MWO Productions Since 1989

1989
Carmen (Bizet) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des./Lighting Des. Charles Edwards
The Magic Flute (Mozart) Cond. Derek Clark; Dir. Ian Watt-Smith; Des./Lighting Des. Charles Edwards
Theatr Hafren, Newtown
1989 The Magic Flute, Mozart

I was involved in MWO’s first festival in 1989. The productions that year (The Magic Flute and Carmen) were both designed by a young Charles Edwards. It was all hands on deck in those early days so alongside singing in the chorus I also helped out as DSM backstage. I was even called on to drive the theatre van down to an antique dealers in Monmouthshire to pick up 12 bentwood chairs for the priests to sit on in Flute!

Dean Robinson
first MWO productions The Magic Flute and Carmen 1989

Mid Wales Opera (or Mid-Wales Centre for Opera, as it was known in its inaugural year of 1989) was my operatic debut as a professional bass-baritone, singing the roles the Speaker, 2nd Priest and 2nd Armed Man in The Magic Flute. Many happy memories of this production include working with a highly talented cast – many of whom are still great friends thirty years on – and the coaching from the wonderful musical staff – Derek Clark and the late Paul Hamburger.

Gavin Davies
Speaker/2nd priest/2nd armed man in first production The Magic Flute 1989

1990

Così fan tutte (Mozart)

For me, working with Mid Wales Opera, just after I’d left college, was a crucial, invaluable stepping stone into the profession. From the care and excellent work with our director and conductor  (Ian Watt Smith and Derek Clark) to the kindness and support of our hosts and opportunities provided by the team at MWO, I was guided and encouraged to make my way forward.

The seemingly simple yet complex and vital task of being ready as a young performer. Learning about life on tour (our production of ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ was MWOs first foray into touring) ..navigating the wonderful Welsh countryside (not least learning how to drive through a herd of cows) ..Focusing on performing in a theatre with the film ‘Nuns on the Run’ playing at full volume in the hall next door was a memorable challenge.

And I made a lifelong friend from that tour. Congratulations and grateful thanks to MWO!

Mary Plazas
Cosi Fan Tutte, 1990
1990
Tosca (Puccini) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des./Lighting Des. Charles Edwards
Così fan tutte (Mozart) Cond. Derek Clark; Dir. Ian Watt-Smith; Des./Lighting Des. Charles Edwards
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of Così fan tutte
1991
Otello (Verdi) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des./Lighting Des. Charles Edwards
Barber of Seville (Rossini) Cond. Derek Clark; Dir. Christopher Newell; Des./Lighting Des. Charles Edwards
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of The Barber of Seville
1992
Madama Butterfly (Puccini) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des. Isabella Bywater; Lighting Des. Charles Edwards
Die Fledermaus (Strauss) Cond. Derek Clark; Dir. Christopher Newell; Des./Lighting Des. Charles Edwards
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of both operas
1990 Così fan Tutte

1993

Don Giovanni (Mozart)

I have enormously fond memories of Mid Wales Opera, indeed it is where I cut my teeth professionally, and I will always be grateful to this wonderful company for kick-starting my career. So many incomparable memories; of driving round mid-Wales in a 7.5 tonne lorry with the entire set in it trying to work out if we would fit under that bridge, get-ins that usually involved trying to get bits of set up a spiral staircases or through an upper-storey window, and the amazing sense of company camaraderie that existed and that made me fall in love with working in opera. 30 years- here’s to the next 30 and well beyond!

Emily Gottlieb
ASM for Don Giovanni in 1993, La Boheme in 1994 and others, now CEO at National Opera Studio
1993
La Traviata (Verdi) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Caroline Sharman; Des. Bridget Cairns; Lighting Des. Giuseppe di Iorio
Don Giovanni (Mozart) Cond. Mark Shanahan; Dir. Inga Levant; Des. Charles Edwards; Lighting Des. Giuseppe di Iorio
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of both operas

At one venue on my first entrance as Mimi, I knocked the door; it stuck; I tugged; it hit me in the mouth! I spent the whole of Act 1 with a thick lip… I’ve also never forgotten running around the outside of the theatre in Cardigan, on a particularly cold night, in a flimsy nightdress, as there was no cross-over. Touring was never dull! That’s how I learned my craft. Great memories. 

