Click on any of the dates below to find out more
Click on any of the dates below to find out more
Moving, uplifting, and funny, Shoulder to Shoulder tells the real-life stories of men overcoming loneliness and social isolation. A top-flight ensemble of singers and musicians bring stories to life on stage this October. Shoulder to Shoulder is produced in partnership with Men’s Sheds Cymru.
Loneliness is an epidemic; it increases with age and disproportionally affects men.
Our new chamber opera, Shoulder to Shoulder, explores the issue and has been developed through our partnership with Men’s Sheds Cymru.
Shoulder to Shoulder is a powerful, uplifting exploration and often very funny story of men overcoming isolation through the friendships they’ve made in Men’s Sheds Cymru. The organisation is part of a worldwide movement founded in Australia that aims to alleviate social isolation, predominantly among older men, through social activities.
Shoulder to Shoulder’s ensemble features mostly Wales-based professional singers and musicians, many of whom sing and play in major opera houses, companies, and orchestras, including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Glyndebourne Festival Opera; Welsh National Opera; English National Opera; Opera North; Scottish Opera, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Soprano Jess Robinson who plays the role of Gwen is a finalist in the Welsh Singers Competition where five of Wale’s country’s most talented young singers are competing for the opportunity to represent Wales at BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 2023.
Librettist Brendan Wheatley rooted Shoulder to Shoulder in the stories of ‘Shedders’, which he gathered through interviews in 2020 – 2021, which included the lockdowns in Wales. Arts Council Wales’ Cultural Recovery Fund supported this period of the opera’s development.
By listening to stories and sharing the laughter of ‘Shedders’, Brendan crafted the story and libretto of Shoulder to Shoulder. The composer and clarinettist Lenny Sayers, whose music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Scotland, wrote the score.
The development of Shoulder to Shoulder brought the activity of singing to some Sheds, often for the very first time. Six community choirs comprising of ‘Shedders’, joined by family, friends and local choral singers, will sing on stage in their hometowns alongside the ensemble of professional singers and musicians, adding a powerful dimension to the performance.
The development of Shoulder to Shoulder with Men’s Sheds Cymru.
We developed Shoulder to Shoulder during 2020 – 2021 with Men’s Sheds Cymru.
The unique organisation supports older men experiencing loneliness by creating warm and welcoming spaces where they can learn new skills, build friendships, and make new beginnings. Besides being socially isolated, some ‘Shedders’ have faced challenging life events such as physical and mental illness, bereavement, bankruptcy, and redundancy.
During lockdown, via Zoom, our Artistic Director Brendan Wheatley talks about Swansea City Opera’s aim of making opera accessible to everyone and the importance of the partnership with Men’s Sheds Cymru.
During this development period, two pieces of Shoulder to Shoulder were recorded.
Shoulder to Shoulder is supported by Arts Council Wales, the National Lottery Community Fund, Tŷ Cerdd and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
Artwork by Sean Slater
Click on our cast members to find out more
Dyfed was born in Cardiff and spent his childhood tearing between carol concerts, choir rehearsals and eisteddfodau. He moved to Manchester to study singing and opera at the RNCM where he won numerous scholarships and prizes including a Peter Moores Foundation Scholarship to enable him to study opera at the Vienna Conservatoire.
After graduating, he continued his European Odyssey for a decade, moving between countries and working for many of the European Opera Houses and festivals.
In 2004 he married the mezzo soprano Carolyn Jackson and they moved to a village outside Cardiff. He now tries to be at home for his two young boys as much as possible, mixing his opera work for the WNO with a busy concert schedule. He enjoys running opera workshops and community singing projects in South Wales and beyond and is also in demand as a choral conductor and tutor.
Robyn Lyn Evans is mid Wales born and bred and now resides in Machynlleth. He graduated from Trinity College Carmarthen where he was awarded the Stuart Burrows bursary and from the Royal College of Music, London.
Robyn began his singing career at a young age in the Eisteddfod competitions of Wales and highlights include International Young Singer of the Year Llangollen, Osborne Roberts Memorial Prize and the David Ellis Memorial Prize.
Operatic rôles include Rodolfo (La Bohème), Cavaradossi (Tosca), Don José (Carmen), Alfredo (La Traviata), Il Duca (Rigoletto), Macduff (Macbeth), Lensky (Eugene Onegin), Ismaele (Nabucco), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Pinkerton (Madam Butterfly), Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi), Fenton (Falstaff) and Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore) for British national and touring companies. He can be frequently heard on the concert platform with countless performances from the oratorio repertoire and has released two solo records: ROBYN LYN…tenor and Robyn Lyn Evans Tenor Ah! mes amis.
