News round-up - 23 December 2009
23 December 2009
Tosca, Act III, from Luc Bondy's production for The Metropolitan Opera
Italian soprano Mirella Freni
NEW YORK’S METROPOLITAN OPERA MAY REVIVE RETIRED 1985 TOSCA
Decision pending following controversy over Luc Bondy’s new production
Metropolitan Opera general manager, Peter Gelb, has announced that the company is considering reviving Franco Zeffirelli’s retired production of Tosca during the 2010-11 season. Gelb stressed that this possibility is unconnected with the controversy surrounding Luc Bondy’s new production, which was booed when it opened The Met’s current season. Instead, Gelb cited scheduling challenges associated with Robert Lepage’s new Ring cycle, an explanation described by Zeffirelli as “an escape, an excuse”. The final decision will be taken before the company’s 2010-11 season is announced in February.
2010 MIDEM CLASSICAL AWARDS
Italian soprano Mirella Freni to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award
Italian soprano Mirella Freni has been announced as the winner of the 2010 Midem Classical Awards ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’. Freni will receive her award at a gala event in January, held during the record industry’s annual trade fair in Cannes, France. She was selected by an international jury comprising representatives of magazines, websites and artist management organisations.
US OPERA FESTIVAL CUTS BUDGET AND TICKET PRICES
Glimmerglass Opera operating budget down by 20% against 2009
Glimmerglass Opera - the annual opera festival based in Cooperstown, New York State - has reduced its 2010 operating budget by roughly $1 million compared with 2009. Next year's starting price for tickets has also been slashed from $58 to $26 in a move designed to attract new audiences. Four full productions will staged at the Alice Busch Opera Theater in Springfield between 9 July and 24 August 2010.
2010 MUSICAL AMERICA AWARDS
This year’s award ceremony speeches now available online
The 2010 Musical America Awards ceremony took place at New York’s Lincoln Center last week. The award recipients included Musician of the Year, Riccardo Muti, and Vocalist of the Year, Elina Garanca. The 33-year-old Latvian soprano said that she was “shocked” to receive her award since she has performed only rarely in the US – a situation due to change very soon when she performs the role of Carmen at The Met on New Year’s Eve.
- Watch the full 2010 Musical America Awards ceremony online
- Opera Now: Musical America ‘Musician of the Year’ announced
Glyndebourne’s Gus Christie weds soprano Danielle de Niese
Executive Chairman of Glyndebourne Productions, Augustus (‘Gus’) Christie, has married his fiancé of ten months, Danielle de Niese. The Australian lyric soprano of Sri Lankan and Dutch ancestry made her Glyndebourne Festival debut in 2005 as Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. Rumours of the couple’s relationship were confirmed publicly in 2007 and de Niese subsequently performed the title role in L'Incoronazione di Poppea at the 2008 Festival. Christie separated from his former wife, Imogen, in 2004.
Rolando Villazón announces his return to the stage
18 December 2009
Mexican tenor, Roland Villazón (Photo: Pamela Springsteen courtesy Virgin Classics)
Mexican tenor, Rollando Villazón, has announced that he will return to the stage in March 2010 following surgery on his vocal cords. His first appearance will be a one-off performance at the Vienna State Opera as Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore on 22 March 2010.
Villazón cancelled all his 2009 engagements following the discovery of a vocal cyst, which was successfully removed in Paris earlier this year.
Announcing his 2010 dates via a video message on his official website, Villazón explained that “I am currently singing and am just polishing little details to be able to come back as soon as possible to the stage next year.” He also thanked people who sent him letters and gifts during his period of recovery, saying “I can feel the warmth of your hearts and this has meant so much to me during this time.”
Vocal cysts are not unusual amongst singers and actors. An early symptom of the condition is a slight roughening in vocal quality, which a singer is more likely to notice and seek help for than a non singer.
Describing the anatomy, treatment methods and potential impact of a cyst on a singer’s career, Tom Harris (Consultant ENT surgeon and specialist in Voice Disorders with the British Voice Association), explained to Opera Now:
“The first thing to understand is that a cyst is buried deeply in the body of the vocal cords (or, more accurately, the vocal folds), inhibiting the smooth movement of the folds’ cover. This superfical cover is normally very pliable and slides upwards as the airstream pushes the vocal folds apart during voicing. They can be seen in stroboscopic light breaking like waves on a shore over the top surface of the vocal folds: it is this movement that gives us the clear quality or timbre to the voice.”
“The symptoms of a vocal fold cyst will vary depending on the location of the cyst. It is very important to remember that cysts are not related to poor singing technique - in fact, it is more likely that the singer has to be very skilled in order to sing around the problem.”
“Typically, the cyst will make one vocal fold stiffer than the other. During voicing, the vocal folds come together and meet in the midline of the airway, so the normal vocal fold is constantly impacting against the stiff swelling. This can cause a reactionary swelling in the normal fold. If this happens, the vocal quality will start to become breathier as the two swellings wedge the folds apart, preventing their normal closure.”
“Long periods of sustained singing are likely to cause the symptoms to worsen, while rest improves things temporarily.”
“Surgical removal of a cyst should only be undertaken by a surgeon who has specialised in micorsurgical techniques for voice disorders. It is also important that the singer's problem is properly diagnosed so the correct surgical approach is used.”
“Post surgical recovery from the removal of a cyst takes several months and the success of the operation can vary. If the cyst has been removed completely without damaging the superficial cover then the results are likely to be good. In these cases the singer usually experiences improved flexibility that makes singing easier, and after an appropriate period of rehabilitation a patient such as Villazón should be able to return to a full and busy schedule without concerns or special precautions.”
