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Second Movement receives Cultural Olympiad 2012 commission

20 December 2010, London, UK

Emil Zátopek
Emil Zátopek(Photo: Deutsche Fotothek)

Emily Howard
Emily Howard(Photo: Kieran Morris/De Novo Arts)

The London-based independent opera company, Second Movement, has been commissioned to create a new chamber opera for London’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The commission will be funded through New Music 20 x 12, a UK-wide programme to support twenty world premieres at the Olympic Games, each lasting twelve minutes.

With music by 31-year-old British composer, Emily Howard, Second Movement’s production promises a highly compressed exploration of the life and times of Emil Zátopek (1922-2000), the legendary Czech Olympian, long distance runner, statesman, communist and dissenter.

“His unmatched sporting achievements and a biography entwined with the history of the Czech nation in the twentieth century make Zátopek a wonderful subject for an opera,” says Howard. “He represents an indomitable sporting spirit and strong parallels with today’s Usain Bolt give his story a contemporary relevance.”

Zátopek first came to public prominence during the 1948 London Olympics, where he won the 10k and was later quoted as saying: “After all those dark days of war, the bombing, the killing, the starvation, the revival of the Olympics was as if the sun had come out.”

Howard’s piece will be scored for baritone (Emil), mezzo-soprano (his wife Dana, born on the same day as Zátopek and herself an Olympic javelin gold medallist), mixed chamber ensemble and adult and youth chorus. 

 “The chorus will play an important role in recreating the thrilled Olympic crowds of 1948, 1952 and 1956,” explains Howard, “but also the Prague Spring of 1968, where Zátopek came out in public protest against the Soviet crackdown.”


Community opera launches new ROH workshop in Essex

16 December 2010, Thurrock, UK

Richard Taylor's 'Ludd and Isis'
Richard Taylor's 'Ludd and Isis'(Photo: Rob Moore)

Commentary by Rosie Johnston

The Royal Opera House's monolithic new facility in Thurrock was declared open for business on 6 December with a spectacular education project culminating in a new opera, Ludd and Isis, by Richard Taylor. The cavernous interior, divided into spaces for making, hanging and painting scenery were transformed into an interactive fair drawing on the rich history of Purfleet for side shows and entertainers.

The ROH has an embedded educational presence in Thurrock; 1,000 locals participated in research, art, design and performance for Ludd and Isis. The new facility, built on the grounds of High House Farm, will be a fulcrum for future performances and installations.

Read more in the Mar/Apr 2011 issue of Opera Now.


Student opera company wins Welsh Future Entrepreneur Award

16 December 2010, Cardiff, Wales

Dragon Opera’r Ddraig’s music director, Alasdair Cowie-Fraser, and chairperson, Rhiannon Llewellyn, receiving the Award
Dragon Opera’r Ddraig’s music director, Alasdair Cowie-Fraser, and chairperson, Rhiannon Llewellyn, receiving the Award

A student opera company from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama has won this year’s Welsh Future Entrepreneur Award in Cardiff.

Beating nine other finalists to the top prize, Dragon Opera’r Ddraig was selected for their commitment to providing a professional development platform that serves young musicians and technicians across Wales.

As well as a trophy and cash prize of £1,000, the Award will entitle Dragon Opera’r Ddraig to a business support package that music director, Alasdair Cowie-Fraser, says will be “invaluable to the future of the company”.

Dragon Opera’r Ddraig’s first production was staged earlier this year and featured cast members who have since gone on to sing for Welsh National Opera and Prague State Opera.

The company is currently working on a new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro that will receive its premiere in Cardiff on 1 February 2011.


Renée Fleming joins forces with the Lyric Opera of Chicago

16 December 2010, Chicago, US

Renée Fleming
Renée Fleming(Photo: Decca / Andrew Eccles)

Soprano Renée Fleming has been appointed as the first ever Creative Consultant of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, with a seat as Vice President on the company’s Board of Directors.

Lasting for an initial period of five years, Fleming’s new role is expected to span a wide range of artistic, educational, strategic partnership and promotional initiatives, including curating a world premiere commission for the company’s 2015-16 season.

She also will continue to appear in concerts and productions by the company, as well as developing a range of non-operatic and off-season performances at Chicago’s Civic Opera House.

Paying tribute to the Lyric Opera’s “renowned top-drawer management and highest artistic standards”, Fleming said that her interest in “joining forces with Lyric” was also driven by the fact that fiscal prudence combined with aggressive marketing and fundraising have kept the company “in excellent financial shape”.

She added: “The ship is airtight, the economic storm is subsiding, and it’s time to take those brave steps forward and tackle the challenges facing opera today.”


L’Opéra National de Lorraine appoints new music director

15 December 2010, Nancy, France

Tito Muñoz
Tito Muñoz(Photo: Dario Acosta)

Tito Muñoz has been appointed as music director of the Opéra National de Lorraine and the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy, effective from June 2011.

The 27-year-old American conductor recently completed a three year-tenure as Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and previously served as Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

He made his operatic debut with the Opéra National de Lorraine in 2009, conducting Caballero’s Romantic zarzuela, Los sobrinos del Capitán Grant.

Muñoz’s first performance in his new role will be an orchestral concert on 23 June, featuring works by Grieg and Copland.


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