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Latest News

Negotiations underway for part-time orchestra at Scottish Opera

9 September 2010, [Originally posted on 31 August]

General director, Alex Reedijk
General director, Alex Reedijk

Scottish Opera may be planning to halve the working hours and salaries of its orchestra, a report in Glasgow’s The Herald revealed last week.

According to the report, “The management of the opera company, led by general director Alex Reedijk, believe the expense of a full-time orchestra cannot be sustained.”

The alleged proposal to put all 54 orchestra members on part-time contracts for 26 weeks’ work per year has been met with “anger, concern and dismay” by the musicians.

They have responded by writing an internal letter to the company’s board members stating that “We are the last remaining performing artists on full-time contracts, and if we were to continue in the direction that these proposals take us, Scottish Opera would no longer be a performing arts company at all, merely an administration, and indeed would no longer be a ‘national’ company worthy of the name.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Scottish Opera has told Opera Now that “we are currently in negotiations with the players representatives and the Musician's Union about new employment contracts and do not have anything further to add.”

The orchestra of Scottish Opera is due to celebrate its 30th birthday this year, having survived a previous financial restructuring of the company in 2004 that led to the loss of nearly 100 jobs, including all 34 members of the Opera’s chorus.

Union says proposals will damage the company "irretrievably"

The UK's Musicians' Union has declared that "the artistic integrity of [Scottish Opera] will be compromised and damaged irretrievably" if proposed cuts to the contracts and pay of the company's orchestra go ahead.

The Union's comments were published in an open letter sent to all 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament last week, including Culture Minister, Fiona Hyslop MSP.

Referring to recent media coverage about the proposed cuts, the Union's letter continued: "We understand that in today’s economic climate there are difficult decisions to be made about public spending...however, we believe that the company is one of Scotland’s most important cultural institutions and should be preserved for future generations.

“We believe that Scotland deserves a first-class opera company...using its public investment imaginatively and wisely to deliver excellent performances: small, medium and large, to the widest range of audiences.”

While Scotland's Culture Minister has so far not commented publicly on the debate, the Labour party's culture spokeswoman, Pauline McNeill MSP, said:

“I share the concerns that the Musicians’ Union have on the future of Scottish Opera. I urge Scottish Opera to consider all options and to discuss those with members in case there is a suitable alternative."

She added: "The reduction to working time for musicians is a drastic measure and those responsible, including the Scottish Government, must safeguard the integrity of our national company.”


Registration now open for Italy's "Benvenuto Franci" Vocal Competition 

9 September 2010, Pienza, Italy

Benvenuto Franci (1891-1985)
Benvenuto Franci (1891-1985)

Registration for the 2nd International “Benvenuto Franci” Vocal Competition in Pienza, Tuscany is now open. Singers are invited to apply online via Pienza’s local government website.

This year’s registration deadline is 6 October 2010.

Named in honour of Pienza-born baritone, Benvenuto Franci, the Competition was launched in 2008 by Artistic Director, Monica Faralli. It takes place biannually and attracted more than 100 applicants in 2008.

The 2010 Competition will feature a jury led by Pavarotti’s ex-wife and former business manager, Adua Veroni. Two days of rounds held at Pienza’s Conservatory of San Carlo Borromeo will culminate in a Final concert at the historic Church of San Francesco on 16 October.

The Competition is open to all singers born after 31 December 1974. There is also a special ‘Seniors’ section for singers born before 1 January 1975. Each applicant is expected to prepare five arias in their original language, accompanied by piano.

Cash prizes worth a total of 6,500 Euros are on offer, together with opportunities for the winners to take part in concerts and auditions.

All elimination rounds as well as the Final will be open to the public.

The 2nd International “Benvenuto Franci” Vocal Competition will be linked with the Amici per la Pelle association, which provides information and assistance for the prevention, study and treatment of skin cancer.


News round-up - 30 August 2010

30 August 2010

Anna Nicole Smith
Anna Nicole Smith(Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Philanthropist, Agnes Varis
Philanthropist, Agnes Varis

Andrea Bocelli
Andrea Bocelli

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole – The Opera

A new opera based on the life of former U.S. glamour model, Anna Nicole Smith, is to be screened on BBC4 TV in early 2011. Anna Nicole – The Opera with music by Olivier award-winning composer, Mark-Anthony Turnage, will receive its world premiere at London's Royal Opera House on 17 February 2011. Directed by Richard Jones, the production promises to be “provocative in its themes, exciting in its bravura style and thrilling with its sheer contemporary nerve”. Smith, who first came to public attention after marrying an oil billionaire nearly four times her age, was later dubbed "the queen of trailer trash" by U.S. tabloids. She died in 2007 after ingesting a fatal overdose of prescription drugs.

