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Ben Heppner withdraws from The Met's Ring cycle

16 February 2011, New York, US

Ben Heppner
Ben Heppner(Photo: Kristin Hoebermann)

The leading Wagnerian heldentenor, Ben Heppner, has withdrawn from Robert LePage’s new Ring cycle production at The Metropolitan Opera.

He will be replaced by Gary Lehman and Stephen Gould for the company’s performances of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung during the 2011-12 Season.

The official reason given for Heppner’s decision is that he "has retired the role from his repertory," however commentators have suggested that a combination of recent illnesses plus stress could be to blame, making it difficult for him tackle the hugely demanding vocal part.

Heppner himself recently told the media prior to appearing in Lohengrin at LA Opera: "There have been some not-great moments in my more recent past,” adding defiantly, “I’m working through it”.

 

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.

     


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