(Click here for Reviews for Castradiva)

(Click here for Reviews for A Knife at the Opera)

Dardano in Handel's Amadigi for Opera Theatre Company
c. Seamus Crimmins

Irish Times, May 6 1996
"Ms. James uses her vibrant mezzo to good effect, particularly in her last lament." John Allen.

Sunday Times, May 12 1996
"and some wonderfully expressive singing from Buddug Verona James." Hugh Canning.

Sunday Independent, Ireland, May 26 1996
"Welsh mezzo Buddug Verona James whose voice and temperament seem ideal for baroque opera." Gus Smith.

Evening Standard, May 30 1996
"She casts a desperate lovelorn shadow as the unrequited Dardano." Alexander Waugh.

The Times, May 31 1996
"Dardano gets just about the loveliest aria in the opera, a lament with bassoon and oboe obbligato of piercing beauty, well sung by the bronze- toned Buddug Verona James." Rodney Milnes.

The Independent, May 31 1996
"As Dardano, Ms. James displays a unique, bleached-white chest register that is hugely effective." Nick Kimberley.

The Observer, June 2 1996
"She sang Dardanus with fluent, near masculine tones." Andrew Porter.

The Guardian, June 3 1996
"Dardano's noble last aria especially, beautifully done here by the mezzo Buddug Verona James is a real showstopper." Andrew Clements.

City Life, Manchester, July 29 1996
"James has the most consistently pleasing voice, dark, firm and ideal for the role." Geoff Thomason.

The Sunday Telegraph, July 1996
"The mezzo Buddug Verona James was an ardent Dardano." Michael Kennedy.

The Daily Post, New York, March 13 1997
"James sang Dardano's soliloquy of lamentation with a deep, winey alto, transforming self-pity into genuine sorrow." Justin Davidson.

The New York Times,March 13 1997
"Dardano, as sung by the splendid Buddug Verona ames is a decisive performer, and her quick wide vibrato gives a metallic gleam to her rounded tone: she sounds like a Brancusi." Paul Griffiths.

The New York Post, March 14 1997
Buddug Verona James' imitation of a man was so convincing that the reviewer described her as 'the other counter tenor'. Shirley Fleming.

The Daily News, Portugal, April 23 1997
"The bronze-toned Buddug Verona James' portrayal of Dardano - her physical appearance and gestures transformed her into the most convincing travesty role I have ever seen. Dardano's magnificent last aria was a jewel most precious of all." Fatima Medeiros.

Reviews for Trespass and Affection with the Siobhan Davies Dance Company (Handel Arias arranged by Gerald Barry).

The Guardian, October 31 1996
"Ms. James, who sings the Handel arias from a high platform, is a compellingly dramatic figure, moving between challenging combativeness and soft emotion. She's so compelling in fact that she overshadows the dancers". Judith Mackrell.

Daily Telegraph, October 31 1996
"Affections echoes the image of Trespass with a mezzo- soprano (outstanding Buddug Verona James) on high, singing of love." Ismene Brown.

Financial Times, October 31 1996
"The tremendous Buddug Verona James' singing is ravishing - every demand of the music met with dazzling command; the tone gloriously sustained - and no less so her presence: dressed like the dancers, she seems to set an emotional mood (that of the music too) which spreads through the dance." Clement Crisp.

The Times, October 31 1996
"Affections sung feistily by the mezzo Buddug Verona James". Debra Craine.

The Independent, October 31 1996
"Handel arias sung by the glorious mezzo Buddug Verona James". Louis Levene.

Independent on Sunday, November 3 1996
"From a high metal platform the singer directs her sumptuous mezzo to the dancers below, who seem to enter the very substance of the sound." Jenny Gilbert.

