Metropolitan Opera reports falling attendance
30 January 2014, New York, US
Peter Gelb(Photo: Dario Acosta)
New York’s Metropolitan Opera has announced that ticket sales figures for its live performances fell to just 79 per cent last year, achieving only 69 per cent of its potential total box office revenue – significantly less than at any other time over the past decade.
Although income from fundraising and cinema screenings increased during the same period, the company has been left with a budget deficit of US$2.8 million for 2012-13.
High ticket prices are thought to be one reason for the shrinking sales: in February last year the Met acknowledged that attendance fell after prices were raised by around 10 percent. Responding to this trend, the average price of a ticket for the current season has been lowered to $156 from $174.
Commenting on the figures, the Met’s general director Peter Gelb said they reflect ‘the challenges that opera companies face in wooing an audience’.
Gelb told the New York Times: ‘We have been, I think, successful in getting younger, newer audiences to come to the Met. But there’s no question that our older audience is ageing, and not attending as frequently as they once did. This is a reality we have to live with, and we’re trying to meet that challenge by keeping our artistic standards as high as possible, introducing new productions and having the greatest singers in the world on our stage.’
Wagner’s Rienzi opens Riga 2014 European Capital of Culture
30 January 2014, Riga, Latvia
Opus in images: Wagner's 'Rienzi' at Latvian National Opera(Photo: Kaspars Garda)
Review by Karyl Charna Lynn
Wagner composed the overture and first two acts of Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes in Riga, before fleeing to Paris. That connection was the reason the opera, in an abbreviated version, was chosen to open Riga 2014, European Capital of Culture.
Rienzi, based on the real-life Italian Cola di Rienzi, deals with power, revenge, class struggle, and star-crossed lovers – universal and timeless themes. It follows Rienzi’s rise to power as a populist leader against the nobility’s tyranny until he became a tyrant himself, and falls from power as the people and Church turned against him.
This production of Rienzi, condensed to two hours and two acts (from six hours and five acts), was renamed Rienzi, Rise and Fall. The Rape of Lucretia ballet was replaced by a classic snippet from Bayadère, performed to Voldemārs Jansons’ electronic music, and the opera opened with a boys chorus singing (Wagner’s song) Der Tannenbaum to set up the evening’s ‘surprise ending’, when the boys chorus (so corrupted) took up arms and aimed at the audience.
Director Kirsten Dehlholm conceived the opera as an opus in images with a message, suffused with symbolism and dominated by a white horse that traditionally represents Fate in Latvia; a projection of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School was the production’s only ‘scenery’. The characters’ costume and make-up took on a larger role, embodying their psychological states and positions: Rienzi wore ‘Tannenbaum’ green, face blackened with soot of sin; Irene (Rienzi’s sister) wore ‘water’ blue, still haunted by her brother’s drowning death; Adriano (Colonna’s son) wore rose, signifying sentimentality in sacrificing his life trying to save his love Irene; and the Roman noblemen (Paolo Orsini and Stefano Colonna) dressed in yellow, recalling their cunning to keep power. Characters often moved in a stylised manner, and the ever-present chorus walked back and forth in place to add motion to this action-deprived work.
Modelled after French Grand Opera, Rienzi exuded a tone more French than German, recalling Les Huguenots and La Juive, but also numerous sounds from Wagner’s next opera, Der fliegende Holländer. The flowery, occasionally bombastic music, lushly played by the Latvian National Opera Orchestra, was efficiently led by maestro Modestas Pitrenas. The cast, especially Torsten Kerl (Rienzi), Elisabet Strid (Irene), Ursula Hesse (Adriano) executed their roles with aplomb.
English National Opera names new music director
25 January 2014, London, UK
Mark Wigglesworth(Photo: Sim Canetty-Clark)
In September 2015 English National Opera will bid farewell to their current music director Edward Gardner and welcome Mark Wigglesworth as his successor.
Wigglesworth comes to ENO with a wealth of operatic experience, including a year as music director of La Monnaie in Brussels. He is widely respected as an interpreter of Mozart, Wagner, Britten and Shostakovich, though some critics have been quick to point out his lack of experience when it comes to leading companies over a long period of time.
Gardner, by contrast, has been with ENO for nearly eight years, yet he had only held the post of music director at Glyndebourne on Tour for two years when he moved to the Coliseum. During his tenure, the ENO Orchestra has gone from strength to strength and Gardner is on his way to being ranked alongside Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Mark Elder, under whom the company also thrived.
After praising Gardner’s ‘phenomenal’ leadership, ENO artistic director John Berry described the 49-year-old Wigglesworth as ‘one of the most outstanding conductors of his generation’. He added: ‘I know Mark will make his presence felt and will support our mission to make ENO one of the most theatrically dynamic and musically exciting opera houses in the world.’
