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ROH appoints John Fulljames as associate director of opera

11 June 2011, London, UK

Claire Booth and John Fulljames rehearse 'Into the Little Hill' (2009)
Claire Booth and John Fulljames rehearse 'Into the Little Hill' (2009)(Photo: Gemma Mount)

The Royal Opera House has appointed John Fulljames as the company's new associate director of opera.

Fulljames is the co-founder and Artistic Director of The Opera Group, which recently received a 3-year funding commitment from Arts Council England worth over £1m.

He will take office in September to coincide with the departure of director of opera Elaine Padmore and the arrival of her successor, Royal Danish Opera's Kaspar Holten.

Cormac Simms, currently general manager of the Royal Opera, has also been promoted to the role of administrative director.

Holten said of the appointments: 'It will be great to have John Fulljames supporting me on artistic matters and Cormac Simms, with his extensive knowledge of the company, on the administrative side. John comes with The Royal Opera House has appointed John Fulljames as the company's new associate director of opera.

Fulljames will continue to direct productions by The Opera Group after moving to ROH, including forthcoming new operas from Edward Rushton and David Bruce, and a co-commission with Komische Oper Berlin of a new opera by Olga Neuwirth.

Fulljames himself added: 'The Opera Group incubates, commissions, produces and tours some of the best contemporary opera in the UK.  This is only possible because of the support and collaboration of a huge range of partners. I'm grateful for their commitment to The Opera Group's work and delighted that the company will continue to shape the future of opera as an essential part of the cultural landscape.'

John Fulljames is currently preparing The Opera Group's world premiere of Seven Angels by Luke Bedford, which opens at the Linbury Studio Theatre, ROH on 14 July 2011.


ENO’s cool new Boccanegra fired up by superb music making

9 June 2011, London, UK

Bruno Caproni as Simon Boccanegra
Bruno Caproni as Simon Boccanegra(Photo: Mike Hoban)

Review by Opera Now Editor, Ashutosh Khandekar

Dmitiri Tcherniakov paints a colourless world of fascist, grey-suited thugs in his new production of Simon Boccanegra at English National Opera. The dark intrigues of Genoa’s political underbelly take place in a functional council chamber, flooded with cold, glaring light. There’s nowhere to hide from tyranny in this calculating world, and certainly no place for tenderness. Emotions, boiling and messy, have to remain repressed beneath a thin carapace of masculine self-control.

Tcherniakov’s blunt take on Boccanegra isn’t always coherent, but it largely works. His characters are mostly psychopaths, emotionally stunted and brutalised by their obsession with power. It’s a cool approach to Verdi’s most heartfelt exploration of the father-daughter relationship.

The staging is elevated to a higher plane by some exceptionally fine music making. Conductor Ed Gardner illuminates this subtle, quicksilver score by picking out highly distinctive colours and voices within the orchestra. The playing is quite superb, and the show is worth it for this alone.

There is also strength in the cast. Rena Harms as Amelia is a dreamy teenage goth, struggling to find a sense of identity. Her voice has power and an attractive, edgy darkness that soars over the ensembles. Peter Auty is a touching Adorno (though too cuddly to be a sexy biker-boy). Brindley Sherratt is outstanding as Fiesco – a truly patrician performance. Roland Wood is an excellent Paolo, barely able to suppress his inner turmoil.

Bruno Caproni as Boccanegra doesn’t quite carry the sinister gravitas that this production needs. He just can’t pull off the ‘Marlon Brando’-style rebel of the Prologue, here set in the 1950s. He sings utterly beautifully, however – a glowing, burnished high baritone with not an ounce of strain.

Musically this Boccanegra is a tremendous achievement for ENO. You’ll either love or hate the staging, but it is a thoughtful attempt to make sense of the irrational emotions and psychological conflicts in this complex opera.

ENO's Simon Boccanegra runs until 11 July.


Opera Holland Park 2011 opens with Don Pasquale

8 June 2011, London, UK

Donald Maxwell as Don Pasquale
Donald Maxwell as Don Pasquale(Photo: Fritz Curzon)

Robert Thicknesse reports on the opening night of Don Pasquale at Opera Holland Park.

A clever, original and hard-working production by Stephen Barlow, set in an ineffable English seaside resort, this Don Pasquale has a sting in the tail that wrung the evening’s only proper belly laugh out of me.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said about Richard Bonynge's phoned-in conducting performance, which made this score the apogee of easy elegance and charm, a turgid colour-by-numbers plod that apparently takes many decades to perfect.

Donald Maxwell is the poor old bachelor being mistreated by Colin Lee’s beautifully sung Ernesto and Majella Cullagh’s Norina.


Garsington Opera's new venue opens in Buckinghamshire

7 June 2011, Buckinghamshire, UK

Garsington Opera's new Wormsley pavilion
Garsington Opera's new Wormsley pavilion(Photo: Dennis Gilbert)

Andrew Green attended the opening night of this year's Garsington Opera festival and reports on the success of the company's relocation to Buckinghamshire.

First there's the long drive into the heart of the magical Wormsley estate, enclosed by rolling hills on either side. Then the walk alongside a picture-postcard lake, past a meandering line of marquees (looking for all the world like a siege encampment) housing scores of Garsingtonians upending the first champagne of the season.

The pavilion, when it first comes into sight, is a delight of Japanese simplicity and draws you up the hill - talk about seduction! But what matters above all else are the very first sounds to hit 600 pairs of ears: the result made this pair more than happy.

All in all, the re-located Garsington Opera has fallen on its feet.


Anna Netrebko signs new recording agreement with DG

6 June 2011, Hamburg, Germany

Anna Netrebko
Anna Netrebko(Photo: Felix Broede / DG)

Deutsche Grammophon has signed a new exclusive recording agreement with the Russian soprano and operatic superstar, Anna Netrebko.

Already a seasoned DG artist with numerous critically acclaimed recordings to her name, Netrebko’s audio and video discography is set to expand significantly under the new agreement.

Her past projects with DG include Verdi’s Violetta and Mozart’s Susanna at the Salzburg Festival; French, Italian, and Czech arias with Gianandrea Noseda; Italian arias with Claudio Abbado; and songs from her Russian homeland with Valery Gergiev and Daniel Barenboim.

She also features as Norina on the label’s latest DVD and Blu-ray release of Don Pasquale from the Metropolitan Opera – a role for which she was credited by the New York Observer as “not just a Met star, but the Met star”.

Commenting on the new recording agreement, Deutsche Grammophon’s President, Michael Lang, said: “Our long-term partnership with Anna has created the most inspired, beautiful, and artistic recordings. We are thrilled to continue this tradition with such a superb artist.”

Anna herself added: “I am happy to continue my collaboration at Deutsche Grammophon — it’s one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. We have many exciting new ideas that I look forward to begin recording.”

Anna Netrebko will feature the cover artist for our October issue. 


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