An American Dream for WNO Youth Opera

23 July 2013

PRESS RELEASE: 23 July 2013

WNO Youth Opera are celebrating Benjamin Britten’s centenary year with a new production of Paul Bunyan on 23 and 24 August at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. 

The production features more than a 100 singers, orchestral players, technical students, costume makers, dressers and wigs & make-up students all aged between 16 & 25. Only Boys Aloud are the Lumberjack Chorus and Stephen Fry is the voice of the larger than life character Paul Bunyan. 

This new production which is based on American folklore, features baseball playing trees, giants, dog & cat mascots and an array of unusual instruments including tea chests and a musical saw to portray Britten’s take on the American dream. Stephen Fry who has pre-recorded his role portrays Paul Bunyan via voice-over and visual projection. 

WNO Youth Opera provides an invaluable opportunity to those on the cusp of entering the theatre industry and to those who are still in school looking for experience to help them pursue vocal, instrumental or backstage careers. During the process they receive mentoring and support from WNO staff as well as this year’s director Martin Constantine and conductor Alice Farnham. 

Elgan Llyr Thomas, from Llandudno, who takes the lead role of Inkslinger in Paul Bunyan was also involved in WNO Youth Opera’s production of The Calling of Maisy Day in 2008. Now studying a postgraduate vocal course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and one of the first recipients of a Study Award from Bryn Terfel Foundation, Elgan recalls how his experiences with WNO Youth Opera have helped him to develop his ambition to become a singer. 

“The last time I was involved with WNO Youth Opera I was 17 years old and absolutely terrified about the prospect of performing in an opera! I believe that my time with WNO Youth Opera those 5 years ago are what convinced me that Opera was something I was interested in, and, with a little time and training, could make a career of. I’m pleased that there are still so many young singers, still in school, who are experiencing it, whether they are looking to gain confidence, to explore their potential or to have a lot of fun. There is no better company to do these things with than WNO Youth Opera.” 

Also benefiting from WNO Youth Opera are those who aren’t visible on stage such as the orchestra, technical students, costume makers and wigs & make-up students. Taylor Bradley having previously been involved as a singer in The Rake’s Progress (2007) and The Tailor’s Daughter (2005) returns this year as a technical student. “This year I decided that I would apply for a technical placement as previously I have only been involved in the performing and singing side of WNO Youth Opera. I’m glad that I bit the bullet and tried something different because now I can appreciate the importance of all roles that combine to create a successful performance. This experience, like previous ones, will be hugely beneficial to me in my future career.”

It has been WNO’s commitment to nurture, develop and support young talent via WNO Youth Opera for more than 10 years. Previous WNO Youth Opera members who have succeeded professionally are David Thaxton (awarded Olivier Award 2011 for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Passion) and Katy Treharne (The Phantom of the Opera) whilst numerous technical students and musicians have gone on to gain work with WNO and elsewhere in the industry. 


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.

For more information, photos or interviews please contact Daryl Jenner, Senior Press Officer on 029 20635038 or or Lowri Pugh-Morgan, Press Officer on 029 2063 5037 or

Paul Bunyan will be performed on Friday 23 August 2013, 7.30pm and Saturday 24 August 2013, 2.30pm & 7.30pm. Tickets are available from Wales Millennium Centre box office 02920 636464 or you can book online Tickets are £15 and Under 30s are entitled to £5 tickets. 

Paul Bunyan is supported by the Britten-Pears Foundation, Angus Allnatt Charitable Foundation, The Atlantic Foundation, Paul & Marie Carson, The D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, The Gibbs Charitable Trust, The Idlewild Trust, The N Smith Charitable Settlement, The Schafer Bursary, The Seligman Gift and the WNO Partners.