The Merchant of Venice
Presented in English
The UK Premiere of pianist and composer André Tchaikowsky's opera based on Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. The opera is a potent attack on prejudice, a deeply personal response to Tchaikowsky's experiences as a child in the Warsaw Ghetto, that was unperformed for three decades before David Pountney commissioned performances at the Bregenz Festival in Austria. The Welsh National Opera production was part of the Welsh National Opera's autumn Shakespeare400 Season. WNO Artistic Director Pountney said “It's a marvellous opportunity for us to bring together enormously varied works which Shakespeare’s works have inspired.”
Welsh National Opera / Opera Cenedlaethol Cymru
By André Tchaikowsky
Conductor: Lionel Friend
Director: Keith Warner
Designer: Ashley Martin-Davis
Lighting Designer: Davy Cunningham
Movement Director: Michael Barry
Associate Director: Amy Lane
Staff Director: Jack Furness
Shylock: Lester Lynch
Antonio: Martin Wölfel
Lorenzo: Bruce Sledge
The Duke of Venice: Miklós Sebestyén
Bassanio: Mark Le Brocq
Solanio: Gary Griffiths
Salerio: Simon Thorpe
Gratiano: David Stout
Jessica: Lauren Michelle
Portia: Sarah Castle
Nerissa: Verena Gunz
Prince of Aragon/Freud: Juliusz Kubiak
Prince of Morocco: Wade Lewin
A Boy: Fiona Harrison-Wolfe
Woman one: Amanda Baldwin
Woman two: Helen Jarmany
September 16 and 30, 2016 (then on tour), Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Wales.
November 22, 2016. Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Wales.
The production will make its London debut at the Royal Opera House (July 19-20, 2017).
Funding and Sponsorship:
A co-production of the Bregenzer Festspiele, Austria, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Polska Music programme & Teatr Wielki, Warsaw. Supported by the Getty Family as part of British Firsts.
Independent review (5 stars): "Escaping from the Warsaw Ghetto as a child hardly signalled an end to trauma for the brilliant but troubled pianist-composer André Tchaikowsky. His single opera, based on his beloved Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, raises a powerful voice against the prejudice he suffered as an openly homosexual Jew, yet shows an acute, subtle awareness of the play’s moral ambivalence." "Exploring justice, racism and love with ribald wit as well as wisdom, it’s not a flawless work but significant and deeply moving: a must see." http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/reviews/the-merchant-of-venice-wales-millennium-centre-cardiff-review-significant-and-deeply-moving-a-must-a7316886.html
Telegraph review (4 stars): "Without doubt, it is an accomplished and substantial work. Unusually among operatic versions of Shakespeare, it follows the play closely, deftly cutting the original text (and mercifully eliminating Launcelot Gobbo). The stylistic idiom is profoundly influenced by Berg’s Wozzeck and Lulu, though the effect is not atonal: the harmonies are bittersweet and the vocal writing is fluently graceful." "much more than a relic or curiosity." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opera/what-to-see/merchant-of-venice-welsh-national-opera-review/
Guardian review (3 stars): "André Tchaikowsky’s lifestory is almost worthy of opera, the end necessarily tragic. So it’s perhaps not surprising that, in his hands, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice should emerge as more tragedy than comedy, with Tchaikowsky painting something of himself – depressive, gay and Jewish – into the characters of both merchant Antonio, manifestly in love with Bassanio, and the money-lending Shylock." "Ultimately, this Merchant of Venice is neither operatic gold nor base lead; nevertheless, for its discomfiting reminder that such prejudice is not history, it’s a staging which should be seen." https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/19/the-merchant-of-venice-review-welsh-national-opera-tchaikowsky
Spectator review: "Alas, poor André Tchaikowsky. A survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, with an assumed name that probably did his musical career as much harm as good (he was born Robert Andrzej Krauthammer), he died of cancer in 1982 shortly after his only opera, The Merchant of Venice, was rejected by ENO. He’s remembered today principally for bequeathing his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company for use as a prop, in which capacity he starred alongside David Tennant in Hamlet in 2008." "a near-ideal première: one that lets the work tell its story, and leaves you wanting to see it again. Astonishingly, this is WNO’s third main-stage première this year, reaffirming its reputation — under David Pountney’s leadership — as the boldest of our national opera companies."
The Times review (4 stars): "Everyone is viciously intolerant of everyone else in The Merchant of Venice. So it’s easy to see why André Tchaikowsky, a Shakespeare fanatic, wanted to turn it into opera. Tchaikowsky... had been smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto as a child. His mother was killed in Treblinka. And as a homosexual young Jew in Soviet Poland he must have felt doubly persecuted. You feel this intensity, this identification, these psyche-warping traumas, in every note of his only opera. And there are many notes!" "a superbly prepared British premiere by Welsh National Opera."
The Sunday Times review: "The production is, frankly, a dud" http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/opera-review-andre-tchaikowskys-merchant-of-venice-d72jb3cwp