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Welsh National Opera Comes to The Bristol Hippodrome

Welsh National Opera Comes to The Bristol HippodromeThis autumn, Welsh National Opera return to Bristol Hippodrome with two Russian-themed operas which mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution. Performing from 15 - 18 November, the Company will bring its productions of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Janá?ek's From the House of the Dead, based on the book by Dostoevsky to the city.

Alongside these are two performances of Johan Strauss's Die Fledermaus, in WNO's delightful production.

Opening the week is Eugene Onegin. Evoking the elegance of early 19th century St Petersburg alongside simple countryside settings, Eugene Onegin follows the cynical protagonist as he rejects the romantic advances of the young country girl Tatyana, before later coming to regret his actions and feeling the sting of rejection himself. Considered one of the greatest Russian operas, Tchaikovsky's music reflects the high society of the time and the yearnings of the heart with evocative arias, romantic choruses and luscious waltzes.

This revival of James MacDonald's original production will be directed by Caroline Chaney and conducted by Latvian Ain?rs Rubikis who has recently been announced as the new Music Director of Komische Oper Berlin. Rising star and Welsh singer Natalya Romaniw takes the role of Tatyana. Already familiar to some Bristol audience members, Natalya stepped onto the Hippodrome stage earlier this year covering the lead role in Madam Butterfly to an enthusiastic response from audiences and critics. Nicholas Lester returns to WNO following his performances in the Figaro trilogy in 2016 to take the role of Onegin. Also joining the cast are Jason Bridges (Lensky), Claudia Huckle (Olga), Miklós Sebestyén (Prince Gremin) and Sara Fulgoni (Filipyevna).

From the House of the Dead will be a revival of WNO's original 1982 production, this time in a new critical edition by musicologist John Tyrrell with performance suggestions by Charles Mackerras. Unfinished at the time of Janá?ek's death, this will be the first time that the opera will be performed in a version that is as close as possible to what Janá?ek intended.

Telling the story of the inmates of a Siberian prison, the opera reflects their feelings of pain, oppression and injustice as each recount why they ended up in jail. Their gloom is eased as they painstakingly nurse an eagle back to health, which comes to symbolize both Russia and the notion of freedom. The production will feature a stellar ensemble cast including Alan Oke (Skuratov), Robert Hayward (The Commandant), Mark Le Brocq (Filka Morozov) and Adrian Thompson (Shapkin).

Tomáš Hanus says: "WNO's 'Russian Revolution' season reflects the soul of Russian people, culture and thinking, as well as the history. It is very important for us at this point in history to be touched by this subject, as it is sending a very specific but universal message. The extraordinary beauty and immense power of the music of great Masters like Tchaikovsky and Janá?ek puts us right at the heart of this Russian phenomenon and brings it alive in front of our eyes.

"I really cannot wait to be working on From the House of the Dead with our fantastic orchestra, chorus and all the soloists, and to share this with our audience. I am sure that together we will all experience an exceptional and very emotional season that will deeply enrich our lives."

Talking about the Russian Revolution theme, WNO Artistic Director David Pountney says: "After the intellectual and artistic euphoria that led to an explosion of creativity immediately post the revolution, the brutal realities of Lenin's and Stalin's regimes meant that putting pen to paper became an increasingly dangerous act. The result is that though there was an enormous amount of musical activity in Soviet Russia, there are no significant operas about the revolution itself. Our approach has been to present operas that in very different ways illustrate the enduring character of Russians and Russian society.

"The most endearing is Russia the romantic, as illustrated by Eugene Onegin, an unbearably touching story in which Pushkin's Mozartian sense of irony is overlaid by Tchaikovsky's unrestrained passion. In stark contrast, Janá?ek's setting of Dostoevsky's autobiographical account of his experiences in a Siberian prison remind us that violence and the suppression of freedom have remained one of the essential levers of Russian government."

During the Autumn season, there will also be two performances - including one matinee - of WNO's acclaimed production of Die Fledermaus, conducted by James Southall. Die Fledermaus will transport audiences to early 1900s Vienna in a production that revels in the humour and frivolity of the story, and is full of opulence, fancy frocks and lavish detail. Featuring a rich and romantic score by Johan Strauss, we join the characters at a masquerade ball as a plot around mistaken identity unfolds. Die Fledermaus will be sung in English with translation by David Pountney and dialogue by John Copley.

The cast for Die Fledermaus includes Judith Howarth in the role of Rosalinde and Mark Stone as her errant husband Eisenstein. They will be joined by Ben McAteer (Falke), Rhian Lois (Adele), Alan Opie (Frank), Paul CharLes Clarke (Alfred), and WNO Associate Artist Anna Harvey (Orlofsky).

Also joining the cast in the role of the jailer, Frosch, is Welsh actor Steve Speirs. Better known to some as Alan in the Sky One series Stella, Steve has appeared in TV shows including Extras, Doctor Who and Miranda, and has also appeared in feature films including Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

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