autoreactive figure on the rostrum, and the orchestra of the WNO for achieving this despite having journeyed for some hundred miles for this, the final performance of their Summer Opera Classics tour.

Performance on Friday July 5 at Theatr Hafren, Newtown.

Review Ignite the Passion, Mid Wales Opera, Gala Concert by Barbara Michaels

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)I

Theatre Hafren, Newtown.

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels.

In celebration of their 30th birthday, Mid Wales Opera pulled out the stops for a Gala Concert which also marked the start of their Spring tour of Tosca.  After a welcome by Board member Alun Jones, the programme began with a spirited performance of The Laughing Song from Johann Strauss II’s  Die Fledermaus by guest artiste soprano Galina Averina (who sang the role of Pamina with outstanding success in MWO’s 2017 production of The Magic Flute), setting the tone for a programme of opera favourites in the first half.  

GALINA AVERINA
soprano

A selection from Puccini’s La Boheme followed: the aria Che Gelida and ensuing duet Si, mi chiamo Mimi sympathetically sung by Norwegian tenor Stian Økland and soprano Stephanie Lloyd was a clever and popular choice, while scarlet gowned mezzo soprano Dilan Saka’s performance of Nel Giardin del bello from Verdi’s Don Carlos deservedly won huge applause– a young artiste to watch, as proved by her performance with Økland in the Seguedilla from Bizet’s Carmen.  All of these young and personable singers are emerging talents in the opera scene and to be kept an eye on in the future, while Averina’s solo aria Saper Vorreste, from Verdi’s In Ballo in Maschera showcased her true and clear soprano.

STIAN ØKLAND
lyric tenor (WIAV)
STEPHANIE LLOYD
soprano (WIAV)
DILAN SAKA
mezzo (WIAV)

A concert programme consisting of only operatic items is not easy, the components of opera stretching as they do far wider.   The fabulous music for full orchestra is impossible to replicate with a solo pianist and full credit to MWO accompanist Siân Davis who rose admirably to the challenge.  Additionally, an opera traditionally involves a considerable amount of both scenery and props, both of which are lacking in a concert performance.  While on this occasion fully understandable owing to full scenery for the following night’s opening performance of Tosca being hidden behind the all-concealing black drapes.  A gala evening could perhaps have done with a bit more.

 Addressing the audience at the end of the evening ,Gareth Williams, chair of MWO, spoke of MWO’s intention since its foundation thirty years ago to bring opera to parts of Wales  previously unable to access opera, and also to smaller venues, while  Emily Gottlieb, Chief Executive of the National Opera Studio and a former production and development designer with the Royal Opera House, spoke of the immense value of Mid Wales Opera as a testing ground for the operatic skills emerging today.

All singers are former or present students of Dennis O’Neill’s Academy of Voice in Cardiff.

Gala concert at Theatr Hafren, Newtown, Powys,on Friday February 22nd.

                                                                                                                                                   

Top Tunes with Adele Thomas

Credit Kirsten McTernan


Hi Adele, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I am a theatre and opera director. I am from Port Talbot originally and live in Cardiff now. I’m about to make my Royal Opera House debut with Handel’s Berenice

Credit Damien Frost

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

I am obsessively listening to Berenice as I’m about to direct it! So my iPod is pretty much given over to that and to some of Handel’s other operas. It’s good to get a sense of where this piece fits into his wider body of work.


But the latest thing that I saw and was blown away by was a gig by Hen Ogledd. Their album, Mogic, has just come out and it’s just sensational. I’m a vinyl lover, so I’ll be listening to it on the record player! 

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 
1

Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles

I’m going to immediately preface this by saying that this is by no means The Beatles’ best album (for me, that’s Revolver) but it is the one that changed my life. I was struggling to fit in in my teens in a world of grey concrete and everyone in head to toe adidas block colour tracksuit and gangster rap. After one very late night of underage drinking, a friend took me back to his house and said “check this out”. He put the film of Magical Mystery Tour on and immediately my entire world opened up. The colour, the surreality, the clothes and, of course, the music! I became obsessed with the backwards tapeloops, the kaleidoscope camera, the technicolour kaftans. I binned the tracksuit and immediately became a 60s throwback. That one encounter opened up everything to me: art, counter culture, the music scene, a whole world of new friends. And I can still quote that film word for word. 


His ‘N’ Hers – Pulp 


When my school mates did all start listening to Oasis and Blur I was firmly in the 3rd camp: I was a massive Pulp fan. Different Class is the album that cemented them as working class hero for the wierdo amongst us, and This is Hardcore saw them reach the pinnacle of their orchestral ambition, but His ‘N’ Hers is my favourite. It captures something very real about being an outsider in the 90s: when charity shops were packed full of incredible 60s clothing for pennies, the seedy glamour of the beachside dirty weekend B n Bs along Mumbles road, sticky indie clubs and lager and lime. It’s an album that celebrates the trashy, sexy, the working class. Jarvis Cocker is still my hero and nothing makes me dance and cry at the same time like “Do you Remember the First time”.  

Work and Non-Work – Broadcast 


I wrestled between this and Dots and Loops by Stereolab (which is a masterpiece) but Broadcast just pips them for me. Warp records seemed to be the coolest thing on the planet, and Broadcast’s music touched a nostalgic nerve for a period I didn’t even know.  Their music seemed to be the subconscious by product of an alternative past: the mulch creepiness of Dario Argento’s fits, the sun saturated photography, the trippy wierdness of Public Information films. This album is incredibly beautiful and cinematic: every song on it lends itself to a film that has never been made. And perhaps the thing that pushes Broadcast’s work up the list for me is the tragic death of their singer and heart of the group Trish Keenan. She was a fashion icon and a poetic mind who went too soon. 


The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell


One night my boyfriend and I were driving very late down a pitch Black Country lane and we were listening to a radio show of Prince’s favourite songs. Suddenly this piece came on and it was so overwhelmingly beautiful, so totally perfect that we had to stop the car and just sit there in the dark listening. That song was Edith and the Kingpin from this strange and haunting album by the one and only Joni Mitchell. Poetically, every listen glistens with new meaning and her use of language is so incredible. “The helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof/ Like a dragonfly on a tomb”. Exquisite. Especially coming at you through that pure voice. 



Wozzeck – Berg


I discovered that I wanted to direct for stage when I sat down and watched Richard Jones’s production of Berg’s complex and terrifyingly hard opera based on the Buchner play. That production tore away any concepts I had of what theatre could be. The world on stage was so strange, so complete, and the performers were incredible musicians and amazing actors (Christopher Purves’ performance in that was one of immense human detail. All while singing some of the hardest music you’ve every heard over a full orchestra). Now I’m finally directing opera, this production is still the benchmark for me of what can be achieved. It’s really worth listening to: yes the music’s complex, but the tragedy of the story is brilliantly served here. Please note the version Adele describes is not available online. Instead we present The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra, The Chorus of the Hamburg State Opera, Conducted by Bruno Maderna, Directed for television by Joachim Hess. Set design: Herbert Kirchhoff Costumes: Helmut Jürgens Recorded 1970, Hamburg State Opera.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

I’m going to chose Babies from His N’ Hers because I think it shows how complex pop music can be. Melancholic, strangely profound: it captures the sense of teenage boredom on a rainy Tuesday evening between school and… But it also never fails to get everyone on the dance floor, and it builds into a euphoric, semi-spiritual exorcism of raw sexuality and kitchen sink drama. I can’t listen to this without dancing!