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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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Latest News

Cape Town Opera defies call to boycott Israel tour

1 November 2010, Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town Opera's 'Porgy and Bess'
Cape Town Opera's 'Porgy and Bess'

Cape Town Opera has rejected a call by the Nobel Prize Winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to boycott their forthcoming tour to Israel.

Tutu publicly urged the company to call off fourteen performances of Porgy and Bess in Tel Aviv this month, describing it as “unconscionable” to perform an opera that presents a “universal message of non-discrimination…in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity.”

Cape Town Opera's managing director, Michael Williams, defended the decision to proceed with the tour, saying that the company was "reluctant to adopt the essentially political position of disengagement from cultural ties with Israel or with Palestine".

A spokesman for the Israeli government also told the BBC that boycotts were not the way forward: "Cultural relations sending messages of peace and co-operation - that's the only way to promote peace."

He added: "There are no discriminatory laws in Israel, there are no racial issues in Israel - we have Arabs in the government."

Porgy and Bess opens at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on 12 November and runs until 27 November.


Arts Council England announces cuts of 6.9% in 2011-12

29 October 2010, London, UK

Arts Council England (ACE) has announced cuts of 6.9% to all 850 Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) in 2011-12.

This follows the Government’s decision to reduce ACE’s budget by 29.6% (£459 million) over four years.

Ministers are insisting that the necessary savings should be made by slashing ACE’s own costs by 50% whilst passing on cuts of no more than 15% to RFOs.

The biggest casualties will therefore be non-frontline organisations such as Arts & Business (A&B) and Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE), whose funding will halve. ACE’s fund for other artistic work – including cross border touring – is also expected to fall by 64% next year.

Although this may be relatively good news for RFO’s in the short term, deeper cuts will follow in 2012, with all organisations expected to reapply for funding under a new ACE framework being launched next week.

At least 100 RFOs could lose their funding completely according to ACE chief executive, Alan Davey.

In the meantime, two leading opera companies have already highlighted some outcomes of the first round of cuts on opera provision across the UK:

The Royal Opera House has shelved its proposed £100 million satellite company in Manchester – ROHM.

Scottish Opera fears that the success of its national touring programme may be hampered by cuts to the Cross Border Touring Fund, which supported a very successful Scottish Opera residency in Belfast last year.


Hungarian State Opera loses chief conductor, Ádám Fischer

29 October 2010, Budapest, Hungary

Ádám Fischer
Ádám Fischer(Photo: Lukas Beck)

Lajos Vass
Lajos Vass

The chief conductor of the Hungarian National Opera, Ádám Fischer, has decided to step down.

Fischer’s decision comes just days after the Opera's general director, Lajos Vass, was fired over financial irregularities. A government audit of the company is reported to have uncovered deficits totalling more than one billion forint (3.6 million euros, five million dollars).

“The Minister of Culture has now appointed a special commissioner who acts in the Opera House with full powers,” says Opera Now correspondent, Brendan Carroll. “In addition, the Minister had very recently instructed Lajos Vass to appoint a new general music director – who is to be György Rath – only then to get rid of Vass himself. As yet, there is no new general director to replace Vass.”

These developments follow Vass’s decision in June not to renew the contract of the Opera’s former artistic director, Balázs Kovalik, credited with attempting to strike a new creative path for the company, but not always popular with critics.

The Hungarian weekly Heti Válasz had suggested that “what is really behind Lajos Vass not extending Kovalik's contract is no more than an attempt to save his own job” – a reflection of Vass’s unpopularity in his role at the Opera.

Moreover, says Carroll, “the appointment of Vass was purely political as he had no knowledge of music or opera. The jokes about him were rife and one wonders what he and Fischer ever talked about.”

Fischer will conduct four more concerts this season under his current contract before stepping down. However, the special commissioner appointed by the ministry has indicated a desire to continue working with Fischer, and is reported as saying "We will count on his work in the future as well.”


