Music Theatre Wales (MTW) exists to breathe new life into opera, presenting it as storytelling in music and seeking to revitalise opera as a universally accessible and expressive activity. We nurture artists who will create the opera of the future and present opera in imaginative ways that will help change the deeply entrenched preconceptions of what opera is and can be. We are asking: What is Opera? Who is making it? and Who is it for?
Quite simply, we are Re-Imagining Opera
A future Wales where opera gives voice to expression, identity, and diversity, as storytelling in music for all.
We are asking: What is opera? Who is creating it? And Who is it for? We are working with artists and communities who have historically been excluded from opera to create work in their own image, connecting the personal and local with the wider world. We are making new forms of opera and presenting it in unusual ways and locations that will change the audiences for and the perception of opera. We are making opera that reflects and explores the world as it is now, not as it once was. We are re-imagining opera.
We are forming programmes and creative partnerships that enable artists and communities to develop their own creativity through storytelling in music. We will grow relationships with our communities that will inform our strategic development and the artistic work we produce, and which will bring opera into the lives of people across Wales and beyond. All our work will celebrate the expressive power of opera as storytelling in music.
For over 40 years, MTW has been a force for change and development in opera in the UK, creating transformational opportunities for artists and audiences to create and access contemporary opera, often for the first time.
Working with many of the most acclaimed composers of our time, we have created 54 live productions, including 24 world premieres, and made 4 digital works.
With a history of creating innovative work, we have applied this thinking to ourselves – asking what value can we bring to society as makers of new opera? Our answer is to re-imagine what opera is and create work that truly reflects Wales and the UK as it now is. We will achieve this by asking the very artists and communities who have been ignored or excluded from opera to bring their skills, vision, stories and music to a form which is crying out for a new direction and a new audience. We aim to bring opera back in touch with more people and more communities.
MTW has changed
Ever since our formation in 1988, MTW has been a force for change and development in opera in the UK. We are driven by a passionate belief that newly created opera can provide some of the most exciting and powerful experiences, and we have always wanted to share this as widely as possible.
Since 2022, the range of our work and the way we are working has changed beyond recognition, but our core mission remains consistent: To present opera as a contemporary artform. And by contemporary we mean NOW – as society is and not as it was, striving to respond to change and seeing this as a creative opportunity as well as an imperative, and seeking to share work in ways that is truly relevant and engaging. Everything we do will remain characterised by excellence – in creation and performance, in engagement and inclusion, in organisation and execution, in impact and responsibility.
Our creative output is framed by two programmes which are defined by the people who are making the work:
New Directions commissions and supports established and emerging Global Majority artists to create new opera – digital and live.
Future Directions is a youth-led initiative focused on engaging young people (specifically those facing barriers around additional needs and socioeconomic hardship) throughout Wales, to participate in creating new operatic work – storytelling in music as digital opera. This is a partnership programme with Hijinx – one of Europe’s leading inclusive theatre companies, creating outstanding performances with learning disabled and/or autistic artists on stage and on screen, for Wales and for the world.
Alongside these programmes, we are developing a range of productions and projects which set out to break down the barriers that exist around opera: Street Art Opera; Short-form, small scale work that plays in unconventional spaces where people gather; New work created in Welsh; Work for the stage that mixes story, music, theatre and opera in ways that defy definition, New work created with and for specific communities. We are also launching a Roadshow, which will create conversations between audiences and artists to explore the ideas and responses to future performances, projects, and events. In every project the opera voice will be heard, as one of the most uplifting, moving, exciting and powerfully expressive performance arts we know.
From 2024, we will start an exciting new structural partnership which will extend the range of creative opportunities both companies are able to offer early career professional musicians, extending our ability to create more opportunities for artists to create and perform, and more work for audiences to engage with.
- Kerry Skidmore (Chair)
- Clare Edwards
- Tony Followell
- Louis Gray
- Kieran Jones
- Anna Pool
- Dylan Rees
- Phillippa Scammel
- Mehdi Razi
Denis & Katya
Photography by Clive Barda
Founded in 1988 through the merger of Cardiff New Opera Group (co-founded by Michael McCarthy and Michael Rafferty in 1982) and St Donats Music Theatre Ensemble (founded by John Metcalf) in 1988, Music Theatre Wales has been a pioneering force in new opera across the UK, creating bold and adventurous work, exploring what opera can be and how it can reach out to audiences. We have worked with many of the most acclaimed composers of our time, and we have invited provocation and challenge from composers and writers who are new to this form. Our aim has always been to ensure that opera and music theatre remain relevant and vibrant contemporary means of expression, with the capacity to touch the heart and open the mind and give audiences powerful and memorable experiences.
Based in Cardiff, we have built an international reputation for innovation and quality, performing, and working with partners across Europe, in South Korea, Scandinavia and North America.
Other Producing Partners
We have created productions in collaboration with international partners: Opera Philadelphia, Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg, the Berlin Festival, Opera Vest in Norway, Banff Centre in Canada, Opera Theatre of St Louis, Haarlem Theatre in The Netherlands, Treffpunkt in Stuttgart, Theater Magdeburg in Germany.
In the UK we have created productions with Fio, Britten Pears Arts and the Aldeburgh Festival, London Sinfonietta, Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, National Dance Company Wales, Theatr Brycheiniog, Glasgow 1990, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Cheltenham International Music Festival and HOME in Manchester.
2023 Violet was nominated for the Opera award in the Sky Arts Awards.
The Jollof House Party Opera – the original digital version – won the Focus Wales Film Award in 2022.
2022 Violet was nominated for a UK Theatre Award and in the World Premiere category in the International Opera Awards.
2020 Philip Venables won the IVOR award for Stage Works for Denis & Katya commissioned and produced by MTW.
2019 Denis & Katya won the Fedora Prize for Opera.
Michael McCarthy was awarded Best Director at the 2015 Wales Theatre Awards for his production of The Trial.
2013 Ghost Patrol by Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh won the South Bank Sky Arts Award.
2013 the double bill of In the Locked Room by Huw Watkins and David Harsent and Ghost Patrol was nominated for an Olivier.
TMA Theatre Awards - Outstanding Achievement in Opera for our production of Greek by Mark-Anthony Turnage in 2011.
The co-founders of MTW – Michael McCarthy and Michael Rafferty – were awarded MBEs in the 2016 Queen’s New Year Honours.
The Jollof House Party Opera
Policies and action
Our commitment to equality and inclusion
Music Theatre Wales is committed to being open and transparent.
MTW are proud to be a member of Black Lives in Music.