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Opera Now September Issue Out Now!

2 September 2015

American tenor Bryan Hymel describes his steady and fearless ascent to the treacherously high peaks of 19th-century French opera; the earliest-known opera by a woman composer comes to the Brighton Early Music Festival; and Opera Now’s pick of the new season from touring opera in the UK to Macau’s annual festival of music and arts. Plus, the real reasons behind the recent booing at Covent Garden; we visit Gothenburg Opera’s rehearsals for the new Hitchcock-inspired Notorious; an introduction to the Met’s 10th season from general director Peter Gelb; Danish conductor Michael Schønwandt celebrates the operas of Carl Nielsen; WNO music director Carlo Rizzi explores the pathos of Bellini’s I puritani; love, freedom and fate in Bizet’s Carmen; and your chance to WIN three complete operas on DVD starring Bryan Hymel.

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ROH chorus director announces departure

25 August 2015

Renato Balsadonna
Renato BalsadonnaNeil Gillespie

The Italian conductor Renato Balsadonna is to leave the position of chorus director at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden at the end of the 2015/16 season to fully concentrate on his conducting career.

Balsadonna worked as a répétiteur in Italy before becoming assistant chorus master in Basle and later at La Monnaie, Brussels. He was appointed chorus director at La Monnaie in 1997 under Antonio Pappano, before taking up the same position at the Royal Opera House in 2004. He has since prepared the Royal Opera Chorus for all their productions with the Royal Opera Chorus and the Royal Ballet.

Other engagements have included conducting Don Quichotte for Grange Park Opera, assisting Norbert Balatsch at the Bayreuth Festival, and appearances as a guest conductor with Frankfurt Opera Chorus, BBC Singers, Netherlands Radio Choir, the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Chorus and the Grant Park Festival Chorus, Chicago. He has also made a number of recordings for EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, Warner Classics, Opera Rara and Chandos.

Balsadonna said: 'In recent years, the Royal Opera House, through the generosity of Tony, has supported and nurtured my ambition to develop as a conductor. I will continue living in London, enjoying as a conductor the wonderful music-making of its orchestras and of the Royal Opera House.'

ROH music director Antonio Pappano said: 'Renato is undoubtedly one of the finest chorus directors in the world and has played a key role in the quality of the Royal Opera's performances over the past decade. He's an inspirational colleague who consistently strives for the best and will be very difficult to replace.'

The ROH is inviting applications for the post.

Renato Balsadonna

Wigmore Hall director in plea to save the song recital

8 August 2015, London, UK

John Gilhooly: 'Now is the time to take action'
John Gilhooly: 'Now is the time to take action'(Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

John Gilhooly has launched an impassioned plea to save the song recital, which he says is at risk of becoming an ‘endangered species’.

‘Some commentators insist that the song recital is living on borrowed time’, writes the director of London’s Wigmore Hall. ‘They point to ageing audiences, patchy programming at leading concert venues, and the incompatibility of narrowing attention spans and deep listening to refined settings of poetic texts. The number of song recitals around Europe is quite clearly in decline. This is a concern that we cannot afford to ignore.’

Wigmore Hall, he points out, is one of the few venues still offering a rich programme of song recitals as well as its own International Song Competition. A total of 96 song recitals will be given at Wigmore Hall during the 2015/16 season, including the first part of a two-year Schubert series presenting all 600 of the composer’s Lieder.

‘It is simply not good enough to accept that the song recital is an endangered species and wait for it to expire’, says Gilhooly. ‘Now is the time to take action, to raise capital and invest in ambitious song programmes, to foster extraordinary emerging talent and connect people with the greatest song recitalists of our time.

The Wigmore Hall/Kohn Foundation’s 2015 International Song Competition runs 6-10 September. Schubert: The Complete Songs opens on 22 September with a recital by the Austrian baritone Florian Boesch and pianist Graham Johnson.

Wigmore Hall

Santa Fe announces Steve Jobs opera

7 August 2015, Katy Wright

Mason Bates
Mason BatesTodd Rosenberg

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

Mark Campbell
Mark CampbellLaura Marie Duncan

Santa Fe Opera has commissioned composer Mason Bates and librettist Mark Campbell to write an opera based on the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died of cancer in 2011. The opera will focus on Jobs’ battle with cancer, examining the events and people that shaped and inspired him.

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, which will premiere in 2017, will be Bates’ first produced opera. Kevin Newbury will direct and Michael Christie, music director at Minnesota Opera, will make his Santa Fe Opera conducting debut.

A statement from Santa Fe Opera says that the work will pay tribute to ‘one of the most fascinating figures of our time; an innovator who simplified communication with sleek devices, but who paradoxically learned that complex human relationships require more than one button to work.’ Bates will seek ‘to capture the buzzing creative realm of Silicon Valley with a kinetic electro-acoustic score, lush vocal writing, a compelling non-linear narrative, and a production as innovative as the man himself.’

General director Charles MacKay said: ‘The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs will mark the Company’s 15th world premiere, continuing the tradition of producing work that pushes the boundaries of the art form. We are delighted to take this journey into the life and legacy of a distinctly American figure through the creative genius of Mason Bates and Mark Campbell.’

The opera will receive its first workshop in September.

Santa Fe Opera

WNO appoints new managing director

5 August 2015, Katy Wright

Leonora Thomson
Leonora Thomson

Welsh National Opera has appointed Leonora Thomson as its new managing director. Currently director of audiences and development at the Barbican Centre, Thomson is to take up the position in December 2015. She will work alongside David Poutney, who has extended his contract as artistic director until 2019.

Thomson began her career with EMI Classics as international press and promotions manager, before moving to Radio 3 where she held posts as head of publicity and classic music tv and later strategic communications adviser. She joined the Barbican in 2008 as head of communications, and in 2010 became director of audiences and development.

In her current role, Thomson helped the Barbican achieve record attendances of 1.8m people and record box office figures. She has also been responsible for developing the centre's digital strategy, and developed its relationships with higher education institutions.

WNO chairman Geraint Talfan Davies said: 'I believe Leonora’s political astuteness, openness and strongly analytical approach, not to mention her unusually varied experience, will be a real asset to the company as we face the stiff challenges of the next few years.'

Thomson said: 'I’m thrilled to have been asked to join David at WNO, working with the management team and Board to ensure WNO realises its future ambitions. It’s a privilege to be joining a company with such a great history and brilliant reputation, and which plays such a key role in national life. Opera has always been a major part of life for me, and it’s wonderful to have the chance now to work for one of the UK’s leading opera companies.'

Welsh National Opera


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