Welsh Soprano Jessica Robinson graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama gaining a distinction in MA Opera Performance.
During her time at the RWCMD, Jessica also gained a first class honours undergraduate degree along with the Aneurin Davies memorial award, The Mansel Thomas prize, The Margaret Tann Award, the Elias Soprano award and was the 2016 Prince of Wales Scholar.
She regularly appears in concerts all over the UK. Internationally, Jessica has performed in New York, China, Switzerland, Brussels and Italy. Concert highlights include performing with the CBSO in a performance of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Serenade to Music’ for Radio 3, Soloist at the Royal Albert Hall, and performing for HRH The Prince of Wales and guests at Buckingham Palace.
Operatic engagements include Countess Marriage of Figaro, Lady Billows Albert Herring and Fox Cunning little Vixen (RWCMD) Spirit Dido and Aeneus (Opera’r Ddraig) Nora Riders to the Sea (Bute Park Opera) Worker/Semi Chorus Gair ar Gnawd (Welsh National Opera/S4C), Rose, Lakmé, Rosina, The Barber of Seville and Despina, Cosi fan Tutte (Swansea City Opera) Heavenly voice, Don Carlo and Tetska, Jenufa (Grange Park Opera).
We are delighted that Jess is a BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2022 finalist.
Born in Bolton, Rebecca graduated with distinction from the Royal Academy of Music Opera School in 2010.
Since then Rebecca has performed Susanna Le Nozze di Figaro for Opera Vera, Volpino in Haydn’s The Apothocary for Bampton Classical Opera, Sirene (cover) Rinaldo at Gylndebourne, Mimi La Bohème for Swansea City Opera and the ROH re-imagined. She also made her German House Debut as Miss Jessel The Turn of the Screw for Opera Köln. More recently Rebecca sang the role of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni for The Merry Opera Co.
On the concert platform she has performed the works of Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Tippett and Verdi and was the Soprano soloist in Mauricio Wainrot’s ‘Le Messie’ for L’Opéra National de Bordeaux.
Rebecca is currently performing in La Traviata and Otello for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She lives in Manchester with her husband, their daughter Juliet and cat Coco.
Hall’s highlights both in the UK and abroad have included Pang Turandot, Spoletta Tosca, the Dancing Master Manon Lescaut, and the Abbé Andrea Chénier (Royal Opera House); Valzacchi Der Rosenkavalier (Royal Swedish Opera & Opera North); Don Curzio Le nozze di Figaro (Aix-en-Provence, Tokyo, Baden Baden); Mr. Upfold Albert Herring (Salzburger Landestheater); Lo Zio Vezinet Il cappello di paglia di Firenze, Ippia Saffo, and Danilowitz L’Etoile du Nord (Wexford Festival Opera); Don Basilio/Don Curzio, Beadle Bamford, Monostatos, Scaramuccio, and Remendado (Welsh National Opera); Dr Caius Falstaff, Spoletta Tosca, Matteo Borsa Rigoletto and Almeric Iolanta (Scottish Opera); Don Basilio, Bardolpho and Frisellino Le Pescatrici (Garsington Opera); Maintop Billy Budd and Gherardo Gianni Schicchi (Opera North); Tinca and Gherardo Il Trittico, Flaminio L’amore dei tre Re, Chekalinsky The Queen of Spades, Isèpo La Gioconda, Almeric Iolanta, Lord Cecil Roberto Devereux, Trabuco La Forza del destino, Ser Toldo Berardengo Francesca da Rimini, Arturo Lucia di Lammermoor, Borsa, and Don Basilio/Don Curzio (Opera Holland Park); Gastone (English National Opera); The Duke of Dunstable Patience (English Touring Opera); Messenger Aida (Bergen National Opera), and the role of Charles James Fox in the world premiere of Georgiana (Buxton International Festival).
