martin randall 2015

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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ISM performers and composers 2015

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Latest News

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.’

Kasper Holten to leave ROH in March 2017

9 December 2015

Kasper Holten
Kasper HoltenSim Canetty-Clarke

Kasper Holten is to step down as the Royal Opera House’s director of opera at the end of March 2017.

He will leave the position after the opening of his new production of Wagner’s Meistersinger.

In a letter to staff, Holten wrote: ‘When I moved to London, my partner and I didn’t have children. Now we do, and after much soul searching we have decided that we want to be closer to our families and inevitably that means we make Copenhagen our home where the children will grow up and go to school.’

The letter concluded: ‘It is with a very heavy heart that I send you these lines, but at the end of the day this decision has been inevitable for me. I am deeply grateful to ROH and to all of you for the amazing adventure it has been to work here – and will continue to be for a while yet!’

Holten joined the ROH in 2011, making his directorial debut with Eugene Onegin in 2013. He has since directed Don Giovanni, L’Ormindo and Król Roger.

Throughout his tenure, Holten has been keen to introduce new commissions and new productions.

‘Kasper Holten has been electric during his time at the Royal Opera House, demonstrating an uncanny energy, perseverance and vision for the future of our great institution,’ said ROH music director Sir Antonio Pappano. ‘My collaboration with him on Król Roger was one of the most fruitful experiences I have had during my time at this theatre. I am very sad that he has decided he must leave, as I believe it will be a major loss for our Company, and for me personally.’

Opera Now editor Ash Khandekar said of the news: ‘As a progressive, relatively young Dane with strongly European aesthetic instincts, Kasper Holten has never seemed entirely comfortable in the essentially traditionalist upper echelons of the Royal Opera House. His decision to leave the Royal Opera House comes in the wake of a series of divisive and controversial productions which have drawn criticism from many quarters, including sections of the media, the ROH audience and behind closed doors in the ROH board room.

‘While at a personal level Holten has been an engaging and media-friendly figure in his role as head of opera at the ROH, his artistic decisions have been hit and miss, with his own concept-heavy productions of core repertoire such as Eugene Onegin and Don Giovanni drawing very mixed critical responses, and commissions such as the new opera Morgen un Abend and the provocative work of Italian director Damiano Michielletto causing displeasure among the ROH’s influential supporters.

‘Holten’s decision to move on from the ROH in 2017 is probably a wise one, both in terms fulfilling of his own career aims, and in order to open up a glaring vacancy for a personality with the right institutional fit and artistic sensibilities for the Royal Opera House and its audience.’

Many figures from the music industry expressed their disappointment. Describing Holten as ‘an often brilliant director, a dynamic and inspiring character and always a joy to interview,’ Jessica Duchen wrote: ‘Kasper’s resignation is part of a trend that I suspect is on the increase: the best overseas professionals deciding to leave the UK for pastures a little more reasonable.’ Guardian chief culture writer Charlotte Higgins wrote that Holten had been 'a breath of fresh air', while Fiona Maddocks described the news as 'very sad'.

However, Guardian critic Stephen Moss expressed suspicion at the reason for his departure on social media platform Twitter, writing: 'Have decided to wait on events to see whether Kasper Holten really chose to go or was pushed. The naysayers had been in good voice'

The search to find Holten’s successor will begin in the new year.

ROH: Kasper Holten

Joyce DiDonato launches Opera Rocks

25 November 2015

Joyce DiDonato has launched Opera Rocks, a free online newsletter for high school students.

The newsletter is funded by DiDonato herself, and she will regularly send videos, photos and messages to subscribers.

She said: 'I’ve noticed a fabulous trend from social media about young opera lovers: often times in high school, they will feel as if they are the only person on the planet who likes opera because they may be the only one at their school who (secretly!) has a passion for it. 

'Through social media, however, they can connect across cities, states, even countries. Many times a group of 15-20 of them have saved up and made the trip to their “first live opera”, and they meet at the stage door to complete their experience full-circle. 

'It’s been one of the most encouraging things I’ve seen in this business. I am simply giving back to them, letting them know they are not alone, and providing a platform for them to connect and share this wonderful, eye-opening world of opera.'

High school students can sign up for the newsletter here.

Opera Rocks

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