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‘Welsh opera’s reward’

Nationwide performances of the newly commissioned Welsh language opera, Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd (Gareth Glyn, composer and Mererid Hopwood, librettist) by OPRA Cymru were duly rewarded during this year’s Wales Theatre Awards (2018) ceremony held in Newport recently. Following a pan-Wales tour in November 2017, to capacity audiences and rave reviews, the company (OPRA Cymru) received ‘The Best Welsh Language Production’ award (2018) for the outstanding quality of its work.   

This collaborative project combined the expertise of four music organisations in north Wales & pooled the capabilities of the School of Music (Bangor University), OPRA Cymru, Ensemble Cymru and Pontio: Bangor University’s Arts & Innovation Centre. Though based in Gwynedd, this iconic production of the opera has and will have national significance.

With the generous support of the Arts Council of Wales, the composer Gareth Glyn (who is an Honorary Fellow of Bangor University) was commissioned to write the music & Professor Mererid Hopwood was commissioned to write the libretto, which is based on the first Welsh language science-fiction novel written by Islwyn Ffowc Elis, Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd (Llandysul, Gwasg Gomer).

As a former graduate of The University College of North Wales (Bangor), Islwyn Ffowc Elis published his novel 60 years ago & the opera tour marked this significant landmark in the history of Welsh-medium literature. The impact of its message, however, (including the demise of the Welsh language, the lack of political & cultural identity) remains as relevant today as in the 1960s. Gareth Glyn’s opera contributes to the revival of interest in the genre & provided an excellent opportunity for the young & aspiring musical talent in Wales (both singers and instrumentalists) to gain first-hand performing experience in the professional world.

OPRA Cymru is the only Welsh-language opera company in the world. Following successful performances of stage works by Bizet, Rossini, Verdi and Donizetti, its performances of Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd, marked its ‘coming of age’ and the highlight of its activities to date. Patrick Young (ex-Musical Director at English National Opera), an avid Welsh learner, who now lives in Llan Ffestiniog, established OPRA Cymru in 2008. He directed the opera and ensured that the musical, literary, stage and technical features combined in one harmonious whole.

Ensemble Cymru, which specialises in the performances & promotion of the chamber music of Wales, provided the orchestral accompaniment for all eight opera performances.

Patrick Young comments: ‘The production of Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd was a milestone achievement for OPRA Cymru, and it is a source of considerable pride to the company that the vision and hard work that brought the new opera to fruition has now received this remarkable recognition at the Wales Theatre Awards. Three exciting developments lie ahead: a growth in audience numbers for opera; a burgeoning of new operatic creations; and, underpinning it all, a growing appreciation of opera as the wholly natural ally of the Welsh language.’  

Gareth Glyn (composer) comments:Composing an opera in Welsh has been a lifelong ambition & it was a privilege to work with organisations and a number of dedicated individuals who were determined to realise this project. Undoubtedly, the award is the jewel in the crown & a great encouragement for the future.’

Mererid Hopwood (librettist) comments: ‘I welcomed the opportunity to revisit Islwyn Ffowc Elis’s novel. Despite the 60 years since it was first published, its relevance to 21st century Wales reminds us that the Welsh language is not the only aspect of our identity which is under threat.’

Peryn Clement-Evans (Ensemble Cymru) comments: ‘This award confirms Ensemble Cymru and OPRA Cymru’s uncompromising commitment to quality productions and performances. We look forward to continuing our partnership with OPRA Cymru & to many years of inspiring audiences in Wales as well as providing excellent employment opportunities for Welsh artists.’

Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd has been a fruitful collaboration & the production is due to appear during Wales’s most prestigious cultural event in the near future.   

Publication date: 2 February 2018