TWO classic Puccini operas and a hidden opera gem make up Welsh National Opera’s Love’s Poisoned Chalice season at Mayflower Theatre next week.
Running from Tuesday April 25 to Saturday April 29 the WNO will take audiences on a journey of love, passion, heartbreak and tragedy through some of opera’s greatest tear jerking music.
At the heart of the spring season is a new production of Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Le Vin herbé, directed by former WNO Genesis Assistant Director Polly Graham in her first main scale production for WNO. Inspiring the season theme, Le Vin herbé (‘the spiked drink’) is based on the myth of Tristan and Isolde. Martin’s composition investigates the very meaning and function of myths, as a group of people come together to narrate this tragic love story. Written between 1938 and 1941, Frank Martin’s version of the lovers’ tale is more in riposte than homage to Wagner, and influenced by the imminent World War as well as his own personal crisis of losing his first wife.
Iseult will be performed by Caitlin Hulcup and Tom Randle returns to WNO to sing the role of Tristan, with Catherine Wyn-Rogers singing the role of Iseult’s Mother. Originally conceived for 12 singers, this production will be performed with the entire WNO Chorus taking the role of narrator as in a Greek Chorus, commenting on the dramatic action as the story unfurls. An orchestra of seven string players and a pianist will be on stage throughout the opera, along with conductor James Southall.
Up next is Puccini’s much-loved La bohème in a production which WNO first staged in 2012 to high praise from both critics and audiences. Telling the tragic love story of Mimi and Rodolfo, this production transports audiences to the streets of bohemian Paris.
Annabel Arden’s 1913 inspired pre-war production will be directed in this revival by Caroline Chaney. Jessica Muirhead returns to WNO to sing Mimi following her performance as Micaëla in Carmen in 2014 alongside tenor Matteo Lippi as Rodolfo. La bohème will be conducted by Manlio Benzi who makes his debut at WNO. La bohème will be conducted by Manlio Benzi who makes his debut at WNO.
Former WNO Associate Artist Gary Griffiths returns to WNO to take the role of Marcello, and Australian Lauren Fagan makes her WNO main stage debut in the role of Musetta. Jihoon Kim takes the role of Colline and Gareth Brynmor John takes the role of Schaunard.
Completing the trio of spring operas is another Puccini classic: Madam Butterfly. Joachim Herz’s beautiful sepia-toned production will be directed in this revival by Sarah Crisp and conducted by Andrew Greenwood.
Punctuated with irresistible music including the Humming Chorus and the moving Un bel dì aria, Madam Butterfly tells the heartbreaking tale of Cio-Cio-San’s love and loss at the hands of her American naval officer, Pinkerton. This production features a double cast for the roles of Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton. South Korean-born soprano Karah Son will sing the role of Cio-Cio-San alongside Paul Charles Clarke who returns to WNO to sing Pinkerton following performances in Sweeney Todd during the 2015/16 season.
Former WNO Associate Artist Rebecca Afonwy-Jones returns to WNO to sing the role of Suzuki, and fellow Welsh favourites David Kempster and Richard Wiegold also return to sing the roles of Sharpless and Bonze respectively.
More information on WNO’s spring 2016 season is available at wno.org.uk/lovespoisonedchalice
Tickets for Le Vin herbé (25 April), La Boheme (26&28 April) and Madam Butterfly (27&29 April) are on sale from Mayflower Theatre Box Office tel: 02380 711811 or online at mayflower.org.uk. Ovation Restaurant bookings: 02380 711833