* Berwyn Pearce, great-nephew of Sir Geraint Evans,
auditions for a part in Sweeney Todd.
The great-nephew of one of Wales’s singing legends will be bidding for a starring role alongside operatic great Bryn Terfel at this summer’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
Berwyn Pearce, 26, from Cilfynydd, near Pontypridd, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his great-uncle, Sir Geraint Evans and carve out a musical career.
Sir Geraint, a miner’s son who died in 1992, was a star of the Royal Opera House and, like Bryn Terfel, a bass-baritone who performed in the great opera houses of the world in roles such as Falstaff and Figaro.
Berwyn, currently teaching at Cwmderwen Primary School, in Blackwood, in Gwent, has been short-listed for the role of Anthony when Bryn Terfel (pictured left) heads a star-studded cast in a performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway smash hit Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street at Llangollen in July.
The graduate of the Central School of Speech and Drama in London impressed the Eisteddfod’s Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths at auditions for Sweeney Todd, held in the Wales Millennium Centre, in Cardiff.
He is back at the Wales Millennium Cetre, this time in front of Bryn Terfel himself, as a vies for a place in the curtain-raiser to this year’s Eisteddfod at the Royal International Pavilion on Monday, July 7.
Berwyn said: “I’m very excited about the prospect. It’s a great opportunity and I’m nervous as well.
“We did perform Sweeney Todd in college and I shared the role of Anthony so I am brushing up on it ahead of the audition.
“It will be incredible to audition with Bryn Terfel, especially because of who my great-uncle was, but that won’t count for anything on audition day which will be a great experience.”
Sondheim’s acclaimed show which was first performed in 1979 and will see Terfel play the title role of the murderous barber with a cast that also includes Carmarthen tenor Wynne Evans, Gio Compario of the Go Compare television ads.
Over 80 young singers took part in the first auditions in Cardiff, where Berwyn appeared, and at the Royal International Pavilion, in Llangollen, and these have been whittled down to just 12 so that Bryn Terfel can himself choose the three young unknowns who will take the stage alongside him.
The roles to be filled are star-crossed young lovers Anthony and Johanna and street urchin Tobias Ragg who works for Todd’s rival, Pirelli (Wynne Evans) and then for piemaker Mrs Lovett, Todd’s murderous accomplice.
The Anthony and Johanna roles are for tenors and sopranos over 18 while Tobias will be played by a ten to 14-year-old.
Eilir Owen Griffiths has been impressed by the quality of the entrants and he said: “The standard has been very, very high and it’s been very exciting.
“I am sure everyone will be very well prepared because there is a lot at stake. Performing a major role alongside an icon like Bryn Terfel could be the springboard for someone’s career.
“Bryn and the show conductor, Gareth Jones, will be there for the auditions and will choose the three successful singers on the day.
“They will have learned the part and we will be trying out the different Anthonys with the various Johannas and they may have to read parts with Bryn.
“One of our roles at the Eisteddfod is to provide an opportunity for young talent to flourish and there can be no bigger opportunity than to sing alongside a legend like Bryn Terfel.
“Just the chance to actually audition for a role like this is an experience in itself and one which will stand them in good stead in the future.”
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Sondheim is set in 19th century London and tells the story of the crazed barber who murders his clients and supplies the bodies to his accomplice, piemaker Mrs Lovett.
Sondheim’s multi-award winning classic was first performed on Broadway in 1979 and has since been a regular production across the world and on the big screen in 2007 when superstar Johnny Depp played Todd and Helena Bonham Carter his accomplice.
Bryn Terfel is fresh from starring in a production of Sweeney Todd alongside Emma Thompson with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at the Lincoln Center in New York last month and before that played it in 2002 in Chicago.
It will be the first time he has performed on the International Eisteddfod stage since he opened the 2006 festival and that was his first appearance at Llangollen in a decade.
He said: “I’m absolutely thrilled I’m able to appear at the 2014 International Eisteddfod. I’m a proud Welshman and the International Eisteddfod is unique, the atmosphere, the colour, the audience, even the flowers, it really is a very, very special event.”
Eilir Owen Griffiths added: “It’s brilliant to have Bryn back this year and what an experience for those who come through the auditions to be on stage with him.
“It’s very exciting and the orchestra for the performance, the Sinfonia Cymru, is a very young orchestra also, conducted by maestro Gareth Jones.
“We need to be leaving a legacy and giving an opportunity for young people to shine.”
Sweeney Todd will be the curtain raiser to six tremendous days at Llangollen which kicks off on Tuesday, July 8, with this year’s concerts featuring Dutch jazz diva Caro Emerald, American tenor star Noah Stewart, a new work by composer Karl Jenkins, the Cape Town Opera, the Choir of the World competition on Saturday night and legendary British rockers Status Quo closing the event on Sunday night.
To book tickets and for more information on the 2014 festival go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.