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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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News round-up - 21 June 2010

21 June 2010

Peter Gelb
Peter Gelb

Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell

NEW YORK MET ANNOUNCES HUGE LOSSES
Spending up despite falling assets and income

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has announced investment portfolio losses running into tens of millions of dollars coupled with rising expenses over the past financial year. The cumulative result is a drop of US$144 million in the net value of the Company’s assets compared with 2008.  To counteract this trend, General Manager, Peter Gelb, has already introduced cost-cutting measures for 2010-11 including a delayed pay rise for stagehands. In addition, a modest profit is now being generated by The Met’s ‘Live in HD’ telecasts, which recently topped record sales of 2.2 million tickets. Gelb told the Associated Press that “we are confident that we will thrive in the future.”

THE UK’S FAVOURITE ARIA
Purcell tops nationwide BBC poll

Henry Purcell's ‘When I am laid in Earth’ from Dido and Aeneas has been named the UK's favourite aria in a nationwide poll conducted by BBC Radio 3. Listeners were asked to email the station with their favourite aria as part of the BBC’s ongoing series, ‘A Passion For Opera’. Arias by Mozart, Wagner and Puccini also made the Top 10, which became 11 due to a tie.

COSTUME EXHIBITION OPENS IN FRANCE
Dresses worn by top divas go on display

An exhibition of dresses worn by opera’s top divas has opened at France’s national centre for stage costume in Moulins. The top attraction is expected to be Maria Callas’s salmon pink gown, created for Franco Zeffirelli’s 1964 Paris Opera production of Norma. Other past and present superstars featured in the extensive display of haute couture include Regine Crespin, Montserrat Caballe, Kiri te Kanawa, Angela Gheorghiu, Jessye Norman, Renée Fleming, Barbara Hendricks and June Anderson. The exhibition runs until 31 December 2010.

VIENNA'S HUMMING CHORUS
60,000 bees take up residence on the roof of the city's Opera House

A beehive on the roof of Vienna’s Opera House has recently become home to more than 60,000 bees. Their unusual presence is part of a government-sponsored project to celebrate the 2010 international year of biodiversity. Honey produced from the initiative will be sold at an upoming gala evening to raise funds for environmental charities.

OBITUARY
Costume designer, Peter J. Hall, dies aged 84

An important figure in opera costume design for over 40 years, Peter J. Hall enjoyed a particularly close working relationship with director-designer, Franco Zeffirelli. After training in the costume department at London's Royal Opera House, Hall settled in Dallas in 1960 and went on to create costumes for more than 70 Dallas Opera productions, as well as working with other leading companies around the world. Peter J. Hall died on 27 May 2010, aged 84.

 

News round-up - 17 June 2010

17 June 2010

LBO's Artistic and General Director, Andreas Mitisek
LBO's Artistic and General Director, Andreas Mitisek

Khachatur Badalyan
Khachatur Badalyan

LONG BEACH OPERA ANNOUNCES PROFITS
Company’s subscriptions up by 35%

California’s Long Beach Opera (LBO) has announced profits for the current season thanks to a 35% increase in subscriptions, “dedicated donors” and productions that use “a lot of imagination instead of a lot of money,” said the company’s Artistic and General Director, Andreas Mitisek. LBO’s 2011 Season will feature one US West Coast and three Southern California premiere productions, including Cherubini’s Medea, Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, Shostakovich’s Cherry Town, and The Difficulty of Crossing a Field by Pulitzer-winning composer David Lang and playwright Mac Wellman.

THE 3RD BIENNIAL GALINA VISHNEVSKAYA OPERA SINGERS COMPETITION
28-year-old Armenian tenor wins first prize for men

28-year-old Armenian-born tenor, Khachatur Badalyan, has won the first prize for men in Moscow’s third biennial International Opera Singers Contest of Galina Vishnevskaya. He sang Lensky’s aria from the second act of Eugene Onegin and ‘Pourquoi me reveiller’ from Massenet’s Werther.  No first prize for women was awarded, but the second prize went to Viktoria Grig, a 31-year-old mezzo-soprano from Russia. 53 singers took part in the finals, 46 of whom were from Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. The remaining seven contestants came from Mongolia.

