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Welsh National Opera Returns To The Bristol Hippodrome In Spring 2019


Opening the spring season is a new production of Un ballo in maschera, where love, power and politics collide to create a tale of deception, intrigue and revenge. The second instalment in WNO's Verdi trilogy, the production is directed by David Pountney, conducted by Gareth Jones and is a co-production with Oper der Stadt Bonn. Performing from 10 - 13 April, the company will also bring revivals of Mozart's The Magic Flute and Donizetti's Roberto Devereux.

Un ballo in maschera is a study in Kingship, and the heady relationship between personal and public affairs. The story reveals the tragic love triangle between Amelia, her husband Renato and her lover the King (Riccardo), Renato's best friend. The King is obsessed with theatre and disguise, and this builds climactically to a masked ball in a backdrop of the growing conspiracy against him from his political and personal enemies. Despite Riccardo ultimately renouncing his love for Amelia, the culmination of the piece sees Renato discovering the affair and taking matters into his own hands with devastating consequences. The cast will include highly regarded Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones who will sing Riccardo with Mary Elizabeth Williams as Amelia and Roland Wood as Renato.

Raimund Bauer's 'Verdi Machine' set design of three interlocking frames will again feature in this production, but will look distinctly different from the set of La forza del destino, designed to reflect the way the King constantly plays with truth and disguise, and loses his sense of reality in his fascination with theatre. Costumes are designed by Marie-Jeanne Lecca who has most recently collaborated with WNO on the highly acclaimed production of War and Peace.

WNO's Artistic Director David Pountney says "All three of our operas in this season touch on the issue of kingship. The Magic Flute involves the training of an ideal, enlightened ruler and hopefully suggests that the future will be ruled by an equally matched male and female pair. Roberto Devereux celebrates the power and charisma of one of Britain's greatest monarchs, and Un ballo in maschera shows what happens when the kingdom becomes the playground for the monarch's theatrical and amorous fantasies. All three pieces capture the thrilling dichotomy between public power and private passion at which opera excels."

Heartbreak and High Treason: Roberto Devereux

Donizetti's Roberto Devereux conducted by James Southall and originally directed by Alessandro Talevi. First performed in 2013 as part of WNO's Tudor season to critical acclaim, it features Madeleine Boyd's striking designs. Sung in Italian, the opera is loosely based on the life of Robert Devereux, the Second Earl of Essex and his close relationship with Queen Elizabeth I. Fascinated by Elizabethan history, Donizetti in fact wrote three operas heavily featuring 'the Virgin Queen' and in all three the rumours of a fiery temper and love life are placed at the heart of the story. In Roberto Devereux the Queen is romantically linked with the eponymous Earl of Essex as he is tried for treason. Bel Canto virtuoso Barry Banks returns to WNO as the titular Devereux, alongside soprano Joyce El-Khoury as Elisabetta, both making role debuts. Also joining the cast are Justina Gringyté as Sara.

Magritte-inspired Marvels: The Magic Flute

Completing the spring season is a revival of Mozart's ever-popular The Magic Flute with a production originally directed by Dominic Cooke, sung in English and conducted by Damian Iorio, making his debut with WNO. Another tale of royal adventure, this Magritte-inspired production places Prince Tamino's quest to rescue a princess and find true love into a surreal, dream-like world that features an angry lobster, a newspaper-reading lion and a fish transformed into a bicycle. The witty story of enchantment and colourful characters alongside Mozart's music results in a unique piece of opera, particularly well known for its soaring arias sung by The Queen of The Night. Returning to WNO in this role is Samantha Hay. The cast includes Mark Stone as Papageno, Ben Johnson as Tamino, and Anita Watson as Pamina. Making her debut with WNO, soprano Jennifer Davis also appears as First Lady, fresh from her acclaimed engagement as Elsa in Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House.

Doner Kebab flavour to production of Don Pasquale

Later this year, WNO will take a riotous new version of comic opera Don Pasquale on the road to mid-scale venues across England and Wales, including The Riverfront Theatre Newport in May and the Octagon Theatre Yeovil in July. An eclectic ensemble of seven players, including accordion and saxophone, will feature in the action onstage and will be led by musical director Stephen Higgins. A new translation by Daisy Evans, who also directs, teases out the comedic narrative in a twenty-first century South Wales setting and will give audiences a new perspective on this Donizetti classic. Andrew Shore plays the established bachelor Pasquale who, in this production, has his successful kebab business empire hijacked by the wily young lovers Norina and Ernesto, aided by local schemer Malatesta. Returning to WNO after his leading performance in 2016's Kiss Me, Kate!, Quirijn de Lang will sing Malatesta he is joined by Nico Darmanin as Ernesto and WNO's new Associate Artist soprano Harriet Eyley in the role of Norina. Eyley joins WNO for 18 months, and will also sing and cover roles in the 2019-20 annual season as well as taking part in the Company's engagement work.

Following the successful recent tour of Rhondda Rips It Up! this tour is part of WNO's ongoing commitment to reach a wide range of audiences with a varied operatic repertoire, in partnership with some of the country's best regional theatres.

Director and librettist Daisy Evans says "This Don Pasquale is fresh, contemporary and unique. It has been reimagined for a modern audience, and sees current issues driving this classic comedy. Pasquale is proud of his kebab van and the years of service he has provided to late night revellers in Cardiff, but he's grown mean-minded and scared of modernisation. His nephew Ernesto and his girlfriend Norina stand for the future - calling for less plastic use, eco-conscious dining and stripped back design. The two sides are pitted against each other in a comedy that is bound to have you laughing as well as thinking"

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