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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke


🎭 WNO: Opera Favourites  

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR

🗓 Tuesday 30th April 2024



Last week saw the Welsh National Opera return to Plymouth, giving a concert of songs from a wide selection of Opera's. Having seen a few productions from this acclaimed company I was looking forward to this, but unfortunately was left a little underwhelmed by the performance as a whole.

There is no denying the talent on the stage. The singing was incredible and I was especially impressed by the female soloists who had great power and exquisite control. The inclusion of a 50-piece orchestra was breathtaking and to be able to see them on the stage brought a joyous element to the proceedings.

The evening got off to a strong start with the chorus performing the opening scene Una vela! from Othello, which was dramatic and engaging.

I suppose for me personally, as someone who is still relatively new to the genre, I would have liked a concert of opera favourites to contain more pieces that I recognised! With any opera I've seen on my journey so far I have always been surprised by how many of the songs I had heard before, but this was unfortunately not the case here. I did however know more of what was performed in the second act that the first.

This was not a major negative as the performances themselves were incredible. Emily Christina Loftus had an absolutely beautiful voice but the performance of the evening came from Fiona Harrison-Wolfe. A menber of the chorus with more than 20 years service with the WNO, Harrison-Wolfe stepped forward for a solo which blew the roof off of the theatre. Her stunning voice filled the auditorium with seemingly effortless ease and she received the biggest audience reaction of the night.

The thing that I believe drastically let the concert down was the production values here. This year I have seen quite a lot of concert stagings in various forms. Whether they have been concert versions of full shows or a selection of songs from different shows like this one was, they have all been slick and well though out, which regrettably this one wasn't.

It felt as if the chorus had been given no direction and all the movement seemed awkward and clumpy. There was no cohesion with costuming either. It looked as though all chorus and orchestra members had just been told to wear something black which meant there was a real mixture of elegant outfits, sparkly tops, suit jackets and T-shirts which made the whole thing seem more like an amateur production.

I also felt that the sound could have been improved upon. If there had perhaps been microphones placed along the stage to pick up the soloists then this would have enhannced their vocals which did tend to get lost and overpowered by the orchestra and chorus.

It was really special to see such a big and strong orchestra take centre stage and conductors Frederick Brown and Edmund Whitehead were both sensational. I enjoyed creative choices in the production where vocalists would leave the stage and finish in the wings, bringing the astonishing orchestra to the forefront.

I believe they missed a trick by having the orchestra on the same level. The very back were slightly elevated but if they had elevated more of them, perhaps at different levels, then this would give the opportunity to the audience in the stalls to really see and take in the magnitude of the orchestra and would also create an element of grandeur that was missing.

Concerts such as this are a fantastic gateway into the genre for newcomers and maybe a short introduction to each piece would have been helpful, especially as surtitles are not a thing here.

Although this is not a rave review, I am really excited for upcoming performances from Welsh National Opera because I know how outstanding their full productions are. The WNO returns to Theatre Royal Plymouth in October with Rigoletto and a Opera at the Movies concert as well as a double opera delight of Puccini's Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. Click here for tickets.

Neill Kovacic-Clarke


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer. 

My ticket for this performance of Opera Favourites was gifted by the Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.

The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions.


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