Gail Pearson
Mimi, La Boheme in 1994
1994
The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Christopher Newell; Des. Jeannette Pritchard; Lighting Des. Paul J Need
La Bohème (Puccini) Cond. Anthony Hose; Dir. Julia Hollander; Des. Tahra Kharibian; Lighting Des. Paul J Need
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of both operas
Awarded a Prudential Award for the Arts
1995
Rigoletto (Verdi) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Christopher Newell; Des. Tahra Kharibian; Lighting Des. Paul J Need
L’Elisir d’Amore (Donizetti) Cond. Anthony Hose; Dir. John Ramster; Des. Peter McKintosh; Lighting Des. Paul J Need
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of both operas
1996
Carmen (Bizet) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Robert Chevara; Des. Katrina Lindsay; Lighting Des. Giuseppe di Iorio
Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) Cond. Anthony Hose; Dir. John Ramster; Des. Peter McKintosh; Lighting Des. Simon Mills
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of The Marriage of Figaro
Second Prudential Award for the Arts
1994 Gail Pearson as Mimi in La Boheme

1997

Aida (Verdi)

I will never forget directing a contemporary Aida for Mid Wales Opera, using only video footage from the Gulf War projected onto a front gauze and two iron cages.  We must have been mad to even consider it, but somehow we assembled a vast orchestra, the largest ever chorus (possibly until this date), six dancers and the Newtown Silver Band: never mind the Gulf War – we almost blew the roof off the Theatr Hafren.

Stephen Medcalf
Director, Aida 1997 (also Carmen 1989; Tosca 1990; Otello 1991; Madama Butterfly 1992/revived 2000; Turandot 1998; Faust 1999; Don Giovanni 2003; The Bartered Bride 2006
1997
Aida (Verdi) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des. Jamie Vartan; Lighting Des. Giuseppe di Iorio
Tosca (Puccini) Cond. Anthony Hose; Dir. Robin Tebbutt; Des. Alison Heffernan; Lighting Des. Giuseppe di Iorio
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of Tosca
1998
Turandot (Puccini) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des. Conor Murphy; Lighting Des. Giuseppe di Iorio
The Magic Flute (Mozart) Cond. Cem Mansur; Dir. Christopher Newell; Set Des. John Wallbank; Costume Des. Rosa Diaz; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of both operas
1997 Aida, Verdi

2006

The Bartered Bride (Smetana)

For a flavour of this MWO opera, imagine the film Cabaret on steroids or, in reality, on Mike Pearson (Mephistopheles) who was the onstage architect of every scene, conjured up in the rehearsal room by Stephen Medcalf.

This was a show that included dance routines, magic tricks, German stormtroopers, stockings and suspenders (also worn by Mike) and a love scene that ended with Liz and I bursting through a Wendy house roof. Need I say more. 

Peter Auty
Faust, 1999
1999
Faust (Gounod) Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des. Jamie Vartan; Lighting Des. Ian Sommerville
The Barber of Seville (Rossini) Cond. Cem Mansur/Keith Darlington; Dir. John Abulafia; Set Des. Agnes Treplin; Costume Des. Rosa Diaz; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 25 venues throughout England and Wales

We never had the same Berta for more than one performance due to illness. As Basilio I lifted my Cassock to reveal fishnet stockings and did the cancan to my Calunia aria. Much to the disgust of a row of ladies in Shrewsbury. Apparently a vicar called it a disgrace in the local news. 

Simon Wilding
Various roles including Don Basilio in Barber of Seville
1999 Faust, Gounod
2000
Madama Butterfly (Puccini) – revival of 1992 production
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 27 venues throughout England and Wales
2001
La Traviata (Verdi) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Martin Lloyd-Evans; Des. Neil Irish; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Così fan tutte (Mozart) Cond. Mark Shanahan/Keith Darlington; Dir. Charles Edwards/Daniele Guerra; Des. Charles Edwards; Lighting Des. Charles Edwards/Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of both operas to 24 venues throughout England and Wales
2002
La Cenerentola (Rossini) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Christopher Newell; Des. Lucy Bevan; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 26 venues throughout England , Wales and Ireland
2003
Don Giovanni (Mozart) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des. Nicky Shaw; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 23 venues throughout England and Wales
2004
Rigoletto (Verdi) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Martin Lloyd-Evans; Des. Neil Irish; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 21 venues throughout England and Wales
2005
Carmen (Bizet) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Aidan Lang; Des. Jason Southgate; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 23 venues throughout England and Wales

Quite an Apprenticeship

What I loved about MWO was the ethos of the production, the fabulous chamber orchestra, the economy of set and double casting certain roles as done originally. It meant that for someone like me, who loves a challenge it made for a full rewarding evening.

I did 12 roles with MWO:

The Barber of Seville – Don Basilio
Così fan Tutte – Alfonso
La Cenerentola – Don Magnifico 
La Bohème – Colline
Don Giovanni – Masetto  and il Commendatore
Figaro – Bartolo and Antonio 
The Bartered Bride – Kezel 
Madama Butterfly – Bonze
Falstaff – Pistol 
Carmen – Zuniga 

So that was quite an apprenticeship!

