Happy Valentine’s Day | Welsh National Opera

Happy Valentine’s Day

13 February 2018

It’s the day that some lovers and partners look forward to and for some; it’s a day to roll your eyes and dread. Let us break down this holiday with a few facts... because what’s more romantic than a fact?

There are many origins and theories on the beginnings of Valentine’s Day. One is that the Emperor Claudius II didn't want Roman men to marry during wartime and Bishop Valentine went against his wishes. He was performing secret marriages for lovers and for this, Valentine was jailed and executed.

On 14 February in 15th century France this day became an annual feast celebrating romantic love with lavish banquets, singing and dancing held to mark the occasion. And following that there is evidence that a Frenchman sent the first Valentines card while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1537 Henry VII, the King of England officially declared 14 February, the holiday of St Valentine's Day, and since then it has grown in popularity with lovers using this day to express affection for one another.

The holiday was mentioned by Shakespeare in his play Hamlet; the words were given to Ophelia:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

Shakespeare has another link to this day having created what is arguably one of the most notable couples in literature, Romeo and Juliet. Every Valentine's Day, the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare's famous doomed lovers lived, receives about 1,000 letters addressed to Juliet.

The reason why some people exchange chocolates on this day can be rooted back to the 1800s when physicians advised their patients to eat chocolate to calm their pining for lost love. Knowing this Richard Cadbury produced the first box of chocolates for this holiday in the late 19th century – now that’s good market research.

And what about the tradition of giving flowers? The red rose was the favourite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love and a single red rose is still a romantic gesture today. But let’s finish on a fact that men account for 73% of Valentine's Day flower sales. 

This Spring Season love is a strong theme throughout our operas, from a partnership doomed by fate in La forza del destino in the shape of Donna Leonora and Don Alvaro whose forbidden love affair sends them down a spiral following the death of Leonora’s father. Tosca makes the ultimate sacrifice for love but the star-crossed lovers are overshadowed by the dark and powerful character, Scarpia. The roles are almost reversed in Don Giovanni as we see the demise of the remorseless lothario who seems to let lust rule over love, but which one prevails? For more information on our Spring Season operas click here

We hope this has given you a bit of an understanding to how Valentine’s Day has been perceived, changed and expanded over the years. Happy Valentine’s Day.