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Lyric Opera of Chicago names new general director

26 April 2011, Chicago, US

Anthony Freud
Anthony Freud(Photo: Steve Henry)

The Lyric Opera of Chicago has appointed Anthony Freud as the company’s new general director, effective from 1 October 2011.

The 57-year-old Brit is currently the general director of Houston Grand Opera.

He succeeds William Mason, under whose 13-year leadership the Lyric Opera has become one of the most artistically respected companies in the world.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune last week, Freud said: “I’m both honoured and thrilled [by this appointment]. One of the things that excites me most is the opportunity to get to know both the company and the city. I emphatically don’t believe in a generic opera company serving a generic city. Ultimately each company has to identify how it can do the best possible job for its audience and its city, taking its own characteristics into account.”

With 17 years of experience as a general director, Freud is a widely respected figure on the international opera scene. He led Welsh National Opera from 1994 to 2005, and in his present role has helped to strengthen Houston’s reputation for commissioning and producing new works, as well as establishing the company’s education and community initiative, HGOco.


London's ROH enters co-production partnership with the BBC

25 April 2011, London, UK

Antonio Pappano
Antonio Pappano(Photo: Musacchio Ianniello / EMI Classics)

The BBC and London’s Royal Opera House have entered a co-production partnership to create a range of special opera and ballet programmes for television.

The new deal includes a series on classical masterworks presented by Antonio Pappano, beginning with Pappano's Essential Tosca for BBC Two, plus the development of a new five-part series about singing to be written and presented by Antonio Pappano.

BBC music and events commissioning editor Jan Younghusband said: “This is a hugely exciting development for both organisations. We have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years now and this new creative relationship means we will not only continue to bring great performance to the viewers but co-commission new work with the Royal Opera House especially for TV.”


New York's Met is ready to tour Japan this summer

25 April 2011, New York, US

Peter Gelb
Peter Gelb(Photo: Dario Acosta / Metropolitan Opera)

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has confirmed that they are ready to proceed with their planned tour of Japan this summer.

Several members of the company have expressed concern about safety following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which struck Japan 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo on 11 March.

Radiation levels at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima that was damaged during the earthquake and ensuing tsunami remain very serious, and the removal of radioactive debris from the site is not expected to conclude until July.

The Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb, has said that they “will continue to monitor the situation, and if it should worsen, we will reevaluate.”

Gelb added that “Our visit to Japan will raise the spirits of the Japanese people, who are in need of visible shows of support and solidarity.”


Zhou Long's Madame White Snake wins Pulitzer Prize

21 April 2011, New York, US

Composer, Zhou Long
Composer, Zhou Long

An opera by the Chinese-born US composer, Zhou Long, has been awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Madame White Snake was described by the Pulitzer Prize judges as “a deeply expressive opera that draws on a Chinese folk tale to blend the musical traditions of the East and the West”.

Commissioned by Opera Boston, Madame White Snake received its world premiere in Boston last February, followed by its Asian premiere in Beijing during October. Marking an important watershed in US-Chinese cultural relations, this was the first opera to be presented in China by an American company for more than 20 years.

Speaking to The Boston Globe by phone from his home in Kansas City, Missouri, Zhou said that the prize is "really something heavyweight to me. I have been working very hard to blend the East and the West for years and I feel this has been recognized."


New York City Opera suspends 2011-12 season

21 April 2011, New York, US

NCYO Chairman, Charles Wall
NCYO Chairman, Charles Wall(Photo: Tristan Cook)

The new chairman of New York City Opera, Charles Wall, has suspended the company’s forthcoming season due to financial difficulties.

A review of NYCO’s business model is now underway, following the announcement of a projected US$5 million deficit for 2010-11. Wall himself has recently contributed US$2.5 million towards this deficit.

Meanwhile, several of the company’s productions last season were received well by critics, particularly Monodramas – a triple bill of one-act operas by John Zorn, Arnold Schoenberg and Morton Feldman.

The company’s current woes follow a long series of setbacks, including a substantial loss of revenue in 2008-09 during the refurbishment of its regular venue, the David H. Koch Theater (formerly the New York State Theater). This coincided with the resignation of Gerard Mortier, the Belgian director who was appointed as general manager, but pulled out before taking office.

Union contracts are another problem, which obligate NYCO to pay their orchestra and chorus for more dates than they can actually afford to perform, whilst rental costs for use of the David H. Koch Theater are also significant.  Last January, NYCO ceded four weeks of its autumn season to New York City Ballet in return for US$9 million from a capital campaign fund shared by the two companies.

Undeterred by these challenges, Charles Wall has told The Wall Street Journal that "Nothing is off the table” – including the possibility of exploring other, cheaper venues. “For years, arts organizations didn't look at the bottom line," he explained, "but you've got to bring a business outlook to these organizations, or they start dipping into the endowment and doing all sorts of things that they shouldn't be doing."


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