martin randall 2015

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Last chance to see La bohème at this year's Celebrate Voice festival

30 October 2015, Salisbury, UK

Doomed young lovers: Rodolfo and Mimì, sung by Jung Soo Yun and Maria Miro
Doomed young lovers: Rodolfo and Mimì, sung by Jung Soo Yun and Maria Miro

Intense portraits: Paul Putnins as Marcello
Intense portraits: Paul Putnins as Marcello(Photos: John Rose)

La bohème is such a popular opera these days that opera houses often set out to do something ‘different’, ‘original’ and, worst of all, ‘relevant’ in their productions of  Puccini’s enduring masterpiece.

English National Opera has received plenty of criticism for its latest production in which Australian director Benedict Andrews has the young lovers on heroin, so that their entire romantic escapade takes place in a drug-crazed stupor.

It’s a relief, then, to have a production of La bohème that does things straight, but with real dramatic intensity. Salisbury’s Celebrate Voice festival gives us a staging that explores all the grit and grind of a poor Bohemian life in 19th-century Paris, brought into musical focus by conductor Phillip Thomas’s passionate reading of the score. At the heart of it all is a lyrical and touching portrait of idealistic friendships and  doomed young love.

The wonderful soprano Susan Bullock took time off from preparations for her own recital at the festival to attend a dress rehearsal for La bohème last week. As someone who knows a thing or two about making an impact on the opera stage, her verdict was: ‘What an achievement... I cried like a baby at the end. Phillip Thomas was a force of nature.’ Audiences through the week have agreed wholeheartedly.

Tonight is the last chance to experience La bohème in a city that has a centuries-old tradition of singing, though rarely in the form of opera.

The final performance takes place at Medieval Hall, Cathedral Close, Salisbury at 7:30pm on 30 October 2015, with tickets at £30.

Box Office: 01722 321744

Remembering Jon Vickers

29 October 2015

Louis Mélançon / Metropolitan Opera
Louis Mélançon / Metropolitan OperaJon Vickers as Siegmund in Wagner's Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera

On what would have been his 89th birthday, we pay tribute to the great tenor

‘The meeting of character and singer has proved to be one of the mightiest collisions in 20th-century opera.’

Leighton Kerner, classical music critic


'Vickers’ dramatic and vocal mastery went beyond German roles such as Siegmund, Tristan, Parsifal and Florestan, extending into Italian repertoire (Otello, Canio and Nero in Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea), French (Don Jose, Aeneas and Saint-Saëns’ Samson) and English (Peter Grimes and Handel’s Samson).'

[taken from Benjamin Ivry’s obituary in the October 2015 issue of Opera Now]


'A belated foray into Leider with Schubert’s Winterreise was out of style. Individual songs by Schubert or Wold expressing epic frenzies would have been better scaled to Vickers’ gifts.'

[from Benjamin Ivry's obituary] 

‘I consider myself a very humble, simple boy from a small town who loves the soil, who loves the farm, and I happen to be a singer. I do honestly believe that the genius of the performer dies with him, and there is nothing that can keep it alive – not films, not recordings, nothing.' 

Jon Vickers on his career 

British Library acquires D'Oyly Carte archive

26 October 2015

Costume design working notebook from the 1970s, with production photograph and fabric samples. (Samples relate to a production of The Gondoliers)
Costume design working notebook from the 1970s, with production photograph and fabric samples. (Samples relate to a production of The Gondoliers)D'Oyly Carte Archive

Leaves from the autograph score of Iolanthe, by Sir Arthur Sullivan (dated November 1882)
Leaves from the autograph score of Iolanthe, by Sir Arthur Sullivan (dated November 1882)D'Oyly Carte Archive

An audition book for the years 1905-1910, containing the slips completed for each artiste who auditioned for the D’Oyly Carte Company
An audition book for the years 1905-1910, containing the slips completed for each artiste who auditioned for the D’Oyly Carte CompanyD'Oyly Carte Archive

The British Library has acquired the archive of the D'Oyly Carte Theatre Company.

The archive includes extensive correspondence with agents and artistes, relating to auditions, casting, personnel, theatres and tours (around the UK and throughout the English-speaking world); programmes, press cuttings, band parts, libretti, prompt books, papers and photographs of the D’Oyly Carte family, contracts, stage managers’ reports, illustrative materials including sketches for costumes and props, cigarette cards, extensive photographs of artistes, productions and special occasions, posters, recordings on various media including discs, reel-to-reel tape, and sound and video cassette and optical disc.

A key item in the archive is Arthur Sullivan’s autograph score for Iolanthe - the last Sullivan score in private hands until its acquisition - along with William Gilbert’s working prompt copy for the same opera.

Founded by Richard D’Oyly Carte (manager of the Royalty Theatre, Soho), with the intention of presenting the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, the company commissioned Trial by Jury, The Sorcerer and H.M.S. Pinafore. The D'Oyly Carte family owned the company until the death of Dame Bridget D'Oyly Carte in 1985.

The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's most recent endeavour was a 2013 performance of The Pirates of Penzance (a co-production with Scottish Opera). The two organisations are set to reunite for The Mikado in 2016.

