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Juan Diego Flórez sings for Children’s Rights at the UN

10 December 2014, Geneva, Switzerland

Juan Diego Flórez with children of the Sinfonía por el Perú
Juan Diego Flórez with children of the Sinfonía por el Perú

Opera superstar Juan Diego Flórez will be doing his bit for world peace this evening when he appears in an international line up of singers in the inaugural ‘Concert for Peace’ at the United Nations Palace in Geneva.

The Peruvian tenor will be joined by South African Soprano Pretty Yende, Egyptian Fatma Said and the Russian bass Sergei Artamonov in a concert that marks World Human Rights Day today, singing a selection of opera arias by Mozart, Donizetti and Bellini, and national songs ranging from the Egyptian classics to traditional Peruvian and Zulu folk songs.

In his role as UN Goodwill Ambassador, Flórez will also be delivering a speech during the evening, promoting ‘children’s right to dignity and education through music’.

Spanish conductor Pablo Mielgo will head the Harmonia Symphony Orchestra, made up mostly by young musicians who take part in projects using music as a tool for the development of children and youth social integration.
 
The concert, sponsored by the ONUART Foundation, will be broadcast both live and on-demand to the 58 member countries of the European Broadcasting Union – Eurovision. At a later date, it will be broadcast worldwide and released on DVD.
 
The concert takes place in the UN’s Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room in Geneva tonight at 6:30 pm (Central European Time).

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Juan Diego Flórez

Royal Opera launches young composer competition

4 December 2014, London, UK

Covent Garden's energetic Italian/American maestro Antonio Pappano
Covent Garden's energetic Italian/American maestro Antonio Pappano(Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke)

The Royal Opera House has launched the 2015 Fanfare Competition, which invites young musicians to compose short pieces to be played in the front-of-house areas of its theatre.

Entrants should be aged from 11 to 16, and their compositions of around 30 seconds should be uploaded as MP3 files to the Fanfare Competition website at www.roh.org.uk/fanfare. The website also has resources to provide inspiration and guidance.

Winning entrants will be invited to a series of workshops, where their music will be arranged by composer Duncan Chapman and played by members of the ROH Orchestra, conducted by music director Antonio Pappano. The final versions will be recorded at the Opera House and played before of every performance on the main stage as well as during the intervals, in lieu of the traditional bell which calls audiences to their seats.

This year, the ROH is inviting entrants to write music inspired by maestro Pappano, drawing on his energetic personality, his Italian/American roots and his love of Italian opera.

The first Fanfare Competition was launched in 2009 and so far 50 winning entries have been recorded and played at the Royal Opera House.

The closing date for entries is 13 February 2015.

Click here to watch a video introducing the competition.

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Royal Opera House Fanfare Competition

Operas by Kerry Andrew top two categories at this year's British Composer Awards

3 December 2014, London, UK

The real deal: Kerry Andrew poses with her two awards
The real deal: Kerry Andrew poses with her two awards(Photo: Mark Allan)

The British Composer Awards took place yesterday at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London. Sir Harrison Birtwistle won his sixth career award for Songs from the same Earth in the Vocal category, while Kerry Andrew was the star of the night with two awards for operas: Woodwose: A Community Chamber Opera in the Community or Educational Project category, and Dart’s Love in the Stage Works category.

Dart's Love received its world premiere at London's Tête à Tête Opera Festival in August 2013. Inspired by the folk saying 'River Dart, River Dart, every year thou claim'st a heart', the opera tells the story of the lovesick River Dart's destructive passion for a handsome Wild Swimmer.

Woodwose was also inspired by folk stories and folk song, using material provided by 140 people from Westminster aged 8 to 80. Isabelle Adams, one of the community members who took part in the project, said 'this is a piece with real artistic and creative integrity, not just children singing a song or adults having a go'.

Julia Haferkorn and Ed McKeon, artistic directors of the British Composer Awards, commented: ’This year’s Awards show that British Music is alive and thinking, singing and imagining new expressive possibilities. There’s a spring in its step and dreams on the tip of its tongue. The winning pieces reflect the incredible originality and diversity of our new music, making the Awards a terrific showcase of music for all open-eared listeners.’

