Autumn 2018 saw MWO back on the road with the company’s second SmallStages tour, Ravel’s exhilarating one-act bedroom farce, A Spanish Hour (L’heure espagnole). First performed in Paris in 1911, L’heure espagnole is set in a clock shop in Toledo, central Spain. It follows the fortunes of Torquemada, the hardworking clockmaker, as, during the course of one hot afternoon, his young wife Concepción negotiates her way through her collection of ridiculous lovers. Ravel’s music is bursting with hummable melodies, lively habanera dances and other Spanish folk song elements to get audiences buzzing.
With a cast of 14 and in partnership with Ensemble Cymru for the first time, Eugene Onegin picked up on the year’s Russian theme and toured through the snowy spring of 2018. Audiences across Wales and in Hereford witnessed Tchaikovsky’s “consideration on love, humanity and passion, rendered with a beauty and tenderness that has left us haunted by its effect” (audience member Llanelli).
Autumn 2017 saw Mid Wales Opera’s first ever SmallStages production – a 16 venue tour of William Walton’s comic classic The Bear. With a new arrangement by Music Director Jonathan Lyness, and a production specially designed by Artistic Director Richard Studer for performances in venues from churches and village halls to small theatres, The Bear was a huge hit with audiences from Criccieth to Cwmbran. The cast of three, and band of five musicians, meant this micro-chamber scale production could take fully staged live opera to places where we could never tour our main-stage shows. The whole tour was a huge adventure and we can’t wait to do it again.
Spring 2017 saw MWO enter a new era with our Artistic team Jonathan Lyness and Richard Studer’s brilliant new version of The Magic Flute as the perfect first production to show they were starting as they mean to go on! Perfectly pantomime, family fun and with exceptional singers Richard Bratby of The Spectator declared MWO was “back in the game and punching straight into the same league as English Touring Opera, a company whose only artistic compromises relate to the size of its venues”.
After a well-earned break, MWO was back on the road in Spring 17 with a new co-production with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and an orchestra in partnership with the Academy of Ancient Music. With hugely talented student singers in key roles, and Martin Constantine’s bang up to date interpretation of Semele for a selfie-generation providing a sharp contrast to the subtly nuanced baroque musicianship of the AAM, Semele proved the perfect swan song for our Music Director Nicholas Cleobury as he left us to take up a role as Head of Opera at the Queensland Conservatorium in Australia.
Our 25th anniversary year saw Jonathan Miller directing a new orchestration of Carmen by Stephen McNeff and a translation by Rory Bremner. Helen Sherman smouldered as a peroxide blonde heroine in Jonathan Miller’s new version set in the 1930s and focussing on the working class tragedies and poverty of the Spain inhabited by the soldiers and cigarette girls.
This stunning interpretation of Handel’s pastoral opera Acis and Galatea was a co-production with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Brecon Baroque. With four-star reviews and delighted audiences across England and Wales, Richard Morrison in The Times summed it up as having “charm written all over it”. Jane Harrington gave a breathtaking performance as Galatea whose life is turned from pastoral delights of nymphs and shepherds to the horrors of loss at the hands of the giant Polyphemus.
As part of the Britten 100 celebrations, MWO brought its own stylish interpretation to Britten’s classic comedy of life in rural “Loxford” to more than 20 theatres across England and Wales, delighting audiences and critics alike. Catrin Aur’s Thatcher-esque Lady Billows left a lasting impression and Christopher Turner made an astonishing Albert, faced with stepping up to the role of May King when the local girls are not quite chaste enough to fit the bill!