Recital at Dublin Castle

The Irish Times, February 26 1996
"OTC's Winter Song Series presented the gifted Buddug Verona James. I say gifted because she sang in no less than eight languages - Italian, French, German, Spanish, English, Welsh, Irish and Scots - and in as many musical styles. She also showed and ability to move into the world of folk song which is rare in a classically-trained singer. Even a Spaniard would find it hard to equal the plangent intensity of her singing de Falla's Siete Canciones Populares and in James MacMillan's setting of a Ballad one could hear all the inflections of a traditional Scottish singer.She was delightfully German in Schubert and Schumann and spiritedly French in Satie's Trois Melodies, so it was no surprise that she was able to deal confidently with the fantastic obliquity's of Gerald Barry's Water Parted, six songs extricated from his opera The Intelligence Park".

Gluck's Orfeo for Opera Atelier
c. Stephen Barlow

The Toronto Star, October 31 1997
"It was a musically fine performance, with a real discovery, the debuting young Welsh mezzo-soprano as an extremely credible Orpheus, full of dramatic and vocal authority".

The Globe and Mail, October 31 1997
"Buddug Verona James sang Orfeo's great lament very effectively, she has a rich naturally melancholy timbre".

The Toronto Sun, October 31 1997
"The role of Orfeo, is sung - and beautifully - by Buddug Verona James".

The Wall Street Journal, November 11 1997
"The Welsh mezzo was a touching Orfeo.Her strength is in her middle voice....musicality and style. In the famous Act III lament "What is life to me without you?" she drew listeners to her through subtlety rather than extroversion. She also worked hard to carry off the 18th century-style emotive gestures".

Gluck's Orfeo at Cleveland Opera
c. David Fallis

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 8 1998
"Ms. James depicts a bold-harrowing Orfeo whose regal gestures are true and touching. There are luminous moments where her poignancy is gripping and fiery ones in which her coloratura is vivid".

Cherubino in Tokyo
c. Andrew Parrott

Tokyo Shimbun, March 18 1998
"Among touches I thought especially convincing were the way Ms James added extra flourishes to her famous arietta, purposely losing the beat in the song (making the audience's heart lose a beat)".

The Globe and Mail, October 24 1998
"Spunky mezzo Buddug Verona James as bed-hopping page offers diamond-hard tones and technically assured coloratura".

A recital of Spanish Songs by Granados, Falla, Lorca and Rodrigo accompanied by Raymond Calcraft

The Tivyside, Wales, February 3 1999
"A 'recital' in the context of this evening's concert is too cold, too stiff and formal to describe the free and thrilling flow of passion and emotional intensity released by these dedicated and distinguished astists. Buddug Verona James drawing on her background in the world of opera and theatre exploited the dramatic variants to the full in this tour de force of 13 songs. It was not only her attractive voice range and her acting talent which made the performance exciting and powerful but her seemingly spontaneous grasp on that elusive quality the Spanish call 'deep song' which Lorca himself was thrilled to find in the Negro Spiritual when he visited the USA. Raymond Calcraft's subtle accompaniment allowed full rein to the singer's intensity, underlying every nuance and emotion".

World Premiere of Tobias and the Angel by Jonathan Dove for the Almeida Festival
c.David Parry

The Evening Standard. July 10 1999
"Buddug Verona James' penetratingly obsessive low notes as Tobias' wife Anna stay in one's memory". Tom Sutcliffe.

Buddug Verona James was striking and forceful in the smallish part of Anna, Tobit's wife. H.E.Elsom

Four Note Opera for Opera Theatre Company

Opera Magazine
"...Buddug Verona James' powerful mezzo .....performed with total commitment and great vocal and comic skill".

Dejanira in Handel's Hercules at Haddo Hall, Aberdeen
c.Ben Parry

The Herald, April 7 2000
"As Dejanira, the Welsh mezzo-soprano, Buddug Verona James gave a performance of seething intensity, her vocal gymnastics setting Handel's arias aflame".

The Press and Journal, April 7 2000
"Buddug Verona James as Dejanira has a voice that sets Handel's music alight with the acrobatics of her singing".

Gerald Barry's Water Parted in the Composer's Ensemble Portrait at the Aldeburgh Festival

The Spectator, June 24, 2000
Only the scena from his surreal opera The Intelligence Park (fascinatingly sung by Buddug Verona James) occupied middle spaced, tinglingly intense. Robin Holloway.

