"...a sparkling little gem which should be staged here more often." The Telegraph (Rupert Christiansen)

On 14 October a new production of Xavier Montsalvatge’s El Gato con Botas (Puss in Boots), published by Peermusic Classical, will tour venues in Wales as part of Mid-Wales Opera’s fifth SmallStages tour. The opera, sung in English, travels to 13 venues, visiting Colwyn Bay, Mold, Presteigne, Ludlow, and Swansea amongst others. Full details of the tour and tickets are available here.

It is directed and designed by Richard Studer, who also devised the translation. Jonathan Lyness is music director. The titular cat is sung by Martha Jones, with Huw Ynyr as the Miller. The roles of the King, Princess, and Ogre are taken by Philip Smith, Alys Mererid Roberts, and Trevor Bowes respectively.

El gato con Botas was Montsalvatge’s first opera, completed in 1947 and premièred in Barcelona the following January at the Teatre del Liceu; it was recorded for the first time in 2003. The story is that of the wily feline whose fairy tale, originating in Italy, was popularised by Charles Perrault. The comic one-act chamber opera tells of the wealth-seeking, match-making cat who, in return for a hat, a sword and a pair of boots, secures for his young master (a lowly miller) a kingdom and a royal marriage to a princess, tricking a slow-witted ogre out of his castle along the way.

El gato con botas only received its UK premiere in 2013 at the Linbury Studio at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, conducted by Paul Wingfield. The Times described Montsalvatge’s 60-minute score as “a beguiling mix of Catalan colour, pastiche-Classical recitative and tangy bitonality”. Mid-Wales Opera’s production showcases a new chamber version of the Montsalvatge’s score for five musicians from Jonathan Lyness, who also conducts the performances.  

The idiom is one of effervescent Parisian chic: hearing the music blind, you might think it had been composed by Poulenc or Milhaud so delicately witty and cleanly economical is its manner. Compared to so many subsequent heavy-handed, flat-footed attempts to write opera for children, it is a sparkling little gem which should be staged here more often.

The Telegraph (Rupert Christiansen), 17 October 2013