News round-up - 9 July 2010
9 July 2010
Counting the cost: LA Opera's 'Rheingold'
LA OPERA’S RING LOSES US$6 MILLION
Donors sought to make up the shortfall
Los Angeles Opera’s US$32 million production of Wagner’s Ring cycle has left the company with a deficit of US$5.96 million. According to the company’s chief operating officer, Stephen Rountree, $4 million of this shortfall accrued during the recent LA Ring Festival, which saw three full stagings of the Cycle that failed to attract projected box office returns. (27,000 Festival tickets were sold, but nearly 12,000 of these included discounts of 50% or more off their original price). The Company is seeking support from its donors to make up the shortfall.
CHICAGO LYRIC OPERA DIRECTOR TO RETIRE
William Mason will step down in 2012
William Mason, the general director of Chicago’s Lyric Opera, has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2011-12 Season. The 68-year-old native of Chicago has worked with the company for over four decades, including 13 years in his current position. His leadership is widely perceived to have been fiscally prudent, and during his tenure the Lyric Opera has become of the most artistically respected companies in the world. A search committee is now being formed to find Mason’s successor by autumn 2011.
CONDUCTOR QUITS LA SCALA PRODUCTION
Strikes prompt Spinosi’s departure
The French conductor, Jean-Christophe Spinosi, has abandoned La Scala’s forthcoming revival of Il barbiere di Siviglia amidst disruptions caused by strikes. A series of strikes held in response to government cost-cutting reforms has already caused La Scala to cancel several performances in recent months. An official statement said that Spinosi’s decision had come about “because of the impossibility of maintaining a serene and constructive work relationship.” He has been replaced by Michele Mariotti.
ROLANDO VILLAZÓN TO PERFORM AT LONDON’S iTUNES FESTIVAL
This year’s programme features classical music for the first time
On 15 July, Mexican tenor Rolando Villazón will become the first classical artist ever featured at London’s annual iTunes Festival. Singing songs from his new album, ¡MÉXICO!, he will be part of a line-up at Camden’s Roundhouse that includes pop acts the Scissor Sisters, Tony Bennett, Ozzy Osbourne, Mumford & Sons and Faithless. Free tickets are being given away through London’s Metro newspaper and the performance will available to download from the iTunes store.
THE UK’S RNCM APPOINTS A NEW HEAD OF VOCAL STUDIES
Lynne Dawson to assume departmental leadership in September 2010
The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK, has appointed Lynne Dawson as Head of the School of Vocal Studies. Currently a Visiting Tutor with the department, she will commence her new duties in September 2010, working with RNCM President, Sir Willard White, Head of Opera, Stefan Janski, Deputy Head of Vocal Studies, Susan Roper, and International Chair in Vocal Studies, Joan Rodgers. Dawson will replace Alec Crowe, who is retiring after nearly 30 years at the College.
COSTUME DESIGNER WINS CANADIAN PERFORMING ARTS AWARD
Toronto’s Dora Mayor Moore Awards 2010
The opera category in this year’s Dora Mayor Moore Awards has been won by costume designer, Martha Mann. Her designs for Opera Atelier’s recent production of The Marriage of Figaro were highlighted as examples of Outstanding Original Costume Design. The Dora Awards, which cover five categories including opera, recognise outstanding achievements in Toronto’s performing arts industry.
OPERA CO-COMMISSIONED BY SIX UK FESTIVALS BEGINS SUMMER RUN
Mikhail Karikis’s Xenon: An Exploded Opera
An opera that was co-commissioned by six festivals in Kent, UK, has begun its summer run at Canterbury’s Sounds New festival. Each festival will showcase one of six acts from Mikhail Karikis’ Xenon between May and October. This pioneering production initiative has been funded by a combined grant from Arts Council England and the South East England Development Agency to find out whether it affects cultural tourism in the region. Karikis’ work incorporates performance, music and visual art and, according to his blog, “is conceived as a response to John Cage and Pierre Boulez”.
