Opera in Wales

Bryn Terfel

Opera in Wales as we know it today grew from a strong musical tradition.

Before the Second World War little full-scale opera was performed. Today the situation has completely changed, with Wales having become world-renowned for its opera performances as much as for its singers.

The choirs of Wales' collieries, steel-works and chapels had built up a great tradition of choral singing. Verdi's early operas, such as Nabucco, were hymns to national independence. This may have made items like the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves especially popular with Welsh choirs!

Today the situation has completely changed, with Wales having become world-renowned for its opera performances as much as for its singers.

At the start of the 20th century, several Welsh theatres, such as the Cardiff New Theatre and the Swansea Grand Theatre, were built with orchestra pits and large stages suitable for opera. Others, like the now-demolished Astra in Llandudno, began life as cinemas.

With choruses, soloists and theatres, only one thing was needed for opera to begin in Wales - the companies to perform it.

Famous Welsh opera singers

Many Welsh opera singers have made international careers. These include the sopranos Dame Gwyneth Jones, Dame Margaret Price, Rebecca Evans and Catrin Wyn Davies; mezzo Della Jones, tenors Dennis O'Neill, Robert Tear, Stuart Burrows, Gwyn Hughes Jones; baritones and basses Sir Geraint Evans, Robert Lloyd, Bryn Terfel, Neal Davies, Jason Howard, Jeremy Huw Williams and Karl Daymond.

Words: Simon Rees


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