The Times, June 23, 2000
"Buddug Verona James used her dark metallic mezzo to deliver an appropriately clostrophobic account of Water Parted". John Allison

The Observer, June 25, 2000
"A highlight was 'Water Parted', a poignant microcosm of Barry's Opera The Intelligence Park, sung by the mezzo-soprano Buddug Verona James, smoky-voiced and striking". Fiona Maddocks.

Presteigne Festival.
A Recital of Spanish Songs by Rodrigo, Lorca and Montsalvatge, and Book of Hours by David Matthews - accompanied by Gretel Dowdeswell.

Birmingham Post, August 30, 2000
The remarkable mezzo soprano Buddug Verona James and excellent pianist Gretel Dowdeswell gave a charming recital of Spanish songs. Of particular interest were folksong arrangements by Lorca, the legendary poet and dramatist who always regarded himself primarily as a musician. Full of authentic flavour, and wonderfully characterised by facial expressions and gestures, these were terrific. James even played the castanets in one song; in others you wondered if she would dance as well. In a more sophisticated vein, Xavier Montsalvatge's Cinco Canciones Negras offered this admirable performer even greater dramatic opportunities, encompassing subjects from lullaby to seduction, murder and, inevitably, dancing.
James's distinctive tone, which has a very fast vibrato, sounded as bright and hard as a diamond. David Hart.

Rossini's Petite Messe Solenelle with the Tonbridge Philharmonic Society.

K&S Courier, November 23, 2001
..."However, it was Buddug Verona James's focused mezzo-soprano that revealed and unexpected intensity of fervour in the final Agnus Dei. Here the more profound and dramatic aspects of Rossini's Petite Messe were revealed to the full. The Tonbridge Philharmonic Society does well to choose artists of such quality". Charles Vignoles.

Ravel's Deux Melodies Hebraiques at the Spitalfields Festival accompanied by Martin Cousin.

Church Times, July, 2002
"Buddug Verona James caught the moods of Ravel's Deux Melodies Hebraiques, impassioned and whimsical". Richard Lawrence.

Verdi Requiem at Wells Cathedral
c. Malcolm Archer

Wells Journal, May 2003
"It is perhaps invidious to single anyone out for special praise but, in a fine group of soloists, I was taken most by Ms.James, a lovely mezzo in her middle and lower voice" Cyril Pryor.

The Contralto in The Four Note Opera for Opera Theatre Company, Dublin Premiere at the Pavilion, Dun Laoghaire.

Irish times, June 15 2004
"Rich-toned delivery and delicious over-articulation of the words". John Allen.

The Four Note Opera at the Buxton Festival.

The Stage, July 21 2004
"Buddug Verona James' bracing Contralto". David Blewitt.

Mr Gainsborough in Bath at the Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford.
This concert traced the life and musical tastes of a genial and entertaining amateur musician, through pictures, reminiscences, letters, diary entries and the music of (among others): Thomas Chilcot of Bath, Thomas Jackson of Exeter, JC Bach, Karl Friedrich Abel, Thomas Linley and WA Mozart.

Munster Times, Waterford, Ireland, July 8 2005
"On Saturday, 2nd July, Garter Lane Arts Centre served up another of Caroline Senior's special treats, the wonderful and dynamic mezzo soprano, Buddug Verona James.Mr Gainsborough in Bath - in words and music, gave the audience a Strawberry and Cream feeling of Gainsborough (a contemporary of Sir Joshua Reynolds), one of the most famous portrait painters of the 18th century. A wonderful feature of the dual narrated evening was an introduction to the English music of Thomas Chilcot, Joseph Gibbs, William Jackson and the tragic Thomas Linley Junior (who drowned in a lake, aged 22). Joining Buddug were three fine baroque musicians, Andrew Wilson-Dickson (harpsichord), Marianna Szucs (baroque violin) and Kate Ayres (baroque cello). Both James and Wilson-Dickson shared the narration and provided a magical musical interlude. Wilson-Dickson delighted on a Mozart Minuet and James was sublime in 'Frena le belle lagrime' by Abel, and her two Mozart solos were awesome. This was an evening of sheer pleasure".

