A Matter Most Historic

Hanes/History Iaith/Language Rhamant/Romance

Henry V (1387-1422)— also known as Hotspur in Shakespeare’s history play Henry V — was opposed by the Welshman, Owain Glyndwr—known as “Glendower” in the Shakespearian play.

This conflict has been celebrated in literature and art throughout the centuries, recognized for its significance and memorialized in Welsh culture on September 16th, the day on which, in 1400, Owain Glyndwr was proclaimed the Prince of Wales. Six months later, he captured Castell Conwy (Conwy Castle) defeated the English in 1402, captured Castell Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen Castle) in 1403, and signed a treaty with King Charles VI in 1404 to ensure the support of France for the Welsh rebellion. In 1405, Glyndwr agreed to divide England and Wales between himself, Percy Earl Northumberland and Edmund Mortimer.

Eleven years later — in 1416, the official, but unsubstantiated, year of his death — Owain Glyndwr disappeared from history, but not from legend. Hotspur’s father, Henry IV, died in 1413 — leaving his son, then only 26 years old, to deal with the Welsh Rebel. Hotspur died nine years after his father in 1422.

These tumultuous years form the background for the first Welsh opera, Blodwen. Set in the 14th Century, Blodwen, takes the classic operatic form of dramatic romance. Mynyddog, the bardic name of Richard Davies (1833-77), collaborated with Pencerdd America, the bardic name of composer, Joseph Parry, to create Blodwen, the first opera in the Welsh language.

The first performance of Blodwen took place on May 21st, 1878 in Aberystwyth, on the composer’s 37th birthday.

The first full performance of Blodwen in the United States, with a new arrangement for chamber orchestra by Dulais Rhys, will be in May 2019, 141 years after its Welsh premiere, under the auspices of Rimrock Opera Foundation, in Billings, Montana.

Four performances, May 10-11 and May 18-19, are scheduled at NOVA, Center for Performing Arts, with an international cast of singers, including Jeremy Huw Williams as Arthur and Nerys Jones singing the part of Lady Maelor; the part of  Blodwen will be sung by Janie Sutton, Iolo by Doug Nagel, Hywel by Scott Wichael and Elen by Kate Meyer. This production will be directed by Welsh-American actor-director, Osian Rhys, costumes designed by Glenda Brauneis and the set constructed by Dan Nickerson.

The opera features romantic and heroic duets, rousing choruses, moving arias, and heart-wrenching drama. Blodwen will be sung in Welsh, with surtitles. For those who enjoy opera for its pageant, dramatic singing and music, the synopsis and libretto of the story are available on the website, Blodwen.

This is one of the most significant Welsh-American events in 2019.

Tickets are on sale now at NOVA.

Leave a Reply