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Los Angeles Opera's new Ring cycle

10 June 2010, Los Angeles, US

LA Opera's 'Siegfried,' featuring Linda Watson as Brünnhilde and John Treleaven as Siegfried
LA Opera's 'Siegfried,' featuring Linda Watson as Brünnhilde and John Treleaven as Siegfried(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

LA Opera's 'Götterdämmerung'
LA Opera's 'Götterdämmerung'(Photo: Monika Rittershaus)

Report by Josef Woodard

Unfolding over the course of a year, LA Opera’s initiation into the Ring is officially complete and grandly successful. The first full Cycle has just been performed and two more Cycles are being presented between now and the end of June.

Stakes were high, given the 20-year wait for LA Opera's first Ring (including an aborted earlier version with Hollywood’s George Lucas as director), and the routinely-cited US$32 million price tag, which stirred some predictable public controversy from those who just don’t understand the sublime cultural and philosophical importance of this operatic shrine.

Credit for this fascinating new production, a treat for eye, ear and mind, goes largely to the vision of German director Achim Freyer, who has cast Wagner’s mythic epic in terms of a psychedelic carnival. The experience can be cartoonish at times, hallucinatory and spatially disorienting elsewhere, but always seizing the senses with a sense of newness, despite the familiarity of the musical and narrative elements.

A massive, steeply raked stage with moving, rotating parts, light sabres and other virtuosic lighting schemes and layered visual elements could have undermined Wagner’s intentions, but instead added levels of illusion and poetry.

Freyer’s dream-theatre framework manages simultaneously to enrich, slyly comment upon and reinvent the context. What we see and feel in the staging both contrasts and complements the big-boned earnestness of Wagner’s grand conception — from the well-oiled orchestral machinery in the pit, conducted by an inspirational James Conlon, to the casting that includes the bold, lucid singing of Linda Watson as Brünnhilde, and John Treleaven’s vulnerable heroics as Siegfried.

Josef Woodard’s full report about Los Angeles’s Ring Festival LA will appear in the September/October 2010 issue of Opera Now.


AU$152 million investment plan for Sydney Opera House

10 June 2010, Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House / Luminous Festival
Sydney Opera House / Luminous Festival(Photo: Peter Morris)

Forecourt / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Forecourt / Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra(Photo: Sydney Opera House)

Australia’s New South Wales Government has committed funds of AU$152 million (£87.5 million) to create underground truck access and buy new backstage machinery for Sydney Opera House.

The move follows the publication of an independent engineering report last week that warned of "multiple fatalities" in the event of a malfunction backstage and suggested that the theatre's flying system was "non-compliant with current international codes and practice".

Opera House CEO, Richard Evans, also revealed that “there have been 200 reported [health and safety] incidents” in the forecourt of the theatre over recent months, “many of which have necessitated ambulances coming.”
The new investment package is the largest ever committed to building works in the venue’s 37-year history. New South Wales Government has promised that the project will be “completely transformative”.

Construction is expected to start in 2011 and be completed by 2013. The House will remain open throughout.

Speaking to Opera Now, Opera Australia’s Chief Executive, Adrian Collette, confirmed that “there has been no major work done at Sydney Opera House since it opened in 1973. The equipment is well maintained, but needs to be replaced over time.”

Welcoming the “current plan”, Collette says that “it will revolutionise Opera Australia's operations in terms of delivering sets to the site and stage, and should reduce health and safety risks. It will make also entry to the House, and appreciation of its extraordinary surroundings, even more pleasurable for our patrons.”

Australian media coverage has meanwhile pointed out that the scheme stops short of a full rebuild of the Opera Theatre according to architect Jørn Utzon's design, the cost of which has been estimated at AU$ 800 million (£461 million).

“We hope,” says Collette, “that the current investment will be the first step towards securing the entire Opera Theatre renewal project.”


Opera Conference 2010: New Realities | New Strategies

9 June 2010, Los Angeles, US

Daniel Catán
Daniel Catán(Photo: Lourdes Almeida)

Opera Conference 2010: New Realities | New Strategies begins today in Los Angeles.

Presented by the US national service organization for opera, OPERA America, and hosted by Los Angeles Opera, the conference will explore new strategies for safeguarding the sustainability of the industry in the wake of the global economic recession.

Keynote speakers include composer Daniel Catán, whose opera Il Postino will be premiered at LA Opera in September, plus Plácido Domingo, conductor James Conlon, stage director, Achiem Freyer, Houston Grand Opera general director, Anthony Freud, and OPERA America president and CEO, Marc Scorca.

Opera Conference 2010: New Realities | New Strategies has been programmed as part of the city's ongoing LA Ring Festival, which runs until 30 June.


Buenos Aires’s Teatro Colón gets "a perfect facelift"

8 June 2010, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Report by Karyl Charna Lynn

Festivities were in full swing for the 24 May reopening of the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires’s legendary opera house, which was the centerpiece of Argentina’s 5-day non-stop party for the Bicentennial of the Revolution.

A glamorous opening night saw the city’s elite flocking to the theatre, but with millions of people celebrating in the streets around the opera house, the mayor of Buenos Aires wisely also offered entertainment for the masses.

An expertly prepared and executed a documentary sound-and-light show on the history of the Colón, including operatic excepts and projected images of famous artists (e.g. Pavarotti) who performed there, kept the crowd entertained.

The gala programme inside, which included Act III of Swan Lake and Act II of La bohème was then projected on giant screens outside the opera house and broadcast on national television for all Argentines to experience.

Like a perfect facelift, the Colón has been meticulously restored to its original beauty, reclaiming its place among the world’s greatest opera houses. The red, ivory, and gold six-tiered auditorium, soaring in sparkling splendour, has retained its impeccable acoustics, and the porteños (as the locals are known), along with the entire opera world breathed a sigh of relief. After years of financial stalling and political wrangling, one of the world’s great theatres is back on its feet.

As one porteño confided, “we feared the Colón would be lost forever”, but today, she stands in all her finery, reinvigorated and beautifully groomed to face audiences for generations to come.  

Karyl Charna Lynn’s complete report follows in the September/October issue of Opera Now.


The 30th Richard Tauber Prize for Singers 2010

7 June 2010, London, UK

Jung Soo Yun
Jung Soo Yun

The final of the Richard Tauber Prize for Singers 2010 took place at London’s Wigmore Hall on 4 June.

Ten singers aged 24 to 30 performed before an eminent jury that included opera singers Dame Anne Evans, Lillian Watson and Nigel Douglas.

The First Prize of £5,000 plus a public recital in London went to the 30-year-old South Korean tenor, Jung Soo Yun, who sang ‘Am Feierabend’ from Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin and ‘Che gelida manina’ from La bohème. He is currently studying at Cardiff’s International Academy of Voice.

Two sopranos also received awards worth £2,500 each: 28-year-old Denise Beck from Denmark (Second Prize) and 29-year-old Leslie Davis from Canada (Adèle Leigh Memorial Prize).

The Richard Tauber Prize for Singers was created in 1950 by the Anglo-Austrian Music Society and has subsequently been awarded 30 times. This year’s preliminary rounds in London and Vienna attracted more than 150 competitors.


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