Opera’r Ddraig: ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ Preview

Cardiff University Music student and chorus member in ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ Amelie Denise Irene gives Quench Culture a behind-the-scenes insight into what the production is all about.

Thought the opera was something for the caviar eating, champagne drinking types? Well, think again. Opera’r Ddraig takes these misconceptions about opera to bring audiences something unique and exciting. The youth-led company aims to provide a platform to shape and educate young talent, particularly for those young people looking for a career in opera. The latest offering from Opera’r Ddraig is Orpheus in the Underworld, a modern take on the Greek tale – expect a combination of politics, music and comedy, all topped off with some cancan in this wacky fun-filled production. Amelie Denise Irene gives Quench Culture a behind the scenes  preview….


Having finally embarked on the final year of my BMus degree at Cardiff University, my musical life seemed pretty complete with the exception of one thing… I’d never been in an opera. BBC National Chorus of Wales had provided me with some thrilling concert experiences, as did many other choirs, but the dramatic and theatrical aspect of opera was one that I was yet to experience from the stage.

I took every opportunity to see Welsh National Opera dress rehearsal performances, so when Opera’r Ddraig performed Handel’s Acis and Galatea and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas last year, I jumped at the chance to get an insight into the company. Fast forward six months and I found myself successfully auditioning. And here the story begins. In February, Opera’r Ddraig’s production of Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach will grace the stage at the Coal Exchange in the Bay from the 12th to the 15th. Complete with can-can (yep, we will be attempting to make this look effortless and graceful), elaborate costumes and scandalous plot lines, this promises to be both an aural and visual spectacle.

Winners of the 2010 Wales Future Entrepreneur Award, this year’s production promises to be bigger and better than ever. Sung in English, the libretto describes the plight of Orpheus as he embarks on his quest to save his heroic wife, Eurydice, from the underworld. His ‘laddish’ tendencies, however, land him in a spot of bother with Eurydice, who yearns for a divorce and a life with the charismatic lad-next-door. Public Opinion, ‘Queen of the Tabloids’, advises Orpheus to resolve his marital issues and so follows a tale of persistence, betrayal and humour. Will Orpheus manage to reclaim his wife from the pitfalls of hell?

Described as a ‘before-its time panto’, the librettist Snoo Wilson (who became famous for his play ‘Blowjob’ in the 1970s) provides a text packed with jokes, truth and poignancy. Watch out for the overwhelming amount of gags. The cast, consisting predominantly of singers/alumni from both Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Cardiff University, will be accompanied by the Opera’r Ddraig Orchestra and conducted by Calum Fraser. Director Imogen Tedbury’s quirky and alternative take on this popular tale will no doubt entertain. Tickets are available from or alternatively on 08448700887. They are just £6 for students, so if you fancy a fun introduction to opera with whole-hearted singing, drama and dancing, please show your support and enjoy the spectacle.

Amelie Denise Irene

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