Jazz opera for London schools endorsed by Olympic Games
13 April 2010
Julian Joseph with pupils from Hackney's Kingsmead Primary School
Shadowball, a pioneering jazz opera for school children in the London Borough of Hackney, has been awarded an 'Inspire Mark' by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.
The 'Inspire Mark' is bestowed on outstanding projects that contribute to the 2012 Games' lasting legacy and the Cultural Olympiad.
Created by jazz musicians Julian Joseph and Mike Phillips for the Hackney Music Development Trust (HMDT), Shadowball tells the story of the struggles, triumphs and challenges facing black athletes in the USA during their sixty year exclusion from Major League Baseball.
Alongside baseball, the opera also charts the development of jazz during the time of segregation when, against heavy odds, black athletes and jazz musicians were using sport and music to reach their dreams and inspire others.
"Shadowball is a story of triumph in the face of adversity”, says Joseph. “It demonstrates the greatness of a people denied their civil liberties. How do you thrive in an unjust system? Baseball and jazz. Reflect on it and it makes a mockery of that system and did so at the time. The truth is that we must learn these lessons and all of us embrace and own this history in its glory and its horror."
Two performances of Shadowball involving jazz vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, Julian Joseph and 120 Hackney school children will take place on 29 and 30 June at London's Mermaid Theatre. Leading up to these performances, the project’s extensive education programme will include music workshops with Julian Joseph and baseball training in more than 20 Hackney schools.
News round-up - 9 April 2010
9 April 2010
Daniel Barenboim(Photo: Sheila Rock)
Hans Werner Henze(Photo: Schott / Peter Andersen)
STAATSOPER UNTER DEN LINDEN 2010/11 SEASON
Berlin’s oldest opera company moves to Charlottenberg’s Schiller Theatre
Staatsoper Unter den Linden director Jürgen Flimm and music director Daniel Barenboim have announced details of the company’s 2010/11 Season. Coinciding with the start of a three-year residency at Charlottenberg’s Schiller Theatre during extensive renovations to the Staatsoper’s home, the Season will open on 3 October with the world premiere of Metanoia - über das Denken hinaus by composer Jens Joneleit. In addition, Guy Cassiers’ new Ring cycle will be launched with performances of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, plus six other new productions are planned: Stravinsky's The Rake’s Progress, Berg’s Wozzeck, Bernstein’s Candide, Tomasso Traetta's Antigona, Peter Eötvös's Tri Sestri and Toshio Hosokawa's Matsukaze.
THE YOUNG VIC TO HOST HENZE ANTI-ROMANCE
Elegy for Young Lovers – 24 April to 8 May 2010
London’s Young Vic theatre is to host seven performances of Hans Werner Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers in a new English National Opera co-production directed by Fiona Shaw. With a libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, this rarely performed 20th-century masterpiece offers an excoriating critique of the Romantic notion of the artist as hero.
GLIMMERGLASS OPERA APPOINTS NEW MANAGING DIRECTOR
Linda Jackson to serve as onsite liaison to Francesco Zambello
Linda Jackson has been appointed as the new Managing Director of Glimmerglass Opera, the 35-year-old summer opera festival in Cooperstown, N.Y. An arts professional with more than 20 years experience in the field of opera, most recently as Managing Director of Connecticut Opera, Jackson will act as onsite liaison to Glimmerglass’s new General & Artistic Director, Francesca Zambello.
OPERA AMERICA CONFERENCE 2010 KEYNOTE SPEAKER CONFIRMED
New Realities | New Strategies - 9 to 12 June 2010
Composer Daniel Catán, whose opera Il Postino will be premiered at LA Opera in September, has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for this year’s OPERA America Conference. The Conference, hosted by LA Opera in June 2010, will explore new strategies for safeguarding the sustainability of the industry in the wake of the global recession.