FRANCESCA ZAMBELLO BRINGS CHANGES TO GLIMMERGLASS
Re-branding heralds launch of other new initiatives

The new general manager and artistic director of Glimmerglass Opera, Francesca Zambello, has announced her plans for major changes to the 35-year-old summer opera festival in Cooperstown, N.Y. As well as changing the name from Glimmerglass Opera to Glimmerglass Festival, Zambello has promised to introduce Broadway musicals plus expanded offerings of concerts, cabaret and readings. A Glimmerglass Festival Artist in Residence will also be invited for the first time next year, and will participate in Festival activities throughout the summer.

BRYN TERFEL MAKES HIS ROLE DEBUT AS HANS SACHS
19 June 2010 – Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Welsh National Opera

The celebrated Welsh bass-baritone, Bryn Terfel, will make his much-anticipated role debut this week as Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The new Welsh National Opera production by Richard Jones is also a first for the company – and for Jones.

WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA CHORUS MEMBER SHOT DEAD
Singer’s body found in public park

43-year-old Washington National Opera chorus member, Don Diego Jones, was found shot to death last week in one of the city’s public parks. Jones had sung with WNO for the past 14 years and recently played the role of the Crab Man in a revival of Porgy and Bess.

 

World Premiere – A Dog’s Heart at Netherlands Opera

14 June 2010, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Alexander Raskatov´s 'A Dog’s Heart'
Alexander Raskatov´s 'A Dog’s Heart'(Photo: De Nederlandse Opera)

Russian composer Alexander Raskatov´s first opera, A Dog’s Heart, received an ecstatic reception at its world premiere in Amsterdam last week.

Rastov’s restless, exuberant music was a perfect match for the comic ingenuity of Simon McBurney, artistic director of Complicite, also making his operatic debut with this work.

Burney, with the help of the Blind Summit Theatre’s inventive puppetry, captures Russian satire at its best with his trademark screwball pacing and surreal sense of humour.

The opera, co-commissioned by the Netherlands Opera and English National Opera, is based on Michael Bulgakov’s sharp, witty anti-Soviet novel. It will receive its English National Opera premiere in November this year.

 

News round-up - 11 June 2010

11 June 2010

Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin(Photo: Steve J Sherman)

SLATKIN’S TRAVIATA SAGA CONTINUES
Conductor blames diva for his poor reviews

American conductor, Leonard Slatkin, who withdrew from the New York Metropolitan Opera’s recent production of La traviata after the opening night was panned by critics, has blamed his untimely departure on Angela Gheorghiu's "unprofessional behavior". At a press conference in Detroit this week he said that the Romania diva’s performance as Violetta was “not in league at all with what anybody else was doing” so he “got thrown” and “forgot about other people on stage at times.” Slatkin also countered his earlier statement (posted on his website) that he “had never conducted" La traviata before but “concluded that since everyone else in the house knew it, I would learn a great deal from the masters.”

35TH MONTEPULCIANO FESTIVAL PROGRAMME
Legacy of Henze’s ‘open festival’ ethos lives on

For his second year as artistic director of the Cantiere Internazionale d'Arte di Montepulciano, composer Detlev Glanert has created a programme “structured around the ideals and the aesthetics of Dante’s Divine Comedy – this year, the connection is with Purgatory.” The festival will feature four operas, including the world premiere of In ascolto di un re (Listening to a king) by composer Stefano Taglietti and librettist Raffaele Giannetti, the Italian premiere of Salvatore Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici (Lights, my betrayers), and a new production of Britten’s Albert Herring directed by Keith Warner.

