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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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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.


News round-up – 30 November 2010

30 November 2010

Angela Gheorghiu as Adriana Lecouvreur
Angela Gheorghiu as Adriana Lecouvreur(Photo: Catherine Ashmore)

ROH audience boos last-minute announcement

Angela Gheorghiu recently prompted boos from the audience of the Royal Opera House by cancelling an appearance as the heroine in Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. A last-minute announcement explaining Gheorghiu’s absence met with angry hissing and jeering.  She was replaced by the Spanish soprano, Angeles Blancas Gulin, who was already scheduled to play Adriana later in the production run. Four more performances remain between 30 November and 10 December.

State announces new cultural tourism initiative

Australia’s New South Wales government has announced the launch of Opera on Sydney Harbour. From March 2012, this major new cultural tourism initiative will feature annual seasons of fully staged outdoor productions, presented by Opera Australia on a floating offshore stage. “The grandeur and majestic beauty of Sydney Harbour is the perfect backdrop for this project,” said government Premier, Kristina Keneally.

Free adaptation to receive its UK premiere during the Barbican’s bite11

Peter Brook’s contemporary adaptation of Mozart’s Magic Flute is to receive its UK premiere at the Barbican during next year’s bite11 season. Conceived by a creative team comprising Brook, the composer Franck Krawczyk and author Marie-Hélène Estienne, five performances of this co-production with C.I.C.T / Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord will be presented at the Barbican Theatre between 23 and 27 March 2011.

Ten Days on the Island presents David Young’s Minotaur – The Island

Tasmania’s biannual international arts festival, Ten Days on the Island, is planning a contemporary reconstruction of Monteverdi’s L’Arianna that explores the mythological and visual symbolism of the Minotaur, Ariadne, and the labyrinthine structure of the maze. Co-produced with Chamber Made Opera from Melbourne, composer David Young's Minotaur – The Island will receive its world premiere at the festival on 26 March 2011.


2011 Salzburg Festival programme announced

26 November 2010

President, Helga Rabl-Stadler
President, Helga Rabl-Stadler(Photo: Kerstin Joensson)

Artistic Director, Markus Hinterhäuser
Artistic Director, Markus Hinterhäuser(Photo: Peter Rigaud)

“Festivals have to create some controversy – otherwise they’re just boring.”  So said Helga Rabl-Stadler, President of the Salzburg Festival, as she unveiled the programme for the 2011 Festival which runs from 27 to 30 August next year.

The theme of the festival is taken from a quote about the purpose of art from the Italian composer Luigi Nono: ‘To awaken the ear, the eye, and human thought”. (Nono’s monumental Prometeo forms part of next year’s Salzburg concert programme).

Three operas lie at the heart of the 2011 summer programme: a new production of Verdi’s Macbeth, featuring the first collaboration between the iconic German director Peter Stein and conductor Riccardo Muti. Also new are Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten (directed by Christof Loy, conducted by Christian Thieleman), and Janacek’s The Makropolus Case, directed by Christoph Marthaler and starring Angela Denoke, under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen.

All three Mozart/Da Ponte operas directed for Salzburg by Claus Guth will be performed as a ‘cycle’ next year. Lead singers include Gerald Finley as Don Giovanni, Christopher Maltman as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte, and Erwin Schrott appearing both as Leporello and in the title role of the Marriage of Figaro.
The operas will feature three different orchestras: Les Musiciens du Louvre under Mark Minkowski, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Robin Ticcati and the Vienna Philarmonic with Yannick Nézet-Séguin .

“This will be the first time that any of the Mozart/Da Ponte works have been performed on period instruments at Salzburg,” said this year’s artistic director Markus Hinterhäuser. “Using three orchestras will really show audience the range of styles and musical possibilities that can be applied to these operas.”

There will also be a concert double-bill of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol, featuring Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala.


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