Music Theatre Wales exists to breathe new life into opera and music theatre as contemporary forms of artistic expression. Quite simply, telling stories in music.
Based in Wales, we are changing the way opera is made and perceived, by addressing who makes it, by reaching out to new and more diverse audiences, and by creating new work that responds to and reflects society: Giving opera a new voice and new ownership; celebrating opera as a multidisciplinary form.
At the heart of our work is the ambition to discover and support the development of new talent and new ideas. We are working with outstanding artists who are new to opera, especially those who have been ignored or excluded by opera, with young people across Wales, and with communities who have not traditionally participated in opera. Developing the diversity of the company, the people we work with and the audiences we reach.
Animation from Pride (A Lion’s Roar)
MTW is Changing
Ever since our formation in 1988, MTW has been a force for change and development in opera in the UK. We are driven by a passionate belief that newly created opera can provide some of the most exciting and powerful experiences, and we have always wanted to share this as widely as possible.
As we entered 2019 we started to ask ourselves what we needed to do to ensure our work remained relevant and pioneering. Our audience was loyal and fully engaged, but it was not growing and it did not reflect society as a whole.
As the pandemic hit in Spring 2020, we were touring Denis & Katya, a radical new work which used the skills and language of opera to explore an overtly contemporary story – great singing, music that shaped and intensified the drama, design that was integrated into the storytelling, and a deeply empathetic engagement in its story and characters. We presented this work as a new way forward for opera, in its musical and theatrical style and the minimal forces it used – just two singers, four cellists and electronics. It also inspired us to deliver a Young People’s Creative and Consultation Project which set out to not only offer young people a creative opportunity to think about and write some kind of opera, but also to give us feedback on the piece itself and on how we worked. We were already on our way, but there was a lot further to go.
As lockdown took grip and the initial surge of scenario planning and holding onto existing ways of working gave way to deeper reflection, we saw we had the perfect opportunity to re-imagine the way forward:
Our core aim remains intact - to demonstrate that opera can have a genuinely contemporary voice. But as society changes, so must its art and the role art plays in society. The impact of Covid and increased demands for societal change, not least driven by Black Lives Matter and We Shall Not Be Removed, have given us the opportunity and imperative to review our work. It was time to ask: What should a contemporary opera company look like now?
From now on, we will explore the role new opera and music theatre can play in society. We want to demonstrate not simply the quality of the work we produce and its virtuosity, but its social value and its potential to work with an ever-widening musical and cultural language. We share the view that we need to achieve greater fairness across society, including the arts, and we believe the artform we love - at its essence, storytelling in music and theatre - has the capacity to embrace and celebrate this. To enable this to happen, we are re-thinking our creative process.
Listening, learning and sharing lie at the heart of both programmes. This approach will lead to a new creative source for our future performance work - new opera which is of and for an increasingly diverse community.
This is a bold new vision for MTW, true to our origins, and true to the times we now live in.
- Christine Bradwell (Chair)
- Clare Edwards
- Tony Followell
- Louis Gray
- Andrew Kurowski
- Geraint Lewis
- Anna Pool
- Dylan Rees
- Phillippa Scammel
- Christian White
Photography by Clive Barda
Founded in 1988 through the merger of Cardiff New Opera Group and St Donats Music Theatre Ensemble in 1988, Music Theatre Wales has been a pioneering force in new opera across the UK, creating bold and adventurous work, exploring what opera can be and how it can reach out to audiences. We have worked with many of the most acclaimed composers of our time, and we have invited provocation and challenge from composers and writers who are new to this form. Our aim has always been to ensure that opera and music theatre remain relevant and vibrant contemporary means of expression, with the capacity to touch the heart and open the mind and give audiences powerful and memorable experiences.
Based in Cardiff, we have built an international reputation for innovation and quality, performing and working with partners across Europe, in Scandinavia and in North America.
MTW has created 39 live productions, including 18 world premieres, and made 4 digital works. Our next live production, Violet by Tom Coult and Alice Birch (a co-commission and co-production with Britten Pears Arts and staged in association with the London Sinfonietta), is scheduled to premiere in June 2022.
In 2018 we began working in association with the London Sinfonietta, together creating a new powerhouse for the creation of new opera in the UK.
Photography by Clive Barda
Other Producing Partners
We have created productions in collaboration with international partners: Opera Philadelphia, Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg, the Berlin Festival, Opera Vest in Norway, Banff Centre in Canada, Opera Theatre of St Louis, Haarlem Theatre in The Netherlands, Treffpunkt in Stuttgart, Theater Magdeburg in Germany.
In the UK we have created productions with the Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, National Dance Company Wales, Theatr Brycheiniog, Cheltenham International Music Festival and HOME in Manchester.
Awards include: 2020 Philip Venables won the IVOR award for Stage Works for Denis & Katya commissioned and produced by MTW. Denis & Katya also won the Fedora Prize for Opera in 2019.
TMA Theatre Awards - Outstanding Achievement in Opera for our production of Greek by Mark-Anthony Turnage in 2011.
In 2013 Ghost Patrol by Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh won the South Bank Sky Arts Award.
In 2013 the double bill of In the Locked Room by Huw Watkins and David Harsent and Ghost Patrol was nominated for an Olivier.
Michael McCarthy was awarded Best Director at the 2015 Wales Theatre Awards for his production of The Trial.
The co-founders of MTW – Michael McCarthy and Michael Rafferty – were awarded MBEs in the 2016 Queen’s New Year Honours.
Denis and Katya
Photography by Clive Barda
Policies and Action
Music Theatre Wales are committed to being open and transparent. Below are some of our policies.
We are in the process of reviewing all of our company policies and look forward to sharing these with you here in due course.