Gower Festival, Penclawdd School.
A Celebration of Cultures, Celtic and Beyond accompanied by Andrew Wilson-Dickson.

Evening Post, July 23 2005
"Buddug Verona James is a wonderfully versatile singer (from Baroque opera to jazz). In a programme called A Celebration of Cultures as part of the Gower Festival, she presented and enterprisingly chosen sequence of folk songs, set by composers ranging from Haydn to contemporaries such as James Macmillan. She sang convincingly in at least half a dozen languages and she has the good recitalist's gift of creating a convincing character very quickly, helped by her expressive face and gestures. Her voice is particularly powerful in its lower registers and Ravel's Kaddish was especially memorable. Andrew Wilson-Dickson's accompaniment was as impeccable as one would expect, and a particular delight came in a newly commissioned piece from him, excellently performed by choir and instrumentalists (including sweeping brush!) from Penclawdd Primary School". GP

Lane gallery, Dublin
A Celebration of Cultures

Irish Times, June 12 2007
Welsh mezzo-soprano and polyglot Buddug Verona James traversed 10 languages during her delightful one-hour sampling of folk songs arranged by classical and contemporary composers.

She began in her native tongue, including a delicate, almost baroque-style aria setting of David of the White Rock by Haydn, one of 60 he did for Scottish publisher George Thomson. Also in Welsh was the first of three fishing-themed songs, Tidy my bed, in a cold, affecting arrangement by Pwyll ap Sion, in which a lad lies that he was out fishing when in fact he was being rejected by his love. James MacMillan creates a strong sense of a northern lake's tranquillity and depth in his programmatic setting of Ballad which James gave in Scots. The last fishing song - the jolly O the bonny fisher-lad - was one of two settings by Phyllis Tate (1911-1987) who had been a neighbour of James'
Guildhall singing teacher Noelle Barker.

The second song, and the best of three Irish songs on the programme, was Tate's haunting arrangement of The Lake of Coolfin, never published and only in James' repertoire because Tate popped in one day to run it by Barker.

Moving beyond Britain and Ireland, James sang the unaccompanied Gwenchlan's prophecy from Brittany, settings of Italian and German songs by Donizetti and Brahms, respectively, and Spanish ones by Lorca and de Falla. Her voice has a clear, intimate quality which she adapted - without compromising its distinctiveness - according to content, this aided by subtle hints of her skills from the operatic stage. In this way, James made every song in every style her own.

Pianist Dearbhla Collins could afford no such liberties, gamely and persuasively swinging between styles as varied as a sonata-like introduction in Haydn to the "celtic twilight" of Herbert Hughes to Ravel in dark, middle-eastern mood in his Hebrew setting Kaddish, to the orchestral resonance she conjured in the well-known La Delaissado from Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne. Michael Dungan

World Premiere of Bridgetowerjazz opera by Julian Joseph
(English Touring Opera/City of London Festival co-production)

Jazzwise Magazine, September 2007
“Buddug Verona James and Jacqui Dankworth were outstanding” Kevin Le Gendre

Britsh Theatre Guide, October 2007
Buddug Verona James gives feeling to Mrs Fitzherbert and finds a different vocal character for the floridly dressed Lady Holland.

Shefield Telegraph, 23 November 2007
Buddug Verona James, as Mrs Fitzherbert and Lady Holland, sang beautifully to portray a woman who sympathises with Bridgetower but is dominated by her
royal master. Julia Armstrong

Wild Women
Vivaldi and Handel arias with the Welsh Baroque Orchestra at Rhosygilwen
Tivyside, 13 November 2007

