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News round-up – 27 September 2010

27 September 2010

Plácido Domingo
Plácido Domingo

Peter Gelb
Peter Gelb

San Francisco Opera at AT&T Park
San Francisco Opera at AT&T Park(Photo: Pat Johnston)

Tenor named Person of the Year

Plácido Domingo, has been named as this year’s Latin Grammy Awards Person of the Year. Chosen for his "professional and philanthropic achievements", Domingo will be honoured during a ceremony in Las Vegas on 10 November. An official statement by the President of the Awards described the 69-year-old Spanish tenor as an "extraordinary musician, philanthropist and, above all, a great human being whose immense talent and generosity has had a profound global impact".

The Enchanted Island to premiere in 2011

New York’s Metropolitan Opera is planning a new Baroque ‘pasticcio’ production for 2011. Made up of existing arias by different composers but set to a fresh libretto by director, Jeremy Sams, The Enchanted Island is being handled by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch from the London-based theatre company, Improbable. A star-studded cast led by Plácido Domingo and Joyce DiDonato will be conducted by renowned Baroque specialist, William Christie. “It’s meant to be a lighter Baroque affair, one that does not take itself too seriously,” commented the Met's general manager, Peter Gelb.

Stadium simulcasts generate a modest surplus

San Francisco Opera has reported a surplus of US$80,000 from ticket sales for opera simulcasts last year. An official statement indicated that sales and data collection have flourished since the screenings moved to AT&T Park, the city’s 41,500-seat stadium, where the average attendance for each screening is 25,000. Some commentators have contrasted San Francisco’s success with free public simulcasts by other US companies such as The Met in New York, which so far have proven difficult to monetize.

Don Giovanni to be presented in partnership with WFAA TV on 22 October

The Dallas Opera has announced a new opera simulcast initiative that will launch on 22 October with the opening night of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The free public screening is to be presented in partnership with Texas TV station, WFAA, at Dallas’s AT&T Performing Arts Center. A limited number of seats can be reserved in advance online and the remaining places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Cruzar la Cara de la Luna – 13 November 2010

A new commission that combines Mexican street band music with opera will receive its world premiere by Houston Grand Opera on 13 November 2010. Telling the story of three generations of a family divided by countries and cultures, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) has been written by mariachi band leader and composer, José “Pepe” Martinez, with a libretto by the acclaimed Broadway director and author, Leonard Foglia.

First co-production to open in February 2011

The Metropolitan Opera and The Juilliard School have announced details of a new co-producing partnership that will be launched in February 2011 with three performances of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. Featuring current members and graduates of both the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and the Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts at Juilliard, the performances will be conducted by James Levine at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

Free tickets for 7,000 children to be given away

Finnish National Opera and the Finnish Cultural Foundation are giving away 7,000 tickets to school children as part of the opera company’s 100th anniversary celebrations in 2011. The centenary season includes the world premiere of the ‘opera adventure’ Robin Hood by Finnish composer, Jukka Linkola, and a new production of Korngold’s Die tote Stadt directed by Kasper Holten.

‘Czech Point Denver’ – 23 October 2010 to 16 March 2011

Opera Colorado will present Dvořák’s Rusalka in Denver for the first time on 12 February 2011. Inspired by this event, more than 20 performances, exhibitions, films and multi-media experiences celebrating Czech culture will take place across the city between October and March, promoted under the festival banner ‘Czech Point Denver’.

Michael Egel to succeed founding director, Dr Robert L. Larsen

The Director of Artistic Operations for Des Moines Metro Opera, Michael Egel, is to become the company’s second Artistic Director in its 38-year history.  Egel will succeed company founder, Dr Robert L. Larson, who is to retain the title of Artistic Director Emeritus for life. A principal conductor for the company will be appointed in 2011.


Controversial BBC TV interview inspires Royal Opera commission

25 September 2010, London, UK

Bonnie Greer
Bonnie Greer

An opera based on last year’s controversial BBC Question Time interview with Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right British National Party, is to receive its premiere at London’s Royal Opera House in April 2011.

The opera's libretto is being written by playwright and critic, Bonnie Greer, who was a panel member on the same programme that featured Griffin – an experience later described by her as “probably the weirdest and most creepy of my life".