Win 10 song recital discs from Harmonia Mundi
20 January 2014
This wide-ranging selection of recital discs offers a panorama of 19th- and 20th-century European song traditions performed by some of today’s finest interpreters. Highlights include two volumes from Matthias Goerne’s Schubert Edition (Die schöne Müllerin and Schwanengesang), a live recital from Ravinia Festival by the celebrated mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson and Schumann’s Dichterliebe with Mark Padmore. French, English, Spanish and Moravian songs complete the collection – see full details below.
To enter, simply drop us an email with the subject ‘GOERNE’ to email@example.com, or send a postcard to Rhinegold Competitions, 20 Rugby Street, London WC1N 3QZ. Please include your full name, address and a contact telephone number. (Deadline for entries: 28 February 2014.)
- Britten 'Before life & after'
Mark Padmore - tenor
Roger Vignoles - piano
- Canciones españolas
Bernarda Fink - mezzo-soprano
Anthony Spiri - piano
- Dvořák Zigeunerlieder, Songs & Duets
Genia Kühmeier - soprano
Bernarda Fink - mezzo-soprano
Christoph Berner - piano
- Eisler Ernste Gesänge
Matthias Goerne - baritone
- Recital at Ravinia
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson - mezzo-soprano
Drew Minter - countertenor
Peter Serkin - piano
- Schubert Die Winterreise
Werner Güra - tenor
Christoph Berner - piano
- Schubert Schwanengesang
Matthias Goerne - baritone
Christoph Eschenbach - piano
- Schumann Dichterliebe op.48, Liederkreis op.24
Mark Padmore - tenor
Kristian Bezuidenhout - fortepiano
- Victor Hugo en Musique
Konstantin Wolff - bass-baritone
Trung Sam - piano
Italian conductor Claudio Abbado dies aged 80
20 January 2014, Bologna, Italy
Claudio Abbado(Photo: Felix Broede / Deutsche Grammophon)
The Italian conductor Claudio Abbado, former music director of the Teatro alla Scala, has died in Bologna at the age of 80, following a long illness.
Abbado held several positions at La Scala between 1968 and 1986, rising to become artistic director in 1976. He also held the post of music director at the Vienna State Opera from 1986 to 1991, and went on to succeed Herbert von Karajan at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1989 – then regarded the top job in the classical music world.
A message on La Scala website mourned Abbado’s passing while celebrating his legacy: ‘Claudio Abbado has left us. But he will remain at La Scala for ever. This is his theatre: the place that will retain, concretely and tangibly, the mark of the conductor without boundaries, the musician without preconceptions, the man of the theatre who was ready to take risks and the human being whose mind reached out to the world.’ Daniel Barenboim, who led a concert in Abbado’s memory at La Scala, said that the world had lost ‘one of the greatest musicians of the past 50 years’.
Above all, the many tributes that have flooded websites and publications since Abbado’s death have highlighted the maestro’s humanity, gentle mastery and genuineness as hallmarks of his personal style. These qualities also came through in his music-making, where he approached even the biggest orchestral scores like chamber music, coaxing results out of his players through his ability to listen rather than behaving like a podium tyrant.
Abbado was born in Milan to a musical family – both parents taught music – and decided to become a conductor at the age of seven after hearing Debussy’s Trois Nocturnes. He went on to study at Milan’s Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory and with Hans Swarowsky at the Vienna Music Academy.
The maestro first came to public attention when he won the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood in 1958, although on his own admission he was astonished to come first. He made his debut at La Scala, Milan, two years later; however, the real turning point in his career came when Karajan invited him to perform Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the Salzburg Festival in 1965. This symphony was to become a cornerstone of Abbado’s concert repertoire in the decades that followed.
Aside from his years in Milan, Vienna and Berlin, Abbado was also a principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 1987, and in 2003 founded the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. His commitment to working with younger musicians led him to establish the European Union Youth Orchestra (later to become the Chamber Orchestra of Europe) as well as the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and the Orchestra Mozart.
Abbado leaves behind him an extensive recording legacy with Deutsche Grammophon, his label for 46 years. In July 2013, DG released a 41-CD Abbado edition covering the core works of the symphonic repertoire, and in February 2014 will release a new recording of Mozart’s Piano Concertos K466 and 467 with Martha Argerich.
Claudio Abbado, conductor, born 26 June 1933; died 20 January 2014
- YouTube – Abbado conducts the prelude to Verdi's Macbeth (Teatro alla Scala, 1976)
- YouTube – Abbado rehearses Verdi's Requiem with Monserrat Caballé (1985)
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