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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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Portland Opera at 50 – becoming a summer festival

17 November 2014, Portland US

Portland Opera's 'Die Fledermaus'
Portland Opera's 'Die Fledermaus'(Photo: Karen Almond)

Report by Karyl Charna Lynn

Earlier this month Portland Opera launched its fiftieth anniversary season with a sparkling production of Die Fledermaus, the same opera which inaugurated the company half a century ago.

It's a milestone that has prompted Portland Opera to take a close look at its strategy for the future. The result is a new summer opera festival that will replace the current season from 2016. It's a transformation designed to guarantee the survival of the company for the next half century. 

In recent years, while many opera companies have either folded or been forced to make severe budget cuts to survive, Portland Opera has weathered the storm with a balanced budget, full schedule and staff. PO general director Christopher Mattaliano puts this success down to 'thinking outside the box', including a long-running Broadway Series that nets the company more than half a million dollars annually, and the purchase of its own building, Hampton Opera Center, in 2003.

Yet the company has not been completely immune to the effects of the financial crisis, changing tastes and operagoers' changing habits, so to stay financially sound Mattaliano has decided to move to the spring/summer opera festival model.

'One of the primary reasons for this transformation is to make the 900-seat Newmark Theater our primary home,' explains Mattaliano. 'Our patrons prefer the intimate setting and we are excited about doing operas in a smaller space. It will offer a better experience and save us money by reducing the company’s operating expense by 8 per cent.'

Portland Opera's 2016 season includes four productions at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. Two of these will take place in the intimate Newmark Theatre, the company's new preferred stage for bel canto repertoire, Mozart (except The Magic Flute) and less familiar repertoire.  The remaining two prodcutions will be staged in the company's current home, the 3,000-seat Keller Auditorium.

'The festival will last three months,' says Mattaliano, 'with a series of auxiliary events presented in conjunction with Portland’s other cultural organisations.' The Hampton Opera Center will also play a prominent role in hosting workshops, recitals, chamber opera and post-performance receptions.

Portland experiences an enormous influx of tourists during the summer, a fact on which the company hopes to capitalise by turning Portland Opera Festival into a summer destination like Santa Fe Opera.

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English National Opera pulls out of Orfeo in Bristol

15 November 2014, London, UK

John Berry: 'We must reassess our artistic ambitions and align them with the funds available.'
John Berry: 'We must reassess our artistic ambitions and align them with the funds available.'

English National Opera’s co-production with the Bristol Old Vic of Monteverdi’s Orfeo has been cancelled, with ENO artistic director John Berry blaming ‘the challenging funding situation from April 2015’.

‘The decision to withdraw from the production was made in the interests of achieving a balanced budget for the 2015/16 financial year,’ said Berry. ‘Maintaining a stable financial position is crucial to the company’s future and the ENO Board and management agreed that we must reassess our artistic ambitions and align them with the funds available.’

ENO was the biggest casualty in Arts Council England’s 2015-18 funding round announced over the summer, with its annual grant to drop from £17.2m in 2014/15 to £12.4m per year in 2015-18.

A statement released by ENO suggested that the Bristol Old Vic would not abandon the project entirely but instead postpone while it ‘seeks new partners’. The production was to be directed by BOV artistic director Tom Morris, featuring Anthony Gregory and Mary Bevan in the roles of Orfeo and Euridice.

‘We are very sorry not to be working with Bristol Old Vic next year on what would have been ENO’s first UK project outside London in 15 years,’ said Berry. He described Tom Morris as 'a valued collaborator of ENO’s', referring to Morris’s 2012 production of The Death of Klinghoffer that was recently restaged at the Met.

Morris said: ‘Obviously the decision ENO has had to take is deeply regrettable, given the level of excitement in the city about a partnership combining Bristol Old Vic’s vision for a production of Orfeo and the resources and expertise of ENO. We are deeply sympathetic to ENO in their current situation and share their frustration in having to postpone their ambition to perform further throughout the UK.’

Berry added: ‘There are no hard feelings on either side. We’re just all very sad about it’.

Any customers who have bought tickets through the Bristol Old Vic box office will be able to transfer them to other shows within Bristol Old Vic’s programme, hold them as credit against a future production of Orfeo at Bristol Old Vic, or receive a full refund.

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