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Moldavian soprano wins BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011

20 June 2011, Cardiff, Wales

Valentina Naforniţă
Valentina Naforniţă(Photo: Brian Tarr)

This year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World has been won by Valentina Naforniţă, a 24-year-old soprano from Moldavia.

Naforniţă performed a programme of arias by Donizetti, Dvořak and Gounod that not only garnered praise from the jury, but also saw her take home the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize.

She was presented with her awards by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who recently became the competition’s new Patron.

Commenting on her success, Naforniţă said: “I am so happy; I feel I’m in heaven right now. It is everything to me.”

Naforniţă was the youngest of five singers to reach Sunday’s televised final at St David’s Hall, Cardiff. Her fellow finalists were Meeta Raval from England, Olesya Petrova from Russia, Hye Jung Lee from South Korea and Andrei Bondarenko from Ukraine.

The jury was chaired by former chief executive and artistic director of Welsh National Opera, John Fisher, and included mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, tenor Dennis O’Neill, and baritone Håkan Hagegård.

“I'm delighted that we had such an expert jury for the competition”, said Dame Kiri. “They are all world famous, but also hugely dedicated to the nurturing of young talent.”

The next BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition will run from 16 to 23 June 2013.


Third annual Benvenuto Franci Opera Competition announced

15 June 2011, Pienza, Italy

The dates for this year’s Benvenuto Franci Opera Competition have been announced in Pienza, Tuscany.

Running from 13 to 15 October 2011, two days of elimination rounds will culminate in a free gala concert by all finalists at the town’s historic Church of San Francesco.

The 2011 competition is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

Members of the jury, led by President Adua Veroni, include Giovanni Pacor, Director of the Teatro dell Opera di Genova, Christiano Sandri, casting director of the Teatro Maggio Musicale in Florence, conductor Carlo Franci and baritone Renato Bruson.

Applications from singers born after 31 December 1974 can be made online via the website (Closing deadline: 10 October).

Prizes worth a total of €6,500 will be awarded to the top three competition winners, along with concerts and auditions offered by the competition’s partners.

More than 100 applicants from 16 countries took part in 2010.


Met tour of Japan goes ahead, minus top stars

13 June 2011, Tokyo, Japan

Joseph Calleja
Joseph Calleja(Photo: Decca / Mitch Jenkins)

The Metropolitan Opera is currently touring Japan minus two of its top stars, who pulled out at the last minute.

Anna Netrebko and Joseph Calleja both said that they were concerned about radiation levels at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, where debris is still being removed following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and ensuring tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March.

Netrebko was due to play Mimi in La bohème, but has been replaced by Barbara Frittoli, whose own role as Elisabeth in Don Carlos was filled at the eleventh hour by Marina Poplavskaya.

Marcelo Álvarez, Rolando Villazón and Alexey Dolgov have each flown in to cover Calleja’s scheduled appearances as Rodolfo in La bohème and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor.

The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, told The New York Times: “It was not easy for us to get this news at the last second.” But, he said: “We’re used to dealing with cancellations at the Met. It’s the nature of the beast.”

The Met's tour of Japan continues until 19 June 2011.


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.


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