A GALA night to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Mid Wales Opera (MWO) performances at The Hafren, Newtown, will be staged at the theatre next Friday, February 22.

'Ignite The Passion' will see Mid Wales Opera joined by special guests who have worked with the company through its history – as well as future stars of the international opera stage - for an evening of passion, drama and comedy from the operatic canon.

“Our guest performer for the evening is the Russian soprano Galina Averina, who sang the role of Pamina for MMO in their 2017 production of Mozart’s 'The Magic Flute'.

“We’re also delighted to be joined by Stephen Medcalf who directed many of MWO’s early productions as well as Emily Gottlieb who worked back stage with us and now runs the National Opera Studio,” said executive director Lydia Bassett.

The Wales International Academy of Voice (WIAV) performers taking part come from all over the world with Norwegian lyric tenor Stian Økland, Turkish Mezzo Dilan Saka, and Australian-British Soprano Stephanie Lloyd.

MWO and WIAV join forces for this sparkling evening of operatic highlights in a concert performance starting at 8pm, with tickets costing £10 for adults or £8 for students from the Hafren box office on 01686 614555.

Friday’s gala is also a curtain raiser for MWO’s spring tour of Puccini’s 'Tosca' which opens at The Hafren the following night (Saturday, February 23).

This brand new production featuring some of Puccini’s most memorable and dramatic moments, will be accompanied by the Ensemble Cymru orchestra and stars Elin Pritchard in the title role.

The tour will go through to March 2,7 with dates at Llanelli, Aberystwyth, Brecon, Bangor, Hereford, Milford Haven, Mold and Newport.

It may not look a day over 21, but Mid Wales Opera now has an impressive 30 years of producing professional shows in Mid Wales with its vital work in supporting young artists since the first performances in 1989.

The Hafren in Newtown has hosted the opening of their shows since 1989 and is a fitting choice for Friday’s celebration.

MWO started life at Meifod in 1988 with a group of 12 singers who met for two weekends of concentrated opera coaching, involving music, stagecraft and movement classes, culminating in a piano-accompanied performance of operatic scenes in the newly built Meifod Community Centre.

The company was started by Keith Darlington and Barbara McGuire and the next year their performances moved to Hafren which has been their home ever since.

Keith recalls: “The first production at Hafren was Mozart’s 'The Magic Flute' with a full Welsh cast and chorus, drawn from the local community and students from the national music colleges, and led by director Ian Watt-Smith and conductor Derek Clarke; it played alongside Bizet’s 'Carmen' with a student cast, all of whom attended a course similar to that of the previous year.

“Stephen Medcalf directed the first of his many memorable productions with the company, with his regular designer, Charles Edwards. An Orchestral Summer Course for students from the Birmingham Conservatoire accompanied both operas, coached by WNO players."

MWO’s first 'Tosca' was performed in 1990, and as Mr Darlington recalls: “It included one of MWO’s most memorable moments in the 'Te Deum' at the end of Act One. The principals sang fortissimo on stage; the chorus slowly descended through the audience, singing lustily and waving incense; an off-stage organ was relayed to the rafters of the theatre; and finally the Newtown Silver Band burst out from underneath the seating in the auditorium. Truly spectacular!”

Nicholas Cleobury took up the reins as artistic director on Keith’s retirement in 2009, and was replaced in 2016 when he left to lead the opera course at Queensland Conservatorium by the current artistic team of Jonathan Lyness as music director and Richard Studer as artistic director.

MWO now tours twice a year, with their innovative new SmallStages tour each autumn taking fully staged live opera to the heart of communities and performed in a mix of village halls, small theatres and even churches across Wales and the Borders. Their tour of 'A Spanish Hour', Ravel’s 'L’heure espagnole', opened in Theatr Llwyn, Llanfyllin and achieved four-star reviews and sold out shows across its 16 venue tour last autumn.

But MWO’s mainstage productions have always been opened at Hafren in Newtown and the theatre’s manager Sara Clutton said: “We’re so proud of our relationship with MWO, it’s a producing partnership which is truly rooted in Mid Wales and Hafren’s been the company’s home from the start.

“There is always a real buzz about the building when MWO are here for a week rehearsing their shows before opening night, and a sense of event about hosting the first night of their tour. We can’t wait to see the brand-new production of 'Tosca' and to celebrate 30 years of our working together at the Gala on February 22.”