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New Thai opera company celebrates Britten centenary

23 November 2012, Bangkok, Thailand

A scene from 18 Monkeys’ recent production 'Demon in Venice'
A scene from 18 Monkeys’ recent production 'Demon in Venice'(Photo: Basil Childers)

A new Thai opera company is gearing up to celebrate Benjamin Britten’s birth centenary with the country’s first ever performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Led by artistic director Stefan Sanchez, the production will provide a platform for talented young Thai opera singers to work with an international creative team, together with dancers from the cutting-edge Thai dance company 18 Monkeys and children from a local home for AIDS orphans. Britten’s original conception of a rural English setting for the opera will be swapped for a forest somewhere in Southeast Asia, where gods and spirits still play a part in daily life.

The performances at Bangkok’s Aksara Theatre run from 28 to 31 March 2013, supported by the British Council.


Lord Hall, Royal Opera House chief exec, appointed BBC director general

22 November 2012, London, UK

Tony Hall: ‘the right person to lead the BBC out of its current crisis’
Tony Hall: ‘the right person to lead the BBC out of its current crisis’(Photo: Rob Moore)

Report by Alex Stevens

Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House since 2001, has been appointed director general of the BBC. He will take over the role in March.

Hall had become the favourite for the role in recent days, seen as a safe pair of hands with extensive BBC experience but without the links to recent BBC controversies which prevented the promotion of an internal candidate.

In a statement to members of the press he said that it ‘takes a lot to drag me away from the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, a place I love hugely, but the reason I am standing before you today is because I care passionately about the BBC'.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said Lord Hall was ‘the right person to lead the BBC out of its current crisis’.

Hall worked for the BBC for 28 years – as head of news for five of those – and set up BBC Radio 5 Live. As director general he will act as the BBC’s editor-in-chief.

Culture secretary Maria Miller said Hall had ‘a very strong track record in successfully leading iconic organisations.

‘I am pleased the BBC Trust have appointed a new director general. It is important now that Tony Hall gets to grips quickly – to provide the stability and certainty that the BBC needs, and restore public confidence,’ she said.

Simon Robey, chairman of the board of trustees at Covent Garden, said he was 'not surprised' at the appointment. 'The ROH he will leave in March is very different to the one he took over in 2001. We have a world-class senior team, both artistic and non-artistic, led by Antonio Pappano, Kasper Holten and Kevin O'Hare.

'We have a very large and impactful education and community engagement programme and we are now a beacon of best practice in the arts sector. We are financially stable and we have changed the mix of our funding so that our ACE grant (now down from 40% to about 25% of our income) and our philanthropic revenue is broadly in balance.

'Tony deserves credit for all of this and we now face the future, with its inevitable challenges and opportunities, with strong foundations and very broad and loyal support.'

Hall's extensive BBC news experience is in contrast to the tenure of his predecessor, George Entwistle, whose two-month term in the role was tarnished by Newsnight’s broadcasting of a discredited investigation into a paedophile ring.

At the ROH, Hall is credited with rebuilding an organisation which was in a public state of disarray when he joined. His achievements also include the establishment of the Royal Opera's Production Park in Thurrock, Kent, and setting up ROH2, a department devoted to supporting new artists and developing new audiences (though this was recently disbanded following the departure of its head, Deborah Bull). He established the big screen and cinema relays which have vastly increased Covent Garden’s reach in the last decade.

He appointed Kasper Holten as director of opera (who succeeded Elaine Padmore in September 2011) and Kevin O’Hare as director of the Royal Ballet (succeeding Monica Mason in July 2012). Holten said he was 'the most inspirational leader I have ever worked for'.

'He will be sorely missed at the ROH and by me personally, but I am excited for him about this, and I am sure he will do a fantastic job.'

Simon Robey said the Royal Opera House would 'turn immediately to finding a worthy successor. I am confident that this exceptional place will continue to be led by an exceptional person.'

Originally posted by Classical Music


ENO could sell naming rights to the London Coliseum

20 November 2012, London, UK

The London Coliseum, home of English National Opera since 1968
The London Coliseum, home of English National Opera since 1968

Report by Alex Stevens

English National Opera has contracted brand and sponsorship agency Capitalize to develop its corporate partnerships and sponsorship opportunities – with naming rights to the London Coliseum, ENO’s home since 1968, potentially available to the right bidder.

The restructure of ENO's corporate fundraising efforts 'will give corporate brands the opportunity to build a unique relationship with the world-renowned opera company,' said a statement. 'ENO believes a major corporate partner will help it achieve its ambition to open up opera to a wider public.'

Capitalize chief executive Richard Moore said: ‘Naming rights deals here [in the UK] are a growing trend and there’s huge value in associating your brand so clearly with a venue where people go to enjoy themselves and indulge their passions. ENO has an ambitious vision to develop the brand and we are delighted to be working with them.’

Loretta Tomasi, ENO’s chief executive, said: ’We know how important it is to build on our current success as a creative leader in the performing arts. Exciting corporate partnerships will enable us to do this and we are delighted to be working with Capitalize who have a proven record in developing the kind of partnerships we are looking for.’

