With little over a week until WNO's 09/10 season begins I thought I'd better give a quick run down of what's on offer this autumn. Being a touring company WNO haven't got the financial clout to stage reams of works unlike the Shirley Crabtree's of this world, so its number of productions per season is small (usually three) to allow stakes to be upped as it moves from city to city in a general three month cycle.
Luckily for me it does hang around for a month at its home base so I can pop along to as many performances as I fancy, given that prices are extremely reasonable – especially compared with the visit of the Mariinsky in October, when it's sell your granny time if you want to see the whole weekend.
If you're not flash with cash you can see the three offerings of La Traviata, Madama Butterfly and Wozzeck for a combined £15, and as not everything sells out you can sneak down the sides into pricier seats in the upper circle and see the action even closer up. Whatever your price range tickets are still available from the WMC.
Photo by Drew Farrell from the WNO website
My own highlight of the autumn season is La Traviata. It's an opera that I can listen to time and again and having the David McVicar direction to enjoy is a double delight. On the casting front I'm intrigued to hear how Alfie Boe fares. It's good to see that unlike some "opera singers" who have made a pretty penny from solo discs he is actually taking up the challenge of doing the real thing on stage. His Violetta is the Greek soprano Myrto Papatanasiu, who recently deputised in the same role for Angela Gheorghiu at Munich opposite the Man's Man Tenor (TM) Jonas Kaufmann – it goes without saying that I'm looking forward to hearing her sing. Completing the triumvirate of main roles (Papa G) is Dario Solari, the Uruguayan baritone, who was the recent Prince Yeletsky during the company's superb Queen of Spades. Waving the stick for the band to follow is Andrea Licata.
Photo by Neil Bennett from the WNO website
The second big seller of the autumn season is the Joachim Herz directed Madam Butterfly with Amanda Roocroft reprising the role of Cio-Cio San she played to thunderous applause several seasons ago, and playing the mean so and so Pinkerton is Miami born Russell Thomas (who must be wishing he was back in Miami given the weather Cardiff is offering him). Playing the character with the motorbike name is Claire Bradshaw, who is also reprising her well-received role from the 2007 production. Now, I have to admit that this isn't my favourite opera, and I am debating whether to actually go and see it, but given that it's an opera that is being performed on my doorstep, and not two hundred miles away, I think I'll make the effort. Stick waver for (most) of the WMC run is former WNO Big Cheese / Head Honcho / The Main Man, Carlo Rizzi.
Photo by Bill Cooper from the WNO website
On a changing of the guard note the conductor for the final autumn offering is WNO's new musical guru, Lothar Koenigs. He'll be leading the cast, headed by Christopher Purves, through the Richard Jones directed Wozzeck, an opera I know absolutely nothing about. The bits I've heard on You Tube have prepared me for an experience I'm guessing will be musically on a different planet from the operas written by the Italian dudes. I've been ummming and ahhing for the best part of the summer (okay, autumn masquerading as summer) whether or not to buy a copy to get used to what I'll be seeing but so far I'm still undecided. It's not that I'm adverse to a bit of madness in music, but I'm not sure if I'll be settling down to an evening of Wozzeck with a recording after I've seen it. I'll probably do a Butterfly and crack. By the way, you may find the following link of use if you're partial to seeing a man singing whilst walking on baked bean tins.
So that's what is on offer from the WNO at the WMC this autumn. It goes without saying that I'll be providing more uneducated responses to professional musicians efforts and hope that wherever you are in the world, and whatever company is your own hometown favourite, I hope you'll be having an un-Marx Bros style night at the opera very soon!