Tuesday, 18 January 2011

WNO 2011 / 2012 Season


Most Mondays my post consists of takeaway leaflets and little else. If I’m lucky the odd car insurance offer will park itself on my mat (I can’t drive) or some journal I subscribed to for a year in 1998 will try and lull me back by offering half a year for free (if I was bored of it then, I’ll be bored of it now). But generally speaking it’s normally just the takeaway leaflets. I’ve often thought that there was an unwritten rule that on Mondays only businesses would get their post and that we, the unknowing masses, would have to wait until Tuesday for our letters, parcels and more takeaway leaflets.

In a break with weekly tradition, this morning’s post brought me something other than Ninety-One Ways to Encourage Heart Disease. By the distinctive shape of the envelope, and WNO’s logo emblazoned on it, I knew straight away that it was the subscription booklet for the 2011 / 2012 Season. I felt a sizeable colony of butterflies migrate to my stomach and in time honoured fashion I tore the envelope open and partially ripped the booklet.

Letting my eyes do their manic devouring of the covering letter, I tiptoed around the highlighted sentences because I wanted to hold off from knowing all about the season like a child keeping their biggest parcel until last of all on Christmas morning. I settled for the morsels of booking dates...until I could wait no longer and plunged into the booklet proper.

And without further hesitation, here are WNO’s offerings for 2011 / 2012...with my thoughts on each of the season’s strands.

Autumn 2011

Don Giovanni (Mozart) New Production

Conductor Lothar Koenigs
Director John Caird
Designer John Napier

Don Giovanni David Kempster
Leporello David Soar
Donna Elvira Nuccia Focile
Donna Anna Camilla Roberts
Don Ottavio Robin Tritschler
Zerlina Claire Ormshaw
Masetto Gary Griffiths
Commendatore Carlo Malinverno

The Barber of Seville (Rossini)

Conductor Alexander Polianichko
Director Giles Havergal
Designer Russell Craig

Count Almaviva Andrew Kennedy
Figaro Jacques Imbrailo
Rosina Anna Grevelius
Bartolo Eric Roberts
Basilio Clive Bayley

Katya Kabanova (Janacek)

Conductor Lothar Koenigs
Director Katie Mitchell
Designer Vicki Mortimer

Katerina Kabanova Amanda Roocroft
Kabanicha Leah-Marion Jones
Tikhon Stephen Rooke
Boris Peter Wedd
Dikoy Clive Bayley

Hairman Says…

An astute opening to the new season with a strongly cast Don Giovanni leading the way.

I’m slightly frothing at the mouth with the thought of Davids Kempster and Soar sharing the stage in Don Giovanni, and that’s before I get around to thinking about Focile, Ormshaw, Tritschler and Griffiths turning up as well. Throw in the fact that it’s Lothar Koenigs conducting and the never less than brilliant team of Caird and Napier creating the new production and this could well be the highlight of the season.

The casting is also strong for the Barber, which is a good thing as it’s the third time Havergal’s production has been seen in recent years. Much will depend on the performances of Kennedy, Grevelius and Imbrailo but with Roberts and Bayley teaming up there should be plenty of know-how on show to avoid familiarity breeding boredom. Curiously this will be conductor Alexander Polianichko’s first time conducting Rossini’s comic masterpiece.

Finishing off the Autumn strand of the season is another well cast production of a composer I have a lot of time for. Thankfully audiences will get to hear Roocroft, Jones, Rooke, Wedd and Bayley (yes, him again) singing in the original Czech. Lothar Koenigs’ conducting and Katie Mitchell’s acclaimed production give me some justification for complaining about Katya Kabanova’s very limited two date run at the WMC.

Spring 2012

La Traviata (Verdi)

Conductor Julia Jones
Director David McVicar
Designer Tanya McCallin

Violetta Valery Joyce El-Khoury
Alfredo Carlos Osuna
Giorgio Germont Jason Howard
Baron Douphol Eddie Wade

Beatrice et Benedict (Berlioz)

Conductor Michael Hofstetter
Director Elijah Moshinsky
Designer Michael Yeargan

Beatrice Sara Fulgoni
Benedict Robin Tritschler
Hero Laura Mitchell
Claudio Gary Griffiths
Ursula Anna Burford
Somarone Donald Maxwell

Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)

Conductor Anthony Negus
Director Lluis Pasqual
Designer Paco Azorin

Figaro David Soar
Susanna Elizabeth Watts
Countess Almaviva Rebecca Evans
Count Almaviva Dario Solari
Cherubino Cora Burggraaf
Dr Bartolo Henry Waddington
Marcellina Sarah Pring

Hairman Says…

Three revivals make up the offerings for a thankfully full Spring season.

I’m a big sucker for La Traviata so I’m looking forward to the return of David McVicar’s production. The added interest comes in the shape of the young leads, El-Khoury and Osuna, respectively contracted to the Met and Wiener Staatsoper. Throw in Jason Howard as Giorgio Germont and Julia Jones making her company debut with the baton and this could be a surprise hit. As much as La Traviata can be a surprise hit.

I’m now holding my hands up and admitting I’ve never heard a single note of Berlioz’s B&B. The cast (Fulgoni, Tritschler, Mitchell, Griffiths, Burford and Maxwell) offer a healthy mixture of experience and youth but someone had better air the costumes as it’s the first time in over a decade that WNO is performing the Moshinsky directed piece. Conductor Michael Hofstetter returns to the company for the two Cardiff performances.

