Women Behaving Badly – Welsh National Opera put Fallen Women at the heart of their Spring Season

15 November 2013

The fascinating subject of Fallen Women is the theme for Welsh National Opera’s Spring Season of operas touring the UK this spring, grown from the new artistic vision of Welsh National Opera’s Artistic Director David Pountney.

The three operas in the season follow the stories of three women whose different paths in life lead them astray.

With the subjects of human trafficking, exploitation and a world of glamour and capitalism, the operas cover subjects as modern and relevant today as when the operas were written.  But the moral lessons of the 19th century society were such that whilst you could watch a woman misbehaving and enjoy their misdemeanors, it was under the strict condition that they had to be seen to be punished in the end by meeting their fate. 

Welsh National Opera’s new production of Puccini’s breakthrough hit and first great opera Manon Lescaut tells the tale of an impressionable young woman who wanted it all and Puccini charts her rapid descent from innocent to criminal with feverish intensity. Director Mariusz Trelinski will bring this tale of obsession and self destruction to life setting this production in the contemporary world. WNO will be the first UK opera company that Mariusz Trelinski will have directed. He also directs the new production of Boulevard Solitude by Hans Werner Henze. The opera is the composer’s 1950’s updating of the Manon Lescaut story in a heady musical cocktail of jazz, 19th century opera and 20th century styles, set in European Society after the war.  Working on the same set as Manon Lescaut, Trelinski will highlight the parallels between the two operas, to create a surreal world of decadence and greed. One of the greatest operas of the last century, this is the first time this compelling opera will be performed outside London. Conductor for both Manon Lescaut and Boulevard Solitude will be WNO’s Music Director Lothar Koenigs.

Completing the season’s trilogy is the classic revival of Verdi’s tear jerker and David McVicar’s production of La traviata.  With its elegant sets and beautiful music the opera displays an attack on hypocrisy whilst also celebrating compassion, love and self sacrifice.

The Fallen Women season will be performed in venues around the UK from February to April including Cardiff, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Southampton, Plymouth, Llandudno, and Bristol.

"The obsession of 19th century music, literature and the visual arts with she who has strayed from the path – (the literal translation of La traviata) – may have embodied a degree of hypocrisy, but it also inspired some of the most heartfelt musical expression of human sympathy. The hypocrisy lies in permitting the audience the titillation of watching a woman behaving badly for three acts on the condition that she points up the moral by dying miserably in the fourth. The males in the audience in 19th century Paris were not above visiting such women themselves, but they still demanded that their wives and daughters were presented with an elevating moral lesson."  explains David Pountney.

As well as the operas, WNO Extra events are planned as the perfect way to prepare for the Fallen Women season. These include pre concert talks, an In Conversation session with Artistic Director David Pountney as he fully explores the Fallen Women theme, a Literary Inspirations talk looking at how the operas draw on classics by Dumas and Prévost and The Whole Story, where a team of singers and musicians will introduce the stories, music and background of each opera.

WNO is also working with award-winning composer Errollyn Wallen to create Anon, a brand new opera for young adults based on the theme of Fallen Women, looking at the exploitation of women today in different cultures.  Errollyn composed two works, PRINCIPIA and Spirit in Motion featuring the London Symphony Orchestra for the opening ceremony of London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Errollyn is working closely with 16 -18 year olds in school and university groups in and around Birmingham, gathering stories and inspiration for the Anon production. The opera will tour small scale venues in Wales and England alongside the main season tour. 

Mezzo soprano Emma Bell will be performing with WNO Orchestra at St David’s Hall in Cardiff on Friday 17 January in a concert which reflects the Fallen Women theme.  Conducted by Lothar Koenigs, the concert will feature music by Berg, Wagner, Henze and Berlioz. (Please note this is a change from the original artist Sarah Connolly previously listed.)

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

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.
  • WNO production images are available for download at http://www.wno.org.uk/press
  • Manon Lescaut is a co-production with Teatr Wielki – Opera Narodowa, Warsaw and the Théâtre Royale de la Monnaie, Brussels.
  • La traviata is a co-production with Scottish Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona.  The production is recommended by Classic FM
  • Anon is supported by PRS for Music Foundation and WNO Partnership
  • For more information, photos or interviews please contact Lowri Pugh-Morgan, Press Officer on 029 2063 5037 or lowri.pugh-morgan@wno.org.uk or Penny James, Press Officer on 029 2063 5038 or penny.james@wno.org.uk