By Ron Bernthal
Wales was never famous for its modern architecture, but who could not love its medieval castles, its 17 th and 18 th century rural cottages, or the tumbling ruins of its 19 th century iron factories and the historic coal miners’ houses, laid out in somber rows between the grey and overworked hills of the mining valleys.
But with the completion of the Wales Millennium Centre, Europe’s most talked about performing arts venue, the Welsh capital of Cardiff has entered the rarified architectural air of cities like Bilbao, with its Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum, or
Located on the Cardiff waterfront, the Wales Millennium Centre was designed by Welsh architect Jonathan Adams, and the materials used in its construction are reflective of Welsh life— the layered strata of sea cliffs, the texture and color of the steel, the Welsh hardwoods and the multi-colored slate of North Wales.
The building, known locally as the “Armadillo” because of its signature curved roof, overlooks the newly fashionable and restored Cardiff Bay neighborhood, the former docks area now buzzing with trendy shops, restaurants, and landscaped plazas.
The Centre opened at the end of Novemberlast month with a weekend of special performances, including a gala event attended by Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edenborough. Upcoming performances include the Welsh National Opera’s La Traviata (Feb. 18- Mar. 11); The Kirov Ballet (Apr. 19 – 30); Miss Saigon (June 7-July 9); and Swan Lake (July 13-16).
“We will have some major names performing here, “ said Judith Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Millennium Centre. “None of the big ballet companies have ever toured Wales , which is truly amazing when you consider the incredible musical heritage that is Wales .”
Ms. Isherwood was previously the Director of Performing Arts for the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and now oversees the $200 million WMC.
In addition to musical and dance performances, the Wales Millennium Centre is the new home of the Welsh National Opera, and will also host childrens’ programs, lectures, films, workshops, and ongoing art exhibitions. For information about upcoming performances and ticket purchases: http://wmc.org.uk
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