On the concert platform Hall’s highlights include Carmina Burana with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall; Facio in Offenbach’s Fantasio with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Ebbone in Mercadante’s I Normanni a Parigi with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Osburgo in Bellini’s La Straniera with London Philharmonic Orchestra all for Opera Rara at the Royal Festival Hall, London; Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall conducted by Sir David Willcocks; a British Tour of Messiah by Candlelight for Raymond Gubbay Limited; Mozart Requiem with the London Mozart Players at the Fishguard International Festival; tenor soloist in the first London performance of Daniel Jones’ oratorio St. Peter; Spoletta Tosca in the Welsh Proms at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff; and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle and Janácek’s Diary of the one who Disappeared at Wexford International Festival.
Future engagements see Hall return to the Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera, and English National Opera.
Mark Saberton studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He sings at the Royal Opera House and previously worked at Opera North and Scottish Opera. He performed and recorded the role of Ben Budge (Beggars Opera) with the City of London Sinfonia and Royal Opera. At English National Opera he played the roles of Zurga (Pearlfishers), Pizarro (Fidelio) and Lepidus/Mereia (Caligula). Other roles include Mephistopheles (Faust) & Schaunard (La Boheme) for Swansea City Opera; Rigoletto (Rigoletto) and Escamillo (Carmen) for Kentish Opera; Bottom (Midsummer Night’s Dream) for Longborough Festival Opera; Antonio (Marriage of Figaro) for Garsington Opera; Narumov (Queen of Spades) for Opera Holland Park and the Hotel Waiter & Boatman (Death in Venice) for Aldeburgh & Bregenz Festivals conducted by Paul Daniel, directed by Yoshi Oida. Mark worked with Bampton Classical Opera in ‘Waiting for Figaro’ under Edward Gardner.
John was organ scholar of Hertford College, Oxford before postgraduate studies at the Guildhall School of Music (repetiteur) and The Royal College of Music (conducting). He has worked on the music staff for Icelandic National Opera and Grange Park Opera, and has conducted for companies including Pimlico Opera, London City Opera and Swansea City Opera. He has conducted many shows, including Les Miserables (West End), Miss Saigon (UK Tour), Avenue Q (West End) and Damon Albarn’s opera Monkey: Journey to the West (Monkeys’ World at the O2); and has also played keyboards on a great many others including Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde and The Full Monty. John has also worked on many youth music theatre shows and student productions at home and abroad, and has clocked up almost 6 months ‘inside’ having thrice been Musical Director for Pimlico Opera’s prison projects. Currently he is Musical Director for Swansea City Opera and Principal Conductor of Redhill Sinfonia.
Born in 1977 and originally from Keighley, West Yorkshire, Lenny has lived in Cardiff since 2011 when he joined the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as their Principal Bass Clarinet. He has twice been selected as a composer for Composition: Wales and has had four works performed in the BBC NOW Family Concerts. As a composer Lenny has enjoyed some long-term collaborations, with the Scottish based ensemble ‘Daniel’s Beard’, and more recently the South Wales theatre company Hummadruz. In 2020 two of his arrangements, one for all the clarinettists of the BBC orchestras and the other for the oboes, were featured in the BBC Single Instrumental Sessions. In the same year his arrangement of ‘Men of Harlech’, featuring Sir Bryn Terfel, was broadcast on the BBC Wales News for Welsh Heroes Day. His music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Radio Scotland.
Brendan Wheatley was born in Hinckley, Leicestershire and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he was awarded a three-year scholarship on the performers course. Another scholarship awarded to him at the end of this course enabled him to attend the Opera Course for a further year but this was cut short when he auditioned for Glyndebourne Festival Opera and was immediately offered a contract.
Brendan sang for three seasons with Glyndebourne, making his debut as The Keeper of the Madhouse in the internationally acclaimed production of Stravinsky’s The Rakes Progress, designed by David Hockney. After leaving Glyndebourne, Brendan pursued his career as a freelance singer working with many companies both in Britain and abroad, and has now sung many major roles – from Don Giovanni to The Flying Dutchman – he also created the role of Figaro in the world premiere of Giles Swayne’s Le Nozze di Cherubino. His concert and oratorio work has taken him to such prestigious places as The South Bank, Royal Albert Hall, Huddersfield Town Hall and many cathedrals and churches throughout Britain. In 1989 he founded the touring company Opera Box with his partner Bridgett Gill and in 2004 the company received funding from the City and County of Swansea, and became Swansea City Opera. Over the years Brendan has directed and designed many operas for the company, and has assisted in translations of several operas, but Shoulder to Shoulder will be his first complete libretto.
