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Latest News

Domingo celebrates 40 years at Covent Garden

28 October 2011, London, UK

Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House
Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House(Photo: Catherine Ashmore)

Review by Francis Muzzu

After 230 performances of 26 roles with the Royal Opera, you could excuse Plácido Domingo for resting on his laurels.  But at a performance yesterday marking the opera superstar’s fortieth anniversary with the company, he added yet another role to this list, singing the title role in Act 3 of Rigoletto.

The evening started with Act 4 of Otello, where Domingo’s formidable clarion tones overrode worry about the top of the voice.  Descending to his current baritonal register, Rigoletto posed less of a problem, as the main burden of performance fell upon others. Next came Act 3 of Simon Boccanegra, which although beautifully phrased and acted, revealed a lack of true baritonal depth and richness.  But an ecstatic audience would hear no wrong, and this truly amazing artist received the standing ovation he deserved. 

Antonio Pappano offered sterling support in the pit, and particularly good contributions came from Ailyn Pérez and Francesco Meli in Rigoletto, and Paata Burchuladze in Simon Boccanegra.

ROH's Plácido Domingo Celebration will receive a second performance at 3pm on 30 October 2011

 

 

Barenboim for top music post at La Scala

14 October 2011, Milan, Italy

Daniel Barenboim
Daniel Barenboim(Photo: Ricardo Dávila)

Daniel Barenboim has been appointed as the music director of Milan's Teatro alla Scala. He will take up his appointment on 1 December, and his initial contract runs for five years.

Barenboim has already established close links with La Scala, spending around two months conducting the orchestra each season. His new contract formalises the relationship and increases his commitment to around four months per year.

The Berlin-based conductor will be seen as a steady hand at La Scala during turbulent times which have seen a succession of strikes and cancelled performances as unions take action against unprecedented budget cuts.

‘The Italians are extremely volatile,’ says Barenboim. 'This is both their charm and what often can stand in the way. But you cannot change this. I am very happy there.'

 

Winners of the 2011 Gramophone Awards announced

7 October 2011, London, UK

Dame Janet Baker, winner of the Gramophone Lifetime Achivement Award
Dame Janet Baker, winner of the Gramophone Lifetime Achivement Award(Credit: Peter Crane)

This year’s Gramophone Awards have been announced at a ceremony in London hosted by the soprano, Susan Bullock.

The opera category went to Opera Rara for their recording of Rossini’s Ermione with David Parry and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring a cast led by the Italian soprano, Carmen Giannattasio.

Covent Garden’s artistic director, Antonio Pappano, appeared on no fewer than three award-winning discs in the categories for best Recital, best DVD Performance, and Editor’s Choice.

His winning DVD Performance of Don Carlo with Rolando Villazón in the title role was praised as ‘as fine an example of singing by a tenor in Verdi as we have heard in many a year: elegant in detail, movingly expressive and endowed with that special beauty of tone which was Villazón's distinctive gift’.

Another tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, topped the Recital category with his disc of verismo arias described as ‘a perfectly recorded and stunning recital’.

Meanwhile, Dame Janet Baker took home the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the world of singing and large legacy of recordings.

 

Domingo signs exclusive recording contract with Sony

28 September 2011

Plácido Domingo
Plácido Domingo(Photo: Bart Everly)

Plácido Domingo has signed an exclusive recording contract with Sony Classical, bringing him back to the company where he began his recording career in the late 1960s.

Commenting on the news, Domingo said: ‘Sony and its predecessors have played such an important part in much of my career, yet I have not had an exclusive contract with any company in nearly forty years. Finding a permanent home for my future recordings appeals to me very much, and this steady relationship will enable Sony Classical and myself to create a variety of new musical projects, many of them in repertoire that I have never recorded before. In this way, we are moving forward with hope and trust in the future of the music industry."

Domingo’s discography to date includes over 100 recordings of complete operas and more than 50 music videos. He has been the recipient of 12 Grammy Awards, including 3 Latin Grammys.

Now aged 70, the opera superstar has recently begun appearing in major baritone roles such as Simon Boccanegra and Rigoletto, adding to the tenor repertoire for which he is best known.

Away from the concert platform, he leads the annual Operalia competition for young singers and is due to continue as the general director of LA Opera until at least 2013.

 

Renée Fleming leads San Francisco Opera's Lucrezia Borgia

27 September 2011, San Francisco, US

Renée Fleming (Lucrezia Borgia)
Renée Fleming (Lucrezia Borgia)(Photo: Cory Weaver)

Michael Fabiano (Gennaro) and Elizabeth DeShong (Maffio Orsini)
Michael Fabiano (Gennaro) and Elizabeth DeShong (Maffio Orsini)(Photo: Cory Weaver)

Review by Jason Victor Serinus

On September 23, soprano Renée Fleming returned to San Francisco Opera, where she first debuted in 1991 as Countess Almaviva, to sing the lead role in seven performances of Lucrezia Borgia. It was the company premiere of Donizetti’s underperformed bel canto gem, and Fleming’s first performance in the War Memorial Opera House in 10 years.

Surrounded by sterling principals, Fleming looked wonderful in the John Pascoe production that premiered at Washington National Opera in 2008. She also sang quite well. Her Act III finale may have lacked some of the highflying flights heard on her 1999 recording of the finale, but her commitment, admirable trill, vocal beauty, and occasional high notes did much to compensate for singing that lacked the tonal brilliance and inner tension of a true bel canto coloratura.

To her credit, Fleming did cap Act I with a high D-flat, and died after a credible high E-flat. Yet her zip through the Prologue’s 'Com’é bello', though far less swoony than with Eve Queler in New York in 2000, seemed designed to protect her from direct comparisons with Montserrat Caballé, who more or less owned the aria after her last-minute debut as Lucrezia at Carnegie Hall in 1965 catapulted her to international stardom.

By contrast, tenor Michael Fabiano (Gennaro) and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong (Maffio Orsini) constantly riveted attention with truly glorious singing. Both were vital throughout. Fabiano’s energetic portrayal tempered masculine thrust with sweetness, and the diminutive DeShong sang like a vocal giant. Her 'Brindisi' was a showstopper.

Fabiano and DeShong played up Pascoe’s positing of Gennaro and Orsini as male lovers by engaging in a prolonged deep throat kiss at the end of their Act III duet. Another clearly homoerotic touch was Fabiano’s shiny gold costume. A cross between something out of Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey, its jacket increasingly parted to reveal more of Fabiano’s tantalizing torso as Gennaro’s suffering increased.

Bass Vitaliz Kowaljow (Duke Alfonso) was not far behind these two in the vocal department. Although his voice bordered on monotone when he first took to the stage, his authoritative singing grew in colour and stature as the evening progressed. Baritone Igor Vieira (Gubetta) and bevy of Adler Fellows, most notably tenor Daniel Montenegro (Rustighello), sang well in smaller roles.

Riccardo Frizza drove all but the final act like a train conductor determined to reach every stop on time; the second act lacked any sense of breathing space, and singers occasionally lagged behind. Thankfully, he slowed down considerably for Fleming’s finale, allowing the soprano all the space and rhythmic freedom she wished.

San Francisco Opera's production of Lucrezia Borgia runs until 11 October 2011.

 


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