Tom Service talks to composer James MacMillan, whose new opera The Sacrifice is to receive its premiere by Welsh National Opera in Cardiff.
Directed by Katie Mitchell and with a libretto by Michael Symmons Roberts, the opera draws on the Mabinogion, an ancient collection of Welsh folk tales, and tells the story of a ruler's ultimate sacrifice to safeguard the future of his war-torn country.
In this programme
British composer and conductor James MacMillan took two years to complete the score for his latest project - a new opera called The Sacrifice. The libretto has been written by MacMillan's favourite literary collaborator, the poet and novelist Michael Symmons Roberts. Directed by Katie Mitchell, The Sacrifice incorporates the themes of love, death and war in an imagined future. Tom went to the Wales Millennium Centre to see the opera in its final stages of preparation and talked to Katie Mitchell and baritone Christopher Purves about the challenges they have faced in translating the work from page to stage, and to MacMillan himself about his unique soundworld.
Welsh National Opera premieres The Sacrifice on 22nd September and will tour the UK finishing in London on 26th November. You can hear it on Opera on 3 on 13th October at 6.30pm.
Wales and Music
Welsh musical culture finds its origins in 'Cerdd Dant', or the 'Craft of the String'. Thanks to the efforts of a 17th century copyist, this ancient musical tradition of harp playing remains alive today. In her new book on the subject of music in Wales before 1650, Sally Harper reveals the origins of a distinctive oral tradition. There may be sacrcely any extant manuscript of conventional notation, but music was a key part of Welsh society then as now. Harpist Bill Taylor plays from the Robert ap Huw manuscript specially for the programme.
Sally Harper: Music in Welsh Culture Before 1650. A Study of the Principal Sources. Pub. Ashgate, h/b £60.00.
The new Music Director of English National Opera, Edward Gardner, may still only be in his early thirties, but has one of the most challenging operatic jobs in the business. He has already conducted a production of Britten's Death in Venice and Mozart's Clemenza di Tito for the company this year, but as he embarks on his first full season his responsibility to ensure the success of a troubled company looms large. Tom caught up with Gardner during rehearsals for Carmen which opens later this month, to find out how much he perceives his appointment as the start of a new era for English National Opera.
Carmen is at the Coliseum from September 29th - November 17th and you can hear it on Opera on 3 on 3rd November at 6.30pm.