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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

San Francisco Opera to stage Heart of a Soldier world premiere 

24 December 2010, San Francisco, US

Composer, Christopher Theofanidis
Composer, Christopher Theofanidis(Photo: Alexandra Gardner)

San Francisco Opera has commissioned a new opera by composer Christopher Theofanidis and librettist Donna DiNovelli, based on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James B. Stewart’s Heart of a Soldier: A Story of Love, Heroism, and September 11th.

Starring baritone Thomas Hampson, tenor William Burden and soprano Melody Moore, the world premiere will take place at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on 10 September 2011.

Stewart’s book, published in 2002, draws a sensitive and compelling portrait of Rick Rescorla, a former soldier who died in the World Trade Center attacks. Employed as a security manager for one of the companies in Tower Two, Rescorla successfully evacuated 2,700 colleagues from the burning building before losing his own life when it collapsed.

Theofanidis’ score promises to evoke contemporary idioms of American classical music as well as Cornish ballads and pop-rock influences. Joining the traditional orchestra will be range of added elements that include an electric guitar and synthesizer.

“The tone is lyrical and has a great deal of humour woven throughout, which reflects the humanity brought to this story by its characters,” says Theofanidis. “It is fundamentally a deeply humanistic work, the essence of which comes from a sense of service to others and duty – the heart of a soldier. Another theme is how we honour and remember the dead, how we incorporate them into our own hearts and come to grips with great loss.”

Conducted by Patrick Summers and directed by Francesca Zambello, Heart of a Soldier will receive 7 performances by San Francisco Opera between 10 and 30 September 2011.


News round-up – 22 December 2010

22 December 2010

Nicola Luisotti
Nicola Luisotti(Photo: John Martin)

Italian conductor honoured at the New York Met

Italian conductor, Nicola Luisotti, has been awarded the 39th ‘Premio Puccini’ Award by Italy’s Fondazione Festival Pucciniano. He received the Award during a special reception at New York’s Metropolitan Opera on 10 December, marking the 100th anniversary of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West. “Tonight I am very proud to be Italian,” said Luisotti, “and to share with the people of America the music of this incredible composer from the place where I was born.” Previous recipients of the Award include conductors Lorin Maazel and Riccardo Muti, and opera singers Luciano Pavarotti, Josè Carreras and Mirella Freni.

When a Man Knows – 31 March 2011

Robert Hugill’s new opera, When a Man Knows, is to receive its world premiere staging at London’s Bridewell Theatre on 31 March 2011. Featuring the popular UK contemporary music group, FifteenB, this new production by Ian Caddy “is designed to challenge the audience as it progresses towards its thrilling denouement,” says Hugill. The opera, based on Alan Richardson's 2003 play of the same name, has already been performed in concert and was described by one critic as “dark, disturbing and imaginative – a compelling and intriguing piece of writing.”

Current chief conductor to move on in July 2011

The Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen is seeking a new music director to replace chief conductor, Michael Schønwandt, whose contract expires in July 2011. Schønwandt’s successor will work closely with the company’s new opera director, Keith Warner, who is also scheduled to take office in July. The deadline for applications is early February and interviews are scheduled for March.

Young singers invited to apply for fully funded places

Applications are now open for the the Sommer Opera Bamberg 4th European Orchestra and Opera Workshop for talented young singers and instrumentalists. Culminating in five performances of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro during October 2011, highlights of the fully funded training programme for singers include a masterclass by Angelika Kirchschlager and the opportunity to win a scholarship from the Richard Wagner Association. Closing deadline: 15 March 2011.

Lesley Koenig to take office in mid-January 2011

Opera Boston has announced the appointment of stage director, producer and arts administrator, Lesley Koenig, as the company's new general director. She will take office in mid-January 2011 alongside Gil Rose, Opera Boston’s music director since 2003, who now becomes artistic director.

Insider events introducing the company’s forthcoming productions

Beginning in January 2011, Long Beach Opera has planned a series of five special weekend events designed to illuminate the company’s forthcoming productions. ‘Coincidences’ will include in-depth discussions with composers Philip Glass (12 March 2011) and David Lang (4 June 2011) led by Long Beach Opera artistic and general director, Andreas Mitisek.


Welsh National Opera to make savings in "internal efficiencies"

21 December 2010, Cardiff, Wales

A spokesperson for Welsh National Opera (WNO) has said that the company will continue to make savings next year, despite receiving a funding increase of £250,000 from the Arts Council of Wales (ACW).

The increase follows an earlier cut of £500,000 from the company’s national funding allocation, announced in October by Arts Council England.

WNO managing director, Peter Bellingham, emphasised that savings would be made in "internal efficiencies,” adding that the company’s focus would remain "entirely" on providing an "interesting, varied programme" for the "widest range of audience."

He also said that the savings were necessary to maintain WNO’s reputation for “world-class quality."

Earlier this year, the company came under fire for holding a lavish first night reception in the same week that ACW funding to 32 organisations was stopped.

WNO Chief Executive and Artistic Director, John Fisher, subsequently announced his decision to step down in 2011, stating that the 250-strong company faces “very significant challenges” ahead.


Robert Lepage to direct Met commission by Osvaldo Golijov

21 December 2010, New York, US

Osvaldo Golijov
Osvaldo Golijov(Photo: Sara Evans © 2002)

The Metropolitan Opera is reported to have commissioned a stage adaptation of Stephen Hawking’s bestselling science book, A Brief History of Time.

The Argentine-born writer, Alberto Manguel, revealed in a Radio France interview last week that he is working on a libretto for the new opera, which is to be composed by Osvaldo Golijov and directed by Robert Lepage.

A spokesperson for the company subsequently told Opera Now: “The Met has commissioned an opera from Osvaldo Golijov, but we are not ready to confirm any other details of the project at this time.”

Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (subtitled "From the Big Bang to Black Holes") was published in 1988 and has since sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. 

Osvaldo Golijov studied with Oliver Knussen as a fellow at Tanglewood, where his first opera Ainadamar received its world premiere in 2003.


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.”


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