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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 April 2010

21 April 2010

Polish soprano, Aleksandra Kurzak
Polish soprano, Aleksandra Kurzak

CHINA TO BUILD OPERA HOUSE IN ALGERIA
Move follows growth in trade between the nations

The Chinese government has committed funds of USD $43 million to build an opera house in the oil and gas-rich North African state of Algeria. Chinese companies will construct the new building in a move described by officials as “an important symbol” of the close ties between the two countries. With over USD $4.5 billion in trade last year (Source: AP), China is now Algeria’s second biggest trade partner.

VOLCANIC ASH DISRUPTS OPERA
Flight ban prevents artists from travelling

This week's flight cancellations caused by Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull have posed problems for several international opera companies. Polish soprano, Aleksandra Kurzak, captured media attention when she took a taxi from Warsaw to London to perform at Covent Garden, while conductor Julien Salemkour replaced Pedro Halffter in Strauss’ Salome at Berlin’s Staatsoper. New York’s Metropolitan Opera also had to reschedule rehearsals for Berg’s Lulu because Anne Sofie von Otter was stuck in Stockholm.

OPERA AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCES FINANCIAL LOSSES
Falling audiences and tourism downturn blamed

Opera Australia has announced the company’s first financial losses in six years, blaming falling audience numbers and a decline in tourism for its operating deficit of AUS $907,677. The Australian reported that productions of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Massanet’s Werther had fared particularly badly. These were presented during the company’s annual summer season in Sydney, which normally attracts many tourists.  A year-long wage freeze at the company will continue until profits return.

ROYAL OPERA HOUSE FANFARE COMPETITION WINNERS ANNOUNCED
Ten young composers selected by professional jury

Ten young composers have been named as the winners of a nationwide competition to write fanfares for London’s Royal Opera House. The winners aged 11-14 were selected from more than 250 online entries by a panel of music professionals that included Royal Opera Music Director, Antonia Pappano. The winners’ fanfares will be recorded next week by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and from May onwards will replace the bell traditionally rung to signal the start of performances at Covent Garden.

Dallas Opera appoints new General Director

16 April 2010, [Originally posted on 12 April 2010]

Keith Cerny
Keith Cerny(Photo: Karen Almond / Dallas Opera)

Dallas Opera has announced the appointment of Keith Cerny as the company’s new General Director, effective 24 May 2010.

Currently the CEO of Sheet Music Plus, the world’s largest internet-based sheet music company, Cerny previously spent three years as the Executive Director and CFO of San Francisco Opera. Before that, he held senior executive positions with McKinsey & Company, Accenture and Russell Reynolds Associates.

He has also done pro bono work for English National Opera, Washington National Opera, Atlanta Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, Los Angeles Opera and Houston Grand Opera, and is currently serving on the Strategy Committee of Opera America.

With a BA in Music and Physics from Berkeley, an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, and a PhD in Economic Development Studies/Econometrics from the UK’s Open University, Cerny’s wide-ranging credentials “demonstrate that he fully understands, appreciates, and embraces both the business and artistic demands of a top-notch American opera company”, said Dallas Opera President, Dr. Kern Wildenthal.

Cerny himself has confirmed that his three main priorities as soon as he takes office will be to seek contributions to the opera's endowment, throw himself into programming decisions for future seasons, and use his knowledge of e-commerce to raise funds and encourage “more community participation.”

Speaking to Opera Now about the ways in which technology might be used to promote Dallas Opera under his leadership, Cerny explained that “I believe technology-based promotion is a key marketing tool for any performing arts organization, just as many for-profit organizations are now identifying new channels to build and maintain relationships with their customers.”

Although “very impressed with how tech-savvy the organization is already”, Cerny sees plenty of scope for further developments:

“As I take up my new role with Dallas Opera, I look forward to working with the team on additional enhancements to the company’s web site and online presence, including even more segmented e-mails, increased opportunities for online giving, potential linkages with other classically oriented media (e.g. radio) and additional educational content linked to the performance calendar."

Cerny’s appointment comes just a few months after the opening of the Winspear Opera House at Dallas’s AT&T Performing Arts Center. He will replace John T. Cody, Jr., who has held the position of Interim General Director since George Steel’s abrupt departure for New York City Opera in January 2009.

Earlier this year, Dallas Opera was offered an anonymous grant of USD $10 million, contingent on the company being able to match this amount with funds from other sources by 31 October 2011.

"The fundraising challenge is always out there with any opera company," said Cerny. "But Dallas Opera I think is very well positioned to put together the resources it needs. In particular, having access to a purpose-built opera house enables the company to attract top-tier artists, and audience and donor excitement."

 

English National Opera 2010/11 Season announced

15 April 2010, London, UK

'Radamisto' at Santa Fe Opera
'Radamisto' at Santa Fe Opera(Photo: Ken Howard)

Details of English National Opera's 2010/11 Season were announced today. Featuring a total of fourteen operas, ten will be new productions and nine will be co-productions with international opera houses.

Two premieres are also planned – the UK premiere of Alexander Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart and the World Premiere of an opera by 29-year-old American composer, Nico Muhly, based on a true story about teenager who attempts to arrange his own murder via the Internet. 

