Only Boys Aloud and 2117 / Hedd Wyn


On 5 August, 2117 / Hedd Wyn will be released on Tŷ Cerdd Records in partnership with Welsh National Opera. The piece was commissioned by WNO and features WNO Orchestra as well as a cast of young soloists, members of WNO Youth Opera and Only Boys Aloud.

Article released by Welsh National Opera and Tŷ Cerdd 22/07/22.

The three-act, Welsh-language work is the artistic brainchild of an unlikely but well-matched duo: ‘classical’ composer Stephen McNeff and Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys. Together the two have forged a music-theatre piece set 200 years after the death of iconic Welsh bard ‘Hedd Wyn’ (the nom de plume of Ellis Evans: killed in the World War I trenches and posthumously awarded the Chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod).

In the intervening years, a nuclear disaster at the Trawsfynydd power station has displaced communities. An intense dose of radiation has blurred the distinction between past, present and future, and the Welsh language faces extinction. The enthralling drama instils a dystopian future with Welsh mythology and Hedd Wyn’s own verse.

2117 / Hedd Wyn was originally commissioned for cinematic distribution followed by TV broadcast, and the audio was recorded in 2017 with McNeff conducting. Plans for the film were put on hold and the recordings have slept on hard-drives until this release.

The release will be launched with an event on the #Encore stage at the National Eisteddfod on Friday 5 August at 3pm, where Gruff will be interviewed by Sioned Webb, and soprano Ellen Williams, baritone Dafydd Allen and répétiteur Rhiannon Pritchard will perform excerpts from the work.

Composer Stephen McNeff said: “The release of 2117 / Hedd Wyn is a milestone in the development of this opera, a project I have wanted to fulfil for over ten years. Working with Welsh National Opera – a company I grew up with and watched since my earliest interest in opera began – has been an ideal outcome, as has collaborating with such a range of unique and diverse creative talents and the cream of young Welsh singers.”

Gruff Rhys said: “It was an adventure and an education getting to work with Stephen McNeff on creating the libretto for 2117 / Hedd Wyn. His skill and enthusiasm were such that everyone involved in the piece was inspired to go a step further in order to create this unique record. It’s great to see it make the light of day at last.”

WNO Director of Programmes and Engagement Emma Flatley said: “The young singers and performers worked so hard in the development of this production, working alongside WNO Orchestra and Only Boys Aloud and I am over the moon that the recording will now get the profile it deserves, to showcase young operatic talent at its best in Wales. We look forward to an opportunity to be able to perform the full piece in the future, funding dependent.”

We are extremely proud of Only Boys Aloud for appearing on such a prestigious piece of work. Well done boys!

2117 / Hedd Wyn is available to pre-order now and will be available to purchase on the Tŷ Cerdd website and to stream on all major platforms from 5 August.

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