Migrations - Welsh National Opera Review

No land remains untouched by foreign feet. It's a line that uttered throughout Migrations, a new opera by Welsh National Opera and was left stuck in my brain the whole drive home after I saw it this week at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. As part of their Autumn season, WNO have finished their run at the Mayflower with a touching show about diversity, acceptance, and migration. Commissioned for the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, this new opera is a colossal collaboration that leaves a lasting impact. 

Sung wholly in English, Migrations follows six stories of migration and allows the 100 strong cast to share a variety of stories and voices across the show.  Weaving together voices from a children's choir, Bollywood dance group, and the Renewal Choir Community Chorus of Bristol, this production brings a slightly more accessible opera to audiences and gives a platform to a host of new performers. Whilst I adored this show and found the message of strength, unity, and equality hard hitting, I do wish that each story had a bit more time to unfold as once I became engrossed in one tale, another one started and had me wishing that I could return and learn just a little bit more. But aside from making the show hours longer, we have to suffice with the 2hrs 20mins that we are presented with. 

Mayflower tells the story of a group of settlers that make their way across the ocean in the Mayflower 400 years ago. With a chorus of singers, this story follows the highs and lows of this pilgrimage across the waters to find new land, whilst losing lives along the way. Visually it was incredibly impactful, with swarms of bodies on stage representing those fleeing religious persecution. 

Birds is a story that is told through a children's choir. With beautiful voices, these children bring the slight humour and light relief to the show. Proving that migration is more than just the movement of people, this story highlights the journeys animals face, and the impact that humans are having on their journeys each year. 

Treaty Six follows Dawn, a First Nations woman of the Beaver Lake Cree reserve in Canada. When faced with their land being used for fossil fuel projects, she fights to protect her land from environmental devastation. Sung by Marion Newman, you feel the emotions of her plight and will her to stop this destruction despite the barriers she faces. 

Flight, Death or Fog is one of the most uncomfortable stories to watch unfold. You are introduced to Pero, a real historical figure who was an Afro-Caribbean slave in 18th century Bristol. It highlights the objectification and racism that slaves faced as their worth is placed against monetary value. Throughout his tale you are shown how he fights with his own demons as he navigates his own experiences and pathways. 

This is the Life! is a story about Britain in 1968. With the rise of the NHS, young Indian doctors are invited by the British government to help build this brilliant health service. But the roads aren't paved with gold and the anti-immigrant ideology forges rivers of racist attitudes. Through a series of Bollywood dancing and brilliant singing, these young doctors fight to be taken seriously and find their own happiness in a culture far from home. 

The English Lesson could either be part of history or be set in the present, but with the rise of Ukranians seeking refugee status from the persecution they face in their own country, it feels more relevant than ever. Set in a classroom where refugees are learning basic conversation skills, you are told three individual tales of lives being ripped apart as they dangerously seek refuge in a country far from home. 

Each story in Migrations was thought provoking and reflective. It was hard hitting and uncomfortable at times, but was told in a beautiful way that allowed each story to intertwine and flow through each other to create something magical on stage. It's staggering to think that over 100 performers take to the stage at each performance, but the diversity of the cast adds to the impact of the show. Migrations is the first opera that I have seen in English, and the first modern opera too, but I loved the fact it felt relevant, accessible, and powerful. It's a show that will be a lasting memory and will no doubt leave you wondering what migrations you've been on. 

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