Simon Wilding

When two strangers (Barbara McGuire and Keith Darlington) turned up at Theatr Hafren where I had my first job, and said they wanted to stage an opera festival, my boss and I embraced it with open arms as something to vary the routine of our small receiving theatre.  Little did I know that thirty years on I would still have the privilege to be part of this amazing, enduring, innovative and friendly company.  Picking a favourite show is hard but Stephen Medcalf’s Welsh take on The Bartered Bride was good fun with its choir practice, Eisteddfod, dance, rugby team and visiting circus.

I’ve done many roles – stage manager in 1989 and 1990, wardrobe on tour 1991 (with baby in tow), assistant production manager till 1999 and then production manager for the shows  on which my husband Bob was lighting designer, and since 2010 Production Manager overall.  I’ve also had to walk the role as an ugly sister in La Cenerentola and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni (!), and stand in for sick ASMs and DSMs.  My real role on tour is Production Manager and Relights, and I’ve been actively involved in building every set, but we are a small team and we all lend a hand wherever is necessary – that’s what keeps us going!  I’ve never sung (except in a scratch Messiah) – in fact I remember Keith saying to me as I went on as Tisbe “Whatever you do, don’t sing!”.

Bridget Wallbank
Production Manager who has been with MWO since the start
2006
The Bartered Bride (Smetana) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Stephen Medcalf; Des. Nicky Shaw; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 24 venues throughout England and Wales
2007
La Bohème (Puccini) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Martin Lloyd-Evans; Des. Bridget Kimak; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 25 venues throughout England and Wales

We can’t get the pate for tonight’s act 2 momus scene said the crew in theatre Felinfach. No problem said I. But there it was and I ate it like I did every night with the French stick. It was cat food. My problem was I loved it so much was that people would frown if I had it again. And I’ve been able to get my leg behind my head ever since. 

Simon Wilding
Various roles including Colline in La Bohème
2006 The Bartered Bride

2008

The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach)

Of the many operas I took part in for MWO, my most memorable is Tim Hopkins wonderfully evocative production of ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’, in 2008. A notoriously difficult piece to mount, not least because of its many versions, Tim created a concise and seamless adaptation in which I plumbed the dark depths of my soul to depict the four Villains. I loved it!

Wyn Pencarreg
The Tales of Hoffmann 2008
2008
The Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Tim Hopkins; Des. Anthony Baker; Lighting Des. Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour to 24 venues throughout England and Wales
2009
The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart) Cond. Keith Darlington; Dir. Martin Lloyd-Evans; Des. Bridget Kimak; Lighting Des.Robert Wallbank
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of 25 venues throughout England and Wales
Carolyn Dobbin as the Muse, Wyn Pencarreg as Lindorf & James Edwards as Hoffmann

Singing the role of Nicklaus in tales of Hoffmann was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever performed for many reasons. It was one of my first proper sized roles out if college, it propelled me from student to professional in a very short space of time. It gave me huge amount of stage time and performing experience with about 32 shows! I loved the character of Nicklaus as he was sometimes visible and then invisible on stage but always the one manipulating what was happening in each scene. I was Hoffmann! 

It was the first time that I truly explored all the gorgeous crevices of Wales, I instantly fell in love with the stunning scenery and the beautiful people. It was a truly magical time! As a result of singing this role I was offered a small role at WNO and further roles after that as associate artist there. It will always be a special place and time in my development as a singer and I will always return to Mid Wales Opera for those reasons. 

In more recent times I’ve adored working with Jon and Richard and the new team… and will always return to work with them whenever asked! 

Carolyn Dobbin
The Tales of Hoffmann 2008

2010

Falstaff (Verdi)

With so many happy memories of my time with Mid Wales Opera, it is hard to pick just one production. But I’ll choose my first, FALSTAFF. The wonderful Charles Johnston and superb cast, Martin Lloyd Evans’ clear, unfussy production, and a musical score to die for, which translated so well to the 10 piece ensemble, of such talented and dedicated players. The camaraderie and rigours of touring, the excellent crew led so ably by Bridget Wallbank and the knowledge that we were bringing Live Opera to so many. It kick started a wonderful time with such a well run, friendly company.

