‘I sold up the lot unspeakably cheaply,
Yes, I sold it all, the entire heritage of my country.’
These are the sorrowful words of Ifan Powell in the dense forestry of what was once Wales, but has now become Western England. The two lines are perhaps the most powerful in the whole of Gareth Glyn’s and Mererid Hopwood’s new opera Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd: yes, more powerful than the threat of the Purple Shirts Brigade to the visionary’s united and bi-lingual Wales of 2033, and more powerful even than the setting by Gareth of the 23rd Psalm in the back of the chip shop in Bala, where, before Ifan’s own eyes, the Welsh language dies.
Who dares – but the unheeding fool that Ifan Powell was, ‘back in the day’ – say that Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd is an opera only for the Welsh about the Welsh language? Really?! Is that to be the feeble excuse for not sharing in the extraordinary vision that the new opera presents to us?
Wythnos IS about how a culture can allow itself to die. And the profound emotional response of the Welsh speakers in our audiences across the country is testament to that fearful vision. But, thanks to the understanding and inspiration of poet and composer, the new opera is about so much more.
Wythnos is a challenge to us all, and not just the cast, the orchestra, and the director of the current production! It is a challenge to audiences across the world to ask themselves who it is that they are, and what it may be to cherish one’s own identity, and one’s community. And in the age of resurgent nationalism, global refugee crises, and the politics of hate, could these questions be any more relevant?
Sorry? Are we talking about an opera? Isn’t opera just a load of frivolous nonsense for the rich and snooty? Am I telling you that opera has a political message? (And no, not just a politically correct message...)
Well maybe, yes. But in Wythnos, we have the real ‘etifeddiaeth’ of our homeland. This is opera made in Wales and in Welsh, not a borrowing of some other culture’s second-hand clothing. This is Wales’ heritage: a new form of music theatre, blending drama, poetry and song, and reinventing for the 21st century a four-hundred-year-old way of telling a story in music.
Is this to be the way that the Welsh language will save itself? By making opera its own?
If so, OPRA Cymru is ready and waiting....
Patrick Young, Artistic Director