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Interview with Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor Michael Bell MBE

Interview with Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor Michael Bell MBE

Opera Spectacular
St David’s Hall

Friday 15 October 2021, 7.30pm

EVER wanted to hear opera classics like Carmen, Aida, Samson and Delilah, La bohème and more all in one place?

Well, now you can as Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra presents an Opera Spectacular on Friday 15 October 2021!

Experience the passion of Puccini, the grandeur of Verdi, the wit of Offenbach and the fervor of Saint-Saëns in this captivating concert also featuring Rachael Marsh and tenor Andrew Rawlings from Dennis O'Neill CBE's Wales International Academy of Voice.

Neil Collins chats to CPO Conductor, Michael Bell MBE 

Would this be your dream opera repertoire? 

I’ve aimed to include a selection of well-loved arias, and balanced this with famous operatic overtures and orchestral moments. It was almost more difficult deciding what to leave out, as what to include! 

Talk us through the highlights of the programme for Opera Spectacular. 

In planning the programme you have to start somewhere, and the first item I knew we had to include is the one that almost everyone knows – the great tenor aria, Nessun dorma from Puccini’s Turandot. La bohème is probably my favourite opera and I really wanted to include the whole of the final scene from Act I with its succession of unforgettable arias for tenor (Che gelida manina) and soprano (Si, mi chiamano Mimi), and finally a passionate duet (O soave fanciulla). It’s absolutely sublime music to melt the hardest of hearts. The music of Verdi was also a must, and we feature the tenor aria La donna e mobile from Rigoletto and the showcase soprano aria Sempre libera from La traviata. 

Johann Strauss’s The Gypsy Baron is rarely staged these days, but a tenor aria Als Flotter geist will be instantly recognised. It was once a staple of the tenor repertoire for great tenors of the past such as Richard Tauber, Fritz Wunderlich and Nicolai Gedda who made it their own, so it’s been a joy to include it in our programme. It really is music to make you smile. 

The orchestra will be performing some much-loved orchestral items from operas including Beethoven’s overture to his one and only opera Fidelio, Wagner’s majestic overture to Tannhauser, a suite from Bizet’s ever-popular Carmen, Offenbach’s delightful overture to Orpheus in the Underworld (with its famous can-can) and the wonderfully sultry and hedonistic Bacchanale from Saint-Saëns’ opera, Samson and Delilah. 

Nessun dorma is instantly recognisable to football fans when Luciano Pavarotti’s 1972 recording captured the public’s imagination as the theme tune for World Cup Italia ’90. Can you remember it being the soundtrack of that summer? 

Back in 1990 the BBC were looking for a piece of music to introduce their coverage of the football World Cup in Italy. One of the producers happened to be listening to an episode of Desert Island Discs and having heard the choice of Nessun dorma by that week’s castaway somehow knew that this aria would be perfect; particularly with its climatic words of vincero (“I will win”) resounding three times. The recording chosen was that by Luciano Pavarotti with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta taken from the complete recording of Puccini’s Turandot featuring Dame Joan Sutherland in the title role.  

You may not remember who won the World Cup in 1990, but everyone who watched remembers Nessun dorma! 

Are there any operatic pieces that people will know from film soundtracks? 

For film buffs there are two pieces that made their mark on cinema audiences; firstly the wonderful Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, chosen for the opening scene of Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull starring Robert De Niro. The other is the beautiful soprano aria O mio babbino caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi that featured in the Merchant Ivory classic, A Room with a View starring Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench and Helena Bonham Carter. 

Tell us about the soloists featured. 

We have two brilliant young soloists at the start of their careers personally studying with the great Dennis O’Neill at the Wales International Academy of Voice – soprano Rachael Marsh and tenor Andrew Rawlings. These are young, exciting voices that are going to thrill our audience on Friday 20 March, and it’s a privilege to perform with them. 

For anyone contemplating whether a night of music from opera is for them, what would you say to entice them to Opera Spectacular? 

There is no substitute for seeing a full opera in the theatre, but our concert offers a taster for anyone who might want to dip their toes in the operatic waters. And we hope having heard music from operas such as Carmen, La bohème, Aida, La traviata, Fidelio and more that many will want to go and see a full production of these great works.


 Orchestral sections include:


 Carmen Suite


 Grand March from Aida


 Orpheus in the Underworld Overture


 Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana


 Tannhauser Overture


 Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah

 Arias include:


 La donna e mobile (Rigoletto)


 O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi)


 Song to the Moon (Rusalka)


 Final Scene Act I (La bohème)


 Als flotter Geist (The Gypsy Baron)


 Sempre libera (La traviata)


 Nessun dorma (Turandot)

Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra
Michael Bell MBEConductor

Rachael Marsh (Soprano) & Andrew Rawlings (Tenor)
from Dennis O’Neill CBE’s Wales International Academy of Voice 

Tickets are £8, £11, £13, £19 & £25
(plus an optional £1.50 postage fee). 

Concessions available. 

To book your seats, please visit CPO: Opera Spectacular events page
or call the Box Office on 02920 848444.

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