Nicholas Cleobury
Artistic Director MWO 2010 – 2016
2010
Falstaff (Verdi) Cond. Nicholas Cleobury; Dir. Martin Lloyd-Evans; Des. Bridget Kimak; Lighting Des. Colin Grenfell
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of 22 venues throughout England and Wales
2011
Madam Butterfly (Puccini) Cond. Nicholas Cleobury; Dir. Stephen Barlow; Des. Yannis Thavoris; Lighting Des. Declan Randall
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of 24 venues throughout England and Wales
2011
Noye’s Fludde (Britten) Cond. Nicholas Cleobury; Director Clare Williams.
Residencies and performances at Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
2012
Don Giovanni (Mozart) Cond. Nicholas Cleobury; Dir. Martin Lloyd-Evans; Des. Bridget Kimak; Lighting Des. Declan Randall
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of 22 venues throughout England and Wales
2012
Noye’s Fludde (Britten) Cond. Mervyn Cousins/Nicholas Cleobury; Director Clare Williams.
Residencies and performances at Theatr Hafren, Newtown and Gwyn Hall, Neath.
Gaynor Keeble as Mistress Quickly & Charles Johnston as Falstaff

2013

Albert Herring (Britten)

It was great to have been a part of the 2013 production of Albert Herring, playing the role of Mr Upfold, the Mayor, during Benjamin Britten’s centenary year.  With a cast made up of soloists we became a real family during the long tour.  The beauty of working with Mid Wales Opera is that it takes opera into places and communities which aren’t served by the major Opera companies and it celebrates new talent. – Lee David Bowen Heldentenor

Lee David Bowen
Mr Upfold, Albert Herring 2013
2013
Albert Herring (Britten) Cond. Nicholas Cleobury; Dir. Michael Barker-Caven; Des. Adam Wiltshire; Lighting Des. Declan Randall
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of 21 venues throughout England and Wales
2013
Noye’s Fludde (Britten) Cond. Oliver Gooch; Dir. Clare Williams.
Residency and performances at St Asaph Cathedral with North Wales International Music Festival
2014
Acis & Galatea (Handel) Cond. Nicholas Cleobury; Dir. Annilese Miskimmon; Des. Nicky Shaw; Lighting Des. Declan Randall.
Co-production RWCMD, Richard Burton
Theatre Cardiff followed by a tour of 9 venues in England and Wales
Carmen (Bizet) Cond. Nicholas Cleobury; Dir Jonathan Miller; Des. Nicky Shaw: Lighting Des. Declan Randall
Theatr Hafren, Newtown followed by a tour of 23 venues throughout England and Wales

2017

The Magic Flute (Mozart)

Some productions can come and go, but the MWO Magic Flute has really stayed with me. The rehearsal process was fantastically efficient – Jonathan and Richard know exactly what they want – and we came up with an unabashedly entertaining show. From major theatres to quaint local halls (the Matryoshka doll-like set somehow shrinking and expanding to fill both, whilst staying perfectly preserved), audiences were hugely appreciative. And of course…those trousers.

Frederick Long
Papageno, The Magic Flute 2017
2017
Semele (Handel) Cond. Nicholas Cleobury, and Jonathan Lyness (Colwyn Bay and Brecon); Dir. Martin Constantine; Des. Grace Venning; Lighting Des. Samuel Smith.
Co-production RWCMD, Richard Burton Theatre followed by a tour to 4 venues.
The Magic Flute (Mozart) Cond. Jonathan Lyness; Dir./Des. Richard Studer; Lighting Des. Declan Randall.
Theatr Hafren followed by a tour to 4 venues in Wales.
The Bear (Walton) Cond. Jonathan Lyness; Dir./Des. Richard Studer; 
SmallStages production touring to sixteen venues in Wales and the Borders.
Carolyn Dobbin, The Bear, 2017

2018

L’heure espagnole (Ravel)

What a great show this was – everyone involved (on and off stage) brought such life to the piece. I only wish the time spent on this show went as slowly as the slo-mo action we all had to act when in these beautifully made clocks. From the first minute, to the last (Spanish) hour, it was one olé after another! I personally can’t wait to work with Mid Wales Opera again.

Anthony Flaum
Gonzalve, L’heure espagnole 2018
2018
Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky) Cond. Jonathan Lyness; Dir./Des. Richard Studer; Lighting Des. Dan Saggars.
Hafren followed by a tour to 8 venues in Wales and the Borders.
L’heure espagnole (Ravel) Music Dir. Jonathan Lyness; Dir./Des. Richard Studer
SmallStages Production touring to 16 venues across Wales and the Borders
2019
Tosca (Puccini) Cond. Jonathan Lyness; Dir./Des. Richard Studer; Lighting Des. Dan Saggars.
Hafren followed by a tour to 8 Venues in Wales and the Borders.
Dido & Aeneas (Purcell) Cond. Jonathan Lyness; Dir./Des. Richard Studer
OpenStages Residency and production in St. Andrew’s Church, Presteigne
Robyn Lyn Evans as Vladimir Lensky in MWO’s 2018 tour of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Notice: ob_end_flush(): failed to send buffer of zlib output compression (0) in /home/midwalesoperaco/public_html/files/wp-includes/functions.php on line 4339