Liberty or death for Welsh National Opera at New Theatre Oxford

Welsh National Opera

The battle cry of Liberty or Death! will ring vociferously from Welsh National Opera this autumn with a trio of operas exploring both national and personal liberation.

Two new productions, Rossini’s William Tell and Moses In Egypt, lead the season and explore the liberty of nations, while a revival of Bizet’s Carmen examines personal liberty and what it means to be a free woman.

The productions will be performed at Oxford New Theatre from October 15-18.

The new productions of William Tell and Moses, which will be staged within the same scenic environment, continue the company’s Bel Canto series and will be directed by WNO chief executive and artistic director David Pountney.

The theme of Liberty or Death is particularly apt for the opera which will open the season: William Tell.

An epic political and romantic work, and Rossini’s last opera, William Tell is the story of the Swiss struggle for independence against the repression of Austria.

It has a narrative which spans ages and shares themes and ideas with many worldwide battles for national liberation.

The role of William Tell will be sung by David Kempster.

British tenor Barry Banks will perform in both Rossini operas, singing the role of Arnold in William Tell.

A grand biblical epic composed in Naples, Moses In Egypt was one of Rossini’s early operas.


The new production examines the Exodus story using stunning music and costumes inspired by the vibrant colours of Chagall.

Hungarian bass-baritone Miklós Sebestyén will sing the role of Moses, with Barry Banks singing the role of Aronne.

Mezzo Soprano and former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Christine Rice will sing the role of Amaltea and soprano Claire Booth will sing the role of Elcia.

Completing the season will be a revival of Bizet’s Carmen, one of the best-known operas in the world which tells the story of a free spirit who would rather die than surrender her liberty.

Carmen will be conducted by James Southall. Mezzo-soprano Kirstin Chávez will sing the title role, with Gwyn Hughes-Jones singing the role of Don Jose, and Kostas Smoriginas singing Escamillo.

David Pountney said: “As opera quite literally moved from the court to the city in the 19th century, so it became increasingly the arena in which the destiny of the state was evoked with all the grandeur and spectacle that opera could muster.

“In our season Liberty or Death the destiny of the state is what is at stake on the one hand, and in the field of personal relations, the liberty of the individual on the other.

“These are massive ideas, and the genius of Rossini and Bizet is equal to the task of giving them voice in the context of gripping and important dramas. Big ideas flowing with big emotion: this is what opera is for!”

Complementing the season will be a performance by WNO Orchestra in concert at St David’s Hall in Cardiff on Friday 31 October.

The concert programme will include Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge and Symphony No. 5, and Zimmerman’s Trumpet Concerto (Nobody knows the trouble I see). WNO Orchestra will be accompanied by trumpet soloist Reinhold Friedrich.

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