Acclaimed mezzo soprano Buddug Verona James, the music of Vivaldi and Handel and the elegant settings of Rhos-y-Gilwen - what else would you need on Cardigan fair night? Saturday night might have meant candyfloss and roundabouts in Cardigan, but a few miles down the road the audience were treated to a rollercoaster ride of beautiful baroque music. Wild women was the theme with Buddug taking on the roles of heroic Judith and jealous Dejanira in dramatic arias by Vivaldi and Handel. As always, Buddug sang with energy and verve, mesmerising the audience and making the most of the fantastic acoustics of Rhos-y-Gilwen's great oak hall. The Welsh Baroque Orchestra, directed by Andrew Wilson-Dickson, gave a period performance of distinction. The orchestra was formed 15 years ago to meet the need for a Wales-based live listening opportinity for music of the more distant past. The instruments, ranging from cellos and double bass to violins and violas, were authentic in every detail right down to the "organic sheep gut" for strings. At the centre of this baroque feast was the sublime sound of the harpsichord, played by Andrew Wilson-Dickson.The music was superb, from the reverberating notes of the cello, to the frisky pluckings of the mandoline. SL

The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca for Theatr Pena at the Riverfront Theatre, Newport
6 February 2009

High in a gantry above the stage the production is introduced by stirring Flamenco guitar playing from the ubiquitous Paula Gardiner, the perfect accompaniment for the extraordinary, commanding, singing voice of Buddug Verona James. Michael Kelligan

From the outset the conflicts between self and society are apparent. As Holly Mcarthy's prim and bleakly symmetrical set jars subtly with the passions running underneath the music of Paula Gardiner and Buddug Verona James- all tragedy, heatstroke, and menace. Chris Paul

6 February 2009
A simple but perfect set provided an electrifying opening as Buddug Verona James’ operatic voice and Paula Gardiner’s virtuoso guitar made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. David Adams

The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio by Peter Doran and James Williams at the Torch Theatre director Peter Doran
The Tenby Observer
11 December 2009

‘Acclaimed mezzo soprano, Buddug Verona James certainly puts her impressive vocals to use as the Blue Fairy’

The Stage, 18 December 2009
‘the cast is helped by fine singing from Buddug Verona James as the blue fairy’
Fiona Phillips

The Western Mail, 28 December 2009
‘the mezzo soprano talents of Buddug Verona James launches the second act on a high’
Tim Barrett

Bizet’s Carmen directed by Buddug at Rhosygilwen Concert Hall
Performed by Buddug’s students, Sipho Fubesi, Cor Crymych, and Andrew Wilson-Dickson. Costumes Hannah Carey

http://www.theatre-wales.co.uk10 July 2011

“For rural opera, not bad, eh?” Glen Peters, novelist, entrepreneur, Chair of the Trust that governs the Arts Centre at Rhosygilwen, speaks with a twinkle in his eye and not a little touch of understatement. For the third act finale of this “Carmen”, set outside Seville’s bullring, producer-director Buddug Verona James has flooded her stage with a thirty-eight strong choir. With a full fifty on stage the sound is enough to lift the roof off. 

And a remarkable roof it is- a steep pitch thirty feet high on five pairs of hammer beams. With a row of skylights and two walls a series of French windows the first half of “Carmen” is played in natural light. After a ninety-minute interval the second half plays to the slow fading of the sunset and the gradual raising of the house lights. 

This “Carmen” has with it one of those tales to give producers nightmares. The week of performance a lead member of the cast is diagnosed with laryngitis. The word goes out. It reaches the Royal College of Northern Music and a young singer from South Africa hears the call. He is on the train to Carmarthen the day before he is to sing Don Jose before a sold-out house. 

Sipho Fubesi is great. It is not just the courage to be there, the big beautiful voice but the acting. His face alternates vividly between intensity of infatuation and sense of obligation to Shoshana Pavett’s Micaela. His acting goes from tenderness to despair. But then he turns his head too with a sharp flick of the neck. His Don Jose is not just a love-stricken swooner. He is a soldier too.

It is ten minutes before Carmen makes her entry. When she does she is a smouldering, mesmeric presence with a giant of a voice. Justina Gringyte is dressed in white. While singing “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” a white strap slides seductively off her shoulder. Ms Gringyte is from Lithuania and in North Pembrokeshire by way of the RWCMD. Lithuania is a country that knows what it is to live alongside a big neighbour. Singers are trained to move from language to language. The evening rounds off with “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” from cast and audience alike. Her singing is as full-blooded as any in the hall. That is a professional. 

