Bartoli takes helm of Salzburg Whitsun Festival
13 December 2011, Salzburg, Austria
Cecilia Bartoli(Photo: Alberto Venzago)
In her first piece of programming as the artistic director of Salzburg Whitsun Festival, Cecilia Bartoli has chosen an Egyptian theme. From 25 to 28 May, the festival will bring together a stellar list of artists to perform works inspired by ‘Cleopatra – the legendary woman of a thousand faces’, including a new production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto starring Bartoli herself as Cleopatra opposite Andreas Scholl’s Cesar.
Other highlights include a concert performance of Massenet’s Cléopâtre sung by Sophie Koch, Berlioz’s La Mort de Cléopâtre with Vesselina Kasarova and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under John Eliot Gardiner, and a closing concert featuring Anna Netrebko with the orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre conducted by Valery Gergiev.
Reflecting the festival’s commitment to commissioning new work, Netrebko will also give the world premiere of Kleopatra i zmeja (Cleopatra and the asp) for soprano and orchestra by the Russian composer, Rodion Shchedrin.
Olli Kortekangas' One Night Stand premieres in Helsinki
2 December 2011, Helsinki, Finland
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
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(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
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.
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