The Welsh National Opera celebrates its 70th birthday and the centenary of Battle of the Somme with the world premiere of a new opera In Parenthesis. A commemoration of one of the most important battles of WW1, the play is an adaptation of a poem by David Jones and has been commissioned by the Nicholas John Trust with 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary.
David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins. Photo by David Massey
Composer Iain Bell and director David Pountney worked with conductor Carlo Rizzi to create a unique commemoration of the events of the Battle resulting in a unique narrative of wartime that is both suggestive and true to the events and gentle, subliminal and otherworldly. Co-librettists David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins have contributed to unveiling full musical potential and richness of In Parenthesis.
Iain Bell’s bold use of various musical styles – traditional Welsh folk songs, marching rhythms, fanfares and beautiful melodies – makes for a unique musical masterpiece fitting with the transcendent emotions carried by the original text. The final result is an opera that conveys the notions of hope, rebirth and a general lesson in mindful rememberance.
Iain Bell. Photo by David Massey
Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, said, “We are delighted to be partnering with WNO in bringing David Jones’ epic poem In Parenthesis to the stage. At 14-18 NOW we commission artists to create contemporary responses to the First World War, connecting audiences across the UK with the centenary. Iain Bell’s opera will bring to life the story of these young soldiers at Mametz and the horrors they faced.”
David Jones. Photo courtesy of The Estate of David Jones.
The costumes and staging were designed by Robert Innes Hopkins and are both historically accurate and mystical. The principal role of Private John Ball will be created by tenor Andrew Bidlack and furthermore notable performers gracing the stage in In Parenthesis are Mark Le Brocq, Donald Maxwel, Alexandra Deshorties, Graham Clark, Marcus Farnsworth, George Humphreys and Peter Coleman-Wright.
In a bid to bring the opera to as wide an audience as possible, the WNO will create an extensive programme of digital, youth and community projects. In February, the WNO will launch a digital platform. The platform will feature a series of episodes that will explore the background to the WNO’s In Parenthesis, the author of this epic war poem as well as other supporting content.
Other performances of In Parenthesis will be streamed live and free here from July 1 for six months on the platform and ARTE TV website. Members of the WNO will also engage in an extensive youth programmes including writing workshops, staging mini operas and other performances nationwide. In additional the National Museum Cardiff’s War Hell will support the endeavor with their The Battle of Mametz Wood in Art Exhibition and the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff will display a digital, interactive Installation commissioned by WNO.
by Magda Pirowska
Following its world première at Wales Millennium Centre (May 13, 7.15 pm) and further performances in Cardiff (May 21 and June 3), the work will tour to Birmingham and to London, as part of WNO’s annual residency at the Royal Opera House. A special performance at the Royal Opera House on Friday 1 July, 7.30pm will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.
The project is supported by Colwinston Charitable Trust, the Jane Hodge Foundation, the Gwendoline and Margaret Davies Charity, the Kirby Laing Foundation, the John S Cohen Foundation and the 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust, European Commission’s Creative Europe programme, The Royal Opera and Opera Europa.