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Latest News

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World appoints new patron

16 February 2011, Cardiff, Wales

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa(Photo: John Swannell)

New Zealand born soprano, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, has been appointed as the new patron of Cardiff Singer of the World.

She succeeds Dame Joan Sutherland, who passed away in October last year.

Te Kanawa’s appointment is seen as good news for the biannual competition, which recently announced a series of funding cuts by BBC Wales “due to challenging financial circumstances”.

Cardiff Singer of the World 2011 is due to take place at venues across the city between 12 and 19 June.

This year’s line-up of competitors will include the 28-year-old tenor, John Pierce, who won the Welsh Singers Competition 2010.


Dame Margaret Price receives burial in Pembrokeshire

15 February 2011, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Dame Margaret Price
Dame Margaret Price

The late Welsh soprano and international opera star, Dame Margaret Price, has been buried in Pembrokeshire at a service attended by fans and family members.

Dame Margaret, who passed away last month aged 69, was one of the most popular sopranos of her generation.

Known especially for her performances and recordings of Mozart during the first two decades of her career, she later also triumphed in lighter roles by Verdi and Strauss.

Away from the operatic stage, Price was a highly accomplished interpreter of the song repertory, admitting in a 2001 interview that her “first and last love” was lieder.

Her opera discography includes Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte under Otto Klemperer, Desdemona in Otello with Sir George Solti and Amelia in Un ballo in maschera opposite Luciano Pavarotti.

Although she never performed any Wagner roles in the theatre, Price can also be heard as Isolde in Carlos Kleiber’s 1982 Tristan recording for DG.

She retired from the stage in 1999 following a stint as a Kammersängerin of the Bavarian State Opera.

Her CBE was awarded in 1982, followed by the DBE in 1993.


John Adams’ Nixon in China at The Met

9 February 2011, New York, US

James Maddelana as President Nixon
James Maddelana as President Nixon(Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Review by Heidi Waleson

John Adams’s first opera, Nixon in China (1987), which had its Metropolitan Opera premiere on 2 February, is a modern classic that has long since transcended its “current events” origins.” Adams and his collaborators, librettist Alice Goodman and director Peter Sellars, imagined their way into the minds of two titanic 20th century figures, Richard Nixon and Mao Tse-Tung, and produced not so much a drama as a meditation on history and cultural difference.

The current production, created by Mr. Sellars and his 1987 team, is based on their original Houston Grand Opera staging; it was first seen at the English National Opera in 2006. It stars James Maddelana, the original Nixon, sounding vocally constrained but theatrically acute, Robert Brubaker as a decrepit but still ruthless Mao, Russell Braun as a too-reserved Chou En-lai, Janis Kelly as a splendid, bright Pat Nixon, Kathleen Kim, a ball of fire as Madame Mao, and Richard Paul Fink as the creepy Henry Kissinger.

John Adams, making his house debut as the opera’s conductor, let the orchestra rip for an overly loud and brash Act I; he found more transparency for Pat Nixon’s scene in Act II and the bedtime meditations of all the characters in Act III. The amplification for the singers, specified by the composer, flattened the voices.

As the Chinese people, the splendid Met chorus, standing motionless and expressionless, communicated menace and underscored the strangeness of this encounter of the American can-do spirit and self-importance with an ancient, impenetrable civilization with a blood-soaked recent history.

Click here to find details of your nearest live cinema screening on 12 February.


    Lucrezia Borgia at English National Opera

    2 February 2011, London, UK

    Clare Rutter (Lucrezia Borgia) and Michael Fabiano (Gennaro)
    Clare Rutter (Lucrezia Borgia) and Michael Fabiano (Gennaro)(Photo: Stephen Cummisky)

    Opera Now correspondent, Robert Thicknesse, attended the opening night of Lucrezia Borgia at English National Opera and writes:

    ENO’s latest attempt to “revitalise” the opera scene by employing talents from other places came unravelled for the usual reasons: a basic incompetence in staging opera, however good the peripherals might have been.

    Film-maker Mike Figgis, with nothing much to say about the drama Donizetti wrote, pulled it around and sprinkled in a few prettily-filmed scenes of heaving-bosom papal bull set in the court of Alexander VI Borgia. But these attempts to exonerate or explain Lucrezia were somewhat irrelevant to the opera, if not to history itself, since nearly everything we know about her is apocryphal.

    Fine, if uncharacterful, singing from Claire Rutter as the heroine, and a great showing by the rather baritonal American tenor Michael Fabiano as Gennaro, but Paul Daniel’s conducting is no more than colour-by-numbers efficient, and his translation one of the worst yet.

    ENO's Lucrezia Borgia runs until 3 March 2011.

    Read Robert Thicknesse's complete review in the March/April issue of Opera Now.


    BLO presents rare Ullmann opera with new prologue

    2 February 2011, Boston, US

    Andrew Wilkowske as Emperor Überall
    Andrew Wilkowske as Emperor Überall(Photo: Jeffrey Dunn for BLO)

    A new production of Viktor Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis opened last night at Boston Lyric Opera, coupled with the world premiere of a specially commissioned prologue, The After-Image.

    Ullmann’s original score was written at Theresienstadt concentration camp during 1943 and offers a powerful critique of the Third Reich. Ullmann himself was killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.

    Inspired by photographs of WWII and poetry by Rilke, The After-Image has been concevied as a companion piece for the short, one-act opera.

    “Without sentimentalism or nostalgia,” says composer and Harvard lecturer, Richard Beaudoin, “I believe this new work will be a record of our current and ongoing attempts to come to terms with memories of the Holocaust.”

    The production is directed by David Schweizer and features heldentenor John Mac Master as Harlequin with baritone Andrew Wilkowske as the eponymous anti-hero, Emperor Überall.

    Opera Now correspondent, Heidi Waleson, attended the opening night of The Emperor of Atlantis and writes:

    Boston Lyric Opera’s vivid presentation of Viktor Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis sold out its five-performance run, despite a week of record snowfall. Director David Schweizer’s production, starring bass Kevin Burdette, channelled the anarchic spirit of Weimar cabaret, the grotesque, alternate universe that mocks and reflects the real one, a jolting reminder that the opera was written in 1943 in the Nazi show camp Theresienstadt, and its creators perished the following year in Auschwitz.

    Read Heidi Waleson's full review in the March/April issue. Click here to subscribe now.


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