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Latest News

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.


Opening night at La Scala: Mozart's Don Giovanni

13 December 2011, Milan, Italy

Bryn Terfel (Leporello) with Peter Mattei (Don Giovanni)
Bryn Terfel (Leporello) with Peter Mattei (Don Giovanni)

Anna Netrebko (Donna Anna)
Anna Netrebko (Donna Anna)

Review by Courtney Smith
Photos by Brescia e Amisano/Teatro alla Scala

Robert Carsen’s new production of Mozart’s cautionary tale Don Giovanni, which launched Teatro alla Scala’s 2011/12 season on 7 December in Milan, unfolded as a Hollywood parable – if you're rich and famous enough, you can get away with murder. It’s an allegory that reverberates strongly with Italians who are reeling from the aftermath of Silvio Berlusconi’s 17-year reign as a notorious Don Juan figure.

Berlusconi’s replacement, former economist Mario Monti, joined Italy’s President, Giorgio Napolitano in the Royal Box to show Italy that arts funding will not be threatened as it was under Berlusconi’s government. After the recent proposal of Monti's 30-billion-euro austerity package, La Scala’s elegant foyer was packed with a sober crowd in understated dress – by opening night standard, at least.

Carsen always bring big ideas to opera, but source material for Don Giovanni is clear: he’s the 'dissoluto punito' (punished rake). Instead, Carsen’s Don went unpunished for his immoral behavior and appeared in the finale to smugly send the ensemble to hell in his place with the point of a finger. The mediated rewrite stripped Da Ponte’s multilayered archetypes of free will and emotional connections were broken.

Carsen’s mise-en-scène was austere, set entirely in Teatro alla Scala – its stage and its guts. Self-referential landscape comprised of stage curtains on rolling panels, photo panoramas of the theater’s auditorium, and a stage-sized mirror. As Don Giovanni's lies compounded, scenery layers stretched to infinity, culminating in Donna Elvira's Act II 'In quali eccessi, o Numi'.

Boasting a star-studded cast, tickets evaporated in minutes. Peter Mattei was in strong form as deux ex machina Don Giovanni, an aloof seducer who pulled the strings of all those in his orbit.  Bryn Terfel as Leporello expertly balanced buffoonery and severity. 

Anna Netrebko bowed her La Scala premiere as a confident Donna Anna in rich color and striking vocal power. She was paired with Don Ottavio sung earnestly by Giuseppe Filianoti. Barbara Frittoli sang Donna Elvira as a jealous, insecure stalker in lush, warm voice. Il Commendatore as Kwangchul Youn made a big presence in a compacted role. Masetto and Zerlina, sung by Štefan Kocánand Anna Prohaska respectively, were the weakest.

Daniel Barenboim took the podium for the first time as Teatro alla Scala’s new Music Director, but seemed unsure if Mozart’s dramma giocoso should be conducted as drama or tragedy. Uneven with idiosyncratic tempos, Act I dragged at such a slow pace that when Barenboim took the podium for Act II, an audience member from the famous loggione gallery levels shouted 'troppo lento' ('too slow').

Despite some stunningly re-scripted moments – Act I’s funeral of Il Commendatore had been transported to a church and Scene IV’s lavish ball was genius in its progressive breakdown – Carsen’s partiality to the dapper Don’s immorality earned him boos during the curtain call, as well as Barenboim for his indecisiveness.


Chicago Opera Theater appoints new director

13 December 2011, Chicago, US

Andreas Mitisek
Andreas Mitisek

Chicago Opera Theater has appointed Andreas Mitisek as the company’s general director. Mitisek is currently the artistic and general director of Long Beach Opera, and will continue in this position alongside his new appointment.

At LBO, Mitisek has established a reputation for edgy and dynamic productions whilst also doubling the company’s budget and eliminating a longstanding deficit.

Marc Scorca,CEO of Opera America, welcomed the news and said that he expected ‘both organizations and the communities they serve to benefit from shared productions as well as Andreas' dynamic leadership and artistic vision’.

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