Opera insights with Welsh National Opera

Funtington Music Group opens its 2016 calendar of events at the University of a Chichester with the promise of a fascinating insight into Welsh National Opera.


Sophie Rashbrook will introduce the operas to visit Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre this spring.

Sophie said: “My job title at Welsh National Opera is dramaturg, a word I hadn’t even heard of until a few months before I applied for the job three years ago! It literally means ‘a maker of theatre’ – but the role can encompass a variety of different things depending on the opera house or theatre, ranging from someone who advises on musical editions of operas, to a creative collaborator with the director who sits in the rehearsal room. At WNO, I have three main responsibilities: I edit the programme, which is great fun, and means I get to talk to creative teams about their production ideas before the shows even start rehearsing. I also translate and produce English surtitles for all of our productions, which is where my background in languages comes in handy, and has led to some intriguing discussions with Welsh translator Mary Jones, who provides the Welsh element for our bilingual surtitles in Cardiff and Llandudno. Lastly, I write and deliver pre-performance talks for WNO performances in Cardiff and on tour around the UK, so I get to experience the touring aspect of the company’s work, which is such a huge part of what we do. I’m always amazed at the scale and self-sufficiency of the touring operation. Not only do we transport all our own scenery and costumes in our 18-strong fleet of lorries, we also bring our own lights, wigs and even washing machines on wheels!

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“For the evening in Chichester next week, I will be joined by Welsh soprano Rhian Lois and pianist Jeffrey Howard, in an exclusive preview of the forthcoming Figaro trilogy at WNO, consisting of Rossini’s Barber of Seville, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and a world premiere, called Figaro Gets a Divorce by Russian composer Elena Langer. All three operas will be performed in English, so I will not have any translating to do this season! We open at the Wales Millennium Centre on February 13 and come to Southampton from March 22–26 (ex 25). Soprano Rhian Lois is appearing in two of the three operas: she is playing the role of Barberina in The Marriage of Figaro, and in Elena Langer’s new opera, she is playing the part of Angelika. She will sing excerpts from these two pieces – a world exclusive in the case of the Langer – and will give us insight into the rehearsal process, her preparation for these roles and into working with two different world-renowned directors; Tobias Richter in The Marriage of Figaro, and WNO artistic director David Pountney in Figaro Gets a Divorce. David Pountney has also written the libretto for Figaro Gets a Divorce where we catch up with the main characters from the first two operas in a dangerous, post-revolutionary world, as they flee the clutches of a mysterious new villain, called The Major. I will talk about my insight into the preparation of the libretto, before it was set to music. More broadly, I will give an introduction to the musical style of Elena Langer as well as talking about the historical context in which Caron de Beaumarchais wrote the original Figaro plays, and the reception of the Rossini and Mozart.”

**** The University of Chichester Chapel, Wednesday, January 13, 7.30pm. Visitors welcome on the night.

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