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Opera Now provides a unique and all-encompassing perspective on the international opera scene through its lively and colourful mix of news, reviews, interviews, travel articles and commentary.

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6 January 2016

Italian bass baritone Paolo Bordogna speaks to Opera Now about his mission to elevate the art of the basso buffo, bringing out the humanity and pathos in characters who tend to be dismissed as buffoons; the off-key singing of the ‘diva of din’ Florence Forster Jenkins; and dream opera destinations in 2016 for culture vultures. Plus, we meet ten of the most promising and distinctive baritones in a new generation of young talent; opera’s most memorable love duets and what they tell us about passion; Brussel’s award-winning Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (de Munt); a weekend in Warsaw; Puccini’s ‘Overcoat’ aria; and your chance to WIN a luxury trip for two to Texas!

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WNO's I puritani dominates What's on Stage opera poll

4 January 2016

Welsh National Opera won two categories in this year's What's on Stage opera poll.

The company's I puritani was deemed best new opera production, while Rosa Feola won the outstanding achievement in an operatic role category for her Elvira.

Valencia wrote that director Annilese Miskimmon’s ‘imaginative vision breathed new life into what could easily have been a moribund slice of bel canto’. 

Many reviewers drew attention to Feola's performance, with Rupert Christiansen praising her ‘questing intelligence’ and Stephen Walsh describing her as ‘a marvellous singing actress’.

Glyndebourne came top as event of the year/outstanding contribution to the UK operatic scene ‘for an exceptionally strong Festival 2015’.

‘Our visits to the summer’s six operas resulted in three five-star and three four-star reviews – a remarkable tally by any standards,’ wrote opera editor Mark Valencia. ‘To cap it all, the autumn Glyndebourne Tour managed the impossible when it revived the Festival’s biggest hit of all, Handel’s Saul, and actually improved on it.’

English National Opera won the category for best opera revival for The Mastersingers of Nuremberg (originally created by Richard Jones for WNO). Valencia wrote that The Mastersingers gave ENO ‘one of its greatest recent successes just when the company’s internal convulsions were at their most acute’.

Sam Furness won the category for breakthrough artist in UK opera as a result of his performances in Garsington Opera’s Intermezzo and English Touring Opera’s The Tales of Hoffmann . Tim Ashley wrote that Furness was ‘terrific in the immensely difficult title role’ of The Tales of Hoffmann, while David Nice celebrated his ‘perfect comedy turn’ in Intermezzo. Valencia described him as ‘an exciting talent on the threshold of a great career’.

Montserrat Caballé sentenced for tax fraud

17 December 2015

Spanish soprano Montserrat Caballé has been given a six-month suspended prison sentence and fined €326,000 (£236,263) for tax fraud.

Prosecutors said Caballé failed to pay the Spanish treasury €508,468 (£368,409) in tax on her earnings.

Caballé admitted in 2010 that she lived in Barcelona but was registered as a resident of Andorra for tax purposes.

She used an Andorra-based company to manage the €2 million (£1.45 million) she earned from recordings and concerts in 2010, with the payments going into an Andorran bank.

The singer said that she had been unaware of how her income was being handled for tax purposes, and that she had become confused after a previous adviser passed away.

The 82-year-old has avoided most public engagements since a stroke in 2012, and appeared at the hearing via videolink because of her frail help.

All first convictions resulting in sentences of less than two years are suspended in Spain.

Caballé’s international breakthrough came in 1965, when she stepped in for another singer in the role of Lucrezia Borgia at Carnegie Hall. Over the course of her 50-year career, she performed at a number of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, appearing opposite leading singers Luciano Pavarotti and Plácido Domingo.

Julian Anderson wins British Composer Award for Thebans

10 December 2015

The 13th British Composer Awards ceremony took place at the British Film Institute on 9 December 2015.

The ceremony was hosted by Sara Mohr-Pietsch and Andrew McGregor, with awards presented by keynote speaker Jessica Cottis and actress Juliet Stevenson.

Described by Mohr-Pietsch as 'an astonishingly bold and gripping work', Julian Anderson's Thebans won the stage works category.

Collecting the award, Anderson reminisced: 'Someone said to a friend "no one will ever want to hear this"... But they did!' 

The composer also paid tribute to English National Opera, which premiered the work, describing it as 'a fantastic international opera company' and urging the audience to cherish and support its work. 

The jury members for this year’s awards included Cecilia McDowall, Juliet Fraser, Leigh Melrose and Michael Zev Gordon.

British Composer Awards

ENO chorus under threat

9 December 2015

Joshua Bloom and Alexander Robin Baker with members of the ENO chorus in Mike Leigh’s 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance
Joshua Bloom and Alexander Robin Baker with members of the ENO chorus in Mike Leigh’s 2015 production of The Pirates of PenzanceTristram Kenton

According to Humphrey Burton, the chorus of English National Opera is under threat.

In a letter to the Times, the former head of music and arts at BBC Television referred to rumours that the chorus would be eliminated.

Burton wrote: ‘I don’t think it’s going too far to argue that it would be cultural vandalism to sacrifice ENO’s splendid chorus on the altar of economy.’

He proposed that any proposals should be publicly discussed in advance of decision-taking.

Burton’s letter prompted other leading figures from the opera world to express their concern: Dame Janet Baker, Graham Clark, Dame Anne Evans, Sir David McVicar, Sir Antonio Pappano and Sir John Tomlinson co-signed a letter which was published on the same day.

The letter reads: ‘ENO is first and foremost a company of musicians. Plans to reduce its chorus members’ contracts and limit its productions to eight a season threaten to destroy ENO.

‘Decisions have been made about the future of the company without public consultation despite its public subsidy.

‘We call upon ENO’s board to engage in a public examination of ways to protect the company and reinstate a full season of opera at the Coliseum before irreparable damage is done to this much-loved organisation, which has played such a central role in the cultural life of this country.

A statement released by ENO reads: ‘The management team are working hard to meet the long-term challenge to ensure that ENO is able to continue to produce artistic work of the highest quality whilst remaining financially stable. Clearly the level of cut we received from Arts Council England means that we have to look at changing the way we work and potentially re-shape our organisation to ensure that we are sustainable.

‘We are all committed to ensuring that ENO not only survives but thrives going forward.’

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