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Blood, Sweat and Fears: WNO announces its autumn 2007 season including a new opera by James Macmillan. (BK)

In Autumn 2007 Welsh National Opera stages the world premiere of The Sacrifice, James MacMillan’s new opera about the bloody legacy of civil war.

Over eight years in the making, The Sacrifice promises to be a landmark event in 2007’s arts calendar. Commissioned by award-winning WNO, the three -act opera draws parallels between the armed conflicts of the 20th century and the blood soaked legends of a mythical Wales. Liverpool Culture Company is the production partner.

The Production

James MacMillan himself, will conduct performances of his new opera at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, and in Liverpool, Southampton, Llandudno, Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham and Swansea.


Katie Mitchell, who made her debut as a director of opera with WNO ten years ago, returns to direct The Sacrifice. The libretto, written by poet and documentary maker Michael Symmons Roberts, re-invents themes drawn from the powerful stories of The Mabinogion – underlining their haunting parallels to 20th century armed conflicts.

The cast is made up of some of Britain’s finest opera singer-actors, including Christopher Purves, Sarah Tynan, Peter Hoare, Lisa Milne and Leigh Melrose. The set, which references the iconic Holiday Inn in 1990’s war-torn Sarajevo, has been designed by Vicki Mortimer, Head of Design at Theatre Project Tokyo.

What is The Sacrifice about?

The Sacrifice is a compelling and timeless story of a ruler’s ultimate sacrifice to safeguard the future of his war weary, faction-ridden country. It is a story of love, revenge and reconciliation.

Working closely with librettist Michael Symmons Roberts, MacMillan has created a Shakespearian opera exploring notions of public duty and sacrifice through a close-knit group of principal characters. A General’s daughter offers to sacrifice her lover to marry the leader of a rival military faction and so secure the peace of her country. However, her sense of duty goes against the course of her heart with tragic consequences, inflamed by the actions of her rejected lover who cannot give up his political (and emotional) hopes. Private moments colliding with large-scale public ceremonies chart the decline of the General’s plans for peace, until he steps in to break a cycle of terrible bloodshed.

The cast includes Christopher Purves, who sang the title role in WNO’s award winning production of Berg’s Wozzeck, and rising young soprano Sarah Tynan who made her professional debut in the Company’s production of Jephtha, directed by Katie Mitchell.

Katie Mitchell has worked with WNO on productions of Don Giovanni, Jenufa and Katya Kabanova and The Turn of the Screw for the BBC. She is an Associate Director at the Royal National Theatre where she is currently directing Waves, an adaptation of a novel by Virginia Woolf. 

The Sacrifice is one of three productions in WNO’s Autumn 2007 Season. Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola), is the second new production in the season. This is being staged in collaboration with Barcelona’s extraordinary Comediants. Cinderella will feature spectacular set and costume designs by Joan Guillén reminiscent of catwalk couture. Vivienne Westwood meets the most outrageous of 18th century courtiers in Guillén’s imaginative and colourful bodice dresses and zany shoes.


The cast of Cenerentola includes Marianna Pizzolato, who makes her UK debut, Colin Lee, Roberto de Candia, Robert Poulton, Andrew Foster-Williams and Julianne Young. The conductor is Carlo Rizzi, Music Director of WNO.


Carlo Rizzi will also be conducting a revival of Il trovatore, the third production in the season.


Bill Kenny


Tickets for the 2007 Autumn Season go on sale throughout 2007. Please visit www.wno.org.uk for further details.




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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)