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CULTURE: Bartering over the border; Classical Preview.

Byline: Christopher Morley's

Following last weekend's Presteigne Festival, this week's main event is also taking place across the Welsh border.

This year's offering from Mid Wales Opera at its Theatr Hafren base in Newtown, Powys - with four touring dates to come in the West Midlands - is an intriguing new production of Smetana's delightful The Bartered Bride, (pictured) uprooted from its native Bohemia and coming to earth firmly in rural Wales. Instead of a Czech village festival, the locals are preparing for the annual Eisteddfod, and the heroine bartered bride herself is now no longer Marenka but Myfan-wy. Other names are similarly Welshified, including Krusina, who becomes Lloyd-Morgan.

The renamings are actually subtly clever, as they preserve the stress-patterns of the originals, and form part of the delights of Amanda Holden's new English translation specially commissioned by MWO.

And in addition to this unique version of the libretto, Mid Wales Opera can also boast the services of "the best director of opera in the whole of Italy in 2005", an accolade awarded earlier this year by Italian opera critics to Stephen Medcalf. This followed a highly acclaimed production of Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades at Milan's prestigious La Scala, which led to a whole series of equally acclaimed operatic productions throughout Italy last year.

Medcalf has been working with Mid Wales Opera since its very first productions at Theatr Hafren in 1989. His credits include large-scale productions of Aida, Turandot and Faust, and in recent years his more compact touring productions of Madam Butterfly and Don Giovanni received rave reviews throughout the United Kingdom.

The touring element of Mid Wales Opera has expanded exponentially over the years, with the forthcoming circuit after a short Newtown residency taking in venues at all points of the compass, including Buxton, Aldeburgh, Canterbury, the Isle of Wight and Milford Haven, with many points of call in between.

The main roles will be divided between some of our most attractive young singers (remember, this was the company that introduced us to the wondrous soprano Rachel Nicholls just a few years ago). Myfanwy is taken by the Welsh soprano Camilla Roberts and the Irish soprano Mairead Buicke, while Jenik (now Joseph) is sung by the tenors Michael Bracegirdle and Adrian Dwyer, the latter coming to MWO between engagements in South Africa and at the Sydney Opera House.

Among other roles is one taken by Birmingham Conservatoire postgraduate Caroline Amneus, an occasional reviewer for this newspaper, and two circus performer parts taken by the impressively-named Big Gray and Joelle.

Keith Darlington, former head of vocal and operatic studies at Birmingham Conservatoire, conducts the Mid Wales Opera Chamber Orchestra.

Mid Wales Opera presents The Bartered Bride at the Theatr Hafren, Newtown on Wednesday Sep 6, Friday Sep 8 and Saturday Sep 9 (7.30pm, details on 01686 625007). Touring venues in the West Midlands are Shrewsbury Music Hall (Sep 25' box office 01743 281281), Palace Theatre, Redditch (September 29' box office 01527 65203), The Courtyard, Hereford (October 15' box office 08701 122330) and the Assembly Rooms, Ludlow (October 20 and 21' box office 01584 878141).
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 31, 2006
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