Carmen Elektra at the Cambridge Museum of Zoology

28 October 2010, Cambridge, UK

Combining short operas with DJ sets, film projections and light installations at informal venues, Carmen Elektra was launched earlier this year with its production of Seven Deadly Sins.

The fledgling company’s next event will take place on 29 October 2010 amidst the glass cabinets and animal skeletons of the Cambridge Museum of Zoology.

“Thrusting opera into the 21st-century realm of horror movies, total theatre and ‘gore‐porn’”, this macabre setting will play host to the world premiere of Bonesong by Joe Snape and Kate Whitley, and Hans Gruber’s rarely staged Frankenstein!.

Bonesong – scored for a 10‐piece chamber ensemble plus live electronics – explores a vulture’s insatiable love for a young girl, through desire, seduction, betrayal and suffering. Carmen Elektra's unique production features spine‐tingling 4‐channel sound diffusion, electronic samples sourced from the dismantling of a dead cow, and a gasping, muttering children’s chorus hidden amongst the audience.

Director Thom Andrewes’ staging of Frankenstein! promises to be no less unsettling, transporting the audience to the hideout of a psychopathic killer – with shocking consequences.

Friday 29th October, 8.00pm, The University Museum of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ. Suggested ticket donation of £3 on the door. Suitable for ages 15+.


News round-up – 27 October 2010

27 October 2010

Phillippe Augin
Phillippe Augin

Josep Pons
Josep Pons(Photo: Antoni Bofill)

“Exceptional conductor” becomes Washington National Opera music director

Philippe Augin has been appointed as the music director of Washington National Opera and the Kennedy Centre Opera Orchestra, effective immediately. The 59-year-old French conductor made his company debut in November 2009 and is reported as saying that “From the moment I stepped onto the podium, I felt a special rapport with the talented musicians of the Orchestra.” WNO General Director Plácido Domingo welcomed Augin’s appointment, describing him as an “exceptional conductor and an excellent choice”.

Josep Pons to take up position in 2012-13

Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu has appointed a Catalan conductor as the company’s new music director. Josep Pons will assume his duties in 2012-13, replacing Michael Boder, who is now entering his third season. Pons’ appointment is designed to strengthen the company’s Catalan credentials and will run until 2017, with the option to renew by mutual agreement until 2019.

Funding given to meet “exceptional one-off costs”

Cork Opera House, which received an interest-free loan of €1 million last year, has been granted an additional €250,000 by Cork City Council to meet “exceptional one-off costs” being faced by the company. The move has prompted some councillors to raise concerns about the level of public funding being given to the House, which recently came under scrutiny when fraud squad detectives were called in to investigate the alleged misappropriation of funds totalling €63,000. The funds have since been recovered.

New Artistic Director appointed

Buxton Festival in England has appointed a new Artistic Director – British conductor, Stephen Barlow – who will hold the reigns for an initial period of three years, from 2012 to 2014. Barlow replaces outgoing director, Andrew Greenwood, whose programme for July 2011 features five productions, including Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan, Handel’s Saul and Thomas’ Mignon.

Berlin’s Schiller Theatre to house company until 2013

The Staatsoper Unter den Linden has temporarily relocated to Berlin’s Schiller Theatre, making way for extensive renovations to the company’s regular home, Unter den Linden. The Schiller Theatre itself has recently been restored at a cost of €20 million to make it suitable as a venue for opera.

Free Open House – 6 November 2011

Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) is offering a free day of fun activities for families and opera fans at the city’s Shubert Theatre on 6 November 2010. Featuring performances, backstage tours and musical activities for all ages, the day also includes the final of BLO’s Aria Contest for Teens.

Peter Mark’s longstanding contract will not be renewed when it ends in 2012

Peter Mark, who has held the position of Artistic Director with Virginia Opera since 1975, will move on from the company when his contract ends on 31 May 2012. The board’s decision was announced earlier this month by founding president, Edythe Harrison.


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