An extensive series of talks, discussions and debates has been detailed, taking place across the city alongside an immersive digital reality art exhibition, community engagement  work and operatic performances of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Menotti’s The Consul, Dallapiccola’s The Prisoner, Beethoven’s Fidelio (Act II), and Krása’s Brundibár .

Curated by Artistic Director David Pountney, the season will showcase every element of the performing company from the WNO Chorus and Orchestra through to WNO Community Chorus and WNO’s award-winning Youth Opera. In addition, young singers including Youth Opera alumni and students at the David Seligman Opera School at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in association with Welsh National Opera will take roles in several of the productions, demonstrating WNO’s ongoing commitment to developing young talent. The creative process will see young artists sharing the rehearsal room and concert stage alongside colleagues of international standing.

Welsh National Opera is collaborating with several partners to present these events, putting conversation around culture and contemporary society at the top of the agenda in the Welsh capital. Partners for the season include Amnesty International UK, the Welsh Refugee Council, National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs among others.

Speakers at the talks announced include many high profile figures that have roles at the forefront in the improvement of human rights today. Amongst many issues being raised and discussed in the programme, Bela Arora, University of South Wales Professor of Global Governance and Vice Chair of the British American Project, will focus on the phenomenon of modern slavery in the UK and across the globe, Hayle Davies, Education Officer for Teachers and Schools at Amnesty International UK will Chair Brave, a talk that will give young human rights defenders a platform, and Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, will Chair a talk about protecting children’s rights, The Voice of A Child, as part of Welsh Refugee Arts Week.

Mona Siddiqui, Professor at Edinburgh University and first person to hold a chair in Islamic and Interreligious Studies, Claire Fox, British libertarian writer and the Director and Founder of The Institute of Ideas, poet and playwright Eric Ngalle Charles, who himself fell victim to human trafficking and Dr Veronique Barbelet, Senior Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institutes will also chair discussions during the Freedom season.

Tickets for the talks and debates are £5 each and can be booked in advance at with full details available at

Digital Arts Exhibition

WNO has also announced further details of its digital installation Freedom 360 which is being created in collaboration with BBC Cymru Wales and BBC Research & Development. The immersive installation will tell some of the extraordinary journeys and true stories of refugees whose faces and stories fill the media headlines. This will be an intimate and emotive experience, and is a poignant reminder that today 60 million people are displaced around the world, as revealed by UNHCR UK, The UN Refugee Agency.

This installation will form part of the curated digital exhibition of immersive reality artworks to be exhibited at Wales Millennium Centre during the season. In addition, the programme of immersive experiences includes Terminal 3, The Last Goodbye and Future Aleppo which will be displayed alongside visual art installation The Girls of Room 28, L 410 Theresienstadt. A newly created short film will also be shown called Fluorescence. Written by Syrian artist Kinana Issa, the film explores themes of liberation and captivity. It follows a woman whose journey of immigration is over, but whose suffering continues. The piece is created as part of a trilogy of films created by WNO Filmmaker in Residence, Carys Lewis. 

As part of WNO’s five year partnership with the Welsh Refugee Council, beginning this year, a piece of developmental musical theatre called Beyond the Rainbow has been created. The creative team includes refugee artists and offers professional development to artists currently seeking asylum, who are unable to work due to their status. The work aims to dispel the negative myths and misbeliefs that are often associated with the refugee and migrant communities. Furthermore, WNO is also working specifically with female refugees at centres in Cardiff and Birmingham to create songs around messages of sanctuary and hope. Also as part of the partnership, WNO is taking up residency at the Oasis Centre in Splott in Cardiff on a project entitled Hope Has Wings encouraging female refugee writers to create songs inspired around messages of sanctuary and hope.

Commenting on the Freedom programme, WNO’s Artistic Director David Pountney said:

“Music and theatre may sometimes be arenas for escape from a troubled world. But they are also at the same time places where our human sensibilities and emotions are awakened and nurtured and the feelings of compassion and empathy, stirred and refreshed by the inspiration of art, are indeed the very bedrock of our political intelligence - a commodity we seem to need now more than ever”.

Associated British Ports is the Freedom Season sponsor and a company that has had a long association with WNO. Matthew Kennerley, Director ABP South Wales, said:

“ABP is proud to sponsor WNO’s Freedom Season which will present audiences in Cardiff with a diverse range of operatic works with human rights at their core and provide opportunities for the local community to directly engage through the programme of talks and debates and immersive digital exhibition. ABP has had a long association with WNO and that is largely because the work presented is of the highest quality but also because we have a shared value and commitment to the local communities that we are proudly part of.  The Freedom season reflects the immense impact that working in partnership can have and has resulted in an ambitious season of activity that boldly addresses issues that are relevant to us all today”.