An ambitious programme for lean economic times, ENO has built collaborative relationships with more than 20 overseas companies to make this Season possible, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Bayerische Staatsoper and De Nederlandse Opera.

For the fourth year in a row, ENO will also be working with London’s Young Vic Theatre to present a new co-production of Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses.

Other Season highlights include the Company premieres of Donizetti’s rarely performed Lucrezia Borgia and Handel’s Radamisto plus ENO debuts by directors Benedict Andrews, Mike Figgis, Terry Gilliam, Des McAnuff, Simon McBurney, Rufus Norris, Bartlett Sher and Dmitri Tcherniakov.


ENO YOUNG SINGERS PROGRAMME RE-LAUNCHED
12 singers per year will now be selected for training

ENO’s Young Singers programme has been re-launched in an expanded form so that places for up to 12 singers per year will now be available. Designed for talented singers in the early stages of their careers, the programme was first launched in 1998 and a number of former participants have since gone on to important careers including Colin Lee, Leigh Melrose, Iain Paterson, Sarah Tynan and Elizabeth Watts.

 

Stuttgart State Opera appoints new Music Director

15 April 2010

Sylvain Cambreling
Sylvain Cambreling(Photo: Marco Borggreve)

French-born conductor Sylvain Cambreling has been appointed as the new Music Director of Stuttgart State Opera by the company's artistic director designate, Jossi Wieler.

Wieler has invited Cambreling to conduct one production during the 2011/12 Season then take over as Music Director in 2012/13.

Wieler himself is due to join the company in 2011, succeeding Manfred Honeck.

Cambreling previously held the post of Music Director at La Monnaie in Brussels from 1981-1991 followed by four years at the helm of Frankfurt Opera in the 1990s. Although he has since conducted extensively at the Opéra National de Paris, this will be his first major appointment with an opera house since leaving Frankfurt.

Speaking to Opera Now, Cambreling explained that “After I left Frankfurt in 1997 I decided I would never take on an opera house again – it was too much work. But that was as general artistic director, and being a Music Director is very different. I love theatre music and even when I am busy conducting other repertoire I am first and foremost an opera conductor. So I am very excited to be trying again.”

Whilst it is too early to be talking about specific productions that he is planning with Wieler, Cambreling is candid about his desire “to work as a team” and develop close collaborative relationships with his new colleagues in Stuttgart.

Earlier this month, Cambreling was also appointed as the principal conductor of Tokyo’s Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. He has been Chief Conductor of the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg since 1999.

 

News round-up - 14 April 2010

14 April 2010

James Levine
James Levine(Photo: Steven Senne / AP)

The Golden Room, Teatro Colón
The Golden Room, Teatro Colón

JAMES LEVINE WITHDRAWS FROM METROPOLITAN OPERA SEASON
Music director to undergo surgery on his lower back

Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine has withdrawn from his remaining performances with the company this season to undergo surgery on his lower back. A total of seven performances due to be conducted by Levine – three of Berg’s Lulu and four or Puccini’s Tosca – will now be conducted by Fabio Luisi. Levine’s scheduled performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra have also been affected.

TEATRO COLON BUENOS AIRES TO REOPEN NEXT MONTH
City's mayor confirms date – 24 May 2010

South America’s most famous opera house will reopen on 24 May following renovations lasting more than four years, says city mayor Mauricio Macri. The spectacular 2,478-seat Teatro Colón (Columbus Theatre) in Buenos Aires was supposed to be ready for its centenary in May 2008 but will now reopen on the eve of Argentina’s independence bicentennial.

DOMINGO RETURNS TO THE STAGE
69-year-old tenor to sing Simon Boccanegra in Milan on Friday

Plácido Domingo will return to the stage on Friday this week with the first of six performances in the title role of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at La Scala in Milan. The 69-year-old tenor has spent the past month recovering from cancer surgery. He told the BBC that "The joy at returning to Milan is immense."

ENO AND PUNCHDRUNK TO CO-PRODUCE SITE SPECIFIC OPERA
Torsten Rasch’s The Duchess of Malfi

English National Opera has teamed up with the British experimental theatre company, Punchdrunk, to co-produce a new opera by German composer Torsten Rasch. Based on John Webster’s Jacobean drama The Duchess of Malfi, the site-specific production will be performed in a vacant office block at Great Eastern Quay in London's Royal Albert Basin. A total of 13 performances have been scheduled, beginning on 13 July.

THE MET’S GRAND GAMBLE
Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb speaks to Vanity Fair

In this month’s Vanity Fair, Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb speaks to Contributing Editor, Nina Munk: “Examining the Met’s $47 million deficit, the horrendous economics of opera, and the effort to sell high culture to the masses, the author reveals what a huge risk the controversial impresario is taking.”

SCOTTISH TENOR KENNETH MCKELLAR DIES AGED 82

Kenneth McKellar, who died on 9 April aged 82, was a lyric tenor once described by Adrian Boult as “the best Handel singer of the 20th century”. He was invited by Benjamin Britten to sing the role of McHeath in a production of The Beggar’s Opera in 1965, but subsequently abandoned the operatic stage to focus on building a repertory of Scottish and popular songs.


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