Italian bass, Cesare Siepi, dies aged 87
Cesare Siepi was recognized as one of the mid-20th century’s leading Italian basses, celebrated in particular for his portrayal of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. His career included over 350 performances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera plus frequent appearances at Covent Garden, La Scala and Vienna State Opera. He worked mainly in Italy from the 1970s onwards, and ended his stage career in 1988. Siepi died in Atlanta on 5 July, aged 87.
8 July 2010, [Originally posted on 30th June 2010]
Plácido Domingo sings Simon Boccanegra
John Steane gives his impressions of Plácido Domingo’s performance in the baritone role of Simon Boccanegra, which opened in Covent Garden last night.
Standing before the audience at the end of his first London performance as Simon Boccanegra, Plácido Domingo won himself a reception which expressed, as well as their appreciation of that night’s work, the audience’s warm regard for the man and a lifetime’s achievement.
But this does not mean that his experiment of singing one of Verdi’s greatest baritone roles as a tenor had been successful. We commonly think of Domingo’s tenor as baritonal, but if there was one thing that the experiment demonstrated, it was the difference between that (the baritonal tenor) and the real thing. The centres of resonance are different, and the timbre and its associations that Verdi had in mind were not those of a tenor. The wrongness of tone was apparent from the first, wrong in itself and wrong in its relation to other voices (as in the trio in act two).
The passage least affected was the monologue at the start of act three which with the warmth of characterisation was raised almost to the status of Otello’s great solo where he also has the stage to himself for the only time in the opera. At such moments, the tone regained its old beauty. Elsewhere it was a voice singing within its range but not its rightful tessitura.
It would be wrong to call the venture a failure: but just as certainly, it was not a success.
A concert performance of Simon Boccanegra featuring Plácido Domingo will be broadcast live from this year’s BBC Proms on 18 July 2010.
DOMINGO ACCUSES OPERA HOUSE DIRECTORS OF POOR CASTING
On the same day that Plácido Domingo gave his first London performance as Simon Boccanegra, he accused opera house directors of casting singers in roles that do not suit them.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme, he suggested that good singers are now in short supply due to the number of new opera houses worldwide:
“There are many, many, many more theatres around the world,” he said, “so the needs and variety of repertoire is tremendous. The directors of theatres, they don’t care. They need an artist, and if one of the characters gets sick, they just get another. Probably the voice is not for the piece, but they have to do it.”
Earlier this year, cancer surgery forced Domingo to withdraw from a production of Handel’s Tamerlano that would have made him the first singer ever to appear in both tenor and baritone roles during a single Royal Opera House season. He was replaced as Bajazet by the American tenor, Kurt Streit.
27-year-old tenor wins Welsh Singers Competition
2 July 2010, Cardiff, Wales
Competition adjudicator, Bryn Terfel, presents John Pierce with his award(Photo: Brian Tarr)
27-year-old tenor, John Pierce, has won the Welsh Singers Competition 2010.
He was one of four singers who performed in this year’s public final at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, accompanied by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Grant Llewellyn. The panel of adjudicators included Welsh bass-baritone, Bryn Terfel.
As well as receiving a cash prize of £2,000, Pierce will now go on to represent Wales in Cardiff Singer of the World 2011.
Speaking candidly about his success, Pierce said: “I am really shocked to have won, and even more shocked as it comes just eight weeks after becoming a dad to my daughter, Sophie.”
He went on to explain that his grandmother had always wanted to become an opera singer, but due to financial restrictions had turned down a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama when she was 13.
“My grandmother and parents encouraged me to develop my singing skills and have been a great source of inspiration and support over the years,” he added.
Pierce’s winning performance ended with Rodolpho’s aria ‘Che gelida manina’ from La bohème – a fitting choice since he has already been engaged to play this role with British Youth Opera in September, then cover it for English National Opera in the autumn.
