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News round-up - 10 May 2010

10 May 2010

Frédéric Chaslin
Frédéric Chaslin

Dawn Upshaw
Dawn Upshaw(Photo: Dario Acosta)

Frédéric Chaslin to open 2010-11 Season with Gounod's Faust

French composer and conductor, Frédéric Chaslin, has been appointed as the new chief conductor of Santa Fe Opera, effective from 1 October 2010. He will succeed Edo de Waart, whose tenure ended earlier than expected due to family and health reasons. Chaslin conducted Verdi's La Traviata at Santa Fe Opera in 2009 with Natalie Dessay as Violetta. He is scheduled to open the company’s 2010-11 Season in October with a new production of Gounod's Faust.

Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis needs more time

The Minnesota Opera has postponed the world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. Originally scheduled to close the company’s 2010-11 Season, Artistic Director Dale Johnson says the commission still needs more time to grow. Five performances of Bernard Hermann’s Wuthering Heights will take place instead.

Soprano to lead Ojai Music Festival 2011

American soprano, Dawn Upshaw, has been named as the music director of California's Ojai Music Festival 2011. The 4-day programme will include a world premiere written for Upshaw by big band leader, Maria Schneider, and a new production directed by Peter Sellars with Upshaw as soloist. Both are collaborations with the University of California, Berkeley, under the inaugural Ojai-Berkeley partnership series, Ojai North!

Baritone elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

American baritone, Thomas Hampson, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He is one of 229 leaders in the arts, humanities, sciences, business, and public affairs to be awarded membership this year

Gluck’s Armide on Classical WETA-FM – 15 May 2010

Classical WETA-FM will broadcast Opera Lafayette’s performance of Gluck’s Armide on 15 May 2010 as part of the station’s Classical WETA Opera House program. Opera lovers worldwide can tune in to the free broadcast at 13:00 EDT via www.weta.org/fm/.


Guangzhou's 'twin boulder' Opera House opens its doors

10 May 2010, [Originally posted on 6 May 2010]

Guangzhou Opera House
Guangzhou Opera House(Image: Zaha Hadid)

Anna Shafajinskaya as Turandot
Anna Shafajinskaya as Turandot(Photo: Ken Howard / San Diego Opera)

A new 1,800-seat opera house in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou will open its doors tonight with a performance of Puccini’s Turandot.

Conducted by Lorin Maazel, the international cast for this staging of Reina Sofía's 2008 Palau de les Arts production includes Ukrainian soprano, Anna Shafajinskaya, as the Princess, Canadian tenor, Richard Margison, in his signature role of Calàf, and Chilean soprano, Christina Gallardo-Domâs, singing Liù.

The auditorium has taken five years to construct and cost one billion Chinese Yuan (USD $146 million). 

Built on the banks of the Pearl River, its bold and futuristic design by award-winning British architect, Zaha Hadid, looks like two giant boulders taken from the river bed.

It is likely to be one of the key attractions during this year’s Asian Games, due to take place in Guangzhou during November.

Together with its neighbouring multifunctional hall, the Opera House forms the core of the city’s growing cultural quarter, plans for which include a museum and sites for metropolitan activities.

It is now also the third largest auditorium of its kind in China, outranked only by Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Shanghai Grand Theatre.

A recent announcement by Guangzhou Opera House said that more than 200 performances are being planned for 2010, but further details have not yet been confirmed.


Richard Margison spoke to Opera Now after the first night of Turandot at Guangzhou Opera House:

“The new building is spectacular and is definitely going to be a landmark. It’s not quite finished yet, but the scope of the site that has been planned is very impressive.”

“The auditorium itself is pretty big inside, but still has an intimate feeling. I must also say that the acoustic is fantastic – not too dry and not too bright. Of course, during rehearsals it felt a little too bright, but with the audience in there it warmed up and the balance felt just right.”

“We kept the opening night performance going continuously. As a result, there weren’t many opportunities for people to applaud after each item, but at the end of the opera the response was extremely tumultuous and we received a long standing ovation.”

“The orchestra was the Shanghai Opera Orchestra and the chorus was also from the Shanghai Opera, augmented by a local chorus from Guangzhou. Their contribution to the performance was tremendous.”

“I don’t think that the technical team had had enough time to get used to everything, so there were a few glitches on the technical and make-up side of things, but nothing that can’t be ironed out over time.”

