Bryn Terfel: Why Wales became the ‘land of song’

The documentary joins Terfel as he goes through his repertoire for a week in March: as well as the Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House, he sings the title role in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool; then travels to a studio near Cardiff in Wales, to record an album of sea shanties – the likes of Drunken Sailor, and traditional folk songs like Fflat Huw Puw, “about a sailor and his wonderful ship”.

It’s a voice that continues to thrill audiences, whether in lead roles such as Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House; or Tosca by Puccini at Paris Opera Bastille; or Verdi’s Falstaff, at Grange Park Opera, Surrey. As well as big opera houses, he performs for new audiences in concert halls too. Gillian Moore is artistic director of the South Bank Centre, where in recent months he sang extracts from two of Wagner’s great roles: “The fact he’s passing that on to young singers makes total sense… When he’s on stage, you cannot take your eyes off him.”

Returning to that question of why the Welsh love to sing, Wyn Griffith suggests it’s about an irrepressible spirit – and it’s simply in the blood: “Whether they meet in tens or in thousands, in a small country chapel or in a vast assembly… they sing freely… It is not necessary to organise singing in Wales: it happens on its own.”

Take me to the Opera: Peak Performance is on BBC News Channel and BBC World News on 10 June at 13.30 and also on BBC Reel

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