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Welsh National Opera brings love to MK Theatre

Date Posted:06/03/2017

Welsh National OperaThe Welsh National Opera’s Love’s Poisoned Chalice Spring season at Milton Keynes Theatre (Tuesday 21 – Saturday 25 March) promises to take audiences on a journey of love, passion, heartbreak and tragedy through some of opera’s greatest tear jerking music. With two classic Puccini operas, La bohème and Madam Butterfly, and a hidden opera gem, Le Vin herbé, this season is one not to be missed!

Opening the 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 7 string players and a pianist will be on stage throughout the opera, along with conductor James Southall.  

As WNO Genesis Assistant Director, Polly Graham received mentorship from internationally-renowned opera directors including WNO Artistic Director David Pountney, Mariusz Trelinski and Pierre Audi.  She returns to WNO following her work with WNO Youth Opera on Kommilitonen! during the summer of 2016 which received excellent reviews from the national media.

Puccini’s much-loved La bohème returns with 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 and will feature a double cast for Mimi and Rodolfo.  American soprano and rising star Marina Costa-Jackson makes her debut with WNO to sing Mimi, sharing the role with Jessica Muirhead who returns to WNO following her performance as Micaëla in Carmen in 2014.  Tenors Dominick Chenes and Matteo Lippi will share the role of Rodolfo. 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 in Milton Keynes 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 share the role of Cio-Cio-San with Linda Richardson who returns to WNO following recent performances in I Puritani and Moses in Egypt.  American tenor Jonathan Burton makes his WNO debut, sharing the role of Pinkerton with Paul Charles Clarke.

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.

Talking about the season, WNO Artistic Director David Pountney says: “To bring Madame Butterfly and La Bohème together in one season is a luxurious offering for our audiences, but there is a delightful and no less passionate or moving sting in the tail: a small, intimate but deceptively powerful work by the Swiss composer Frank Martin, a very underrated musician. You may know by now that I take a particular delight in bringing such neglected gems to your notice!”

Performances: Tue 21 – Sat 25 Mar
Le Vin Herbé, Tue 21, 7.15PM
La Bohème, Wed 22 & Thu 23, 7.15PM
Madam Butterfly, Fri 24 & Sat 25, 7.15PM
Tickets: From £18 (£21.90 online/phone)    
Box Office: 0844 871 7652* (bkg fee)
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Access Booking: 0844 871 7677* (bkg fee)
Online Booking: www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes (bkg fee)
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