Press Release: Mighty Music – Faith explored in Welsh National Opera’s Summer Season

6 March 2014

Music and religion are brought together in Welsh National Opera’s Summer Season of operas under the theme of Faith, which will provide a musical feast for the distinguished WNO Chorus.

The two operas that form WNO’s Faith Season, Moses und Aron and Nabucco, illuminate the colossal subject of Faith from opposite ends of the operatic spectrum.  The theme has grown from the vision of WNO Artistic Director David Pountney.

Alongside the Faith season, WNO will host a world premiere of Gordon Getty’s Usher House alongside Debussy’s La Chute de la Maison Usher in a double-bill, The Fall of the House of Usher, which will continue WNO’s British Firsts programme.

WNO’s new production of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron will be the first UK performance of this rarely-staged opera since the late 1960s.  This highly-charged production by Sergio Morabito and Jossi Wieler, which originated at Stuttgart Opera and features renowned bass Sir John Tomlinson in the role of Moses, will both challenge and reward audiences.  Moses und Aron will be conducted by WNO’s highly-acclaimed Music Director Lothar Koenigs.

 As David Pountney explains: 'Moses und Aron stands as one of the mightiest musical statements of the 20th century, Schoenberg wrestling with the existence of God along with his own musical and religious identity.  It was not an easy task for him, and it remains a challenging one for us to follow his complex musical language.  But the rewards of perseverance are immense: quite simply, access to one of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century.  Those who follow the journey to Moses’s anguished final utterance: “Oh word, oh word that I lack” have followed one of the most powerful emotional, intellectual and philosophical journeys that enrich our European culture.'

As well as performances in Cardiff and Birmingham, WNO are delighted to be performing Moses und Aron at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden on 25 and 26 July which marks the start of a three-year annual residency and the Company’s first performances at the ROH since 1996.

The Faith Season is completed by a new production of Verdi’s Nabucco, which WNO originally re-introduced to British audiences in 1952 a century after it was last performed in the UK.  With its rousing score and with WNO Chorus at the heart of the drama, Nabucco has been described as the operatic equivalent of a 1950s biblical epic, remembered particularly for ‘Va Pensiero - the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’.  Mary Elizabeth Williams returns to WNO taking the lead role of Abigaille in Nabucco following her critically-acclaimed debut with the company in Tosca during Autumn 2013. 

In discussing Faith as the theme for the season, David Pountney explains: “Music and religion have been linked since the most primitive rituals were first enacted.  For a while in the 20th century religion seemed on the verge of becoming a purely personal question of belief.  Now, suddenly, it is right back on the national and international political agenda.  Two colossal works by Verdi and Schoenberg explore the power, the meaning and the consequences of religious belief.”

In a unique collaboration with Maimonides Interfaith Foundation (MIF), an international charity that connects people through art, culture and education, WNO will present a series of talks on the theme of faith to support the season.  The ‘One World, Many Faiths’ event series will feature internationally renowned thinkers and key figures from the UK faith, political and cultural fields to explore and debate contemporary challenges relating to the role of faith, identity and religion today.  Speakers include David Pountney; scholar of religions, Karen Armstrong FRSL; Julie Siddiqi, Chief Executive of the Islamic Society of Britain; and Dave Rich from the Community Security Trust. 

The Faith Season will open with WNO Orchestra in concert at St David’s Hall in Cardiff on Friday 25 April.  Conducted by WNO Music Director Lothar Koenigs, the concert will bring together Messiaen’s L’Ascension and Bruckner’s Symphony No 8 in an evening of heartfelt and uplifting music enriched by the deeply held Catholic faith of these two great composers.

Lothar Koenigs explains, “For me, this is a journey of meditation. If there were two composers whose music is grounded in faith, it has to be Bruckner and Messiaen. Both were brilliant organists, both were music teachers, and both opened doors for the next generation of composers.”

WNO’s British Firsts programme will continue this summer with the double bill of The Fall of the House of Usher. Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre tale, the double bill places Gordon Getty’s Usher House alongside Robert Orledge’s completed version of Debussy’s La Chute de la Maison Usher in a dark, mysterious production which is set to chill and unnerve audiences.  The Fall of the House of Usher will open in Cardiff on Friday 13 June.

More information on the season is available at www.wno.org.uk/faith

Ends

Notes to Editors

  • Welsh National Opera is the national opera company for Wales. WNO is funded by the Arts Councils of Wales and England to provide large scale opera across Wales and to major cities in the English regions.
  • Moses und Aron is supported by Colwinston Charitable Trust and the John S Cohen Foundation
  • Nabucco is supported by Colwinston Charitable Trust, WNO Nabucco Circle and the WNO Partners
  • WNO’s residency at the Royal Opera House is supported by the Welsh Government and the Maimonides Interfaith Foundation
  • Four events across three cities will be held as part of the ‘One World, Many Faiths’ event series in collaboration with Maimonides Interfaith Foundation on Friday 23 May 2014 at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff; Monday 2 June and Tuesday 1 July at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London; and Monday 17 June in Birmingham (venue tbc).
  • WNO production images are available for download at http://www.wno.org.uk/press
  • For more information, photos or interviews please contact Rachel Bowyer, Press and Public Affairs Manager on 029 20635038 or rachel.bowyer@wno.org.uk or Lowri Pugh-Morgan, Press Officer on 029 2063 5037 or lowri.pugh-morgan@wno.org.uk