• Première of a new critical edition of From the House of the Dead
• First collaboration between David Pountney and Tomáš Hanus at WNO
• Hometown debut for rising star Natalya Romaniw in Eugene Onegin
This autumn will see a major presentation of three epic Russian-themed works by Welsh National Opera. Russian Revolution will include performances of Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Janáček’s From the House of the Dead, based on the book by Dostoevsky. Each explores a different facet of Russia’s cultural history – the mystical, the romantic, and the enchained – but will come together to reflect on issues that remain relevant to Russian cultural identity to this day.
The revivals of Khovanshchina and From the House of the Dead will be directed by WNO Artistic Director David Pountney and conducted by WNO Music Director Tomáš Hanus in their first collaboration for the Company.
Fittingly opening the season which commemorates the Russian Revolution, Khovanshchina highlights the central dilemma of Russian cultural identity which is still common today: whether to face East or West. Set against the Moscow Uprising of 1682, Khovanshchina sees the country in turmoil with the struggle between a romanticised past and modern reform.
This is the first revival of David Pountney’s 2007 production, and will see the return of Robert Hayward in the role of Prince Ivan Khovansky and Adrian Thompson in the role of the Scribe. They will be joined by Mark Le Brocq as the Westernised aristocrat, Prince Vasily Golitsyn, and Miklós Sebestyén as religious fundamentalist, Dosifei.
From the House of the Dead will be the première of a new critical edition by musicologist John Tyrrell with performance suggestions by Charles Mackerras. Unfinished at the time of Janáček’s death, this will be the first time that the opera will be performed in a version that is as close as possible to what Janáček intended.
Telling the story of the inmates of a Siberian prison, the opera reflects their feelings of pain, oppression and injustice as each recount why they ended up in jail. Their gloom is eased as they painstakingly nurse an eagle back to health, which comes to symbolize both Russia and the notion of freedom.
The production will feature a stellar ensemble cast including Alan Oke (Skuratov), Robert Hayward (The Commandant), Mark Le Brocq (Filka Morozov) and Adrian Thompson (Shapkin).
Tomáš Hanus says: “WNO’s ‘Russian Revolution’ season reflects the soul of Russian people, culture and thinking, as well as the history. It is very important for us at this point in history to be touched by this subject, as it is sending a very specific but universal message. The extraordinary beauty and immense power of the music of great Masters like Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky and Janáček puts us right at the heart of this Russian phenomenon and brings it alive in front of our eyes."
Evoking the elegance of early 19th century St Petersburg alongside simple countryside settings, Eugene Onegin follows the cynical protagonist as he rejects the romantic advances of the young country girl Tatyana, before later coming to regret his actions and feeling the sting of rejection himself. Considered one of the greatest Russian operas, Tchaikovsky’s music reflects the high society of the time and the yearnings of the heart with evocative arias, romantic choruses and luscious waltzes.
This revival of James Macdonald’s original production will be directed by Caroline Chaney and conducted by Latvian Ainārs Rubikis who will make his WNO debut and has recently been announced as the new Music Director of Komische Oper Berlin. Rising star and Welsh singer Natalya Romaniw takes the role of Tatyana in her hometown debut with WNO, and Nicholas Lester returns to WNO following his performances in the Figaro trilogy in 2016 to take the role of Onegin. Also joining the cast are Jason Bridges (Lensky), Claudia Huckle (Olga), Miklós Sebestyén (Prince Gremin) and Sara Fulgoni (Filipyevna).