MADNESS is the theme of the Welsh National Opera’s autumn season this year with the company presenting three new productions that will explore the torment and turmoil of this highly disturbing human condition through some of the finest musical expressions of madness and the human condition. The season also launches WNO’s 70th birthday year which will see the company stage seven new productions over the course of the year – including two world premières – and a classic revival.
A new production of Bellini’s I puritani opens the autumn season. I puritani was the composer’s final opera and widely regarded as a bel canto masterpiece and will be directed by former WNO staff director Annilese Miskimmon, Artistic Director of Den Jyske Opera/Danish National Opera who are also co-producers. Carlo Rizzi returns to conduct the opera and celebrated bel canto tenor Barry Banks returns to sing Arturo.
Next in the season is one of Handel’s greatest operas – Orlando – which comes to WNO in a production that originated at Scottish Opera in 2011. Orlando provides a fascinating insight into musical virtuosity as a metaphor for insanity as Orlando’s sudden and complete descent into madness at the end of Act II is masterfully illustrated through Handel’s music, which balances his inner suffering with fevered anguish to immense effect. Directed by Harry Fehr, Orlando will be set in 1940s London during World War II, providing a fitting backdrop to heighten the emotional impact of the story against the devastation of the Blitz.
Closing the season is Sondheim’s musical classic, Sweeney Todd, which depicts not only the madness of the protagonist but of society as a whole. This production promises a musical with all the emotional impact of opera and will be a rare opportunity to hear Sweeney Todd with the celebrated WNO Chorus and Orchestra. This production is set in the late 1970s/early 1980s and provides a fresh take on the story with echoes of Thatcher’s Britain.
Sweeney Todd is a co-production between Welsh National Opera, Wales Millennium Centre and West Yorkshire Playhouse in association with Royal Exchange Theatre, Sweeney Todd will be directed by WYP Artistic Director James Brining and conducted by James Holmes in a staging adapted for WNO.
Commenting on the season, WNO Artistic Director David Pountney says: “The paradox of music is that it is a highly rational means of expression, much more logically organised than the language of speech for instance, and yet it is at the same time the supreme means of expressing all kinds of extreme emotional states.
“Among these, madness has been a constant inspiration to composers eager to test the ability of music to penetrate the most radical states of mental disorder. Our season presents a fascinatingly wide range of musical expression dedicated to this phenomenon, from the virtuosic roulades of Handel, via the elegant refinement of Bellini to the raw craziness of Sondheim’s gruesome Barber.”
by Jane Dale
The WNO Autumn 2015 Madness season opens with I Puritani at the Wales Millennium Centre Sept 19 at 7.00pm
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