Welsh National Opera: Oman is first Middle East visit

WNO will perform Puccini's Manon Lescaut in Finland next summer
Image caption WNO will perform Puccini's Manon Lescaut in Finland next summer

Welsh National Opera (WNO) is to make its first visit to the Middle East as it tours abroad for the first time in six years.

The company will become the first from the UK to perform at the new Royal Opera House in Muscat, the capital of Oman, in December.

WNO will also make its first trip to Finland for a festival next summer.

Chief executive David Pountney said it will showcase Wales on the world stage.

Mr Pountney, who is also the company's artistic director, said: "Our foreign tours are a wonderful way for the company to exploit its touring expertise, and yet another way in which the arts are one of the most significant generators of cultural and economic value for Britain."

Image caption David Pountney said overseas trips are a "very good bonding process"

WNO, whose home productions are funded by the Arts Councils of Wales and England, has been performing in France, Italy and the US for 40 years.

It last ventured abroad in 2007 to the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

The company will be showcasing its new production of Gaetano Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, set in Elizabethan England, at the Omani Royal Opera House in Muscat.

The visit, which is being paid for by the recently completed opera house, will also see the WNO orchestra and chorus perform a family concert for the Omani audience.

Mr Pountey said: "It's never going to be easy to finance the very expensive business of taking opera abroad, so the current flurry of foreign tours is probably down to a mixture of luck and trying harder - and it would be wise to see it as a crest rather than as a trend.

"On the other hand the 'trying harder' aspect has been driven by the knowledge that financial pressure dictates that we need to look wherever possible for possibilities that can be to some extent separate from government investment.

"Government funds are under a lot of pressure, and the arts cannot be totally excluded from that, so any contribution from abroad is a huge bonus.

"Added to which, these kind of trips are always a very good bonding process for the company, which is, after all, expert at touring."

The mammoth task of arranging to get the company out to Oman in December is getting under way. In all 145 members of the cast, crew and backstage staff will run the two opera and one concert performances.

Next summer, in addition to its domestic commitments, the company will present is new productions of Verdi's Nabucco and and Puccini's Manon Lescaut at Olavinlinna Castle in Finland.

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