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Olli Kortekangas' One Night Stand premieres in Helsinki

2 December 2011, Helsinki, Finland

Terttu Iso-Oja (Axe/Momo) in the Cat Club
Terttu Iso-Oja (Axe/Momo) in the Cat Club(Photo: Rami Talja)

Review by Karyl Charna Lynn

One Night Stand is a multi-level, quasi-surrealistic portrait of a generation of 20 to 30-year-olds: their aspirations, dreams, fears, and relationships mirror the malaise of a wider social context coloured by loneliness, longing, insecurity, alcohol and drug addiction, violence, suicide, aging, theft, and mental illness.

The action takes place in a 24-hour adventure/dream, alternating between the present and five years in the future, which blurs the line between dreams and reality and underlines how life and times can change dramatically in half a decade. One of the most effective transformations was a café for cat lovers, which goes bankrupt and reopens as a night club offering live transsexual shows with cheap lager.

This edgy exploration of sexuality and gender was carried into the portrayal of the lead character, which alternated between a guy called Axe and a gal called Momo, and required two singers (tenor and soprano) for the role. Depending upon the singer’s gender, the dynamics of relationships (heterosexual or homosexual) also changed along with the tone of the opera.

Unfolding on a stage divided into several sections by aluminum poles, draped with plastic drop cloths onto which images from Axe/Momo’s diary were projected, and supplemented by suggestive props, the action flowed seamlessly from street scenes to cafe/nightclub, a hospital emergency room, library, and even the seashore. A strong Japanese aesthetic influenced a black/white uniformity in costumes and identical black wigs. 

Taking such a relevant and insightful libretto about the ills of our time (which could easily stand on its own as a play) and turning it into a successful opera was a challenge which Olli Kortekangas met. His music not only added depth, breadth, and feeling to the opera, but emotional heft to the characters: you really cared what happened to these kids. Drawing inspiration from a variety of musical and operatic genres, he skillfully navigated through a sea of diverse vocal waters, from grand opera arias and dynamic coloratura, Greek Chorus-like recitative (speaking snippets of cell phone conversations) to cabaret, Broadway musicals, tango music, and modern jazz. There were even sprinkles of Mussorgsky and Phillip Glass, and sounds of bongo drums, and saxophone. All was held together with melodies and harmonies based on a classic style with an ascending and descending structure.

This is a 21st century opera that speaks to a 21st century audience in its language and music. It is fast-paced, almost chaotic in places, and so relevant for today’s youth that it promises to bring down the average age of the typical operagoer by 30 years. This is an opera for the future.


Pavarotti auction to raise funds for young tenors

1 December 2011, Paris, France

Luciano Pavarotti
Luciano Pavarotti

Works of art and other personal items that belonged to Luciano Pavarotti are being put up for auction in Paris and New York. More than 250 items have been listed, including a 1928 Marc Chagall watercolour and the Panama hat that he wore at his last wedding. 

Proceeds from the sales, which are expected to raise up to £1.75m, will be kept by the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation to support talented young tenors. The sale is an initiative of Pavarotti’s second wife and former secretary, Nicoletta Mantovani, who also heads the Foundation.

Pavarotti was buried in his hometown of Modena in 2007, following a career that spanned more than four decades and made him the biggest selling solo classical music artist of all time.

Janáček's theatre threatened with closure

26 November 2011, Brno, Czech Republic

Brno's National Theatre
Brno's National Theatre(Photo: Anibal Trejo)

The National Theatre in Brno, Czech Republic, may be forced to shut down because of a 20 per cent cut in funding from the city’s governing council.

Under the new budget, the opera ensemble, chorus and orchestra have been abolished, with the proviso that some musicians will be offered new jobs in a few months’ time.

Janáček lived in Brno from the age of 11 until his death in 1928, and the world premiere of Jenůfa took place at the National Theatre (then the Czech Provisional Theatre) in January 1904.

Employees have launched an online petition to save the theatre: http://zachrante-operu.cz/english

Les Talens Lyriques present rare Dauvergne opera in Versailles

25 November 2011, Versailles, France

'Hercule Mourant' in concert at the Opéra Royal de Versailles
'Hercule Mourant' in concert at the Opéra Royal de Versailles

Review by Alexandra Coghlan

The latest addition to Christophe Rousset’s cabinet of baroque curiosities, Antoine Dauvergne’s Hercule Mourant demonstrates the considerable influence (if not quite the genius) of Dauvergne’s teacher, Rameau.

A concert performance at the Opéra Royal in Versailles – the first since the work’s 18th century debut – was led by Veronique Gens, delivering a characteristically assured performance as Hercules’ neglected wife Dejanire. Andrew Foster-Williams rose to the challenge of singing his own death, though his dramatic conviction never quite caught up to his technical skill, and he had a considerable rival in Edwin Crossley-Mercer’s assertive Philoctete.

Unusual orchestral colourings and textural effects – an extended passage of string tremolos for Hercules’ ascension, muted bassoons paired with horns and strings for the sombre cloud that settles of the drama of Act V – give the work an interest it lacks elsewhere. One for the record collection perhaps, but not the opera stage.

 

London's Royal Opera House launches first digital game

23 November 2011, London, UK

Screenshot: 'The Show Must Go On'
Screenshot: 'The Show Must Go On'

The Royal Opera House has launched a new digital game that allows opera fans to try their hand at being a stage manager.

Created for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users, The Show Must Go On is a collaboration with game developer, Hide&Seek. Available as an app, the game includes five different scenarios that challenge the player to retrieve sheet music, assemble props, build the set, light the show and dress the cast – all in a short time before the curtain goes up.

EMI has supplied recordings for the game’s soundtrack, which features artists such as Simon Rattle and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as well as sound effects recorded at the Royal Opera House.

ROH chief executive, Tony Hall, described the move as ‘a very logical step for us as we increasingly develop our content available across multiple digital platforms.’

 


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