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Latest News

Met chief conductor cancels all autumn performances

13 September 2011, New York, US

James Levine
James Levine(Photo: Michele McDonald)

Fabio Luisi
Fabio Luisi(Photo: Koichi Miura)

The Metropolitan Opera's music director James Levine has cancelled all his autumn conducting dates following emergency surgery for a damaged vertebra. Levine was recovering from a previous operation when he fell and injured himself in Vermont.

The Met has responded by promoting Fabio Luisi to the role of Principal Conductor. He will cover most of Levine’s scheduled performances, including leading new productions of Don Giovanni and Siegfried.

“While Jim’s latest setback is hugely disappointing for all of us, he joins me in welcoming Fabio’s larger role,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s General Manager. “I am very pleased that Fabio was able to rearrange his fall schedule, and I appreciate the understanding of those companies with whom he was scheduled to conduct.”

However, several of the companies affected are clearly angered by Luisi’s peremptory appointment. Rome's Teatro dell'Opera is considering legal action against the Met after scrambling to replace Luisi for its forthcoming production of Elektra: "This unpleasant affair damages the world of classical music and opera," said a spokesperson.

Luisi previously stepped in to replace Levine in April 2010, conducting three performances of Berg’s Lulu and four of Puccini’s Tosca. He was subsequently appointed as the company’s Principal Guest Conductor.

Levine hopes to recover in time for next year’s new production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (opening 27 January 2012), as well as for the full cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen in April and May.


Winners of the Queen Sonja Competition 2011 announced in Oslo

13 September 2011, Oslo, Norway

Winner Donghwan Lee with HM Queen Sonja and Executive Director, Lars Flæten
Winner Donghwan Lee with HM Queen Sonja and Executive Director, Lars Flæten(Photo: Johannes Granseth)

The 2011 Queen Sonja International Music Competition has been won by Donghwan Lee, a 31-year-old baritone from South Korea.  He was one of six young singers who took part in the final at Oslo Opera House with the Norwegian Opera Orchestra under conductor Eivind Gullberg Jensen.

Lee was awarded a diploma and prize of €20,000 by HM Queen Sonja herself.

The Competition’s highest ranking Norwegian contestant was mezzo-soprano Ingeborg Gillebo, who came second overall and received a special scholarship worth €6,000.

Members of the jury included singers Ileana Cotrubas, Sir John Tomlinson and Siegfried Jerusalem together with senior figures from Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, The Metropolitan Opera, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, La Monnaie and De Nederlandse Opera.

The Queen Sonja International Music Competition first took place in 1988 for pianists and has been a biennial singing competition since 2005.  Applications this year were received from over 200 singers in 43 countries worldwide.


Theofanidis' Heart of a Soldier premieres in San Francisco

12 September 2011, San Francisco, US

Thomas Hampson (Rick Rescorla)
Thomas Hampson (Rick Rescorla)(Photo: Cory Weaver)

Review by Jason Victor Serinus

Heart of a Soldier, a true story of love and heroism that culminates in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York's World Trade Center, had its San Francisco Opera world premiere on September 10, less than 12 hours before the tenth anniversary of the air assault on the Twin Towers.

In basing their opera on the book by James B. Stewart and the life stories of Vietnam war hero Rick Rescorla (Thomas Hampson), his army buddy and cherished friend Daniel J. Hill (William Burden), and Rick's late-in-life wife Susan Rescorla (Melody Moore), composer Christopher Theofanidis and librettist by Donna Di Novelli attempt to compact several decades of personal history into a war-torn first act.

Handicapped by a score that soldiers on rather than probing beneath the surface, and a succession of history-compacting episodes that seem at times almost cartoonish in their treatment of complex events, Heart of a Soldier comes into its own in a moving second act. Here, Rick and Susan's mutual discovery of love at first sight brings out the best in Theofanidis, eliciting music of touching simplicity and warmth. The heart opens at last, making Rick's death after heroically leading 2700 people out of the WTC all the more tragic.

Hampson does his best to cope with a part whose low tessitura finds him half-speaking at times, while Burden and Moore (the true heart of the opera) shine in roles ideally suited to their instruments and personae.

Heart of a Soldier runs at San Francisco Opera until 30 September.

Leading tenor in road tragedy

6 September 2011, Catania, Italy

Italian tenor Salvatore Licitra has died at the age of 43 after suffering severe injuries in a scooter accident in Sicily on 27 August.

Doctors believe that Licitra lost control of his vehicle following a cerebral haemorrhage, sustaining further head and chest injuries as he crashed into a wall. He was immediately taken to the Garibaldi Hospital in Catania, but never regained consciousness.

His family has agreed that his organs are to be donated. A statement said ‘he had a gifted voice and he will donate his organs to give the gift of life to people’.

Licitra first gained worldwide fame as a last-minute replacement for Pavarotti in Tosca at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2002, and in Italy he was dubbed 'the new Pavarotti'. Born in Switzerland in 1968, he studied at the Arrigo Boito Conservatory in Parma before making his La Scala debut in 1999.

'Licitra represented the school and tradition of Italian song in his natural relationships to words,' said a spokesperson for La Scala in Milan on learning of the tenor's death. 'A decade of his personal history was interwoven with our theatre.'


Northern Ireland Opera launches new vocal competition

31 August 2011, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Festival Crator, Mark Chambers, with pupils from Glenarm's Seaview primary school
Festival Crator, Mark Chambers, with pupils from Glenarm's Seaview primary school(Photo: NI Opera)

Northern Ireland Opera has announced the launch of a new competition for young singers, to be held at Glenarm, County Antrim, from 9 to 11 September. The winner will perform in Ulster with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa during this year’s Belfast Festival at Queen’s.

Five finalists from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have been shortlisted: mezzo-sopranos Rachel Kelly, Sarah Richmond and Lynda-Jane Workman, tenor John Porter, and baritone Ben McAteer. They will spend the weekend in workshops with experienced, professional singers, leading up to the grand final on 11th September.

Adjudicators include Kathryn Harries, Head of the UK’s National Opera Studio, and accompanist, Iain Burnside.

The competition is part of NI Opera's inaugural Festival of Voice, which will also feature recitals by Harries and the Irish-born soprano, Ailish Tynan, plus a series of schools workshops in Belfast and Derry.

“Our aim,” says Mark Chambers, Curator of the Festival, “is to identify talent early and provide active opportunities and public exposure to young singers to advance their careers.”


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