Bizet’s score is carried, remarkably, by one musician. The piano of Andrew Wilson-Dickson issues such a torrent of notes that the listener forgets that it is a single instrument at work. The addition of a couple of tambourines gives the tavern scene its flavour of bacchanalian abandon. Sensuous flamenco dancing, with those small but sublime hand movements, is provided by Gwenith Evans’ Frasquita and Ilar Rees-Davies’ Mercedes. 

With the exception of Sipho Fubesi the cast are all pupils of the director. Rhys Griffiths and Dafydd Rees, both currently at Cardiff University, blow some fine trumpet. Don Escamillo, Iwan Davies, is still a student too. There is naturally acting development at his age to be done but the strutting Toreador song lacks nothing. To possess a voice already that can carry a duet with the force of nature that is Ms Gringyte says it all.

Presenting a show in summer is the spin of a coin. Two weekends ago Carmarthen’s Gwyl festival climaxed with a spectacular concert held in the garden at Aberglasney. The performers were stellar, the music resplendent and the audience drenched. For the Rhosygilwen organisers this second Saturday in July is an evening from heaven. A slowly sinking sun shines over the meadow around the venue with its clusters of diners and picnickers. 

“Carmen” is performed on a temporary stage, not much more than a foot high. The seating for the audience has no rake. When the singers too are seated they are lost to many viewers. The Trustees might consider a stage a metre higher. It would do wonders for the visual experience and do full justice to the work of the director and performers. 

There is an informality to this venue. It is primarily designed for music performance with no obvious back-stage space. The props are laid out visibly, and charmingly, on a table in the foyer area. The cast is stationed in an outbuilding right next to the audience milling in the courtyard. The director, strikingly recognisable, is just everywhere.

In the long interval seven urchins, the children in the cast, play in the grounds. “So, you are all pupils with Buddug Verona James?” I ask. As is often the case the most voluble is the youngest, here just seven years old. “She’s a very good teacher.” Is she strict? “No”- a pause for thought- “she’s nice.” Adam Somerset

"Poseidon in The Trojan Women by Euripides for Theatr Pena at the Riverfront Studios, director Erica Eirian


The action was watched throughout by two gods, Pallas Athene at the beginning then for most of the play, Poseidon, who agrees to make the Greeks’ return home as troublesome as possible. Poseidon sat at the side of the stage and contributed atmospheric operatic sounds. However, Buddug Verona James’ most telling contribution was the highly effective exit, walking away from the humans and leaving them to the mess they had created. The company rendered a poetic and tragic interpretation of an excellent script. Peter Owen Williams

Chanteuse in Jean Genet’s The Maids for Theatr Pena at the Riverfront Studios, director Erica Eirian


From the outset, with the bold and beautiful singing of Buddug Verona James accompanied by Joe Corbett on a whispering accordion causing the hairs on the back of the neck to tingle and with Saz Moir’s voluptuous setting we know that we are in a Paris from which much of the romance has been drained. Michael Kelligan

Buddug Verona James is a sultry chanteuse singing to Joe Corbett’s accordion, that instrument that makes music of an equal levity and elusive wistfulness. James’ worldliness and cropped hair modernity hair is in striking contrast to the Maids when they make their entrance. Adam Somerset

The continental tones of an accordion (played by Joe Corbett) enticed us into the theatre and continued intermittently throughout the play, complimented by the beautiful voice of Buddug Verona James to emphasise the characters actions and emotions. Amanda Griffiths

Buzz South Wales Culture, 16 June 2012

The atmosphere created by the accordion and mezzo soprano Buddug Verona James is haunting and highly emotional. Opening the play, Buddug’s beautiful voice captures the essence of the anger, despair and pain laid out by the cast. Rachel Williams

The Magic Flute directed by Buddug at Rhosygilwen Concert Hall performed by Buddug’s students and Andrew Wilson-Dickson. Costumes Hannah Carey

http://www.theatre-wales.co.uk July 2013

The Magic Flute Buddug Verona James Company , Rhosygilwen Arts Centre , July-12-13