Lluis Pasqual’s inventive, if uneven take on the Mozart / da Ponte classic sees Soar (Figaro), Evans (Countess Almaviva) and Pring (Marcellina) return from the original Cardiff cast with Watts (Susanna) and Burggraaf (Cherubino) getting to show off the stuff they, erm, showed off on tour last time around. Dario Solari debuts as the Count while WNO’s Anthony Negus conducts.

Summer 2012

Tristan und Isolde (Wagner)

Conductor Lothar Koenigs
Director & Designer Yannis Kokkos

Tristan Jay Hunter Morris
Isolde Ann Petersen
Brangaene Susan Bickley
Kurwenal Phillip Joll
King Marke Matthew Best
Melot Simon Thorpe

La bohème (Puccini)

Conductor Carlo Rizzi
Director Annabel Arden
Designer Stephen Brimson–Lewis

Mimi Anita Hartig
Rodolfo Alex Vicens
Marcello David Kempster
Colline David Soar
Schaunard Gary Griffiths

Hairman says…
A stirring end to the season!

Judging by the excited squeals I made when I saw it was listed Tristan und Isolde will surely herald a new bout of Wagnermania at the WMC in May 2012. Making their UK debuts American tenor Morris (Tristan) and Swedish soprano Petersen (Isolde) are joined by Bickley (Brangaene), Joll (Kurwenal), Best (King Marke) and Thorpe (Melot). There are only three Cardiff performances (for obvious reasons) so tickets will surely be at a premium to catch Lothar Koenigs conducting his first ever T&I.

The second new production of the 2011 / 2012 Season sees Annabel Arden taking on Puccini’s ultimate tearjerker. Given her past record expectations are riding high from where I’m sitting. The cast is internationally diverse with Romanian soprano Hartig (Mimi) succumbing to many things, including Spanish tenor Vicens (Rodolfo). In a bookending stroke of fortune Davids Kempster (Marcello) and Soar (Colline) are reunited with Griffiths (Schaunard) adding more lustre to the lads. No word yet as to who will be singing Musetta. Former WNO Music Director Carlo Rizzi conducts. As a point of interest the production is to become the focal point for WNO’s first ever audience appeal in helping to create a production. For more information on how you can donate click this link.

And that’s it.

Despite the recent sense of doom and gloom that has settled on the arts the season looks to be well balanced and, more importantly, peppered with enticing productions. At first glance the standouts are Don Giovanni, Tristan und Isolde and the new Bohème, but rather quickly other works are added to the list of must sees. It goes without saying that I’m very pleased to see David Soar’s name attached to several productions and I have to admit I’m interested in seeing Gary Griffiths in the several roles he takes on as a WNO Associate Artist. Probably the most pleasing aspect of the season is seeing the number of operas rise to eight, as in recent seasons the number had dropped worryingly. Of course, I’m not wearing too rose tinted spectacles to assume that the addition of Barber to the calendar might have been at the expense of another new production – pure conjecture I admit, but I feel it in my hair.

Ticket prices for WMC have remained fairly similar with prices stating at £5 and going up to £39. But there is a different pricing structure for Tristan und Isolde - £5 to £50.

If you’re thinking of taking in a few operas it could be worth your while to take out a subscription to the season. Book 7 or 8 operas and you save 30%, book 6 operas and you save 25%, and save 20% if you book 5 operas.

Subscriptions are available by post only. To get hold of a form you can ring 0800 328 2357, email marketing@wno.org.uk or to get hold of a brochure (and I assume a form) email lisa.bowen@wno.org.uk.

Booking Dates

Friends Subscription Priority Booking Period - From now until the 14th of February.
Public Subscription – 14th of February onwards.
Friends Individual Opera Priority Booking Period – 14th to the 24th of March.
Public Online, Postal, Phone and Counter Bookings – 25th of March.

All these dates and prices are for Cardiff only - I'll add news about the other WNO venues when concrete info becomes available.


  1. I think the Tristan will have me on Great Western down to Cardiff. Not a new production as I remember it with Anne Evans and Jeffrey Lawton.

    I want to collect B & B too, as it was a well received production of a problematic piece. Ann Murrey and the late dearly lamented Philip Langridge.

    Here's hoping for more Wagner in the 2013 Bi-centenary. A revival of Meistersinger?

  2. There's a very strong possibility that more Wagner is on the way, although whether it will be Meistersinger is anyone's guess - personally I think it will be something else. But apparently ENO are rumoured to be taking the WNO / Jones Meistersinger to the Coliseum - so hopefully it won't languish out of sight.

    T&I will probably have quite a few people travelling on FGW - it must have been wonderful to have seen Evans & Lawton!

    I think I may have been unclear with my reference to new productions - only Don Giovanni and La boheme are new.

    B&B is one I'm looking forward to - admittedly mainly due to curiosity. Just so as you know, it's being sung in English, not French.

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  3. Booking looms for T & I. Do you actually have the performance dates for Cardiff? I cannot find this info on the WMC site or WNO home page.

  4. The performances are all on Saturdays – the 19th and the 26th of May, and the 2nd of June. All performances start at 5pm and are expected to last for approximately 5 hours 40 min with two intervals. Best of luck with the booking!