In a hammer blow to opera in Wales and to Welsh singers, Mid Wales Opera has lost its £107k annual funding from the Arts Council of Wales.
It is understood the decision could also mean the loss of the £99.5k the innovative small venue stiurign company receive through the Creatve arts scheme. This is awarded on a project by project basis so there may be the possibiity of this form of funding could continue.
The company’s chair, Gareth Williams said, “We are deeply disappointed and indeed shocked at the news that – after 35 years of staging remarkable opera across the length and breadth of Wales – the Arts Council has decided not to offer us multi-annual funding. Obviously, we will be considering our next steps over the coming weeks. This will, however, be a hammer blow for the young artists who gain invaluable career development opportunities from working with us, as well as to audiences in towns and rural communities who have few, if any opportunities to experience live opera.
“However, this decision has no direct impact on our exciting plans for the next few months which are fully funded. We look forward to welcoming audiences from Barmouth to Abergavenny and from Milford Haven
to Bangor to our performances of Berlioz’s ‘Beatrice and Benedict’ (from 13 October to 10 November) and of Macbeth in February and March 2024”.
Ironically, Mid Wales Opera provides work for many Welsh opera singers, particularly younger singers, and is where opera lovers are most likely to hear singers from Wales, rather than at Welsh National Opera which prides itself on its international range of performers.
It is also more likely that you will see Welsh singers starring in performances outside Wales. That will be even more marked should Mid Wales Opera have to cease providing its extensive opera touring.
Mid Wales Opera Beatrice and Benedict tour:
Mid Wales Opera’s autumn 2023 tour: Beatrice and Benedict
Tickets are now on sale for all venues included in Mid Wales Opera venues on their SmallStages Tour of Berlioz’s Beatrice & Benedict.
The tour has been created as part of Folio400 which aims to arrange, encourage and promote the 400th Birthday of The First Folio, the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays, in 2023.
The two characters Beatrice and Benedict were created by William Shakespeare for his comedy play “Much Ado About Nothing,” and are known for their witty and sharp-tongued exchanges, which form one of the central themes of the play
MWO’s production which features six singers and four musicians, with an English singing translation by Amanda Holden, together with Shakespeare’s original texts adapted by Richard Studer and a new chamber arrangement by Jonathan Lyness.
Music Director Jonathan Lyness says about creating a new score for Berlioz’s Beatrice & Benedict “MWO started thinking about a Shakespeare season a few years ago. We wanted to stage one of the great Verdi/Shakespeare operas as MWO’s Main Stages spring production. This left us with a quandary as to what to do for our Small Stages tour. Thinking about Verdi and his passion for Shakespeare led me to think about Berlioz and his similar passion for Shakespeare. They are the two great Shakespearean composers of the c19th, arguably of all time. Remarkably, just as Verdi turned to writing a Shakespearean comedy at the end of his life, so too had Berlioz. And just as Falstaff confirmed Verdi to be at the height of his powers, so Beatrice and Benedict had confirmed Berlioz’s inspiration to be in full flight.”
The original composition featured two harps for a single music segment as well as the creative orchestral inclusion “verres frappés sur la table” informally speaking, what can be described as “shot glasses”. While MWO can’t promise an abundance of harpists they haven’t ruled out using shot glasses.
Artistic Director Richard Studer said, “Working on the SmallStages tour is always fun, from sitting in my studio creating an adaptive set that will work in the wide variety of community venues that we perform in, rehearsing the singers through these hilarious comedies to finally loading up the van and setting off on tour. There is something magical about performing to an audience in their local venue where they sit amidst friends with a pint and the occasional dog in tow to enjoy an evening of live music and comedy performed to the highest professional standards.”
The Beatrice & Benedict tour starts at SpArC, Bishop’s Castle on Friday, October 13, 2023. The tour will subsequently visit Gregynog near Newtown, Presteigne, Abergavenny. Aberdovey, Mold, Criccieth, Builth Wells, Fishguard, Aberdare, Barmouth and Holyhead, culminating in its final performance in Ludlow on Friday, November 10.
This tour is made possible with support from Arts Council of Wales, The National Lottery, and Colwinston Charitable Trust and The Gwendoline and Margaret Davies Charity.
For details, visit www.midwalesopera.co.uk.
About the Production:
Small Stages Tour Dates (2023):
Friday 13 October: SpArC, Bishop’s Castle
Saturday 14 October: Gregynog Hall Nr. Newtown
Wednesday 18 October: St Andrew’s Church, Presteigne
Thursday 19 October: The Borough Theatre, Abergavenny
Friday 20 October: Neuadd Dyfi, Aberdovey
Wednesday 25 October: Theatr Clwyd, Mold
Thursday 26 October: Memorial Hall, Criccieth
Friday 27 October: Wyeside Arts Centre, Builth Wells
Wednesday 1 November: Theatr Gwaun, Fishguard
Thursday 2 November: St Elvan’s, Aberdare
Friday 3 November: Dragon Theatre, Barmouth
Wednesday 8 November: Ucheldre Centre, Holyhead
Friday 10 November: Ludlow Assembly Rooms