DEMAND FOR TICKETS CAUSES ENO WEBSITE TO CRASH
Audiences rush to book for Torsten Rasch’s The Duchess of Malfi

English National Opera’s website crashed last week due to the high volume of people trying to buy tickets for The Duchess of Malfi. The new production is a collaboration with British experimental theatre company, Punchdrunk, and will take place in a vacant office block in London's Royal Albert Basin. A total of 13 performances have been scheduled, beginning on 13 July.

METROPOLITAN OPERA REINFORCES STAGE FOR NEW RING CYCLE
Fears of Valhalla-style collapse lead to six-figure investment

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has spent a sizeable six-figure sum on permanently reinforcing the company’s stage ahead of Robert Le Page’s new Ring Cycle production. The move followed a report by engineers, which indicated that the Canadian director’s 45-tonne set might cause the existing stage to collapse. 

CORK OPERA HOUSE APPOINTS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Former boss of Heineken Irelend to lead struggling organisation

The former boss of Heineken Ireland, accountant Padraic Liston, has been appointed as the new executive director of Cork Opera House. His appointment is a step towards stabilizing the struggling organisation, which reported losses of EUR 83,000 for the past financial year. Liston replaces Gerry Barnes, who recently retired from the post after more than 20 years’ service.

OPERA BOSTON GENERAL DIRECTOR STEPS DOWN
Search for replacement to begin in coming weeks

Opera Boston has announced that the company’s general director of 14 years, Carole Charnow, is to step down at the end of July 2010. Music Director, Gil Rose, will continue to nurture the Company’s artistic vision while a replacement for Charnow is sought.

OBITUARY
Italian baritone Giuseppe Taddei

Giuseppe Taddei’s career spanned 50 years and included more than 100 operatic roles. During two seasons at the Vienna Staatoper in the mid 1940s he was particularly celebrated for his performances of Mozart, later participating in the productions and recordings of Figaro, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni produced by Walter Legge. He also excelled as Gianni Schicchi and Falstaff, and was 70 years old when made his Metropolitan Opera debut with the latter in 1985. Giuseppe Taddei was born on 26 June 1916 and died on 2 June 2010, aged 93.

 

Los Angeles Opera's new Ring cycle

10 June 2010, Los Angeles, US

LA Opera's 'Siegfried,' featuring Linda Watson as Brünnhilde and John Treleaven as Siegfried
LA Opera's 'Siegfried,' featuring Linda Watson as Brünnhilde and John Treleaven as Siegfried(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

LA Opera's 'Götterdämmerung'
LA Opera's 'Götterdämmerung'(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

Report by Josef Woodard

Unfolding over the course of a year, LA Opera’s initiation into the Ring is officially complete and grandly successful. The first full Cycle has just been performed and two more Cycles are being presented between now and the end of June.

Stakes were high, given the 20-year wait for LA Opera's first Ring (including an aborted earlier version with Hollywood’s George Lucas as director), and the routinely-cited US$32 million price tag, which stirred some predictable public controversy from those who just don’t understand the sublime cultural and philosophical importance of this operatic shrine.

Credit for this fascinating new production, a treat for eye, ear and mind, goes largely to the vision of German director Achim Freyer, who has cast Wagner’s mythic epic in terms of a psychedelic carnival. The experience can be cartoonish at times, hallucinatory and spatially disorienting elsewhere, but always seizing the senses with a sense of newness, despite the familiarity of the musical and narrative elements.

A massive, steeply raked stage with moving, rotating parts, light sabres and other virtuosic lighting schemes and layered visual elements could have undermined Wagner’s intentions, but instead added levels of illusion and poetry.

Freyer’s dream-theatre framework manages simultaneously to enrich, slyly comment upon and reinvent the context. What we see and feel in the staging both contrasts and complements the big-boned earnestness of Wagner’s grand conception — from the well-oiled orchestral machinery in the pit, conducted by an inspirational James Conlon, to the casting that includes the bold, lucid singing of Linda Watson as Brünnhilde, and John Treleaven’s vulnerable heroics as Siegfried.

Josef Woodard’s full report about Los Angeles’s Ring Festival LA will appear in the September/October 2010 issue of Opera Now.

 


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