Welsh National Opera at Saffron Hall

March 6, 2019

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A wonderful variety of all-time opera favourites will be in store for all those attending Saffron Hall on the evening of Thursday, 14 March. The orchestra of the Welsh National Opera will be joined by world famous soprano Joyce El-Khoury and equally feted baritone Jason Howard in a programme of opera arias, duets and overtures ranging from Verdi to Wagner and Mozart to Richard Rogers.

The WNO was formed in 1946 in Cardiff becoming a fully professional company in 1973. Described by the New York Times as “one of the finest operatic ensembles in Europe” it has spawned world class singers such as Sir Geraint Evans, Dame Anne Evans and Sir Bryn Terfel.

Born in Beirut, Joyce El-Khoury emigrated with her family to Canada when she was aged six, began singing lessons at fifteen and graduated through the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia before studying with the Metropolitan Opera, New York.  A specialist in the Italian dramatic soprano roles, she won the Mario Lanza Vocal Competition in 2006, entered into a long term association with conductor Lorin Maazel in 2010 and was nominated for Best Young Artist at the International Opera Awards in 2014. She made her Australian debut at Sydney Opera House earlier this year.

Jason Howard is from Wales. His first job was as a fireman singing in the choir for fun.  Catching the opera bug he studied both at Trinity College of Music and the Royal College of Music before beginning his career proper with Scottish National Opera. No stranger to the world’s opera stages he now lives in Toronto. As well as being renowned for his performances of Verdi he has also tackled Wagner and has a soft spot for American musicals. He was featured on BBC Radio 2’s This Is My Music in March 2017.

Opening with Wagner’s overtly teutonic but equally cinematographic Overture to Die Meistersinger the singers will then be featured in two arias from Bellini’s Norma and Verdi’s Otello. Mascagni’s well-loved Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana and Verdi’s ominous prelude to Rigoletto follow. Then we have two intensely dramatic duets from Rigoletto culminating in the soprano’s stratospheric top E flat at the end of ‘Si Vendetta’.

Mozart is next up with the Overture to The Magic Flute being followed by a beautiful love duet from Don Giovanni.  The programme then moves to the wonderfully romantic Intermezzo from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, via the tragedy of ‘Vissi D’arte’ from the same composer’s Tosca and the baritone’s expressive monologue from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier to Tchaikovsky’s grand waltz from Eugene Onegin, so evocative of mid-nineteenth century Russia. An excursion through Dvořák’s plangently beautiful Song to the Moon leads us to more cinematographic music, this time from Richard Roger’s South Pacific before closing with the instantly recognisable waltz duet from Frans Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

Whether you are a dyed-in-the-wool opera buff or are totally new to the genre, this is an unmissable evening.