LA Opera receives $14 million emergency loan
17 December 2009
Leased: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Details have emerged of an emergency bridging loan for $14 million to cover debts accumulated by LA Opera over the past three years.
Under an agreement approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the money will be raised through sale of a special bond, secured by leasing the opera’s county-owned venue, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Interest on the bonds is expected to be around 5%, leaving LA Opera to pay an estimated $2.1 million in interest between now and the deadline for repayment of the principal lump-sum in 2013.
The company’s Chief Operating Officer, Steve Rountree, is confident that the loan will be repaid and confirmed that $30 million has already been pledged by 23 wealthy donors. Payment of these pledges has been scheduled over the next two-and-a-half years due to losses suffered by donors themselves during the global recession.
The debts owed by LA Opera include advance payments against the company’s $32 million production of Wagner’s Ring cycle directed by Achim Freyer, planning for which began more than a decade ago. The first three parts of the tetralogy have been performed over the past year and Götterdämmerung will be staged in April 2010, followed by three full cycles between 29 May and 26 June.
However, Rountree has said that the loan will only be used to cover the company’s debts, and will not be spent on day-to-day operations or the Ring cycle production.
LA Opera’s general director, Plácido Domingo, is due to sing the role of Siegmund in Die Walküre next year. Giving his reaction to the news of the emergency loan in a statement from Italy, he said he is "absolutely thrilled that the county of Los Angeles has recognized the important and prestigious role that a world-class opera company plays in our community."
LA Opera is the second American company headed by Domingo that has recently announced details of serious financial difficulties: earlier this month, Washington National Opera was forced to eliminate eight staff positions and reduce the number of its productions next season from six to five as a result of overspending.
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News round-up - 11 December 2009
11 December 2009
Alberta Cefis, Chair of Opera Atelier
The Royal Opera House on iTunes U
CANADA’S NATIONAL OPERA BOARD DIRECTORS AWARD
This year’s recipient is announced by Opera.ca
Ms Alberta Cefis, Chair of the Board of Directors for Toronto-based baroque opera company, Opera Atelier, has received this year’s Opera.ca National Opera Directors Recognition Award. An initiative of the national association for opera companies and professionals in Canada, Opera.ca, the awards were launched last year to highlight examples of good governance, celebrate models of volunteer excellence and raise the bar for board director commitment.
ROYAL OPERA HOUSE LAUNCHES ON iTunes U
300 items of free multi-media opera and ballet content now available online
The Royal Opera House has become the first performing arts organisation in Europe to launch its own iTunes U site. Nearly 300 items of free multi-media content from the Royal Opera House are now available via a dedicated area within the iTunes Store. The materials being offered include film, audio and written resources on productions, plus master-classes, interviews with artists, and sessions focused on specific repertory.
JAMES LEVINE RETURNS TO THE METROPOLITAN OPERA
Conductor back at work following a two-month break
James Levine has returned to The Metropolitan Opera in New York following a back operation to treat a herniated disc. The 67-year-old artist was last seen on the podium in September. He is currently conducting Bart Sher’s new production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, which opened on 3 December.
HOUSTON GRAND OPERA RECEIVES DIVERSITY AWARD
America’s National Multicultural Institute honours Song of Houston
Houston Grand Opera (HGO) has become the first opera company ever to receive the Leading Lights Diversity Award in Arts and Culture from America’s National Multicultural Institute. The award recognises the commitment to developing a more inclusive society expressed through HGO’s ongoing community and education project, Song of Houston.
Royal Opera House Manchester takes a step closer to reality
9 December 2009, London, UK
The Lowry, which opened at Manchester's Salford Quays in 2000
Plans to create a second base for the Royal Opera House in the northern English city of Manchester have moved a step closer to reality following endorsements from a number of key agencies, including Manchester’s flagship arts complex, The Lowry.
A mutual understanding has been reached that will safeguard The Lowry’s role as the regional centre for lyric theatre, while The Palace Theatre – the proposed home of Royal Opera House Manchester (ROHM) – will primarily become a producing theatre.
Earlier this year, Arts Council England published a report about ROHM, which suggested that the project would result in an additional £5m being needed for other Manchester-based organisations “damaged by the change in the regional arts ecology”. The Lowry, which projected an annual loss of £1.5m in its own revenue, had responded with open opposition to ROHM.
But in a surprising and abrupt change of heart, the Chairman of The Lowry Trustees, Roy Aldridge, said yesterday: “We welcome this agreement, which builds on the existing world class arts provision in the region. The agreement recognises the importance of establishing a clear artistic identity for both the Royal Opera House Manchester and The Lowry."
In July, the self same chairman had described plans for ROHM as “bad for the city, bad for the arts and bad for the taxpayer”.
One implication of the new understanding is that The Lowry will cease to present opera performances once ROHM has become a reality. Instead, ROHM will present performances by The Royal Opera, create productions in partnership with other Manchester-based organisations such as The Hallé, BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata, and produce premieres by Opera North.
Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has backed the scheme, saying that it "has the potential to be something really special", but nobody yet seems sure where the necessary funding will come from. (An estimated £80-£100m is required for refurbishment of The Palace Theatre, and a further £12-£15m per year for running costs.)
A spokesperson for the Royal Opera House has told Opera Now that “at the moment we are really only working on the broad concepts rather than detailed planning. If the funding is found for this project it will probably not be built until at least half way through the next decade.”
Find out more
- Royal Opera House
- The Lowry
- Manchester City Council
- Opera North General Director gives reaction to ROH Manchester plans
Sex, violence and Michael Jackson – it must be opening night at La Scala
7 December 2009, Milan, Italy
Carmen and Don José - Anita Rachvelishvili and Jonas Kaufmann
Today, St Ambrose Day, is perhaps the most auspicious date of the international opera calendar, since every year, it marks the opening night of the new opera season at La Scala, Milan. (Ambrose is the city’s patron saint.)
Tonight’s performance offers the usual mix of glamour, tradition and above all controversy, as La Scala’s general director Stephane Lissner has invited the iconoclastic Sicilian director, Emma Dante, to stage her first opera, a new production of Carmen.
Dante, who claims she had never stepped inside La Scala before being invited to direct there, has promised a contemporary take on the usual interplay of sultry feminine wiles and macho posturing. The director’s theatrical style tends to be hard-hitting, hyperactive and confrontational (not unlike the heroine of the opera), which is bound to provoke La Scala’s conservative first-night audience, who pay up to €2,400 for their seats and tend to treat the whole occasion as a gladiatorial sport.
Following reports of dress rehearsals last week (and news that conductor Daniel Barenboim had to insist on scenes being toned down), the Italian press has been scandalised by the promise graphic rape and violence – not to mention an already notorious ‘Michael Jackson moment’ for the toreador, Escamillo.
Dante is aided and abetted by her set designer Richard Peduzzi, whose recent designs for a new Tosca at The Met in New York drew resounding boos from the audience, unimpressed by Peduzzi’s uncompromisingly dingy minimalism.
At La Scala tonight, the young Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili is cast in the title role, with opera’s current leading dreamboats Jonas Kaufmann as Don José and Erwin Schrott as Escamillo.
Meanwhile, La Scala has announced that Lissner’s contract as general director has been extended to 2015.
With the Italian opera world in dire financial straits and a Berlusconi government that is largely unsupportive of the arts, many expected Lissner to jump ship to vacant positions at Salzburg, Berlin or Madrid. But for a Frenchman in the usually insular world of Italian opera, Lissner has done well since he arrived in Milan in 2005, negotiating La Scala’s notoriously tricky political landscape with flare and characteristic cunning.
‘One of the problems for La Scala has always been a lack of planning,’ says Lissner. ‘With another five-year mandate, I have a chance to implement some long-lasting changes. We can put together finest international casts and really plan for the future. Last season, we put on 300 performances, up from 165. Things are going well. This is one of the most famous and beautiful opera houses in the world. So, why not stay put?’
The Susan Chilcott Scholarships 2009
5 December 2009
Chair, Iain Burnside, with this year's Scholars (left to right): John Pierce, Rebecca Goulden, Gerard Collett, Martha Jones, Gary Griffiths and Natalya Romaniw
This year’s Susan Chilcott Scholarships, presented in association with the Royal Philharmonic Society, UK, have been awarded to six promising young singers aged between 22 and 28. The total value of the awards is more than £22,000 and will go towards the cost of the recipients’ studies.
The Board of Trustees has also appointed pianist and presenter, Iain Burnside, as Chair, replacing Jonathan Dimbleby, who will now become President. Burnside was a close friend of Susan Chilcott’s during her lifetime, and has served as a juror and trustee for the scholarships since their launch in 2004.
Iain Burnside: “This year, the awards have gone to a group of exciting young singers, and will enable some to complete conservatoire studies that might otherwise have been in jeopardy. We believe in the talent of these young artists and hope our support will give them space to grow.”
79 singers applied for the 2009 Scholarships, the strongest of whom were invited to audition before a panel that included Chair, Iain Burnside, soprano, Dame Josephine Barstow, bass-baritone, Robert Hayward, and Susan Chilcott’s teacher, Mollie Petrie.
The six Scholarship recipients are all currently studying at Conservatoires in London: baritone Gerard Collett (National Opera Studio), soprano Rebecca Goulden (Royal Academy of Music), baritone Gary Griffiths (Guildhall School), mezzo-soprano Martha Jones (Royal College of Music), tenor John Pierce (National Opera Studio), and this year’s youngest Scholar, 22-year-old soprano Natalya Romaniw (Guildhall School).
Awarded annually, the Susan Chilcott Scholarships offer financial support to emerging classical singers both within formal education or in private education, as well as to professional singers wishing to study a specific repertoire or language. Susan Chilcott, who herself came from a modest background, was one of the leading English sopranos of her generation; she died of breast cancer in 2003, aged 40.
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