Dr Heinkel, Act 1, gol. i (Act 1, sc.i)
Ifan’s journey into the Wales of the future is, according to Dr Heinkel, an experiment. It is in the nature of an experiment that its outcome cannot be guaranteed. And Dr Heinkel’s is not the only experiment onstage this evening.
The opera Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd is itself something of an experiment. In creating the work, Mererid has written her first opera libretto, and Gareth has written his first operatic score. Thus, while they bring vast experience to the project – Mererid in writing poetry to be set to music, and Gareth in composing for the stage – they also bring a freshness of approach. Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd is pacey and light on its feet, and very far from ‘Park and Bark’ opera.
Actually, opera itself is something of an experiment. Since the first (self-)conscious ‘story in music’ by Monteverdi over four hundred years ago, opera has been trying all sorts of ways to tell a story in music (and song), and perhaps the history of the art form is more a record of failure than of success. But the successes are notable – when the drama is so heightened by the music that we seem to see into our very souls.
And for some of you in the audience, this evening may itself be an experiment, whether in venturing out to see contemporary opera, or opera in Welsh, or perhaps even to see opera for the very first time. However familiar you may be with the original novel by Islwyn Ffowc Elis, tonight’s opera is totally new, and your experience therefore quite unique. And just as you were by the novelist, you are tonight being drawn into a thought experiment – imagine a world without the Welsh language.
OPRA Cymru is the only Welsh-language opera company in the world. Our friends from across the border may wonder why our language is so important to us, and they may envy us our love of song, but I suspect they will be quick to see what an exciting experiment it is to put the two together on the operatic stage.
‘O bydded i’r arbrawf barhau...’