One the world’s finest young opera singers will be performing alongside an international cast on her home ground in Wrexham.
Soprano Rachel Marsh will be starring in two one-act operas at St Giles’ Church on Saturday, December 22, in a spectacular showcase for pupils of the North Wales Opera Studio.
She will be taking the lead role in Puccini’s Sour Angelica during an evening sponsored by the Pendine Park care organisation via their Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT).
It’s particularly appropriate because earlier this year Rachel was in the top three in the Pendine International Voice of the Future competition at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod which was also supported by PACT.
The second opera being performed on the night is another classic, Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, with soprano Zena O’May, of Queensferry, in the lead role of the peasant girl, Santuzza.
Rachel and Zena are both pupils of the North Wales Studio which is run by Anne Williams-King, from Penycae, who is a top soprano in her own right having performed at opera houses around Europe, Australia, Japan, and the United States and across South America.
Anne said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity for my students; these are two amazing one act operas. However, we couldn’t put this performance together without the support and sponsorship of Pendine Arts and Community Trust.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for two of my best students. They will be performing alongside soprano Millicent Setshedi who is coming over to Wales from South Africa specifically for the production as well as tenor Adam Margulies from Berlin and Norwegian mezzo soprano Maria Ejderos Sveinungsen. It’s going to be a truly international production.
“Sour Angelica is a really tragic tale of a young woman who is forced to live in a convent by her family after having an illegitimate child.
“She spends years waiting to hear news of her child only to find out he died of a fever. She concocts a poison potion to kill herself and, after taking it, remembers suicide is a sin so she won’t go to heaven to be with her child.
“However, she has a vision of the Virgin Mary with her child and realises her sin is forgiven. It’s a truly moving story and quite sad.”
She added: “Cavalleria Rusticana is a tale of love, rejection and revenge set in Sicily and is a wonderful one act opera. It will give Zena O’May a wonderful opportunity to show just what she can do.
“I’m looking forward to what will be a wonderful evening of music featuring some of my most talented students. The idea is to give both young and more mature singers the chance to perform and prove themselves.
“We will be working non-stop for a fortnight before the performance rehearsing and polishing the performance. We will be specifically working on language as both operas are sung in Italian and vocal performance.
“It’s very exciting to be working with such amazing international talent as well as our excellent local performers. And I’m delighted to have Marco Belluzzi from Bologna, in Italy as our accompanist.”
Rachel, 26, said: “It’s been an exciting year. This will be my first lead role and I’m very excited.
“Sister Angelica is a wonderful and incredible role in what is a very touching and tragic story.
“I’m also looking forward to meeting and singing with some incredible international talent. I have a real burning desire to succeed in opera. This will be the perfect start to Christmas!”
Zena O’May, 55, said “I sang in the chorus of the English National Opera as a mezzo soprano. However, my voice has changed a little and I’m busy learning the soprano repertoire under Anne’s expert guidance.”
She added: “I’m so looking forward to the opera event at St Giles Church, it’s going to be amazing especially as there is a real international cast.
“I’ve just performed at St James, Piccadilly where I performed Elgar’s Sea Pictures alongside my accompanist, Marco Belluzzi who will also be playing at the St Giles concert.
“It’s an exciting opportunity, I have always dreamed of playing a lead operatic role and this is a wonderful chance for me to really shine and show what I can do.”
Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft says the operatic event at St Giles is a perfect illustration of why he and his wife, Gill, set up the Pendine Arts and Community Trust.
He said: “Music and the arts in general play an important role in the care we provide for our residents and all our staff receive bespoke training in how to enrich our residents’ lives with the arts.
“I have no doubt that this will be a wonderful evening of high-quality opera and I’m sure opera lovers across North Wales will be keen to support the event. I know Gill and I are very much looking forward to what will be an amazing evening.”
Soprano Rachel Marsh
Professional opera singer and tutor Anne Williams-King