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Welsh National Opera’s New Home The Wales Millennium Centre opens in Cardiff (BK)

 

Two and a half years after construction began, the eagerly awaited Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff’s ‘Stage for a Nation’ and Welsh National Opera’s new home from late December, opened this weekend with three days of celebration. Under the same impressive roof, the WMC provides for a huge diversity of cultural events including opera, ballet, musicals and festivals. It will be home not only to WNO but to six other Welsh cultural organisations and its aim is to promote the rich cultural life of Wales to the world from world class facilities. It looks set to succeed.

 

The building is commanding and architecturally arresting. Designed by Percy Thomas and constructed by Sir Robert Macalpine and Arup from steel, Welsh slate and Welsh hardwoods, it dominates the Cardiff Bay waterfront especially at night. Huge recessed windows high above its foyer, use the interior lighting to spell out the words ‘Creating Truth Like Glass From the Furnace Of Inspiration’ in Welsh, and then in English, ‘In these stones horizons sing.’

 

At the building’s heart is the 1900 seat Donald Gordon Theatre, which has acoustic facilities designed by Arup for both amplified and non-amplified sound, and a stage equipped with all the technical facilities necessary for major operatic productions. For the first time in its 50 year history WNO will be able to stage more than one production at a time, since the theatre also provides large storage spaces for scenery , workshops for set construction and costumes as well as rehearsal rooms for the orchestra and chorus. At the pre-season Press briefing in September, WNO’s Director General Anthony Freud said that the new facilities will present the company with opportunities and challenges in equal measure, particularly since it will continue to tour.

 

Two of the challenges will certainly be to justify the company’s remarkable strategy of reducing ticket prices and then to fill extra seats. The Donald Gordon has 750 more seats than Cardiff’s New Theatre, top ticket prices are only £35 and significant numbers of seats are available for a fiver. Sales are off to a good start though; the official first night in the new venue, a revival of La Traviata on the 18th of February is already sold out.

 

The season continues with a new Wozzeck conducted by Vladimir Jurowski on 19th February, with Cav and Pag, a new Magic Flute directed by Neil Armfield in May and with Rigoletto.

 

Bill Kenny

 

Tickets for WNO's 2005 seasons at the Wales Millennium Centre are available from the WMC Ticket and Information Hotline on 08700 402000, online from www.wmc.org.uk or by calling in person at the WMC Ticket Office, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay.

 

Information about WNO's other UK performances is available on www.wno.org.uk or by calling 0800 328 2357.



 

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