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Thought-provoking new season announced by ENO

26 May 2011, London, UK

'The Passenger' at Bregenz Festival
'The Passenger' at Bregenz Festival(Photo: Karl Forster)

Risky certainly. Some might even call it foolhardy in the current economic climate. But there’s no doubt that ENO’s 2011/12 season plans represent considerable bravado on the part of its artistic and management team.

With 11 new productions in the planning, the programme includes a swathe of 20th-century works that deal with powerful, political themes.

These include John Adams’ Death of Klinghoffer, based events surrounding the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985, a flashpoint in the Israel-Palestine conflict.  Weinberg’s The Passenger, meanwhile, deals with persecution and exile inflicted upon the Jews in the Second World War, based on personal stories of a victim and a perpetrator.

There are two operas by major contemporary German composers in the mix: Detlev Glanert’s Caligula explores the psychopathic nature of political dictatorship. Wolfgang Rihm’s Jakob Lenz is an exposé of society’s attitudes to mental illness.

The season sees a staging of Damon Albarn’s new opera Doctor Dee. The Blur and Gorillaz frontman ponders British ritual and symbolism as he revisits the life of the influential Elizabethan, John Dee. The London premiere is part of the London 2012 Festival celebrating the Olympics.

“We’re being risky, yes,” says ENO artistic director John Berry, “but by showcasing top British talent in our casting and dealing with thought-provoking subjects that generate challenging, intelligent debate, I hope we’ll be offering our audiences something that they can’t get anywhere else in the opera world today.”

Follow the link below for full details of ENO’s new season, which also includes new productions of The Marriage of Figaro, Castor and Pollux (ENO’s first-ever Rameau staging), Eugene Onegin, The Tales of Hoffmann, The Flying Dutchman and Billy Budd.


News round-up – 26 May 2011 

26 May 2011

Francesca Zambello
Francesca Zambello(Credit: Claire McAdams)

Bryn Terfel as Wotan in 'Die Walküre'
Bryn Terfel as Wotan in 'Die Walküre'(Photo: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera)

New post will "develop WNO’s artistic profile”

Francesca Zambello has been appointed as an Artistic Advisor by Washington National Opera. The new post “is designed to further develop WNO’s artistic profile”, say company officials. She will begin her tenure in July, following the departure of Plácido Domingo, whose contract as general director expires in June.

Die Walküre starts more than 30 minutes late

A major selling point of Robert Lepage’s new Ring cycle at The Met is its complex, 45-tonne set. On 14 May, however, the complexities got the better of technical staff when a malfunction caused live screenings of Die Walküre to be delayed by 35 minutes. Transmissions in over 1,500 cinemas worldwide were affected.

Two productions this year to be streamed online

The Guardian website has entered a partnership with Glyndebourne Festival to stream two of this year’s productions for free. The last night of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg will be streamed live on 26 June then available for seven days, followed later in the season by Britten's The Turn of the Screw. David Pickard, general director of Glyndebourne, said: "This will take us a step closer to realising our vision to create a digital Glyndebourne that is open to opera lovers at any time, anywhere in the world."

Summer festival gets ready for Buckinghamshire launch

The launch of Garsington Opera festival on 2 June will also mark the company’s historic move to its new venue on the Wormsley Estate in Buckinghamshire. Home to the Getty family, this 2,500 acres of rolling countryside now also provides a spectacular setting for the company’s specially designed Opera Pavilion. The season’s three operas include Vivaldi’s rarely performed La verità in cimento.

The Royal Institute of British Architects – International Awards 2011

Guangzhou Opera House has recently received a RIBA International Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects. Built on the banks of China’s Pearl River, the 1,800-seat venue was designed by Zaha Hadid and looks like two giant boulders taken from the river bed. It opened last May with a production of Puccini’s Turandot.

US soprano Laura Claycomb named debut artist of the year

Laura Claycomb has been named “Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year” by The Dallas Opera. The American coloratura soprano was selected by subscribers for her portrayal of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto.


New York City Opera to leave Lincoln Center

24 May 2011, New York, US

George Steel
George Steel(Photo: René Perez)

A review of New York City Opera’s business model that began last month has concluded with the company’s decision to move out of its Lincoln Center home.

NYCO has been a resident company at the Lincoln Center since 1966, but high rental costs for use of the David H. Koch Theater combined with substantially reduced revenues over recent seasons have made the move unavoidable.

The company’s general manager and artistic director, George Steel, told The New York Times: “We love Lincoln Center. It’s a wonderful place. But the reality is that the fixed costs of living here are simply too high.” He added, “I think we’re leaving for good.”

NYCO will present five operas and three concerts next season, though the venue(s) for these productions have not yet been announced. “My plan is to establish a home base for the company at a single venue and branch out,” said Steel.


ENO's A Midsummer Night's Dream divides opinion

23 May 2011, London, UK

Anna Christy as Tytania
Anna Christy as Tytania(Photo: Alastair Muir)

Report by Claire Jackson

The new English National Opera production of Britten's A Midsummer Night’s Dream has experienced a controversial start to its ten-date run.

There was tittering in the audience at the opening night last Thursday when it was announced that William Towers (currently rehearsing at Glyndebourne) would sing (but not act) the part of Oberon, having replaced Iestyn Davies at the eleventh hour.

But as the London Coliseum crowd began to witness director Christopher Alden’s rendering of the Shakespearean classic as a dark, disturbed tale of bleak trauma and despair, the tittering turned to inquisitive murmurs.

The timeless magical wood is transformed into a 1960s boys school. The four lovers are experimental teenage pupils, Titania is an overtly sexualised teacher and Oberon is portrayed as having paedophile tendencies. The fairy magic is a joint.

Several audience members left after the first act. Some did not wait that long. There were boos among the cheers when the production team took to the stage.

The stark setting has potential. But keeping the lovers, the workers and the fairies in the same space with little differentiation muddies the waters; the hallucinatory plot becomes – dare we say it – dull.

The performance is largely presented in a sensitive manner; we never witnessed any actual abuse. But the hints of it – and Britten’s connection to it – bubble under the surface, and threaten to boil over at any point. Most agree this claustrophobic production is brilliant; but not everyone will like it.


Opera Australia unveils digital broadcast strategy

17 May 2011, Sydney, Australia

Adrian Collette
Adrian Collette(Photo: Rodger Cummins)

Opera Australia (OA) has unveiled a new digital strategy that builds on the success of the company’s recent cinema screenings.

Screenings in 29 domestic cinemas attracted such a strong response that this number will now be increased to more than 60 locations across Australia and New Zealand – beginning at the end of May with The Marriage of Figaro and Rigoletto. International screenings will take place in the USA, UK, Canada, Spain and Russia from July onwards.

A second new initiative – the company’s own CD and DVD label – was launched last week.  Domestic distributionfor this is to be handled by Select Distribution, with Naxos taking responsibility for an additional 60 territories worldwide.

Partnerships with Australia’s ABC network and the high definition channel Brava HDTV have also been confirmed, with TV broadcasts of 17 filmed OA productions expected to begin mid-year across Australia, Europe and North America.

Commenting on these developments, OA Chief Executive, Adrian Collette, said: “It’s exciting to be looking ahead at a bright future for opera and adapting to suit the world in which we live and work. Now, for the cost of a movie ticket or a DVD, people can enjoy the best of Opera Australia’s performances wherever they are – from Devonport to Darwin. Or indeed, Moscow!”


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