GREEK ARTS PHILANTHROPIST HONOURED
Concert dedicated to the memory of Christos Lambrakis
A concert has taken place in Athens dedicated to the memory of Greek media entrepreneur and builder of the Megaron/Athens Concert Hall, Christos Lambrakis. The performance of Mozart’s Requiem featured Bulgarian soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow alongside Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa, tenor Mario Zeffiri and bass Christophoros Stamboglis. Lambrakis died in December 2009 after receiving heart surgery in Athens. He was 75.
Graham Johnson and Steuart Bedford remember Philip Langridge
8 April 2010
Philip Langridge as Aschenbach in the Opera Australia 2005 production of 'Death in Venice'(Photo: Branco Gaica)
Philip Langridge as Marquis in Berg's 'Lulu' at the Royal Opera(Photo: Clive Barda)
Following the death last month of Philip Langridge, pianist Graham Johnson and conductor Steuart Bedford have spoken to Opera Now about their memories of working with Langridge, his legacy and the qualities that made him one of the finest English tenors of his generation.
“Philip was an unpublicised national treasure”, says Johnson, “and in terms of what he did to serve British music, I can’t think of any British artist who deserved a knighthood more.”
Well known for his interpretations of Janáček and modern British operas, Langridge particularly excelled in the works of Britten, successfully reinventing roles that had been written originally for Peter Pears.
“Along with Anthony Rolfe Johnson, he was one of the generation of tenors who inherited the mantle of Peter Pears,” explains Johnson. “When I heard Philip in the flesh do Death in Venice at English National Opera, I told him that he was the greatest Aschenbach I had ever heard – which is remarkable considering that I helped Peter Pears learn this role and was his friend and admirer for many years.”
Bedford, who recorded Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with Langridge for Collins, was similarly impressed: “You can’t really go about Britten’s work by copying Peter Pears. You have to do it your own way, and Philip was one of the people who managed to do that successfully. His interpretations were always entirely valid and convincing.”
According to Johnson, the fact that Langridge had trained initially as a violinist meant that he approached singing with an unusually strong grasp of musical form and structure:
“Somebody who understands sonata form after having performed violin sonatas will think of music in larger structures, and will never interpret an operatic role as a series of individual phrases and sections. I know that one of the things Claudio Abbado loved about working with Philip was this total musicianship. Abbado felt a musical kinship with Philip.”
Langridge turned 70 last December but his future schedule showed no signs of plans to slow down. According to Johnson, “the fact that Philip died ‘in harness’ – with several years of future engagements already in the diary – is evidence of the commitment that led him to master so many roles in such different operas.”
Searching for a suitable epitaph for Langridge, Johnson cites ‘Starry Vere – god bless you’ from the libretto of Britten’s Billy Budd: “This phrase, sung by the sailors on deck as they turn to salute their captain, captures Philip’s star-like quality and his important position as a role model for the younger generation.”
The full transcript of this interview with Graham Johnson will appear in the May/June issue of Opera Now.
News round-up - 3 April 2010
3 April 2010
Conductor, Leonard Slatkin(Photo: © Donald Dietz)
SLATKIN WITHDRAWS FROM MET TRAVIATA
Conductor admits to not knowing the score
American conductor, Leonard Slatkin, has withdrawn from conducting any further performances of La traviata at New York’s Metropolitan Opera following negative reviews of this week’s opening night performance. He was slammed for openly admitting via his personal web site that he “had never conducted" the opera before but “concluded that since everyone else in the house knew it, I would learn a great deal from the masters.” Slatkin will be replaced by Marco Armiliato on 3 April, house cover conductor, Steven White, on 7 April and Yves Abel, principal guest of Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, on 13, 17, 21 and 24 April.
30 MILLION DOLLARS GIVEN TO NEW YORK’S METROPOLITAN OPERA
US house receives its largest donation ever
Publishing heiress and philanthropist, Ann Ziff, has given USD 30 million to New York’s Metropolitan Opera – the largest single donation ever received by the house. The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, told The New York Times that “it’s a very timely and important gift from a longtime supporter of the Met.” Ms Ziff has served on The Met’s board since 1994 and also provided funding for Robert Lepage’s new production of Wagner’s Ring cycle, which begins in September.