Gift of US$2.5m will subsidize 13,600 seats

Agnes Varis, a managing director of the Met’s Board of Directors, has donated US$2.5 million to support the company’s subsidised weekend tickets scheme. Her gift towards the 2010-11 season will ensure that 13,600 weekend seats - normally priced at $137 to $322 - can be made available for just $25 each. An estimated 93 performances will be covered by the scheme, including every Friday evening, Saturday matinee, and Saturday evening performance (except for the new production premieres of La Traviata on 31 December and Die Walküre on 22 April).

Solo recital scheduled for 13 February 2011

Popular Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, is to make his solo recital debut at the Metropolitan Opera on 13 February 2011. His performance will feature a selection of arias, lieder and art songs by Beethoven, Wagner, Liszt, Richard Strauss, Fauré, and Tosti. Bocelli, who has been completely blind since the age of twelve, is a multi-award-winning performer and was recently honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to live theatre.

Jennifer Lynch promoted to key role

San Francisco Opera General Director, David Gockley, has announced the appointment of Jennifer Lynch as Development Director, effective 1 September 2010.  Lynch has been with the company for nine years and currently serves as Senior Director, Comprehensive Campaign.  Her new role includes overall responsibility for San Francisco Opera’s annual and special fundraising campaigns, currently worth approximately US$30–35 million per year.

Six lectures by Daniel Snowman at London’s Royal Academy of Music

A series of six monthly opera lectures by leading social and cultural historian, David Snowman, will be launched at London’s Royal Academy of Music on 28 September 2010. ‘The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera’ will explore the world of opera houses, impresarios, monarchs, money makers, artists and the changing nature of audiences over the past five centuries. Online booking now open.

Stephen Costello to play Rodolfo in La bohème

Following his acclaimed appearances in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at this year’s Salzburg Festival, the American tenor, Stephen Costello, will make his debut at the Vienna State Opera on 6 and 9 September 2010. Costello will play Rodolfo in a revival of the Franco Zeffirelli production of La bohème under Franz Welser-Möst.

61-year-old David Rendall is seeking damages worth £250,000

61-year-old British tenor, David Rendell, has launched a £250,000 law suit against the Royal Danish Theatre. Rendell was injured when a stage set for Aida collapsed on him at the theatre during a performance in 2005.  He has subsequently been forced to give up performing after undergoing a left knee replacement, hip replacement and surgery to his shoulder.


Ireland to get a new national opera company in 2011

27 August 2010, Dublin, Ireland

Ireland’s Opera Theatre Company (OTC) began its final tour in Dublin this week with the Irish premiere of Grigory Frid’s The Diary of Anne Frank.

The company, which was launched in 1986 as the national touring company of Ireland, will close at the end of the year when funding from the Arts Council of Ireland ceases.

In its place, a new national opera company – Irish National Opera (INO) – will be launched in 2011, subsuming the existing functions of OTC as well as those of Opera Ireland.

A board for the new company is already in place, but recruitment for a general director only began last week. A business manager will be sought in January and INO’s first production is expected to take place in autumn 2011.

In the meantime, Opera Ireland will present Tosca at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre during November – ostensibly the last production by the company in its current form, although funding may be still sought from the Arts Council of Ireland for an additional spring season in 2011.


South Korean baritone wins Concours Ernst Hafliger

27 August 2010, Bern, Switzerland

Eung Kwang Lee
Eung Kwang Lee

29-year-old baritone, Eun-Kwang Lee, has won the Concours Ernst Hafliger 2010 in Bern, Switzerland.

Originally from South Korea, Lee is a graduate of Berlin's Hanns Eisler Music Academy and currently a member of the Theater Basel Opera Ensemble.

He was one of ten singers who were selected to participate in this year’s public final at the Stadttheater Bern, accompanied by the Bern Symphony Orchestra.

In second place after Lee was 31-year-old German soprano, Mandy Fredrich, followed by 27-year-old U.S. baritone, Todd Boyce, who came third.

The competition’s panel of adjudicators was led by Swiss soprano, Edith Mathis.

A scholarship for the best Swiss entrant to the competition went to mezzo-soprano Eve-Maud Hubeaux, who also walked away with one of the special prizes – an engagement for a role at the Stadttheater Bern.

Launched in 2006, the Concours is Switzerland’s first international singing competition. It is dedicated to the memory of eminent Swiss tenor, Ernst Hafliger, who served as the jury president until his death in 2007.


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