D'Oyly Carte's Ian Martin said: 'This is excellent news for D’Oyly Carte and for the public, as it means that the archive will remain in the UK, be housed appropriately, conserved and properly catalogued. It also means that it will be accessible once again to the public for research purposes.'

The acquisition was made possible with the aid of the D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and the Friends of the British Library. Their support includes funding to catalogue and preserve the archive, which is expected to be fully accessible by spring 2017.

D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

Win a copy of Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s new solo album from Ondine

23 October 2015

Renaissance poetry is the theme of Dmitri Hvorostovsky's latest release for the Ondine label, which brings together two masterpieces of song from the 19th and 20th centuries: Shostakovich's Suite on Poems by Michelangelo and Liszt's three Petrarch Sonnets.

The great Siberian baritone's dark, velvety voice proves the perfect instrument for music that runs the gamut from dreamy and passionate to stark and introspective. Shostakovich's Suite is better known in its orchestral version, but here Hvorostovsky is accompanied by the Estonian pianist Ivari Ilja in performances of powerful intensity.

To enter, simply drop us an email with the subject ‘ONDINE’ to, or send a postcard to Rhinegold Competitions, 20 Rugby Street, London WC1N 3QZ. Please include your full name, address and a contact telephone number. (Deadline for entries: 28 November 2015.)

Dmitri Hvorostovsky recently returned to the stage following a brain tumour that prompted him to cancel all engagements over the summer. He has just finished a run of Verdi's Il trovatore at New York's Metropolitan Opera, playing a Conte di Luna described as 'gripping' by the New York Times.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky will sing Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera in London from 19 December to 7 January

Click here to read Opera Now's March 2012 cover feature interview with Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Plans announced for new opera festival at Grange Park

21 October 2015

A new opera festival will launch at Grange Park in 2017.

With Grange Park Opera set to leave the Grange Estate after its 2016 performances, the establishment of the Grange Festival will mean that the annual opera season will continue to take place on the site.

The festival, which will run in June and July each year, will be overseen by Lord Ashburton and his son Mark Baring, owners of the Grange and its park at Northington in Hampshire.

The inaugural Grange Festival will be directed by counter-tenor Michael Chance. The board of trustees will be chaired by the Hon. Sir Charles Haddon-Cave.

Mark Baring said: ‘It has been wonderful to have opera at Grange Park each summer and we are delighted to announce that we will continue to do so. A great deal has been achieved in nearly twenty years, thanks to GPO, co-founders Wasfi Kani and Michael Moody and their staff, and the generosity and commitment of many supporters, donors and visitors.

‘We look forward to working with The Grange Festival to continue what has become a much-loved cultural event. We are extremely fortunate to have two very talented people to lead and chair the new company and, with the encouragement of many other loyal supporters, we much look forward to 2017 and many years beyond.’

Artistic director Michael Chance said: ‘I am particularly excited about the range of possibilities which this extraordinary venue, and jewel of a theatre, offers. I am confident that more than three decades of treading boards and vocal communication will stand me in good stead for this exhilarating challenge, and I look forward to building on the 18-year operatic legacy at Grange Park, which has been truly remarkable. My first task is to assemble a small experienced management team.’

A spokesperson for Grange Park Opera says: ‘We have been working tirelessly to secure GPO’s future since the decision by our landlords to terminate our lease early. The proposed terms for a new lease and certain conditions regarding the governance and management of the Grange Park Opera charity which our landlords sought to impose were not, we felt, in the best interests of the charity.

‘On Monday [19 October] we were advised by our landlords that they no longer wished to continue discussions around a potential new lease for Grange Park Opera at The Grange in Hampshire and that they intend to pursue their own interests there instead.

‘We have achieved so much over the last 18 years and we believe that this is only the start of the full potential that the charity and its team can achieve.

‘We are in advanced discussions over a 99-year lease at West Horsley Place in Surrey, just 23 miles from London, the estate inherited by Bamber Gascoigne from his aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe. It is an exquisite place, intensely atmospheric, inherently dramatic with venerable trees, glowing brick walls, tiled roofs and secret walled gardens with woodland beyond. In short, it is an exciting new venture at a magical location that has the marked advantage of being closer to London – which will make it easier for many members of our audience, especially younger people.

‘Meanwhile, GPO is putting the finishing touches to the 2016 festival, its swansong at the Grange. This season’s productions are Verdi’s Don Carlo, Puccini’s La Fanciulla, Oliver! starring Simon Keenlyside, Tristan & Isolde in concert with Anja Kampe and a bouquet of arias from the much sought-after tenor, Javier Camarena.

‘This isn’t the end of the story, but very much the beginning of a bigger and brighter story. We hope that you will join us in our final season in Hampshire – and will follow us to West Horsley Place which is, without doubt, an exciting new chapter in the history of Grange Park Opera.’

Since 1998 the Grange Estate has hosted Grange Park Opera (GPO), an independent opera company, at Grange Park and the Baring family had hoped to agree terms to renew their lease. However, 2016 will be the last GPO season at the Estate.

The Grange Festival

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