Aaron Pryce-Lewis’ Sarastro wears a sacerdotal cap of geometrical cut and severity. From its brim unfurl strands and curls of blonde hair. It is a small detail in Buddug Verona James’ joyously convincing Rhosygilwen summer production, but one that stands out as an emblem for “the Magic Flute”. In plot it may be a harum-scarum blend of mythery, masonry and the odd monster, but there is a truth in its heart. Sensuousness without discipline is as hollow-centred as its converse, reverence without delight.

Hannah Carey’s inspired design concept has been to marry the 1791 creation of Mozart and Schikaneder to a world, of three generations later, of similar quest and fantasy. Lewis Carroll pervades this "Magic Flute.” Priests Dion Davies and Llyr Price become big-eyed and big-tummied Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Rhys Griffiths’character is permanently, flurriedly late in the style of Carroll’s rabbit.

Dafydd Wyn Rees’ Monostatos, a thin line of moustache to match his dagger, by contrast evokes a canvas by Watteau or Lancret. Hannah Carey has clothed the Queen of the Night (Gwenith Evans) and her Ladies (Sarah Maxted, Flora MacDonald, Ilar Rees-Davies- a wonderful trio) in cascades of hair and extravagant dress of dark inky blues.

The cast of twenty-one includes a bevy of elves of high charm and dignity, whose age reaches down to nine years old. Of the leads Peter Aisher, from the Royal College of Music, is a powerfully voiced Tamino. Tamino’s role as a character is mainly to embody purposeful nobility and virtue. The emotional range belongs to Papageno. Iwan Davies, now a familiar presence on the small opera stages of Wales, wears a deer-stalker cap, tweedy waistcoat, and breeches and leggings of a joyful exuberance. His effervescent character has a boyish charm but he moves into a realm that is truly forelorn when he bewails his wifelessness. “One would be enough/ Life wouldn’t be so tough.”

The English of the libretto ranges from Sarastro’s magisterial words on grace and forgiveness to perky, colloquial exchanges of “crikey” and “blimey.” The emotional highpoints include the ensemble, that closes the first act, and Eleri Gwilym’s beautifully rendered arias of fleeting joy and love being dashed.

Andrew Wilson-Dickson returns again to carry the entire score on piano. Sarah Maxted provides flute. Acknowledgements for the production include, among others, Ysgol Y Preseli and Dewi James a’i Gwmni.

There can be no venue in Wales as aptly named as Rhosygilwen’s Neuadd y Dderwen. Hannah Carey’s design reaches beyond the stage to draw attention to the hall’s five sets of great hammer beams. Alarm clocks, keys, whistles and scraps of print dangle intriguingly above the heads of the audience.

The first night for “the Magic Flute" is the kind of evening that Buddug Verona James and producer-impressario Glen Peters could only have dreamed of. The audience is present an hour before the show in the courtyard where an accordionist plays. The Hall has windows along both sides so that the performance opens in natural light and then gradually Phil Thorogood’s lighting rises to compensate for the falling of night. The air is warm enough so that even at eleven at night the hall’s great oak windows can be left open.

“The Magic Flute” is evidence that the youth of a cast is of no import when two other factors are present. The first is dedication. The casting is done in December to allow for early absorption in the roles. The work continues at Easter. The second factor is directorial unity and a concept of utter conviction. Adam Somerset

Troubaritz in The Royal Bed by Saunders Lewis translated by Sion Eirian forTheatr Pena at the Riverfront Studios, director Erica Eirian

http://www.theatre-wales.co.uk, 20 February 2015

Buddug Verona James, a company founder member, has done interesting things with music in the company's former productions and her role here as Musical Director is crucial.

The opening music- Mike Beer on sound design- is a low repeated refrain with a tolling note at five second intervals. James sings, in accompaniment to Delyth Jenkins' harp, four French medieval troubadour songs between the acts of Lewis’ drama. These work greatly in the favour of the production.

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