2014 British Composer Awards – Winners List

  • Instrumental Solo or Duo
    Solitude by Rebecca Saunders
  • Chamber
    Danaё by Martin Iddon
  • Vocal
    Songs from the same Earth by Harrison Birtwistle
  • Choral
    Night Flight by Cecilia McDowall
  • Wind Band or Brass Band
    Journey of the Lone Wolf by Simon Dobson
  • Orchestral
    Frieze by Mark-Anthony Turnage
  • Stage Works
    Dart’s Love by Kerry Andrew
  • Liturgical
    Chaconne for Jonathan Harvey by Ed Hughes
  • Sonic Art
    Public Address by Tom White
  • Contemporary Jazz Composition
    The Study of Touch by Django Bates
  • Community or Educational Project
    Woodwose: A Community Chamber Opera by Kerry Andrew
  • Making Music Award
    Loch Awe by Steve Forman
  • International Award
    Circle Map by Kaija Saariaho

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British Composer Awards

Rome Opera saved from the brink

24 November 2014, Rome, Italy

Teatro dell'Opera di Roma
Teatro dell'Opera di Roma

The future of the Teatro dell’Opera, Rome’s principal opera company, has been secured after a deal was signed between the theatre’s management and unions which reversed an earlier decision to sack the entire orchestra and chorus of the opera.

At the beginning of October, it was announced that 182 orchestral musicians and chorus members would lose their full-time contracts in a bid bring the Teatro dell’Opera back from the brink of financial collapse. The news provoked outrage in the international opera world, with accusations of ‘cultural vandalism’ being directed at the opera’s management. A series of campaigns in the media and by prominent cultural organisations across Europe put further pressure on the city authorities in Rome to avert the crisis.

Following a month of intense negotiations, musicians and choristers have accepted a deal that makes provisions for €1.5m worth of savings across the entire payroll of the opera company, with another €1.9m of savings coming from cuts to overheads and production costs. The deal has been ratified by 97 per cent of the opera house’s employees and the Teatro dell’Opera’s general manager Carlo Fuortes announced last week that it’s ‘back to work as normal’ for the company.

The row between Rome’s musicians unions and opera management was sparked off following the embarrassment of Maestro Riccardo Muti quitting his position as honorary music director at the house, claiming that the Teatro dell’Opera was unable to offer the ‘serene conditions’ to work productively.

Ignazio Marino, the mayor of Rome, said: ‘This is a successful outcome for the whole city. The opera can now return to work with serenity … I hope maestro Muti may revise his decision.’

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La Monnaie appeals against budget cuts

20 November 2014, Brussels, Belgium

Cultural flagship: Belgium's La Monnaie/De Munt
Cultural flagship: Belgium's La Monnaie/De Munt(Photo: Johan Jacobs)

Belgium’s national opera company, La Monnaie/De Munt, has been ordered to cut its spending by €6.5m over the next five years. The dictum from Belgium’s federal government has been described by La Monnaie’s director, Peter de Caluwe, as a step in the direction of a ‘cultural blackout’.

In addition to savings of 4 per cent on staff and 20 per cent on operating costs, the government has mooted the idea of merging La Monnaie’s orchestra with the National Orchestra of Belgium (ONB). In Caluwe’s words: ‘The government will examine how synergies and efficiencies can be achieved through close collaboration with the ONB and La Monnaie.’

News of the cuts has provoked outrage and concern across the opera world, prompting an open letter from the chairman of the industry body Deutschsprachige Opernkonferenz, whose members include all the major German opera houses plus La Scala, Paris Opera and London’s Royal Opera House.

‘The facts are clear and shocking: Belgium expects La Monnaie to save almost €3m by January, rising to a total of around €6.5m by 2019. Taking into consideration cuts made over the last five years, La Monnaie's budget will be reduced by 30 per cent,’ writes Opernkonferenz chairman Bernd Loebe. ‘It is a mystery how, on top of the endless legal battles with lawyers and trade unions, a social climate in the opera house and artistic productivity can be maintained.’

Loebe now runs Frankfurt Opera, but was the director of La Monnaie from 1990 to 2002. Praising La Monnaie’s high artistic standards and culture of ‘working with less’, his letter ends with an impassioned plea: ‘A theatre of La Monnaie’s quality should not be doomed in this cynical way! I call on the people of Europe to oppose the tasteless notions of the powers that be, and to our own politicians I say: do not allow an institution that has represented Belgium so positively at home and abroad to fall into ruins.’

La Monnaie’s 2014/15 season includes 20 productions, over a third of which are new. Last month saw the company’s world premiere of Shell Shock, a new opera commemorating the centenary of World War One.

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