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Don't miss Blaze of Glory! at Wales Millennium Centre

Welsh National Opera’s Spring 2023 Season opens in February with the first performance of the brand-new opera, Blaze of Glory!



Set in a 1950s Welsh Valleys’ community Blaze of Glory! follows the fortunes of a small group of miners who embark upon a musical escapade by reforming their Male Voice Choir to raise spirits following a mining disaster.


We sat down with composer, David Hackbridge Johnson, to find out more about his musical inspirations for the opera, and his experience of working on the production.


‘I will never forget the first time I heard a Welsh Male Voice Choir; not in the shadow of the Welsh hills or within the reassuring stone walls of a Welsh chapel, but in the town hall in Cheam, Greater London where I saw a performance given by the Cheam Welsh Male Voice Choir. From the first note I felt something happening in the room, and inside me. I was shattered by the end of the performance. What has stayed with me for 35 years or more, is both the sound of the choir and the visceral response it provoked.’


Cast of Blaze of Glory! during rehearsals

Blaze of Glory! reunites David with librettist Emma Jenkins following their work together on WNO’s production of Rhondda Rips it Up! in 2019. David reflects on being approached by Emma to work on the project: ‘I was delighted and slightly wary. As I looked over Emma’s ingenious, touching and funny libretto set at a time when 1950s pit closures were already affecting the lives of mining communities in Wales, I thought, ‘how am I going to move from symphonies to male voice choirs, doo-wop groups and jazz numbers?’ – for the libretto calls for all of these styles and more.’


The production presented David with an opportunity to explore and then incorporate repertoire that is traditionally performed by Welsh Male Voice Choirs, with several set pieces and Welsh hymns featuring in the piece.


‘Slotted into the operetta are Le Tyrol by Ambroise Thomas, and The Martyrs of the Arena by Laurent de Rillé, both heard where Eisteddfodau from the 1950s are recreated on stage.’


These authentic recreations and tributes serve to enrich a relatable story in which a wounded community is brought together following terrible circumstances. David reflects that in forming this union through music, the characters are able to ‘rediscover their cultural and spiritual lives’.


‘This is a work that celebrates collective experience, where individuals come together to lift themselves from doubt and hopelessness. In these insecure times I think Blaze of Glory! can speak to us on many levels and if it can do so even in part, I feel that my efforts will have succeeded.’


Blaze of Glory! celebrates the Land of Song and how community spirit can triumph over adversity.


The production opens at Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre on Thursday 23 February 2023, with subsequent performances on 10, 14, 18 March. Book your tickets at wmc.org.uk.

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