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O UTSTANDING performance on stage or at sporting venues normally occur at the conclusion of the event. But when Jose Carreras stepped onto a stage set up especially in a field near Bangor on a Bank Holiday weekend 10 years ago the entire crowd stood up and cheered.

As the blazing sun set over Anglesey and wispy white clouds touched the mountain tops of Snowdonia, the 10,000-strong audience gave a rapturous welcome to the Catalonian tenor.

Flags were waved welcoming him to Wales in both Welsh and Catalonian.

Carreras was joined on stage by the festival's founder, Bryn Terfel, and New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra.

She has since become one of the best known classical singers of her generation.

He went on to enthral the huge crowd in one of the best concerts ever during the 10-year history of the Faenol Festival.

The crowd were reluctant to let Carreras go and he, along with Bryn Terfel and Hayley Westenra, delighted them all with repeated curtain calls and no less than eight encores before the sky lit up with a magical firework display.

Carreras said after the concert: "It was wonderful evening. When you have such an enthusiastic and warm audience it is wonderful for a singer."

Speaking of his friendship with Bryn the maestro added: "We have known each other for many years.

"It is always a real pleasure to sing with him. Not only because of his wonderful voice but because of the person he is."

The operatic gala of 2003 proved to be a clever mix of the familiar and the hauntingly rarely-heard.

Reserved seats for the concert were sold out within days of going on sale and promenade tickets were rarer than Welsh gold.

Elsbeth Jones and her partner Ray had travelled the short distance from Caernarfon to the concert.

She said: " We've been to all the concerts since the festival started three years ago (in 2000).

"Yes, the weather's been awful a few times but we're well equipped for anything by now." The couple had arrived in plenty of time to find a prime spot in front of the stage, laden with chairs, umbrellas, waterproofs, binoculars and a couple of small lanterns.

" Everyone I've spoken to wants to hear the two maestros sing. I think all of North Wales are here."

Tony Dixon from Shropshire, was sitting nearby, said: " Friends told me about this festival held in 'a muddy field' in Wales where they had heard Bringing fan favourites to N.Wales AS soon as Bryn Terfel announced he was to stage a festival in the grounds of the Faenol Festival he vowed to bring the biggest names to North Wales. The festival got off to a wonderful start in 2000 when a quartet of opera stars led by Bryn and Denyce Graves, graced the stage. The following night saw the inaugural Tan y Ddraig (Dragon's Fire) concert which featured, amongst others, Bethesda-based rock band Maffia Mr Huws. An evening of music under the stars also featured Bryn and Michael Ball, his good friend from the 1998 Rugby World Cup. As soon as the dust settled on the inaugural festival music fans began dreaming about their favourite singers appearing on the banks of the Menai. While Bryn suggested Tom Jones might agree to appearing, he did manage to persuade stars such as Lesley Garrett, Peter Karrie, Katherine Jonekins, Van Morrison, Jools Holland, Jamie Cullem and Shirley Bassey, to sing at Faenol. Bryn also managed to persuade new young talent to appear. Kiwi Hayley Westenra was one who has come to be well known as has Mexican tenor Rolanda Verazon. Bryn had persuaded Maffia Mr Huws to reform especially for the Faenol, a feat he repeated several times with the Welsh groups Tebot Piws, Mynediad Am Ddim and Edward H Dafis singing live on stage. international opera stars like Renee Fleming and Lesley Garrett sing. . I didn't believe them, especially when they told the maestro himself, Jose No23 Carreras, was to take the stage but when I logged onto the internet and found it was true I planned our bank holiday weekend around it.

" This is a magnificent festival and Wales should be proud of it." Bryn is one of the world's best known bass-baritones with dates taking him across the world to all the famous opera houses.

His name on a programme is guaranteed to attract sell-out audiences from Paris and New York to Vienna and Sydney.

It is a non-stop schedule but it is NORTH WALES where his heart lies.

In 1998 he sang at a concert staged in Caernarfon Castle.

" It was a kind of catalyst igniting some fire in me," he said when the Faenol Festival. was launched.

He realised the area had been missing out on musical events.

" So I thought, why not create a festival?" No sooner had the thought occurred than he had set aside " a couple of days in my calendar." In fact, he soon changed that to a week: "I wanted it to be right and that meant I could be at home five days before the festival so I could be as much a part of it as I could." It was an amazing commitment by a man whose engagement diary has bookings years ahead rather than months.

He intended his festival - staged over the August Bank Holiday - to be an annual event, not a mere token one-off event. Bryn also determined to have three very different festival days - an operatic gala, an evening from musical theatre and a Welsh pop night.

The first festival was so successful - it won a clutch of tourism and business awards - that Bryn went on to organise others.

Buoyed by the success Bryn was determined to attract the big names to the event.

While Carreras was an early big name after his appearance in 2003 Bryn continued to attract big names to the Faenol Festival.

Concerts featuring Shirley Bassey, Jools Holland, John Owen-Jones and Westlife were staged in following years. Blind Italian opera singer Andrea Boccelli was one of the highlights.

But falling ticket sales, caused mostly by the economic recession, caused the event to be cancelled.

Bryn has however indicated he would like to revive the Faenol Festival at some stage in the future.


Italian tenor Andrea Boccelli and Welsh singers Dame Shirley Bassey and Katherine Jenkins appeared at the Faenol Festival

Spanishtenor Jose Carreras wows the crowds at Faenol in 2003 and (above) with festival founder Bryn Terfel and New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra. and (right) with Terfel before the concert
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Sep 28, 2013
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