With music by composer, Errolyn Wallen, the new commission will be included in ROH2's current season of ‘Opera Shots’, which showcases short contemporary works by artists with established reputations in non-operatic fields.


Opera Now reviews Steffani's Niobe at Covent Garden

24 September 2010, London, UK

Véronique Gens as Niobe
Véronique Gens as Niobe(Photo: Bill Cooper / Royal Opera House)

Robert Thicknesse reports on the opening night of Niobe, Regina di Tebe at London's Royal Opera House.

Anyone who wants to know what happened to opera between Cavalli and Handel should rush to Covent Garden where it seems from a gappy first-night crowd that they can’t give away tickets to Agostino Steffani’s Niobe, composed for Munich in 1688. (There are reduced-price tickets on offer on 

Steffani takes the tragic story of the Theban queen who has to witness her children being massacred by the gods and adds Venetian carnival-comedy to the mix. The production, from Schwetzingen, though saddled with provincial German humour, is unrecognisably better than ROH’s own attempts at early opera, and conductor Thomas Hengelbrock’s Balthasar Neumann Ensemble is a band that can really play this music.

Steffani’s idiom is much more extravagant than Handel’s (who learned and borrowed plenty from him), with wonderful rhythmic, harmonic and formal freedom; it dances along for its three hours (cut from four-plus in Germany) with beautifully inventive orchestration and a plethora of confusing subplots, which director Lukas Hemleb deals with by chucking the entire kitchen at the show.

The fun is punctuated by heart-stopping moments where the awful story reasserts its grip, and there is some fine singing from Véronique Gens, Jacek Laszczkowski and Iestyn Davies.

Niobe runs until 3 October 2010.


Join the 2012 Laurence Olivier Awards Opera Panel

24 September 2010, London, UK

An opportunity to join the 2012 Laurence Olivier Awards Opera Panel is currently being offered to members of the public.

Two places are available for applicants aged 18 and above who have a passion for opera, a keen critical sensibility, and live within easy reach of London.

Successful applicants will each receive free tickets for around 20 productions during 2011, together with a much sought-after invitation to attend the 2012 Olivier Awards Ceremony at a five-star hotel in London.

Click here for further details and to apply now. (Deadline 26 November 2010.)

Held annually since 1974, the Laurence Olivier Awards are amongst the highest accolades in London theatre.

The 2010 Award recipients for opera included Nina Stemme, who won ‘Outstanding Achievement in Opera’ for her performance in the Royal Opera House’s ‘Best New Opera Production’, Tristan und Isolde.


'Little Opera House' launched at London pub theatre

24 September 2010, London, UK

Adam Spreadbury-Maher
Adam Spreadbury-Maher

The King’s Head Theatre & Pub in Islington, north London, is to become the city’s first new opera house for 40 years, offering intimate productions of reimagined classics, contemporary operas and musicals for just £15 per ticket whilst giving young singers the chance to appear in major roles.

Dubbed ‘London’s Little Opera House’, this bold initiative is the brainchild of Australian producer-director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, who recently took over as Artistic Director of the theatre.

High profile Patrons for the project include actress Joanna Lumley, playwright Tom Stoppard and veteran opera and theatre director, Jonathan Miller.

Describing the huge expenditure normally associated with producing opera as “immoral”, Miller endorsed Spreadbury-Maher’s vision for presenting “opera in a setting where it is not all about people luxuriating in displays of their wealth.” He told The Observer: “In doing operas on a very intimate scale, in front of an audience of a hundred at the most, you renovate them.”

Echoing Miller’s view, Spreadbury-Maher said: “Opera has died and we need to perform CPR on it.  At worst, it can be almost like going to a wedding, with everyone sitting still. Audiences need a kick in the guts, or at least a thump on the heart. Otherwise they should just stay at home and listen to a CD.”

He added: “There is a massive everyman audience out there and we have got to take [opera] to them."

London’s Little Opera House opens on 6 October with Puccini’s La bohème, directed by Spreadbury-Maher. Other plans for 2011 include productions of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and two new operas by playwright, Mark Ravenhill.


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