WNO going underground
It was a ‘tidy’ performance by the Welsh National Opera at the Bristol Hippodrome on Tuesday night, April 25, of Blaze of Glory! with seams of humour, politics and glee from the Welsh valley voices.
For those who missed the television series Gavin and Stacey ‘tidy’ is a Welsh slang term used to indicate something as great, very good or awesome.
And it was, from the opening street scene onwards.
With impressive singing to the superb sets everything was banging from this talented cast who can also act, dance (must mention baritone Themba Mvula) and move scenery with aplomb.
Against a backdrop of a colliery winding wheel and a slag heap it opened with women polishing the front doors of their terraced working-class homes.
With washing strung across the road they exchange friendly, formal greetings of Mrs without the Mr song.
This is a new 'opera' set in the 1950s when male voice choirs and working men’s clubs where the norm.
But in this production the (wo)men were the backbone.
In a visually inspiring scene lit only by the miners’ headlamps the men lamented about a recent pit disaster with loss of many lives, fear for their livelihoods with the ever-looming threat of closures and the NCB - National Coal Bloody Board.
This opera sees the miners and a group of strong-willed women embark on a series of adventures that lead them to taking part in eisteddfod competitions - loved the tented festival set.
Blaze of Glory! combines traditional Welsh harmonies with the a cappella sounds of the 1950s, plus operetta, gospel and big band added into the mix.
For the Bristol opening night the cast and WNO chorus were joined by the smartly suited Blaenavon Male Voice Choir.
Welsh soprano Rebecca Evans as Mrs Nerys Price (who winks at the audience and says ‘I am the love interest) and tenor Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts as pit foreman and chorus master Mr Dafydd Pugh were magnificent.
The radio-style boogie-woogie of the Andrew Sisters renamed The Welsh Rarebits deserve an extra bow as they lightened the mood.
The triumphant trio was played by Nafissatou Batu Daramy (Blodwen), Angharad Lyddon (Branwen) and Angharad Morgan (Bronwen).
The undertones of racism with the Paul Robeson broadcast and the fact that underground everyone is the same colour all resonated.
Fiction mixed with some real life experiences.
With post war tank-tops, green blazers, bearded alto Feargal Mostyn-Williams ‘proud to be a European’ because he learned to yodel in Austria, fisticuffs between rivals and a choir calling themselves The Bee Gees it all knitted and kitted together.
We had red skies and the Red Cow pub but no singing of the Red Flag which I almost expected.
Best bits – the man sitting up straight because he had piles and a dodgy prostate, the charabanc formation and the wet, wet, wet Full Monty moment in the communal pithead showers
Blaze of Glory plays again on Saturday, April 29 at 7.30pm.
For tickets from £13.00 plus booking fee click HERE.
From Wednesday to Friday, April 26-28, WNO is performing The Magic Flute. Tickets for this are HERE.
Review Carol Deacon
Photos: WNO Blaze of Glory! Kirsten Mcternan