Welsh National Opera’s new production of Death in Venice from Olivia Fuchs and conducted by Leo Hussain has opened to widespread critical acclaim. Fuchs’ production, the subject of a photo essay in the Guardian, is a partnership between WNO and with NoFit State community circus, devised by circus designer Firenza Guidi. It starred Mark le Brocq as Gustav von Aschenbach, Roderick Williams in the numerous eerie manifestations of the baritone role, and Alexander Chance as the Voice of Apollo; Antony César played Tadzio and Riccardo Saggese the Governess/Jaschiu. The Guardian also celebrated Fuchs' innovative staging in an editorial.

Britten’s 1973 opera, with a libretto by Myfanwy Piper, adapts Thomas Mann’s 1912 novella about the final days of acclaimed writer Gustav von Aschenbach. As he lingers in the city he becomes obsessed with the young Polish boy Tadzio travelling with his family. As this erotic fascination deepens, the city is gripped by a cholera epidemic, which finally claims Aschenbach’s life. 

In Fuchs’ dazzling, innovative collaboration with NoFit State aerialists and acrobats depict Tadzio and his Polish family, normally represented by a small corps de ballet. Death in Venice tours England and Wales until 11 May.

Collectively and individually, they have triumphed…this stands as an exemplar. Every problem has been solved, with first-class musical standards and a staging of bold imagination…Musically the score outstrips the composer’s own prodigal brilliance, showing his mastery of new forms and colours…Hussain draws together all the musical elements with pace and rigour, in the pit and on stage…[NoFit State’s] breathtaking, somersaulting routines, however compelling, never distract from Britten’s music…If I can get to it again, I will.

The Observer (Fiona Maddocks) *****


Britten’s final opera soars in WNO’s captivating staging…a stunning spectacle…[Fuchs] introduces a whole new spatial dimension…The sequences of aerial and circus skills bring an distinct element of Marcel Carné’s film Les Enfants du Paradis. This, together with the allusions to angels of light, is a counterbalance to the seven roles sung by Williams.

The Guardian (Rian Evans) 8 March 2024 ****


 Welsh National Opera has added a startlingly original production of Britten’s enigmatic last opera...What [Fuchs] has done, in a quite brilliant leap of the imagination, is to work with the Cardiff circus company NoFit State, and turn Tadzio and his family into aerial acrobats…this radical rethinking, initially quite shocking, convinces so totally.

The Telegraph (Nicholas Kenyon) 8 March 2024 *****


…here is a many-layered discourse on aspects of desire, the nature of art, human knowledge and weakness…Olivia Fuchs has delivered a production that never puts a foot wrong. On purely aesthetic grounds, it looks beautiful, the black-and-white projections of Venice mixing fluidly with vaguely symbolic, watery images, similar in overall feel to Piper’s semi-abstract designs in the original production…Fuchs’s production shows how well Death in Venice can work today. Original, moving, thought-provoking, it deserves a wide audience.

Financial Times (Richard Fairman) 11 March 2024 *****


…this dark, haunting score is superbly played under Hussain. The phantasmagorical element of this music…is captured perfectly…startling aerial poses — anguished upside-down body shapes seemingly frozen in the act of plunging towards death — not only symbolise Aschenbach’s own reckless final plunge into unbridled lust but also evoke the Last Judgment visions of painters such as Bosch and Brueghel.

The Times (Richard Morrison) 8 March 2024 ****


Even more remarkable is how finely integrated [NoFIt State’s] virtuoso movement is with the rest of the production: the result represents an ideal melding of different art forms into one…all the staging’s elements line up perfectly to articulate a complex overall vision…Britten’s refined score, meanwhile, is given both a sensuous surface and inner vitality by Hussain.

The Stage (George Hall) 8 March 2024 *****


…thanks to a single stroke of inspiration…Fuchs has solved the opera’s every problem…Guidi has responded to the music’s Gamelan-infused sensuality with a choreographer’s acumen…The strength, grace and energy of [César’s] movement define the very qualities that Aschenbach finds so hard to reconcile within himself…a mesmerising evening…Fuchs faithfully honours the period…yet uses modern stagecraft and the latest technology to propel the tale. Her creative spark is bottomless.

Bachtrack (Mark Valencia) 9 March 2024 *****