Acapela Studio – world premiere
” Great show which certainly evoked the essence of Men’s Sheds. Quality singing & music with a fun element which lightened the mood.”
“Bravo! A unique subject for an opera, so real and convincing, the singing and production was first class. I laughed and cried. I’ve seen the good that comes from Men’s Sheds, from observing men who have benefitted from Lisvane Men’s Shed.”
“This is simply brilliant in every department”
“The opera was just superb in every way – such an original subject, brilliantly realised through a delightful score and libretto sensitively fluctuating between side-splitting comical to deeply-felt poignancy, all of which to me, perfectly captured the essence of the Men’s Shed movement, uplifting and inspirational. The studio venue and ‘cabaret’ style seating added to the overall effectiveness of the performance, so intimately drawing you into the lives being portrayed. And finally – the quality of singing, players, choir and performance and production could not be bettered anywhere.”
“Brilliant singing, acting and playing. Music and composition have a wonderful variety. The whole production should appeal to those with broad tastes – certainly not just your traditional opera audience.”
“Excellent – universal issues addressed”
“Very accessible subject matter and musical content. Great performance – should be an easy way for those not familiar with opera. Highly enjoyable. Well done all!”
It was a privilege to be at the premiere of such a fresh & lively piece of theatre. Full of energy, pathos & damned good singing! Lots of messages to provoke one’s thoughts about loneliness, depression, caring. Well done all!!
The show: lively, very good acting, subject matter – The Shed – relevant and real, and very entertaining!
Upper Chapel Village Hall
“Enjoyed the music, the mix of styles. Enjoyed the stories, especially the song about the gnomes.”
“The singing and diction were excellent, I loved the way the music fitted so well with the singing, and enhanced the emotion”
“The story line was brilliant, a subject that is just not spoken about. Tissues should be supplied on each chair, I laughed and cried through the whole thing. Every part of this performance was excellent and the fact they had to sing, act and play instruments (hammers and nails etc) love it, would go and see it again.”
“superb. Such a clever way of shining a light on modern day issues through the medium of opera.”
“What a privilege to have the opportunity to see this cleverly written modern-day opera delivered to our doorstep by the finest of Welsh voices telling the story of Men’s Sheds”
“Well done Jess Robinson. It was a good night, powerful story and very well presented. We were so lucky to have such amazing singers performing on our doorstep.”.
“The venue and performance were very good. Really great to haev such quality in rural areas isolated from the city venues.”
Clydach Community Centre
Enjoyed it immensely
Very topical subject for today’s world
FABULOUS. WELL DONE ALL. We thought the show was easy to follow, quite a tearjerker but also extremely humourous as well. Fabulous cast & orchestra. Certainly made you think of what people actually go through.
Great to support the Shed organisation. A wonderful performance – so moving. Accessible music and a witty script. Superb voices and well acted. Well done SCO on a really worthwhile project. Bravo!
The performance was outstanding and far better than my expectations
Congratulations on a wonderful production – uplifting, poignant, a truly magnificent show from start to finish – pure joy. Many thanks, and not forgetting the wonderful orchestra and choristers, and a fab musical score.
Fab production – poignant and funny. Congratulations
It was excellent!! and sooooo true to life on your own!! Thanks
Very well performed, addressed the issue of mental health in a sensitive but enjoyable way. Excellent
Very professional show! Amazing value!
Never expected the subject to be so emotive or so suitable for opera. Brilliant!
The singing and music were outstanding.
Really enjoyed the show. Fantastic. Very professional performances by everyone. Very emotional at times.
Music brought the hair on your arms straight, also brough tears to the eyes and brought back memories of lost time?
I am already a member of the Clydach Men’s Shed. So I wanted to see how this opera was put together and I was delighted. They have it spot on, wonderful acting, singing, to a great story – Men’s Shed!!
I loved the energy of the cast, the quality of the singing, and the concept of bringing lonely men – & women – together for companionship and to make or repair something useful. Not your usual opera – but a welcome departure from tradition.
Excellent music, script and cast. The spectrum of emotions went beyond colours painted by any other opera. It is rare for an opera to hold the attention throughout without a lull in the performance – this is one of the rare operas that captivates from start to end.
Lovely, a great balance of light and dark in the story line. The choir amongst the audience gave it a warm feeling. Also enjoyed the location, different and at the heart of a community.
Very interested in the concept of Men’s Shed and impressed how well this was interpreted. Excellent music and cast. Loved the chorus and orchestra. Original & moving.