Entertainment venues which have been renamed in recent years include a number of deals with the O2 mobile network, which bought naming rights to the then Millennium Dome (O2 Arena) and to 14 venues across the UK owned by Academy Music Group.

The practice is also common in the world of sport, with Arsenal football club moving from Highbury to the new Emirates Arena. Newcastle United’s St James’ Park was temporarily rebranded in 2011 in order to ‘showcase’ the branding opportunities available, a move which was met with anger from the club’s fans before the original name was reinstated last month.

Current sponsorship deals in place at the Coliseum – with Maison Veueve Clicquot and the Shaftesbury property investment group – would not be affected by the development of ENO’s partnership programme, said PR Week.

Originally posted by Classical Music


Don’t miss the spectacular 2013 Verona Festival centenary season

13 November 2012

Spectacular setting: the Arena di Verona
Spectacular setting: the Arena di Verona

Guiseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Guiseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

For opera lovers, the Arena di Verona offers the most dramatic setting for a truly memorable evening. Built in AD30 for gladiatorial combats the Arena has a rich history, but is now famous for its annual outdoor opera performances each summer.

2013 is set to be a spectacular opera season!

Not only is the Arena celebrating its centenary of hosting outdoor opera, but it is also the bicentenary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth.

The organisers are extending the season and also putting on more performances including:
- Special gala performances featuring Plácido Domingo
- The opportunity of seeing Aida with the beautifully restored original 1913 staging as a tribute to Giuseppe Verdi

Weekend à La Carte has been creating tailor-made short breaks to the Verona Opera Festival for many years and would like to invite you to travel with us in 2013. This is not a group travel experience but a break designed especially for you.

The most popular is a 3 night break featuring the best opera seats from £845 per person.

We also have a wide range of other short breaks in Italy combining the Palio in Siena, Venice or Lake Garda with the Verona Opera.

To view our Verona Opera Festival 2013 breaks please follow this link:

Alternatively please call us on 01722 744695 and ask for Abigail or Hannah to discuss your requirements. We would be delighted to provide a suggested itinerary and quote for you.


For every booking received before December 15th 2012 from an Opera Now reader you will receive a 6 bottle case of Italian red wines FREE (Please advise at time of enquiry and booking).



Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress at ENO

8 November 2012, London, UK

Riot of colour: the Vanity Fair scene in ENO's staging of 'The Pilgrim's Progress'
Riot of colour: the Vanity Fair scene in ENO's staging of 'The Pilgrim's Progress'(Photo: Mike Hoban)

A sense of adventure lies at the heart of English National Opera’s programming in its current season. The company’s latest offering is a real rarity: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress. Based on John Bunyan’s allegorical novel, the work premiered in 1951 at the Festival of Britain and hasn’t had a professional staging since. It needs huge resources, with 41 solo roles and large choral and orchestra forces that only a true ensemble company such as ENO can muster.

ENO’s production shows that Pilgrim’s Progress is an important and underrated addition to the English operatic canon.  The swirling, luminous score is full of episodes that are quintessential Vaughan Williams – think of The Lark Ascending combined with the Mass in G minor to get a flavour of the music.

At ENO, Japanese director Yoshi Oïda (who worked with Peter Brooks’ theatre in Paris) approached the work with great respect and reverence. Vaughan Williams didn’t think of Pilgrim’s Progress as an opera – more an introspective musing on life and death. Oïda’s measured, ritualistic pacing and Tom Schenk’s austere prison setting reflect the rigorous moral framework of the piece. It can feel more like an extended church service than an opera: some sections are movingly meditative, but there are episodes that oppress you with their worthy piety, while others sweep you up in a sense of spiritual rapture.

Sue Willmington went to town on the costumes for the Vanity Fair scene – a rude riot of circus colour in an otherwise sober world. The monster Apollyon was an especially impressive creation, fashioned out of ragged odds and ends.

There was some very fine singing, especially from Roland Wood as a steadfast, serious Pilgrim. ENO used the large cast as an opportunity to showcase some excellent young talent: Kitty Whately, Alexander Sprague, Aiofe O’Sullivan and George von Bergen were particularly notable in the plethora of solo roles for a generation of operatic debutants. ENO’s orchestra were the heroes of occasion, with inspiring, sonorous playing under the unflinching baton of Martyn Brabbins.

Monday night saw the opening of this hugely anticipated new production at ENO which runs at the Coliseum in London until 28 November. Here is a round-up of what the press have said so far...

‘A performance that shines like a beacon in the night’
Daily Telegraph ****

‘This is ENO back at their best’

‘Musically it’s a triumph’
Evening Standard

‘The stagecraft is wonderfully expert’
The Guardian

‘The singing is good and Martyn Brabbins’s orchestra is silky smooth’
The Metro

‘The orchestra and chorus make it seem sumptuous’
The Guardian

‘Martyn Brabbins’s exemplary musical direction... the orchestra plays beautifully’
The Times

‘Roland Wood... a solo performance of such warmth and richness’
The Independent


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