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Latest News

BBC 2 TV launches a new series of Maestro

19 March 2012, London, UK

(Photo: Gary Moyes)

The line-up of celebrities for a new series of the BBC 2 TV series Maestro has been announced as part of a partnership between the BBC and London’s Royal Opera House.

Four stars, including the judge of BBC 1 TV’s Strictly Come Dancing, Craig Revel Horwood, will compete to master the art of conducting, with the winner going through to conduct an entire act from an opera.

Antonio Pappano and Sir Mark Elder are among the experts chosen to coach the stars, who have all admitted feeling daunted by the challenge ahead after watching a recent ROH performance of The Marriage of Figaro.

[Pictured, right: Maestro contestants Marcus Du Sautoy, Craig Revel Horwood, Josie Lawrence and Trevor Nelson at London’s Royal Opera House]


Mandela Trilogy to tour the UK this summer

16 March 2012, London, UK

Aubrey Poo (Nelson Mandela) with Gloria Bosman (Dolly Radebe) in Cape Town Opera's 'Mandela Trilogy'
Aubrey Poo (Nelson Mandela) with Gloria Bosman (Dolly Radebe) in Cape Town Opera's 'Mandela Trilogy'(Photo: Val Adamson)

Tickets are now on sale for the forthcoming UK tour of Cape Town Opera's ground-breaking Mandela Trilogy, which tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s life and work. The tour in June and July will also mark the production’s European premiere.

A unique collaboration involving three composers, each act of the Trilogy presents a different aspect of South African musical culture – Xhosa oratorio, jazz musical and opera. This stylistic transition mirrors Mandela’s own development from birth to marriage (Act I), his political education and emergence as a community leader (Act II), and finally his trial, incarceration and release (Act III).

The tour, which visits Birmingham, Edinburgh Festival, the Wales Millennium Centre, Canterbury, Southampton and London’s Coliseum, also includes a revival of Porgy & Bess set in South Africa at the height of apartheid.


Barcelona's Liceu reverses plans for closure

16 March 2012, Barcelona, Spain

After nearly two months of intense negotiations, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu (pictured, right) has come to an agreement with workers that reverses an earlier cost-cutting plan to close for eight weeks.

The theatre, which has a running deficit of €3.7 million (£3.1 million), announced in January that 27 performances of seven productions would be cancelled in the periods 20 March to 10 April and 5 June to 8 July.

To prevent this, 450 workers have agreed to postpone their extra summer payment to a later date, saving the theatre €1.5 million. As yet, no terms have been agreed for the delayed payments.

The Catalan Minister for Culture, Ferran Mascarell, expressed his satisfaction with the agreement, saying: ‘The prestige and the future of the theatre have gone before individual interests’, adding that the deficit ‘without any doubt might have put the quality of the programme and activities at risk’.

Representatives of the workers’ committee are reported to be less pleased with the handling of the crisis, however, and believe that it could lead to the resignation of some members of the Liceu’s senior management team.


Puccini's La Rondine at Florida Grand Opera, Miami

12 March 2012, Miami, US

Elizabeth Caballero as Magda and Bruno Ribeiro as Ruggero
Elizabeth Caballero as Magda and Bruno Ribeiro as Ruggero

Corinne Winters as Lisette
Corinne Winters as Lisette(Credit: FGOpera)

Review by Karyl Charna Lynn

Only Puccini’s early operas, Edgar and Le villi, are as neglected as La Rondine – unfortunately with good reason.

La Rondine (The Swallow) has an identity crisis: it’s neither an opera nor operetta, and falls between the cracks. Puccini’s successful operas grab you emotionally through their heart-wrenching music, which carries the audience along on an emotional journey. An operetta’s main mission is entertainment with pretty sounds and dazzling sights in a tightly woven story.

Despite La Rondine’s relevant message – one can’t escape his/her past (the story deals with a courtesan rediscovering romance) – its delivery is disjointed, with the first two acts akin to operetta, and the third act metamorphosing into a (soap) opera when the two lovers must part. The score, superbly executed here by Florida Grand Opera’s new music director, Ramon Tebar, is a mosaic from Puccini's most successful operas (Butterfly, Bohème, Turandot) together with waltzes and other dance melodies, but instead of builiding to dramatic climaxes offers only beautiful melodic patches. Its emotional impact is therefore limited.

The work unfolded amidst realistic sets, handsomely recreating the opera’s three locations: Magda’s rich-looking salon apartment; Bullier’s (nightclub) with colorful can-can dancers; and the Italian Riviera in the 1920s, complete with flapper dresses, dancing, and sprinkled with Art Deco touches. Unfortunately, however, the opera’s two main characters, Magda (Elizabeth Caballero) and Ruggero (Bruno Ribeiro), failed to project the essence of their characters. Caballero, who possesses a substantial instrument, sang with riveting intensity, despite a rocky start, and her aria 'Chi, il bel sogno di Doretta' was exquisite, with perfectly floated high notes. Yet her mundane presence made it difficult to believe that she was a courtesan. Ribeiro’s problem lay more with his voice. Despite looking the part with his tall, dark, handsome presence (Ribeiro is Portuguese) and intense acting style, his voice, although not bad, wasn’t appropriate for the role: he lacked the requisite urgency and passion for a leading tenor heartthrob.

The cast standout was Corinne Winters as Lisette, Magda’s maid. Although a stock operatic character, the working class gal who outwits those she serves, Winters made the most of the role, outsparkling and outsinging all those wealthy, uppercrust characters.


Swedish academy to stage rediscovered Donizetti opera

8 February 2012, Stockholm, Sweden

Gaetano Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti

The Vadstena Academy in Stockholm is to stage Donizetti’s Enrico di Borgogna (Henry of Burgundy) for the second time ever since its 1818 world premiere.

An heroic opera based on August von Kotzebue’s 1798 play Der Graf von Burgund, Enrico was Donizetti’s third stage work, but the first to be performed. It received a warm response at its premiere, with one critic noting a ‘regular handling and expressive quality in his style’, for which ‘the public wanted to salute Signor Donizetti on stage at the end of the opera.’

Vadstena Academy’s new production, directed by Clara Svärd, will feature seven young soloists from Hungary, Germany and Sweden under the baton of Olof Boman, including mezzo-soprano Kinga Dobay as Enrico.

Performances at Vadstena Castle run from 20 July to 7 August 2012.

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