Small picture of Donizetti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Star Next Door

Patti's Impact on a Welsh Valley

 

Swansea City Opera logo 

Opera School Wales logo

Patti picture

 

 

Although this project has had to be suspended for the time being, a group of enthusiasts have opened up an exhibition on the life of the 19th and early 20th century soprano, Adelina Patti, in the game larder of her former home at Craig-y-Nos.  The exhibition is open in the summer should you be in the area, see
 (http://www.breconbeacons.org/plan/visitor_information/craig-y-nos_visitor_centre/adelina_patti_exhibition).
It includes a documentary on Patti with some interesting photographs and short excerpts of her singing.  Unfortunately, the vexed question of maintaining and, ideally, of restoring and using her Grade 1 listed theatre there still appears to be open.  Photographs of the interior can be found  here.

One of the organisers, Tony Hibbert, has published a book, Fresh Flowers for M’Lady, describing life at Craig-y-nos during the time his grandfather was head gardener.

 

 

The following article has been retained for reference and background, although the project itself has now been suspended

 

Introduction & Background

Swansea City Opera & The Opera School Wales are in the process of applying for funding towards a project named A Star Next Door - Patti's Impact on a Welsh Valley, the main aim of which is to rediscover and celebrate the life and times of 19th Century opera super star, Adelina Patti.  This social history / music project will focus on the 41 years, between 1878 and 1919, which the singer spent at Craig Y Nos Castle in the remote and beautiful Upper Swansea Valley.

Patti was the most famous opera star of the 19th and early 20th Centuries and she remains to this day a landmark figure in the history of opera worldwide.  Despite massive wealth that would have enabled her to live just about anywhere in the world, she chose to make her home at Craig Y Nos, where she was a notable local landowner, employer and benefactor.

Our project will explore and document the history of Patti at Craig Y Nos, contrasting the lifestyle of the star with that of her fellow Valley residents at a time when the lives of ordinary people were subject to great hardship and change.  The project is timely in that there are still people around today who either personally remember Patti or whose immediate ancestors knew her.  We believe there to be a wealth of anecdotal information to be discovered and recorded, both about the singer herself and about day to day life in the Valley in Patti's time.  This will form the basis of an extensive Oral History project element, which will preserve these special memories for future generations.

The project will be based at Patti's own private Opera House – the unique Grade 1 listed Adelina Patti Theatre, which has survived in virtually original condition to this day (see  for pictures).  In Patti's time the little auditorium welcomed British and European Royalty and Heads of State as well as the star's personal friends, neighbours and members of her staff.  Although time has taken its toll on the building, and it is in urgent need of restoration, it is currently in regular use as a venue for fund-raising events and, appropriately, as the home of The Opera School Wales, a well-established training school for talented young post-graduate singers.

 

Who will be Involved?

The entire community of the Upper Swansea Valley will be invited to take part in the project and to contribute to this celebration of a remarkable artist and her Valley home. A specialist Project Co-ordinator will work with participants to help them research and document the social and economic history of their Valley and to research, locate and catalogue Patti archives and artifacts.  We hope to work closely with Brecon and Swansea Museums and The National Waterfront Museum, with partnership museums also loaning items from their own collections to the exhibition.  St Fagan's Museum is also supportive of the project and will advise us on training needs and methodology etc.  The age range of those involved will span all generations – from school children to the elderly – and will encourage mutual respect and co-operation in pursuit of the project aims.  This will be especially relevant to the Oral History element of the project, the compilation of which will involve youngsters undertaking supervised interviews of older members of the community in order to record their anecdotes and recollections.  The project will also be an outreach activity for the award winning Dragon Arts and Learning, a Swansea-based charity working with the homeless and socially excluded.

 

Project Benefits and Outcomes

It is hoped that the project will afford participants significant opportunities for the development of key skills in the areas of communication as well as in research, documentation, display, design and IT.

Other outcomes will include a touring Public Exhibition, elements of which will visit Museums and Theatres; an Education Pack, produced in conjunction with the Museums; a Gallery Guide containing photos and information about the exhibits and about Patti; the Oral History (as above) and a DVD based on the Patti Story and including a detailed record of the project and its findings.

The project will also include a production and performance at the Patti Theatre of an opera, The Daughter of The Regiment, using local community groups and choirs as chorus.  Local children will also have an opportunity to take part in some exciting opera workshops, based on the opera, which features the role of Marie, one of Patti's favourites (please see picture of Patti as Marie at top of page).

It is hoped that our project will rekindle local and national interest in Patti as an important figure in the history of music in Wales and that it will also  focus attention on The Adelina Patti Theatre as a unique heritage site and the only Grade 1 listed Theatre in Wales.  The DVD, Opera and Exhibition will combine to create a continuing awareness of the heritage and present-day attractions of the Valley.  They will also highlight the importance of the Patti Theatre, soon to be the subject of a major restoration project.