Excellent idea making opera more accessible and taking to the heart of communities. It tackles issues of men’s mental health – such an important thing to discuss. Congratulations to all. Diolch!
Really good show. Portrayed men and Sheds very well.
The show was amazing and the backing singers were amazing. Singing all together was fantastic
Torch Theatre Milford Haven
Absolutely brilliant. Masterpiece. More please
I cried for the Father/Daughter story, so true and we would be nowhere without our daughters. They are the making of us as compassionate and loving men xxxx
We saw Shoulder to Shoulder at the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, about 20 miles each way from our home. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance and loved having the mini-orchestra in the room. The subject was important, particularly as it is often under-reported, and the music and lyrics told a tale perfectly. Having seen a Men’s Shed near Aberdeen recently I had looked up the movement already. Well done on a contemporary opera on a contemporary theme. We are regular opera goers and listeners.
Borth Community Hall
So emotionally true. From very young to very old this is a real situation every day. This should be shown world wide, bring this to all generations that help is always available. Just find a Men’s Shed or a woman’s shed. Thank you xx
Very good publicity for the great idea of Men’s Sheds!
Very emotional performance. Great for this important charity to be brought to the forefront through opera.
Had never seen a contemporary opera before. Completely unexpected, poignant balanced with humour. Light touch for a difficult subject.
Fab to see something like this in our village.
I thought it was excellent – great we have a man’s shed starting this week in Borth
Never seen opera before, but they told the story clearly and with humour to keep me interested, excellent performers.
Gave me hope, made me cry, wonderful performance. Thank you
Good fun and very fine performance. Lots of laughs & emotion
Oh the show is wonderful! I’m in floods of tears, very emotional – Thank you so much – there should be tissues on the door – Thank you
It is a long time since I enjoyed myself so much.
Amazing. Emotional. Superb production.
It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be.
A great show, really made me think.
It was a very professional and lively performance.
I enjoyed the evening & the instrumental accompaniment very much – lovely voices and a good combination – even with the rain doubling up the percussion.
First class artistes
Very relevant to every community and a topic that needs more airtime.
The singing was excellent and the whole ambiance great, apart from the rain on the roof!
An innovative theme, Variety of mood in the music. Realistic dialogue. Excellent solo voices.
I really enjoyed the performance. Thank you so much
Good way to get the message out to the public
I don’t know how other venues fared, but there was a certain intimacy between cast & audience that I thought worked really well. This, for your part, is not something to be overlooked in future venue selection – so come again!
I enjoyed the singing, everyone had lovely voices.
It was a great evening and made opera seem more accessible. I could not always hear the words, because from where we were sitting, the music dominated.
Altogether it was well written and a moving story, the music was light-hearted and fun to listen to. The audience responded well and it was worth coming out on a wet evening to see this opera.
An incredibly outstanding performance. The story brought out a profound tearful response. The event which was well supported by the local community, will boast the setting up of a Men’s Shed at Borth.
The band was too loud, but the characters were superb.
So close to my heart, wonderful. I cried, laughed, felt sad and happy!
Amusing, funny, very relevant to a lot of people. thank you very much.
I thought the subject was wonderful. Very contemporary music and superb performances. Another tour please. Thank you very much!
A fascinating and exciting show, everyone’s interest is held throughout – no weak spot
I went to the Opera with slight misgivings. Came back a convert. Absolutely brilliant. I was thinking it might be one of those politically correct things. I worried for nothing. The script was perfectly to the aims of what I perceive Men’s Sheds to be about. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Opera was brilliant. It was very moving in parts. In fact I’m glad the room was dark in the audience part because it hid the tears rolling down my cheeks a couple of times!
The idea of a Men’s Shed opera is brilliant. I would like to have a go and sing in the chorus. I sing in the house by myself. You never know I could be the next Paul Pott. This place is brilliant; you see people improve. I wouldn’t talk to anyone at first, but now I’ve got to know everyone. I’m there at 8am!
Swansea City Opera, Bridgett and Brendan have been great. They have met ‘Shedders’ in person when it was permissible under Covid-19 rules. With each visit, they spent time meeting the shed members, quickly putting them at ease and encouraging them to take part and tell their stories. Brendan took time explaining the project, what they were looking for and plans for the piece. Most importantly, the whole process was fun and creative. We’re looking forward to doing more together in the coming weeks and months.