News round-up - 2 July 2010
2 July 2010
Ben Heppner(Photo: Kristin Hoebermann)
BOSTON LYRIC OPERA'S NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR
David Angus to fill position after two-year vacancy
British conductor, David Angus, has been appointed as the new music director of Boston Lyric Opera (BLO), effective September 2010. The position had been vacant for two years, but Angus emerged as the obvious candidate after conducting BLO’s April 2010 production of Idomeneo. As well as winning critical acclaim for these performances, BLO’s General & Artistic Director, Esther Nelson, said that Angus “demonstrated terrific synergy with our Orchestra and Chorus.” He will conduct Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to close BLO’s 2010-11 Season and thereafter a minimum of two productions per season.
THE DALLAS OPERA HONOURS BEN HEPPNER
Maria Calls Debut Artist of the Year 2010
Tenor Ben Heppner has been named ‘Maria Callas Debut Artist of the Year’ by The Dallas Opera. The award, which is given each season for a particularly remarkable and memorable Company debut, celebrated Heppner’s role as Captain Ahab in the recent world premiere of Moby-Dick. In a note of thanks to The Dallas Opera, Heppner said “I am indebted to Jake Heggie, Gene Scheer and Leonard Foglia for their exceptional work in creating this outstanding new work,” and “Thank you for trusting me with the responsibility for Ahab.”
THE OPERA ORCHESTRA OF NEW YORK RETURNS TO THE STAGE
Two concert productions planned for next season
The Opera Orchestra of New York, which suspended its opera performances in 2008 due to financial difficulties, has announced details of two concert productions next season: Meyerbeer’s L’Africane at Avery Fisher Hall and a double bill of Massanet’s La Navarraise with Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at Carnegie Hall. The double bill, featuring tenor Roberto Alagna, will be conducted by the Company’s new music director, Alberto Veronesi.
DON GIOVANNI LIVE FROM AIX-EN-PROVENCE FESTIVAL
Ciné lumière, London – 5 July 2010
London’s Ciné lumière will screen Mozart's Don Giovanni on 5 July in a live broadcast from Aix-en-Provence Festival. Conducted by Louis Langrée, with Bo Skovhus playing the title role, this new production by Dmitri Tcherniakov is set outdoors in the stunning historical Théâtre de l'Archevêché.
SOPRANO SERENADES MEDICAL STAFF AFTER LUNG TRANSPLANT
Doctors describe recovery as “stunning”
25-year-old American soprano, Charity Tillemann-Dick, recently gave her first public performance following a double lung transplant and open heart surgery in September. After hearing her rendition of Gershwin’s ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ and ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Tilleman-Dick’s doctor described her recovery as “stunning.”
Canadian contralto, Maureen Forrester, dies aged 79
Although best-known for her performances and recordings of German lieder, oratorios and symphonic repertoire, the Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester also enjoyed a considerable reputation for her operatic appearances. These included Erda in Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera (1975) and the Countess in Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades at La Scala (1990). She died on 16 June 2010, aged 79.
Detlev Glanert's Caligula
1 July 2010
Oehms Classics OC 932 | 2 CDs, 126 mins
Detlev Glanert’s Caligula was given its premiere at the Oper Frankfurt in October 2006 and recorded live for this double CD release by Oehms Classics. With a libretto by Hans-Ulrich Treichel based on Albert Camus’ Absurdist play of the same title, the opera recounts a dark tale that traces the tyrannical Roman emperor’s descent into a state of narcissistic self-loathing.
Glanert’s music is no less striking than his choice of subject matter, employing a postmodern synthesis of styles by turns stark, lyrical and surreal. The result is a compelling theatrical narrative that combines finely judged dramatic pacing with vivid orchestration and supple vocal lines.
Baritone Ashley Holland is outstanding in the title role with an expressive characterization that moves deftly between Caligula’s erratic emotional states. Markus Stentz draws out these contrasts in the score with comparable skill, maintaining balance and clarity throughout despite the vast orchestral forces involved. Occasionally a voice gets lost as the characters move around the stage, but otherwise the live atmosphere (including rapturous audience applause) adds to the overall success of this recording.
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