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News round-up – 2 May 2011

2 May 2011

Sir Mark Elder
Sir Mark Elder(Photo: Simon Dodd)

Rebecca Evans with her Welsh Women Mean Business Award for Outstanding Achievement
Rebecca Evans with her Welsh Women Mean Business Award for Outstanding Achievement

Sir Mark Elder to lead UK specialist recording label

Sir Mark Elder is to become the new artistic director of Opera Rara. The UK-based recording label, which specialises in forgotten C19th repertoire, has just released a 3-CD set of Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix with Sir Mark conducting. He said: “I couldn’t be more delighted to become the artistic director of this wonderful institution and to have the opportunity to help it progress, to redefine what Opera Rara is and to oversee its music making over the next few years.”

“Transformative” gift left by a former board member

A bequest worth US$9 million has been left to the Atlanta Opera by longtime board member Barbara D. Stewart, who died last year. The company, which has been hit hard by the global economic recession, will present a truncated three-opera season in 2011-12. Greg Johnson, chairman of the board, described the gift as “transformative".

Welsh Women Mean Business Awards 2011

The Welsh soprano, Rebecca Evans, was recently honoured with the Award for Outstanding Achievement at this year's Welsh Women Mean Business Awards in Cardiff. A Grammy Award winning artist who has made many recordings, Evans enjoys a major international career and sings regularly at major houses in the UK, US and Europe.  She will perform the role of Liù in Welsh National Opera’s forthcoming production of Puccini’s Turandot.

Baltimore-based initiative plans re-launch as a production company

The Baltimore-based American Opera Theater (AOT) has shut down due to financial difficulties. Dedicated to creative stagings of early and contemporary opera, AOT was founded in 2003 and presented eight seasons of productions. Company founder, Timothy Nelson, is now planning to re-launch the brand as an independent production company offering “occasional performances in Baltimore”.


IMG Artists has announced new senior appointments to its Vocal Division in London and Berlin. The UK Vocal Department is to be led by Senior Vice President Stefania Almansi, who represents world-class artists such as Susan Graham, Jennifer Larmore, Gerald Finley and Alice Coote. Meanwhile, David Blackburn is to become a Vice President in the Berlin-based Vocal Division. He founded and will continue to manage NYIOP International, which scouts for singers and organizes professional opera auditions around the world.


London's Opera Holland Park announces 2011 season

2 May 2011, London, UK

Opera Holland Park
Opera Holland Park

London’s Opera Holland Park (OHP) has announced its 2011 season, which runs from 7 June to 13 August.

The line-up of six new productions includes two company premieres plus a mini festival of three operas from the late Romantic Italian repertoire.

Opening the season, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale will be conducted by Richard Bonynge, husband of the late Dame Joan Sutherland. He returns to OHP following his success in 2009 at the helm of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux.

Another staple of the Italian operatic repertoire, Verdi’s Rigoletto, stars Robert Poulton, who has previously played Giorgio Germont in La traviata for OHP as well as the title role in Falstaff at Garsington Opera.

Offering a counterpoint to these major works from the mid C19th, the mini festival will put a spotlight on operas from the fin-de-siècle period and early decades of the C20th: Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz (1891), Catalani’s La Wally (1892), and Puccini’s La rondine (1917). Look out for the Alpine avalanche that brings La Wally to a close, killing the opera’s heroine in an act of theatrical hyperbole that even outdoes Tosca.

Mozart’s supreme comedy, Le nozze di Figaro, will also be presented in an innovative new production by Liam Steel, joint artistic director of the physical theatre company Stan Won’t Dance. Leading this cast as the Countess Almaviva is Elizabeth Llewellyn, who recently enjoyed a major success as Mimì at English National Opera.


Boston Lyric Opera presents Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

29 April 2011, Boston, US

Nadine Sierra (Tytania) and Andrew Shore (Bottom)
Nadine Sierra (Tytania) and Andrew Shore (Bottom)(Photo: Erik Jacobs / BLO)

Boston Lyric Opera's new production of Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream opens tonight in a company premiere directed by Tazewell Thompson.

David Angus, who made his BLO debut with Idomeneo in April 2010, leads his first production as music director of the company.

Susanna Phillips, a regular at New York’s Met, will perform the role of Helena. She is joined by John Gaston, debuting as Oberon, rising sensation Nadine Sierra as Tytania, and English National Opera favourite, Andrew Shore, as Bottom.

Some of the production’s set designs include ideas contributed by elementary students from RAW Art Works in Massachusetts, who were inspired by hearing Britten’s music.

BLO's main performing space, the Shubert Theatre, will feature a lobby bar and a special social media/Twitter lounge for students during student night performances.

Opera Now's forthcoming Summer issue includes 'A Letter from America' by BLO Artistic Director, Esther Nelson.


Director David Pountney to head Welsh National Opera

29 April 2011, Cardiff, Wales

Director, David Pountney
Director, David Pountney(Photo: Karl Forster)

Welsh National Opera has announced the appointment of David Pountney as the company’s new Chief Executive and Artistic Director, effective from September 2011.

Pountney has enjoyed a long association with WNO and knows the company well. Over the years, he has directed many acclaimed WNO productions, including a series of Janačék’s operas for which he was awarded the Janačék Medal in 1978.  His next production with the company will be Berg’s Lulu in Spring 2013.

Responding to news of his appointment, Pountney said: “I am really thrilled to have the chance to lead a company that has long been very close and important to me – a national and international company that has enormous potential to be a powerful creative force on the European opera stage. I look forward to being able to deploy the international experience I have gained over the last years to lead this flagship company into a new era of artistic adventure.”

The 63-year-old British-born opera director is also currently the Intendant of Bregenz Festival in Austria, a position that he will continue to hold until his contract ends in 2013.

Pountney’s Bregenz Festival productions have included three operas for the vast outdoor stage on the lake (The Flying Dutchman, Nabucco and Fidelio), as well as other productions by Martinů, Rimsky-Korsakov and Mieczyslaw Weinberg for the indoor theatre.


Mexican-born composer Daniel Catán dies, aged 62

28 April 2011, Pasadena, US

Composer, Daniel Catán
Composer, Daniel Catán(Photo: Elizabeth Beristain)

The Mexican-born composer Daniel Catán has died of a heart attack, aged 62.

Known for bringing Spanish-language operas into the international repertory, Catán cultivated a lyrical, neo-Romantic style that was at odds with the ultra-Modernism of his former teacher, Milton Babbitt.

His works for stage culminated in last year’s hugely successful world premiere of Il Postino at LA Opera, starring Plácido Domingo as the poet, Pablo Neruda.

Born in Mexico City to a family of Sephardic Jewish and Russian descent, Catán studied Philosophy at the University of Sussex, UK, before enrolling in Princeton as a PhD student in composition.

His breakthrough came in 1996 with Florencia en El Amazonas (Florence in the Amazon), an adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Premiered at Houston Grand Opera, this was the first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned by a major American opera house. 

Salsipuedes, a Tale of Love, War, and Anchovies followed in 2004, featuring a libretto by the Mexican Nobel prizewinner, Octavio Paz. But Catán's biggest hit was undoubtedly Il Postino – a “delicately lovely score” (Opera Now) that played to sold-out houses at its Los Angeles premiere in 2010.

Catán is reported to have been working on a new opera at the time of his death.

Daniel Catán’s Il Postino will receive four performances at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris between 20 and 30 June 2011.


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