Opera co. based in Cardiff and founded on amateur basis in 1943, becoming fully professional 1950. First stage prod. Cardiff 1946 (Cav. and Pag.). Soon built fine reputation for its perfs. of such rare Verdi operas as Nabucco, I Lombardi, and Les Vêpres siciliennes. Professional ch. (WNO Chorale) from 1968 and professional orch. (Welsh Philharmonia, renamed Orch. of WNO 1979) from 1970 (début in Aida, Llandudno, cond. James Levine). Tours widely, giving seasons in Birmingham, Liverpool, Swansea, Bristol, and Southampton. In joint venture with Scottish Opera, embarked on cycle of Janáček operas, first in Brit. Its Britten prods. have won great admiration, especially Billy Budd and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Has visited London and perf. at the Proms, and toured abroad (e.g. Barcelona and Frankfurt). Its prod. of Tristan und Isolde was perf. at CG 1993. Mus. dirs.: Idloes Owen (1944–52), Leo Quayle (1952–3), Frederick Berend (1953–5), Vilem Tausky (1955), Warwick Braithwaite (1956–61), Charles Groves (1961–3), Bryan Balkwill (1963–6), James Lockhart (1968–73), Richard Armstrong (1973–86), Charles Mackerras (1987–92), Carlo Rizzi (1992–2001); Tugan Sokhiev (2003–4); Rizzi 2004–2007. Gave early opportunities to sops. Gwyneth Jones, Elizabeth Vaughan, and Margaret Price. First Brit. opera co. to stage Lulu (1971, before 3rd act completion). Gave f.ps. of Grace Williams's The Parlour (1966), Hoddinott's The Beach of Falesá (1974), Mathias's The Servants (1980), Metcalf's The Journey (1981), Tornrak (1990), and Maxwell Davies's The Doctor of Myddfai (1996), and f. Brit. p. of Martinů's The Greek Passion (1981). Moved to its first permanent home in Cardiff, at newly opened arts complex, the Welsh Millennium Centre, 2004.