“All in all, it’s been a huge honour for me to be part of the birth of a new opera house and a new audience. It’s a wonderful venue and I’d certainly like to come back here to perform again in the future”


European Opera Days - 8-9 May 2010

7 May 2010

This weekend, 97 opera houses in 21 countries across Europe will celebrate the fourth annual European Opera Days weekend with a coordinated programme of activities called ‘Crossing Bridges’.

Participating companies are organising special programmes for children and young people, from workshops to performances with heavily discounted tickets, putting the focus on building new audiences and discussing directions for the future with a new generation of opera-goers.

Timed to coincide with Europe Day (9 May), European Opera Days is a joint initiative of Opera Europa and RESEO (the European Network for Opera and Dance Education).

“We believe that ’Crossing Bridges’ is a stimulating metaphor for the art of opera today”, say Opera Europa President, Joan Matabosch, and RESEO Chair, Linda Lovrovic.

“Often accused of being elitist and out-of-date, opera today is extraordinarily alive and kicking. Exploring unconventional spaces, performed in pubs and metro stations, it also uses multimedia and state-of-the-art technology to tell stories that speak across the boundaries of language and nationhood.”

If you are near an opera house in Europe on 8 and 9 May, go and see for yourself what opera is doing to build bridges, move beyond its own walls, and shake off the myth of elitism once and for all.

Next year's European Opera Days will be celebrated on 7-8 May 2011 and focus on creating opera for young audiences.


World Premiere - Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick at Dallas Opera

6 May 2010

(Photo: Karen Almond / The Dallas Opera)

Opera Now correspondent, Chris Shull, attended the opening night of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick at Dallas Opera and writes:

"Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick has been called the Great American Novel. Jake Heggie’s telling of the story is certainly a great American opera. In exciting world-premiere performances by the Dallas Opera, a vibrant cast headlined by Canadian star-tenor Ben Heppner, an atmospheric set enhanced by video projections, and Heggie’s sumptuous, noble score combined on May 5 for an exhilarating evening of music and theatre at Dallas’ new Winspear Opera House."

Image: Whale boats and the ocean created by video projections in The Dallas Opera's world premiere production of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick.

Chris Shull reviews Moby-Dick in the July/August issue of Opera Now, which also features Heidi Waleson's review of the world premiere of Amelie, at Seattle Opera. 


News round-up - 6 May 2010

6 May 2010

Alan Gilbert
Alan Gilbert(Photo: Mats Lungquist)

Fabio Luisi
Fabio Luisi(Photo: Barbara Luisi)

2.2 million sales - up 400,000 on last year

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has announced record sales of 2.2 million tickets for nine high-definition telecasts this season, an increase of 400,000 from 2008-2009. This takes the total sales for 'The Met: Live in HD’ series to 5 million tickets worldwide over five seasons. The 2010-11 Season will include 11 telecasts, beginning with Wagner's Das Rheingold 9 October.

Costumed singers and live-action animation

New York Philharmonic Music Director, Alan Gilbert, will conduct the orchestra’s first ever fully-staged opera at Avery Fisher Hall on 27 May 2010 – a production of Ligeti’s Grand Macabre featuring costumed singers and live-action animation. If the project is successful, Gilbert hopes to present the first New York production of Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise in 2013.

Appointment to bolster role of music director, James Levine

Italian conductor, Fabio Luisi, has been appointed as the principal guest conductor of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. This announcement follows the withdrawal of music director, James Levine, from several recent and forthcoming performances due to health problems. Luisi replaced Levine in Tosca last month, and will conduct Lulu instead of Levine during May.


Bryn Terfel’s annual music festival in Wales will stage a comeback this year after signing a new long-term agreement with promoter, Universal Music Classical Management & Productions (UMCMP). The festival was cancelled in 2009 due to financial difficulties but Terfel is confident that it will return in 2010 with its "best ever line-up”.


American opera director, Frank Corsaro, is to receive an honourary doctorate at this year’s Juilliard School Commencement Ceremony on 21 May. He is one of seven Outstanding Artists and Cultural Leaders being honoured and will attend the ceremony at Alice Tully Hall to collect his doctorate in person.


British set designer, David Myerscough-Jones, whose distinguished career spanned opera and theatre, has died of cancer aged 75. He created highly acclaimed designs for television productions of Britten’s Peter Grimes and Owen Wingrave in 1969-70 and received a Royal Television Society Award for his 1975 production of Wagner’s A Flying Dutchman.

British soprano, Mary Sansom, who sang with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company between 1956 and 1964, has died aged 74. She recorded four lead roles with the Company for Decca, including Patience and the shepherdess Phyllis in Iolanthe.

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