There’s a pleasing mix in Welsh National Opera’s autumn season – something new, something familiar and something magical, writes Nicola Lisle.

The new is David Pountney’s ambitious production of Prokofiev’s War and Peace, based on Tolstoy’s novel and appropriately-themed for the centenary year of the Armistice.

The familiar is a revival of David McVicar’s acclaimed production of Verdi’s La Traviata, complete with sumptuous mid-19th century costumes.

The magical is La Cenerentola, Rossini’s witty, sparkling retelling of the Cinderella story, in a colourful, larger-than-life production by Joan Font – the perfect precursor to Christmas.

It’s also good to see several singers making their company debuts this season, including two rising young stars, the Armenian soprano Anush Hovhannisyan, who shares the role of Violetta with Linda Richardson, and the Australian-Chinese tenor Kang Wang, who takes on the role of Alfredo.

Anush has previously sung Verdi’s tragic heroine with Scottish Opera – attracting the comment “a new Violetta is born” from Opera magazine – but is delighted to be recreating the role in her first production with WNO.

“I am happy to finally get the opportunity to work with such a renowned company,” she says.“To sing the role of Violetta is probably the dream of all the lyric sopranos in the world. Verdi has managed to merge the most challenging, technical singing with the most beautiful and moving melodies in all operatic history.

“Singing this role feels like conquering the highest peak in the world, yet it is so fulfilling.

“I adore every single note of this score and cherish every opportunity to sing it.”

Anush was originally a budding violinist, having started learning the instrument at the age of six, but was later drawn to opera. She studied singing at the Armenian State Conservatory in Yerevan and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, has won numerous prizes and awards, and spent two years with Royal Opera as a Jette Parker Young Artist.

Last year she represented Armenia at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, where her Alfredo, Kang Wang, was also competing.

“I grew up with this event from my early days,” Anush says. “My father would always watch it, but little did I know that one day I would get the chance to represent my home country in it!

“It was a delightful opportunity to establish the connection with the warmest audiences of Cardiff. These people know their opera.

“I have the most positive memories from my performance at St David’s Hall and I am glad to have another chance to sing for these lovely people again in such an iconic opera as La Traviata.

“For me the most important aspects of being a singer is the connection I establish with the audience, hence I am pleased not only to sing for my already friendly Cardiff audience, but also for the chance to explore more of it in new cities, including Oxford.

“I have been to Oxford for a very short trip and I am hugely looking forward to having a bit more time to see the historical city and catch up with friends.

“I cannot wait to meet the audience in Oxford and get to make friends there.”

  • Welsh National Opera
  • New Theatre, Oxford
  • October 10-13, 7.15pm
  • (6pm Sat only)
  • 0844 871 3020 or