One look at Villazón’s schedule for 2010 confirms this optimistic prognosis: the 37-year-old’s opera roles next year will include Lensky in a revival of Eugene Onegin at the Berlin State Opera under Daniel Barenboim, his Zürich Opera debut as Alfredo in La traviata, and Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, plus numerous concert and recital appearances throughout Europe and in Mexico.
Opera North General Director gives reaction to ROH Manchester plans
18 December 2009
Richard Mantle (General Director, Opera North): "This is a post-recession, post-Olympics project."
When the plans for Royal Opera House Manchester (ROHM) were first announced in October 2008, Opera North’s General Director, Richard Mantle, told The Times that Manchester was “currently underserved with opera and ballet. When you look at the size of the theatregoing population”, he explained, “I think we could have more. It is something we [at Opera North] have been looking at providing ourselves.”
Now that ROHM has taken a step closer to reality, (click here for the full story), Opera Now asked Richard Mantle what impact he thinks the plans are likely to have for audiences in the north-west of England, and what role Opera North will play.
Richard Mantle: “Although not resident in Manchester, Opera North has in a sense been the opera company for Manchester and the north-west. We serve Manchester as a touring company – not just during our performances at The Lowry for three weeks per year, but also through education work, concerts with the orchestra and a range of other activities. Our frustration is that within our remit we have not been able to grow the audience as much as we would have liked and which, I believe, would be possible: the potential in Manchester is perhaps even greater than for the Leeds conurbation.”
“So I’ve always believed that the idea of developing opera in a much stronger way in Manchester is something that should happen. One of the problems in the past was also the lack of good venues. Opera North now performs in The Lowry, which we love, though it does pose a few challenges of its own, such as accessibility via public transport links.”
“I welcomed the idea of ROHM when it came along. Whether it is the right solution will need to be explored in the long run. However, it has opened up the whole dialogue, and has captivated the Manchester City Council. There is now a strong consensus growing within the Council to move this project forward. Any new development on this scale of course needs leadership, and with Manchester that’s more likely to come from the City Council than from the Royal Opera House.”
Opera Now: The Royal Opera’s recent announcement about their new ‘understanding’ with The Lowry also hinted at possible co-producing partnerships between ROHM and other arts companies in the region. Opera North was specifically mentioned in this context, with ROHM positioned to "produce premieres by Opera North as part of a full programme by that company." Has a clear understanding similar to that now in place with The Lowry also been established between The Royal Opera and Opera North?
Richard Mantle: “It’s a bit early for that. Of course, The Lowry’s concern was that they would be sidelined. We all felt that The Lowry had to be part of the solution for lyric work, so the discussions that have taken place during the past few months – to bring them on board as part of this solution and establish their identity as the regional centre for dance – are very important.”
“I’m not worried at this stage that Opera North is not being cited in the same way. It has been clear from the beginning that The Royal Opera won’t be able to ‘go it alone’ with a project of this scale.”
“Also, within the Arts Council’s thinking on ‘spheres of responsibility’, Opera North is firmly responsible for delivering activity in the north-west of England, in the same way that Welsh National Opera is responsible for Wales. We are certainly not talking about a takeover and I don’t think anyone would want that. Opera North’s work will still remain distinct from that of The Royal Opera, and Tony Hall has made it clear from the outset that Opera North will play a central role in these plans if and when they come to fruition.”
“To a great extent ROHM is all about branding, since it’s clear that The Royal Opera is not going to move its base from London. In fact, the number of Royal Opera performances in Manchester will only be around 20 to 25 per year. The idea is therefore to establish a centre that provides plenty of scope for bringing in partners and other collaborators.”
Opera Now: With Opera North already presenting its productions at Sadler's Wells, do you think, more broadly, that ROHM will help to open up a stronger dialogue between arts organisations in London and the north-west of England?
Richard Mantle: “These reports always seem to be London-centric, as if we’re sitting in the regions for crumbs for the table, but it’s not like that. Opera North is the largest publicly funded arts organisation in the north of England, so if this project goes ahead I would like to see it opening up more of a two-way street, for example by creating more opportunities for London audiences to see performances by Opera North, while The Royal Opera could perhaps look even further afield with a view to developing a national remit.”
News round-up - 17 December 2009
17 December 2009
ATLANTA OPERA REDUCES ITS 2010-11 SEASON
Falling income from ticket sales and fundraising forces cuts
Atlanta Opera will present only three operas in the 2010-11 season instead of four. This move is designed to reduce the company’s operating budget from $6.75 million to $5.3 million and follows a consistent fall in income from ticket sales and fundraising over the past two seasons, down 19% and 13% respectively. Atlanta Opera relocated to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in 2007 and enjoyed a substantial increase in revenue prior to the global recession, but recorded a deficit in 2009 and has projected a deficit next year as well.
GARSINGTON TO STAGE RARE ROSSINI OPERA IN 2010
Martin Duncan will direct the first-ever British production of Armida
Garsington Opera has announced their 2010 summer programme, which includes the first-ever British production of Rossini’s Armida. Written in 1817 when the composer was only 25, Armida is based on an epic poem about the First Crusade by Italian poet Torquato Tasso. Martin Duncan will direct this rarely performed opera for Garsington, following his successful production of Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes at Covent Garden earlier this year.
DIRECTOR FOUND FOR NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE OF PRIMA DONNA
Tim Albery will direct Rufus Wainwright’s debut opera in Toronto
British opera director, Tim Albery, has agreed to direct the North American premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna at next year’s Luminato arts festival in Toronto. The Canadian-American singer-songwriter’s debut opera about “a day in the life of an opera singer” is currently on a worldwide tour, having been jointly commissioned by Manchester International Festival (where it received its world premiere in July 2009), Sadler’s Wells, Melbourne International Arts Festival and Luminato: Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity.
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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