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Barcelona's Liceu announces cost-cutting closure

24 January 2012, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona's Gran Teatro del Liceu
Barcelona's Gran Teatro del Liceu

Financial difficulties have forced Barcelona’s Gran Teatro del Liceu to plan eight weeks of closures, from 20 March to 10 April and 5 June to 8 July.

Cuts in subsidies from the Spanish Culture Ministry and Catalonia’s regional government, combined with a fall in corporate sponsorship and ticket sales, have left the company with a running deficit of €3.7 million ($4.8 million).

A total of 27 performances of seven productions will be affected, and temporary staff layoffs are also expected. Unions representing the company’s 395 workers have already begun negotiations with management.

The Liceu’s director general, Joan Francesc Marco, said: ‘It is sad and regrettable to cut performances but we cannot compromise on artistic integrity.’

Keith Warner quits Royal Danish Opera

24 January 2012, Copenhagen, Denmark

Keith Warner
Keith Warner(Photo: Martin Søby)

The British director, Keith Warner, is leaving his post as the artistic director of Royal Danish Opera after just six months at the company’s helm. His decision follows severe budget cuts of more than £11 million, announced at the end of 2011.

‘A combination of factors, made acute by the recent devastating budget cuts, has led me to feel that in the present circumstances I am unable to realise my great dreams for the company,’ said Warner’s official statement.

The same press release also reported that Jakob Hrůša, who had been appointed by Warner as Royal Danish Opera’s next music director, ‘no longer wishes to assume the position’.

NYCO pulls back from the brink

19 January 2012, New York, US

NYCO's George Steel
NYCO's George Steel(Photo: René Perez)

New York City Opera (NYCO) has made an important step forward in union negotiations that will allow the company to proceed with rehearsals for its Spring 2012 season.

A lock-out had been called for the first rehearsal of the season by unions, who are resisting plans by NYCO’s artistic director, George Steel, to abolish salaries for members of the orchestra and chorus.

The delicate negotiations, still underway at the time of writing, are reported to be making positive progress.

The company’s current woes follow a long series of setbacks, including a substantial loss of revenue in 2008-09 during the refurbishment of the David H. Koch Theater (formerly the New York State Theater), where the company had been resident since 1966. This arrangement ended last year, when a review of NYCO’s business model concluded that the company should move out of its Lincoln Center home altogether.

The remainder of the company’s current season is due to feature four productions, including Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna starring soprano, Melody Moore.


David Pountney takes charge at Welsh National Opera

13 January 2012, Cardiff, Wales

David Pountney
David Pountney(Photo: David Massey)

David Pountney has announced his first six seasons at the helm of Welsh National Opera, where he became the chief executive and artistic director in September 2011.

A total of 18 main stage operas are on the menu, including nine new productions, one UK stage premiere and a number of coproductions with other European houses.

The main innovation, however, is Pountney’s introduction of thematic programming, with five principal themes running through the seasons from Spring 2013 to Summer 2014: Free Sprits, Wagner Dream (for the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth in 2013), The Tudors, Fallen Women and Faith.

Not merely a marketing gimmick, Pountney insists, each theme will bring together contrasting yet related works, such as Berg’s Lulu and Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen (Free Spirits) – both written in the interwar years and offering radically contrasted perspectives on European culture of the time.

Fiscal constraints have also been taken into account by planning multiple new productions that will be presented within a single stage concept, including Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy (The Tudors).

Amongst the more recherché highlights on offer, audiences can look forward to a new production of Henze’s Boulevard Solitude, the company premiere of Schoenberg’s Moses and Aaron and the UK stage premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s electro-acoustic opera, Wagner Dream.


Opera Boston closes without warning

10 January 2012, Boston, US

Opera Boston’s last general director, Lesley Koenig
Opera Boston’s last general director, Lesley Koenig(Photo: David Allen)

Financial difficulties have forced the second largest opera company in Boston to shut permanently. Opera Boston’s announcement came shortly before Christmas, and operations ceased on 1 January.

The company had given no prior warning that it was in trouble, however a statement issued by Opera Boston’s board on 4 January revealed that it had suffered its largest budget deficit ever in the financial year ending 31 July 2011, amounting to more than $222,500. ‘This,’ read the statement, ‘was the result of several factors converging at once: a tough economy; weak individual ticket sales; diminishing individual, foundation and corporate support; growing overheads and rising production costs.’

Meanwhile, a report in the Boston Globe has suggested that responsibility for the closure rests with Opera Boston’s last general director, Lesley Koenig, who is said to have alienated one of the company’s biggest private donors. Opera Boston denies this claim.

Founded in 1993, Opera Boston was best known for its unusual repertoire choices, such as the 2010 world premiere commission of Madame White Snake by Zhou Long, which went on to win the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music.


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