Published on 06/07/17

By MICHAEL MCCARTHY

 

From Wales to Wall Street

Published on 06/07/17

By MICHAEL MCCARTHY

Well, the American adventure is all over for the moment, but Y Tŵr has one momentous performance to go – across the border in Buxton.

The final performance of The Trial at Opera Theatre St Louis has now come and gone, and whilst we need to start turning our attention to the future, it’s worth reflecting on what an amazing time this has been for Music Theatre Wales – our work has finally crossed the pond and we are concurrently performing a new opera in Welsh.

It’s always special when the composer and writer attend a performance of their work, and especially so when it’s Philip Glass and Christopher Hampton. They were keen to see the USA premiere of their opera and witness its very real development – as a production and as a work: Philip had added a new string part and enabled the string section as a whole to be significantly increased and was very keen to hear how it had worked out – almost the first question he asked me before the performance! Playing in a bigger house than ever before, this new version clearly worked well and added depth and fullness to the sound, and Philip seemed really pleased. As for the production, we had to create a new design for it to work in the St Louis theatre, so this was a chance for Simon Banham (designer) and myself to enhance aspects of the original production, in particular developing the intensity of watching and observing Josef K by the other performers when not in character. Philip and Christopher were extremely complimentary, and at the end of the show, the audience went wild. It was a very special occasion.

To cap it all I was delighted to read a rave review in the Wall Street Journal: “a superb, sharply etched production created for its U.K. world premiere by the opera’s lead commissioner, Music Theatre Wales, and directed by MTW’s artistic director, Michael McCarthy”. A good introduction to the USA!

This came only a couple of weeks after the 5* review for Y Tŵr in The Times “a cracking psychological drama — both realistic and surreal, metaphysical and mysterious at the same time, with a spooky, insidiously suggestive score to match”. The headline was even more amazing: “These are towering talents”! Well-deserved I think by our two extraordinary singers who play a couple from late teenage fumblings through to end of life old age, and of course to composer Guto Puw and librettist Gwyneth Glyn who have created such a compelling and touching work. Catch it in Buxton if you can.

Both of these operas spring from the selection of the source material – a novel and a play. The proposals came from the composers themselves, as I firmly believe they should, and the composer-writer relationship in both cases worked in quite different but nevertheless the best way possible for each work and each team. There are no rules, but finding the subject that ignites the imagination and desire of the composer is always key!

It feels like Music Theatre Wales has entered a new phase and is constantly evolving. Our reputation continues to grow in Wales, the UK and internationally, and I believe we are now needed every bit as much as when we first started making new opera in the 1980’s. There was very little new opera being made back then, and whilst there is an explosion of activity in creating new work at the moment, there is still very little opportunity for it to be performed as finished work. If you come to see a Music Theatre Wales show, you should always expect to see a new work that might be challenging and surprising, but will always be the real thing in terms of its writing and its performance. New work will only ever find its place if it is as accomplished as anything you might see on the stage of any opera house or theatre anywhere in the world.

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