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Opera Now provides a unique and all-encompassing perspective on the international opera scene through its lively and colourful mix of news, reviews, interviews, travel articles and commentary.

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Latest News

Arts Council England announces National portfolio funding

30 March 2011, London, UK

Arts Council England (ACE) has announced a new National portfolio of funded organisations for the next three years.

This follows the Government’s decision to cut ACE’s budget by 29.6% over four years, dropping from £452m to £350m.

ACE’s initial reaction was to make cuts of 6.9% to all 850 regularly funded organisations within its funding portfolio. Now, more than 200 of these organisations have lost their funding completely, and many others are being faced with a reduction of between 0.7% and 69.9%.

Big opera companies have been relatively badly hit, with 15% cuts applied to The Royal Opera, Opera North and Welsh National Opera. Faring only slightly better, English National Opera, Birmingham Opera Company and British Youth Opera have had their funding cut by 11%.

But the news hasn’t been bad for everyone, with at least 110 organisations being added to ACE’s portfolio for the first time and another 270 receiving increased funding.

English Touring Opera, for example, will receive £1,577,015 in 2012/13, rising to £1,819,244 in 2014/15. This is expected to allow the company to sustain its current level of touring over the coming year, then to increase its programme of activity from 2012 onwards.

Two opera companies are also amongst the list of newly funded organisations: Streetwise Opera, which creates pioneering productions with homeless people across the UK, and the award-winning contemporary opera company, The Opera Group.

"We have received a settlement of around £100,000 per year for the next 3 years,” says Matthew Peacock, Chief Executive of Streetwise Opera. “This isn't as much as we had applied for, but with 1,100 organisations applying hardly anyone new has been given core funding and many were cut. We're having muted celebrations since we have a lot of friends in other arts organisations who haven't been successful."


London’s Royal Opera House appoints new Director of Opera

21 March 2011, London, UK

Kaspar Holten
Kaspar Holten(Photo: Miklos Szabo)

London’s Royal Opera House has announced the appointment of Kasper Holten as the company’s new Director of Opera. He will replace Elaine Padmore when she leaves at the end of the 2010/11 Season.

A native of Copenhagen, the 37-year-old Holten has been Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Opera since 2000, where he successfully led the move into Copenhagen’s new opera house in 2005.

As a director he has staged more than 60 productions of opera, drama, operetta and musical theatre in countries as far-flung as Iceland, Austria and the USA, including a highly acclaimed new production of Wagner’s Ring cycle in Copenhagen. He has also recently directed Juan, a modern cinematic version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which will go on general release in Denmark from 7 April, followed by cinemas in the UK and other countries.

Announcing the appointment, Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House said: “I am thrilled that Kasper Holten is to join the senior management team. He has done some fantastic and innovative work as a stage director and at the same time he has confirmed the Royal Danish Opera’s status as a major player in the international opera world.  He joins The Royal Opera after ten years of superb artistic achievement, but also at a time of new economic challenges and further expansion in the digital arena. I look forward to working with him.”

Holten described the appointment as “an incredible opportunity” and emphasised his commitment “to further developing ROH as a leading opera house of the world with exciting productions, broad outreach and a standard of artistic quality second to none.”


Opera journalist and author John Steane dies, aged 83

21 March 2011, London, UK

John Steane (1928-2011)
John Steane (1928-2011)

Opera journalist and author John Steane has died, aged 83.

A regular contributor to Opera Now for more than two decades, Steane was highly respected for his understanding of the human voice coupled with an extensive knowledge of repertoire, recordings and singers.

His journalistic style was erudite yet relaxed, including frequent flashes of humour.

“John had a very rare gift – to be able to bring the qualities of a human voice to life in words,” says Ashutosh Khandekar, Editor of Opera Now. “Singers felt at ease with him because he understood so completely the connection between the singing voice and the soul of the artist. His writings about great performances were not simply pieces of criticism; they were acts of revelation, making you feel as if you had actually been there with him.”

Steane’s numerous books included The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing on Record, 1900-1970 (1974), Voices, Singers and Critics (1992), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: A Career on Record (with Alan Sanders: 1995), the three-volume Singers of the Century (1996-2000) and, most recently, his privately-published memoir based on a series of articles written for Opera Now.

John Steane's final article for Opera Now – about the phenomenon of record collecting and the discovery of a cache of recordings of Francesco Tamagno, the tenor who created the role of Verdi’s Otello – will appear in the our forthcoming Summer issue.

  • John Barry Steane, opera journalist and writer, born 28 April 1928; died 17 March 2011.


Verdi’s Otello at Lithuanian National Opera

18 March 2011, Vilnius, Lithuania

Director Eimuntas Nekrosius
Director Eimuntas Nekrosius

Eimuntas Nekrosius is one of Lithuania’s leading opera directors and an influential figure in the European theatre scene.

Having directed Shakespeare’s Othello several times, he turns his hand to Verdi’s opera, which opens at the Lithuanian National Opera in Vilnius tonight.

”The process of directing Verdi’s Otello has been very difficult. At first I thought it would be easy: of course, the plot is the same, and it’s beautiful to see how Verdi brought out some of the same accents as Shakespeare. But the Shakespearean play didn’t help me at all, since the two pieces are so different."

"Some say it should be easy to direct the opera after doing the drama, but I’m starting to think it’s vice versa. You‘ve walked down one road already, and none of the signposts apply any more. Maybe it would have been better to start off with a clean sheet of paper!"

“I hadn’t listened to the opera all the way through until I was asked to direct it. My first impression: this is the least interesting of all operas that Verdi wrote. Maybe it was because I knew his other operas better. After a while, however, I realised this is his most sublime creative achievement.”

Verdi’s Otello runs at the Lithuanian National Opera on 18, 19 and 20 March followed by performances on 21 April and 5 May. A full review by Igor Toronyi-Lalic will appear in our forthcoming Summer issue.


Riccardo Muti wins US$1 million Birgit Nilsson Prize

18 March 2011, Stockholm, Sweden

Birgit Nilsson as Brünnhilde at the Bayreuth Festival
Birgit Nilsson as Brünnhilde at the Bayreuth Festival(Photo: Siegfried Lauterwasser / Bayreuther Festspiele)

Riccardo Muti has won this year’s Birgit Nilsson Prize worth US$1 million – claimed by the organisers to be the biggest prize in classical music.

The 69-year-old Italian conductor and former music director of La Scala was selected by the jury “for his extraordinary contributions in opera and concert, as well as his enormous influence in the music world, both on and off the stage.”

Established by the legendary Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson before her death in 2005, the Prize is awarded every two or three years to an outstanding conductor or singer who is active in the field of opera.

A statement issued by Muti said: "I was deeply touched by the jury's accolade, all the more so given my profound admiration for this unique and extraordinary artist, both as an incomparable musician and as a great interpreter."

Muti will receive the Prize at a ceremony in Stockholm on 13 October.


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