On Tuesday 6th October I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to visit the Welsh National Opera‘s (WNO) home in Cardiff thanks to the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. The Millenium Centre is a vast space which is home too several performance companies including WNO, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the National Dance Company Wales.
Whilst there we had several insightful talks from some of WNO‘s key staff. The first of which was with Imogen Llewellyn a producer from their Youth and Community program. It was fascinating to hear how passionate and active this company is within Cardiff and beyond. With many divisions including education, digital and technical skills as well as the expected performance opportunities, it’s not hard to see why this is a thriving society with a strong supportive encouraging ethos. An interesting development was their introduction to the youth about the technical side of production. One such demonstration of this was a couple of years ago when an invited audience witnessed the highly skilled technicians do a behind the scenes skit incorporating none other than David Pountney Chief Executive and Artistic Director. This was to show that there are many aspects to a company such as this and a career in this field is rewarding and interesting. Without these important people a production would not be able to go ahead. I was particularly intrigued seeing wardrobe, the laundry and wig departments on our tour.
The backstage tour gave an indication into the huge space that the organisations share. The picture above of “Scenery Street” will give you an idea. Full sized trucks can deliver whatever is required and of course take away anything to assist the touring productions.
Everything is on a grand scale and the auditorium is no exception. In the afternoon I got the chance to see the dress rehearsal of Sweeney Todd. Of course I will not be reviewing this here, however if you want to get a feeling of what this show will be like when it reaches a town near you click on the following link Watch the Sweeney Todd Trailer by clicking on this link!
The deliciously dark and deeply mesmerising production will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout and I felt extremely privileged to see this sublime perfectly pitched production.
What I enjoyed about this visit was to see first hand how much this company is doing for the community and youth. Diversity is of paramount importance and their highly valued “touch” tours for the blind and partially sighted are testament to this along with surtitles at some performances by dramaturge Sophie Rashbrook.
It is not unusual for audiences to be daunted or to have a feeling that opera has an exclusivity to it and not for your average person. So to witness this emphatically, engaging, welcoming visit was sheer brilliance. I would absolutely encourage anyone to see anything staged by WNO whether it be a full operatic performance or the unusually (for WNO) miked musical theatre production I guarantee you will gain an enriching experience.
Welsh National Opera – Sweeney Todd will be at The Mayflower Southampton this coming week so don’t miss out here’s their booking link. Mayflower Booking link do also check out the superb production images that are on the site to.