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News round-up – 9 December 2010

9 December 2010

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Louis Andriessen
Louis Andriessen(Photo: Vincent Mentzel)

The Genius of Mozart – 1 to 12 January 2011

BBC Radio 3 has announced a 12-day season of Mozart broadcasts beginning on 1 January 2011. 8 January has been designated ‘Opera Day’ and will feature Dame Kiri te Kanawa introducing her favourite Mozart arias plus a Mozart opera matinée broadcast of Così fan Tutte. Other opera highlights from the season include Don Giovanni from Vienna State Opera on 1 January and The Abduction from the Seraglio on 7 January.

Prize for La commedia worth US$100,000

This year’s US$100,000 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition has been won by Louis Andriesson for his opera, La commedia. Based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy, La commedia received its world premiere at the 2008 Holland Festival. Previous winners of the Award, which was established in 1985 by the University of Louisville, have included Thomas Adès, Harrison Birtwistle and John Adams.

David Freeman to direct Vivaldi UK premiere

With preparations for the company’s move to Wormsley Estate in Buckinghamshire still underway, Garsington Opera has announced a 2011 Season that includes the UK premiere of Vivaldi’s La verità in cimento, directed by David Freeman and conducted by Lawrence Cummings. New productions of The Magic Flute and Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia are also planned.

Children’s opera by Karen MacIver tops Community or Education category

Scottish Opera’s children’s opera James Watt: A Head of Steam by Karen MacIver has received the British Composer Award 2010 for a Community or Educational Project. Based on the life and work of the Scottish inventor and engineer, James Watt, the original project involved over one hundred and sixty children from Inverclyde near Glasgow.

Fables – A Film Opera – 17 December 2010

A newly commissioned opera by the ground-breaking opera and homelessness charity, Streetwise Opera, will receive its world premiere at London’s Shoreditch Church on 17 December.  Fables – A Film Opera promises to span the genres of folk, electronica and film, comprising four short films interspersed with live performances by over 100 Streetwise Opera volunteers and community participants.

EXILE – available to download from 10 December 2010

Australia’s Chamber Made Opera has teamed up with the cross-artform collective, Aphids, to create the world’s first iPad opera. An interactive application based on Helen Gifford’s EXILE will be available to download for free from 10 December onwards.


The 2010 Gerald Moore Award for accompanists has been won by 25-year-old British pianist, Timothy End. The Royal Academy Graduate accompanied baritone Jonathan McGovern in the biannual competition’s recent final.


Police and protestors clash outside La Scala

8 December 2010, Milan, Italy

Daniel Barenboim
Daniel Barenboim(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

The opening of La Scala’s 2010-11 Season last night was marked by protests, as crowds gathered to demonstrate against the Italian government’s planned cuts of 37% in subsidies to the performing arts.

According to the BBC’s Rome correspondent, John Hooper, two home-made bombs were detonated, resulting in the hospitalisation of at least 10 police officers and an unknown number of demonstrators. Police in riot gear with smoke bombs and teargas were also deployed.

Inside La Scala, conductor Daniel Barenboim used the opportunity to lobby Italy's president, Giorgio Napolitano, who was in the audience.

Turning to the stalls before the performance began, Barenboim announced that “in the names of the colleagues who play, sing, dance and work, not only here but in all theatres, I am here to tell you we are deeply worried for the future of culture in the country and in Europe."

He then read out the ninth article of the Italian constitution, which includes a promise to protect the country’s "historical and artistic heritage" as well as promoting "the development of culture and scientific and technical research."

President Napolitano is reported to have joined the audience applause that followed Barenboim’s announcement.


Star-studded Walküre opens La Scala's 2010-11 Season

7 December 2010, Milan, Italy

High-tech Valkyries at La Scala
High-tech Valkyries at La Scala(Brescia e Amisano, Teatro alla Scala)

La Scala’s 2010-11 Season opens tonight in Milan with a star-studded new production of Wagner’s Die Walküre.

Seats for this annual gala range from €600 to €2,400 each, and the evening promises its usual mix of glamour, tradition and controversy.

Some of the cast members recently attacked director Guy Cassiers in a published interview, accusing him of being overly concerned with the production’s high-tech visual effects.

Waltraud Meier, who led the criticisms of Cassiers in last Wednesay’s edition of Corriere della Sera, will appear tonight as Sieglinde opposite Simon O’Neill’s Siegmund.

They will be joined by fellow Wagnerians Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde), Vitalij Kowaljow (Wotan), Sir John Tomlinson (Hunding) and Ekaterina Gubanova (Fricka) under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.

Stemme, Tomlinson and O’Neill will all be making their La Scala debuts.

Live screenings in cinemas around the world have been scheduled in partnership with Emerging Pictures.


Peter Hofmann dies, aged 66

6 December 2010

Hofmann in 'Die Walküre' at The Met
Hofmann in 'Die Walküre' at The Met(Winnie Klotz / Metropolitan Opera)

Peter Hofmann has died, aged 66, following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

The German heldentenor was best-known for his performances of heroic Wagnerian roles, including Siegmund, Parsifal, Tristan, and Lohengrin.

Hoffman's short-lived but glittering operatic career took off in 1976 with his celebrated Bayreuth Festival debut as Siegmund in Patrice Chéreau’s centenary Ring cycle, conducted by Pierre Boulez. His Metropolitan Opera debut  followed four years later with Lohengrin, a role that he subsequently recorded opposite Karan Armstrong as Elsa.

Other important recordings made during Hoffman's prime include two versions of Parsifal conducted by James Levine and Herbert von Karajan, Fidelio with Sir Georg Solti, and Tristan und Isolde under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.

Hofmann's voice deteriorated markedly during the early 1980s and he retired from the opera stage in 1989, following a spate of poor performances as Siegmund at The Met and Bayreuth.

In later years, Hofmann became familiar to audiences in Germany as a TV host and pop artist, recording several cover albums and appearing in the German language version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.

Ill health forced Hoffman to give up singing permanently in 2004.


Muti "too busy abroad" to lead Rome's Teatro dell'Opera

3 December 2010, Rome, Italy

Riccardo Muti
Riccardo Muti

Riccardo Muti has denied published reports that he is to take up the position of artistic director with Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera.

The reports, which were circulated by the Associated Press, claimed that Muti had signed an agreement with the company after meeting Rome’s Mayor Gianni Alemanno.

Speaking last week at a press conference in Rome, where he is currently conducting Rossini’s Moïse et Pharaon, the 69-year-old maestro confirmed that Alemanno had tried to woo him, but said:

"In a world where directors suffer continuously from jet lag, to accept the offer and then fail to commit fully to the job would have been immoral,” adding that he is “too busy abroad” with his responsibilities as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Alemanno echoed this statement in a report by the Italian news agency, Ansa, which quoted him as saying that Muti has only committed to "continue working" with the Teatro dell’Opera.

Muti has not held any full-time positions with opera companies in Italy since his resignation Milan's Teatro alla Scala in 2005, amidst a heated dispute with the company’s heavily unionised staff and musicians.


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