Mid Wales Opera hits the road with Handel's Semele, Mozart's Magic Flute and an ambitious programme for the future
Following a year of development and preparation the company is starting 2017 with two new touring productions which bid farewell to outgoing Artistic Director Nicholas Cleobury and celebrate the arrival of the incoming creative team of director/designer Richard Studer and conductor Jonathan Lyness.
Nicholas Cleobury, who is taking up the role of Head of Opera at Queensland Conservatoire in Brisbane, is working with director Martin Constantine and the Academy of Ancient Music on a co-production of Handel’s ‘dramatic entertainment’ Semele, with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The tragic tale of Semele’s ill-fated love for Jupiter is based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses and a libretto by Congreve. It was first performed as an oratorio during Lent at Covent Garden in 1744 and proved to be a departure from Handel’s previous works both musically and thematically. With overtones of adulterous sexual relationships it was not what the audience was expecting during a religious season and it ran for only four nights. Revived once later that year, Semele was never again performed in his lifetime and only brought back into repertoire by professional companies in the twentieth century – this production could be the first professional production in Wales.
Incoming Artistic Director Richard Studer’s new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute owes more than a nodding debt to the art of pantomime. “A surreal world of heroes and villains, myth and magic” notes Studer: “high drama, high art, high notes and high camp mix in a blaze of colour, comedy and puppetry as we enter the ever inventive battleground of Mozart's imagination where the forces of good pursue victory over the evil Queen of the Night.”
These productions between them run until May and the new team will also be developing a schools residency and a pilot tour of a micro-chamber opera in November. The Small Stages Programme is designed to serve communities that MWO’s main-stage performances cannot reach, with the aim of engaging and developing audiences for opera and keeping unusual repertoire alive and well across Wales.
Handel’s Semele opens on February 8 at the Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD, Cardiff and runs until March. Mozart’s Magic Flute opens on February 17 at the Hafren, Newtown and runs until May.