ENO's A Midsummer Night's Dream divides opinion
23 May 2011, London, UK
Anna Christy as Tytania(Photo: Alastair Muir)
Report by Claire Jackson
The new English National Opera production of Britten's A Midsummer Night’s Dream has experienced a controversial start to its ten-date run.
There was tittering in the audience at the opening night last Thursday when it was announced that William Towers (currently rehearsing at Glyndebourne) would sing (but not act) the part of Oberon, having replaced Iestyn Davies at the eleventh hour.
But as the London Coliseum crowd began to witness director Christopher Alden’s rendering of the Shakespearean classic as a dark, disturbed tale of bleak trauma and despair, the tittering turned to inquisitive murmurs.
The timeless magical wood is transformed into a 1960s boys school. The four lovers are experimental teenage pupils, Titania is an overtly sexualised teacher and Oberon is portrayed as having paedophile tendencies. The fairy magic is a joint.
Several audience members left after the first act. Some did not wait that long. There were boos among the cheers when the production team took to the stage.
The stark setting has potential. But keeping the lovers, the workers and the fairies in the same space with little differentiation muddies the waters; the hallucinatory plot becomes – dare we say it – dull.
The performance is largely presented in a sensitive manner; we never witnessed any actual abuse. But the hints of it – and Britten’s connection to it – bubble under the surface, and threaten to boil over at any point. Most agree this claustrophobic production is brilliant; but not everyone will like it.
Opera Australia unveils digital broadcast strategy
17 May 2011, Sydney, Australia
Adrian Collette(Photo: Rodger Cummins)
Opera Australia (OA) has unveiled a new digital strategy that builds on the success of the company’s recent cinema screenings.
Screenings in 29 domestic cinemas attracted such a strong response that this number will now be increased to more than 60 locations across Australia and New Zealand – beginning at the end of May with The Marriage of Figaro and Rigoletto. International screenings will take place in the USA, UK, Canada, Spain and Russia from July onwards.
A second new initiative – the company’s own CD and DVD label – was launched last week. Domestic distributionfor this is to be handled by Select Distribution, with Naxos taking responsibility for an additional 60 territories worldwide.
Partnerships with Australia’s ABC network and the high definition channel Brava HDTV have also been confirmed, with TV broadcasts of 17 filmed OA productions expected to begin mid-year across Australia, Europe and North America.
Commenting on these developments, OA Chief Executive, Adrian Collette, said: “It’s exciting to be looking ahead at a bright future for opera and adapting to suit the world in which we live and work. Now, for the cost of a movie ticket or a DVD, people can enjoy the best of Opera Australia’s performances wherever they are – from Devonport to Darwin. Or indeed, Moscow!”
Dallas Opera music director Graeme Jenkins to step down in 2013
9 May 2011, Dallas, US
Conductor, Graeme Jenkins(Photo: The Dallas Opera)
The music director of the Dallas Opera, Graeme Jenkins, is to step down at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Jenkins, who has been with the company since 1994, said that his decision was prompted by the desire to concentrate on his European conducting career.
In his resignation letter to Dallas Opera General Director & CEO, Keith Cerny, Jenkins said that what he has learned “in the pit in Dallas has given me a foundation of repertoire and experience to translate to opera houses in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and Canada”.
Jenkins will be given the title of ‘Music Director Emeritus’ after moving on from the company in 2013, and confirmed that “I will remain for the rest of my artistic life a goodwill ambassador for the Dallas Opera.”
Chairman of the Dallas Opera, Dr Kern Wildenthal, paid tribute to the contribution made by Jenkins during his tenure, saying that “he created magic, as well as music.”
The 39th Istanbul Music Festival welcomes Renée Fleming
6 May 2011, Istanbul, Turkey
Renée Fleming(Photo: Decca / Andrew Eccles)
The programme for the 39th Istanbul Music Festival has been announced at a press conference overlooking the Bosphorus.
One of this year’s highlights is a concert by Renée Fleming at the city’s spectacular Hagia Eirene Museum, a Byzantine church dating from the 6th Century AD. Her 22 July programme will be accompanied by the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra under Sascha Goetzel.
The theme for the 39th Istanbul Music Festival is “Journeys to Faraway Lands”.
Festival Director, Yeşim Gürer Oymak, said: “Within the framework of this year’s theme, we have asked artists and ensembles to include some specific works as well as new projects. While some of these programmes carry the local motifs of the host culture, the rest narrates the composers’ journeys to different countries and cities, and the faraway lands that were not travelled but yet imagined”
Apart from the Hagia Eirene Museum, festival events will take place at historical sites throughout Istanbul including the Archaeological Museum Courtyard, Enameled Kiosk, Sureyya Opera House, Istanbul Modern Museum, Energy Museum, and Istanbul University Rectorate Building.
The 39th Istanbul Music Festival runs from 4 to 29 July 2011.
Robert Lepage directs Wagner's Die Walküre at the Met
5 May 2011, New York, US
Jonas Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Siegmund and Sieglinde(Photo: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)
Review by Robert Levine
All talk of Robert Lepage’s production of the Ring Cycle at the Met remains about the sets and videos, and there’s no denying their fascination. Storm clouds turn into a brilliant snowstorm, simple planks transform into a dense forest of trees, and later into horses on which the Valkyries ride. Molten rocks, snow-capped mountains, all-consuming flames: it’s all quite stunning. But the problem is that it is also distracting. Instead of getting involved with the music, one ends up wondering what the set will do next. In addition, Lepage has forgotten to actually direct his singers at times, giving them very little to do.
Bryn Terfel’s Wotan is physically as imposing as a Colossus and his dramatic instincts are superb. Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund pays attention to every nuance, every change in the volatile atmosphere of the first act. The voice is capable of exquisite, sweet singing and powerful outbursts. Eva-Marie Westbroek seems to be holding back as Sieglinde. Hans-Peter König is a wonderfully evil-sounding Hunding. Stephanie Blythe’s Fricka, rolled in on a throne adorned with ram’s horns, almost steals the show, with her authority and grand tone. She actually breaks into tears at one point – the epitome of manipulation – and husband Wotan gives in.
Deborah Voigt, singing her first Brünnhilde, is simply wrong for the part. The voice has lost its warmth, edgy at the top, and the mid-range was never strong.
James Levine, leading the glorious Met Orchestra, has trimmed a few minutes off the first and last act from his last outings with this opera, and the new sweep is welcome, keeping the audience riveted.
Robert Levine’s full review of Die Walküre will appear in our August/September issue.
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