DOMINGO RETURNS TO LOS ANGELES FOLLOWING SURGERY
Tenor still recovering after removal of a cancerous polyp from his colon
Plácido Domingo has returned to Los Angeles, where he will resume his duties as General Director of LA Opera following cancer surgery last month. The 69-year-old tenor also confirmed in a statement that he has already begun singing privately and plans to begin rehearsals shortly for his appearance as Simon Boccanegra at La Scala on 16 April.
GERARD MORTIER PROMISES ‘INNOVATIVE’ FIRST SEASON IN MADRID
Teatro Real’s new director announces his plans for 2010-11
Gerard Mortier has promised ‘innovative’ programming for his first season as the new director of Madrid’s opera house. The 66-year-old Belgian, who will head the Teatro Real until 2016, has scheduled operas by Britten, Szymanowski, Messiaen and Kurt Weill, including new productions by Peter Sellars, Krzystof Warlikowski and Bob Wilson. Plácido Domingo will also make a special appearance on 21 January 2011 to celebrate his 70th birthday.
FIRST MET-LINCOLN CENTER JOINT OPERA COMMISSION ANNOUNCED
Premiere to take place at London’s Coliseum in June 2011
The first new opera created under The Metropolitan Opera-Lincoln Center joint commissioning programme is to be staged in June 2011 at London’s Coliseum before moving to New York for The Met’s 2012-13 Season. Based on the story of a real Internet murder, the opera will be scored by 28-year-old American composer, Nico Muhly, with a libretto by established playwright, Craig Lucas. The project will be The Met’s fourth co-production with English National Opera.
Former Bayreuth director Wolfgang Wagner dies aged 90
2 April 2010, [Originally posted on 26 March 2010]
Wolfgang Wagner (1919-2010)(Photo: Bayreuther Anzeiger / Stephan Müller)
Wolfgang Wagner, the grandson of composer Richard Wagner, has died in Germany aged 90.
Appointed as a co-director of Bayreuther Festspiele in 1951 alongside his brother, Wieland Wagner, Wolfgang became the festival’s sole director after Wieland’s death in 1966.
Although generally considered to be a far less inspired producer than Wieland, Wolfgang was widely recognised for his skills as a business manager, ruthless in turning Bayreuth to his personal advantage, getting the festival funded and making it more famous than ever.
He held the reigns of power for four decades, but stepped down in 2008 to be succeeded by his two daughters, Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier.
Wolfgang's desire to safeguard his own legacy when making these appointments fed into a wider agenda to perpetuate the Wagners' control of Bayreuth. According to Opera Now correspondent, Tom Sutcliffe, this could prevent the future development of the festival:
“The truth about the Wagners today is that there is no reason for them to have any hold on Bayreuth at all. Across the whole industrial and commercial world good management skills are demonstrably non-hereditary. Fairly soon Bayreuth should be taken away from Wagner’s bloodline and run by talented Intendants who can do something for the whole world of opera rather than behaving as if Wagner still needed Bayreuth.”
According to Sutcliffe, Katharina Wagner “is an even worse director than Wolfgang was himself, simply following the current intellectually decorative and predictable fashions of interpretation – and not showing any real special skills at the hands-on direction of performers and chorus. She is at best only the product of her father’s determination to produce a suitable Wagner heir in his own mould.”
Katharina’s directorial debut at the festival in 2007 – with a production of Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg – was booed loudly by the audience and denounced by some critics, but met by others as an indicator of positive change and renewal.
“No doubt,” says Sutcliffe, “she and Eva will be able to bring in some new talents and try out new techniques for exploiting what Bayreuth has to offer by making it seem more accessible. However, the Wagners are not a royal or aristocratic family. With the death of Wolfgang, in reality their time has been and gone.”
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