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Bill Kenny


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Welsh National Youth Opera rewrites the rules with Candide (BK)



Picture: Kirsten McTerrnan


Candide, Welsh National Youth Opera’s new production of Bernstein’s celebrated musical - which is being performed at the Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, from 15-17 July - promises to be something very special indeed.

The Youth Opera has achieved national profile nurturing the talent of young singers who have gone on to perform in West End Shows and Opera companies across the UK. The production staff working with the young people are also at the top of their field and include John Doyle, director of last season’s WNYO production The Tailor’s Daughter. He has just picked up a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical for Sweeney Todd.

Performed by singers aged 14-25, WNYO gives young people an opportunity to work with theatre professionals such as directors, vocal coaches and musicians. This season’s production is directed by Nik Ashton, who believes Candide is the perfect showcase for a talented young cast.

Candide is an exploration of life and deals with intolerance, persecution and war,” he explains. “It is based on the writings of Voltaire a prolific writer and philosopher of the Enlightenment era. He taught us to question everything, which is exactly what young people do. It is exciting to be working with a cast who have the passion and energy to change things. ”

Designed by Carl Davies, a Linbury Prize Finalist, the set is inspired - appropriately enough - by books. “The idea is that we are re-writing the book of life during the production” Nik continues. “The set has huge book cases which open to reveal other worlds as we follow the central character Candide on his travels.”

Thanks to a generous gift from David and Philippa Seligman the participants have also had an opportunity to be mentored by members of the renowned Chorus of Welsh National Opera. Nine members from WNO’s Chorus have each been looking after a group of the singers. As well as attending some of the rehearsals they have also swapped contact details, so that the young people can turn to the experienced singers for advice.

WNYO is an amazing stepping stone for young artists and its alumni include David Thaxton (Wolf; The Tailor’s Daughter) who is currently performing the role of Enjolras in Les Miserables in the West End and Jonathan Cohen who is singing the lead for Rent in Berlin. Elizabeth Donovan, who was in the first ever youth opera production, and is a WNO Associate Artist, regularly appears with the main company and is currently on tour as Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Whilst Craig Yates has recently performed in WNO MAX’s new chamber opera Redflight Barcud.

I shall be reviewing this production on July 15th.



Bill Kenny

For tickets and information contact Wales Millennium Centre on 0870 040 2000 or visit www.wmc.org.uk. For more information regarding WNYO and WNO visit www.wno.org.uk or telephone 0800 328 2357


Note:  WNO MAX is Welsh National Opera’s community, education and outreach initiative. It takes an integrated and diverse programme of performances and projects beyond the main stage. Encompassing an education and outreach brief, this programme intends to maximise company resources and create new opportunities for the ensemble and for the communities it reaches. WNO MAX seeks to maximise the potential of opera to electrify and enrapture, through participation in and preparation for live opera experiences.


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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)