Opera superstar Sir Bryn Terfel is teaming up with a top film and television director who worked on the hit TV series Friends and an old school mate for a Christmas concert from Wales that’s being streamed worldwide by the New York Metropolitan Opera.
The concert with a distinctively Welsh flavour will be taking place at Brecon Cathedral at 6pm on Saturday, December 12, with Gary Halvorson, who directed 55 episodes of Friends between 1997 and 2004, masterminding the lavish production remotely from the Big Apple.
During the concert the bass baritone, originally from Pantglas near Penygroes in Gwynedd and now living in Penarth near Cardiff, will be singing two songs by one of his favourite composers, Robat Arwyn, who coincidentally went to the same school in the Nantlle Valley where their paths crossed for 12 months.
Among them will be the evocative Guardian Angel (Anfonaf Angel in Welsh), written by Robat, who now lives in Ruthin, which Sir Bryn recorded in 2011 to raise money for the Wales Air Ambulance.
He will be dedicating the performance of the song at Brecon Cathedral to the front line care home heroes who have risen magnificently to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic to shield social care and save lives.
The other Robat Arwyn song being showcased at the concert is one that helped achieve a Guinness World Record for the fastest selling debut album in the UK.
Robat wrote the music for Benedictus which featured on an album by three Irish Catholic priests backed by the Vatican choir which went on to be an international hit in 30 countries, selling two million copies.
The concert is part of the Met Stars Live in Concert series and will also provide a platform for two up and coming singers, tenor Trystan Llŷr Griffiths, who is supported Barbara Hannigan’s initiative Momentum, and soprano Natalya Romaniw, who will be performing alongside pianist Jeff Howard. Also performing will be the Welsh traditional folk group, Calan.
It will also be an opportunity for Sir Bryn to perform with his supremely gifted wife, Hannah Stone, a former royal harpist to the Prince of Wales who hails from Mumbles near Swansea.
After the live pay-per-view performance costing $20, the concert will be available for on demand viewing for 14 days.
According to Sir Bryn, it was all made possible thanks to the backing of the Welsh Government in scouting the “perfect location” in the historic Brecon Cathedral and Wales Arts International in supporting the young artistes.
Sir Bryn was determined to ensure that a Welsh television production company was engaged for the broadcast and the project went to Cardiff-based Boom Cymru.
Bringing it all together as the director will be Gary Halvorson whose stellar list of television credits includes a whole raft of ratings winners like Friends, Joey, Two and a Half Men, Who Loves Raymond, The Drew Carey Show and Adventures in Wonderland.
Since 2006 he has directed the live versions of more than 80 Met productions which have been beamed to cinemas across the world.
The other key figure behind the concert is Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, who was previously the president of Sony Classical Records.
Sir Bryn said: “The support we have had from the Welsh Government and Wales Arts International has been incredible.
“The venue I am sure will be perfect because the combination of the stone and vaulted wooden ceiling have created a wonderful acoustic.
“The historic cathedral began as the church of a Benedictine priory in the 11th century but much of the building we see today dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries. It is a beautiful and atmospheric building.
“I was particularly keen that the concert should have a distinctively Welsh flavour and to provide a platform for emerging incredible Welsh talent.
“By now, I’ve had many seasons performing in New York singing roles that I dearly love such as Figaro, Don Giovanni, Falstaff, Scarpia and Wotan in the Ring Cycle by Wagner.
“Of course, I was supposed to be in New York in January performing in The Flying Dutchman but unfortunately I broke my leg badly in Bilbao which was a massive blow to the beginning of my 2020 season.
“I have been looking forward to this concert since the summer and the repertoire I will be performing will certainly remind me of all the people working on the front line during this pandemic.
“Among the highlights for me will be Ivor Novello’s I Can Give You the Starlight, Ar Hyd y Nos with Calan and hearing Hannah playing the beautiful Concert Variations on O Tannenbaum.
“Listening to the harp being played in the atmosphere of a cathedral, it’s such a special and ethereal instrument.
“The concert has some beautiful Christmas music from all over the world. I do hope people will tune in to listen to some astounding Welsh performers.”