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Latest News

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.


News round-up - 26 August 2010

26 August 2010

Neil Armfield
Neil Armfield

Vassily Sinaisky
Vassily Sinaisky

Opera Australia announces 2013 production

Opera Australia has announced plans to present Melbourne’s first ever staging of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.  Created in collaboration with Houston Grand Opera and the Victorian Government, this new production will be led by Australian director, Neil Armfield, and Australian conductor, Richard Mills. Three complete cycles at Melbourne’s State Theatre are being planned to mark the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth in 2013. The same production will then be staged in Houston over four seasons, beginning in 2014.

Vassily Sinaisky to replace Leonid Dessiatnikov

Vassily Sinaisky has been named as the new music director at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. The 63-year-old Russian conductor will replace avant-garde composer Leonid Dessiatnikov, who has held the position since September 2009. Sinaisky will also hold the post of chief conductor, while Dessiatnikov is expected to continue composing a new ballet for the theatre based on Balzac’s novel Lost Illusions.

Tickets worth US$2.6m sold on box office opening day

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has set a new record for its box office opening day, selling more than US$2.6m (£1.6m) worth of single tickets for the new season. More than 24,000 tickets were sold, beating last year’s total of US$2.5m. This promising start follows the announcement in June that US$144m had been wiped off the net value of the company’s assets over the past year due to investment portfolio losses coupled with rising expenses. The season will open on 27 September with a new production of Wagner's Das Rheingold, directed by Robert Lepage and starring Bryn Terfel and Stephanie Blythe.

Conductor turns 60 with concert performances in Buenos Aires

Argentine-born pianist and conductor, Daniel Barenboim, will celebrate his 60th birthday at the Teatro Colón on 31 August, conducting a series of programmes including Aida and Verdi’s Requiem. The spectacular 2,478-seat theatre in Buenos Aires was recently re-opened following extensive refurbishments that cost US$100m and took four years to complete.

Streamed version available until 5 September 2010

Tankred Dorst’s production of Die Walküre from this year’s Bayreuth Festival is now available to view online via the Siemens Festival Night 2010 website. Opera lovers from 40 countries across the world can log in any time until 5 September to watch a streamed version of the production, which was transmitted live from the Festspielhaus on 21 August.

Company budget balanced for the eighth year in a row

Minnesota Opera has announced that the company finished its 2010 fiscal year on 30 June with a balanced budget. A modest surplus on the company’s operational budget of US$9m was also achieved through sales amounting to 90.5% capacity across the season. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Opera New Works Initiative, launched in 2008-09 to support productions of new operas, has already attracted US$5m towards its goal of US$7m.

Vendors and contract workers still not paid months after production

The New Jersey State Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess in May this year was hailed as a success by critics but has left the company with bills amounting to US$230,000. A variety of vendors and contract workers are still waiting for payment, including the 52 members of the orchestra and conductor Jason Tramm. Their union has now filed a suit demanding fees totalling US$56,000 plus pension benefits

Conductor Donald Nally leaving company to run his own choir

Lyric Opera of Chicago Chorus Master, Donald Nally, has decided to leave his post in 2011 to concentrate on running his own choir in Philadelphia. He will also  continue as music director of the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati.


Welsh National Opera General Director to step down

25 August 2010, Cardiff, Wales

John Fisher
John Fisher

John Fisher, the Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Welsh National Opera (WNO), has announced that he will step down from his post next summer. The 60-year-old Scotsman has been at the helm of WNO since 2006, following ten years as the Director of Music Administration at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

In a statement to the media, Fisher said: “It has been a privilege to lead WNO over the last five years, and I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve. It is a wonderful company that is a great asset for Wales and the world of opera. In the next few years WNO will face very significant challenges, but I am confident that when I leave next summer the company will be in the hands of a very strong and accomplished team.”

WNO Chairman, Geraint Talfan Davies, praised Fisher’s “enormous contribution to the development of the company through raising its musical and vocal standards to the highest level, and attracting to WNO the very best talent.” He added: “We are hugely grateful to him for all that he has achieved.”

Fisher’s decision comes in the wake of funding cuts for Welsh arts organisations by the Arts Council of Wales (ACW).

Although ACW has signalled a continuing commitment to supporting WNO, the company was recently criticised after holding a lavish first night reception for Die Meistersinger in the same week that funding to 32 organisations was stopped.

Last year, WNO received £4.5 million from ACW’s total budget of £24 million, but further cuts are predicted when the Welsh assembly meets in December to determine ACW's budget for 2011.

Reflecting this uncertainty, WNO Chairman Davies urged the company “to do everything we can in the challenging climate ahead to sustain the standards that [John] has set.”

Joyce DiDonato leaves IMG Artists for rival agency Intermusica

24 August 2010, London, UK

Joyce DiDonato
Joyce DiDonato(Photo: Sheila Rock)

IMG Artists has been further destabilised with the news that international mezzo soprano, Joyce DiDonato, and her agent, Simon Goldstone, have left the company.

The news will add insult to injury for IMG, whose owner Barrett Wissman stepped down after pleading guilty to securities fraud in a New York state prosecution last April. This revelation not only shook the global reputation of the company but may also have sparked a string of departures of high-profile artists. Among those who left last year were the stellar sopranos Karita Mattila and Anna Netrebko, tenor Rolando Villazón and baritone Thomas Hampson.

Despite claims that Wissman’s actions are directly linked to the most recent departures, the circumstances under which DiDonato and Goldstone left the agency are currently unclear.

Goldstone, who worked at IMG as an artist manager in the vocal division for fourteen years, has now signed with London firm Intermusica, taking with him 21 artists, including sopranos Amanda Echalaz and Soile Isokoski and director Stephen Barlow.

These artists will join the Intermusica roster with immediate effect, while Goldstone will begin on Monday 20 September 2010 taking on the role as director, Vocal and Opera.

“I am delighted to be joining Intermusica” commented Goldstone in an official statement to the media. “In these challenging times, I feel that the combination of the company’s very experienced senior management team, spearheaded by Stephen Lumsden, and its vibrant and enthusiastic younger members strike just the right balance. I am very happy to be working once again with my esteemed former colleague, Julia Maynard, and together we look forward to adding to an already well-established roster of talented singers, stage directors and opera conductors.”

Stephen Lumsden, founder and managing director of Intermusica, said: "It is tremendously exciting that a manager of Simon’s calibre and reputation has decided to join Intermusica. His arrival represents a major development for both our Vocal & Opera department and for the company as a whole.”

Peter Cowdrey's The Lovely Ladies

16 August 2010, London, UK

Lilly Papaioannou (Côtes du Rhône) and Richard Suart (Bordeaux)
Lilly Papaioannou (Côtes du Rhône) and Richard Suart (Bordeaux)

Toby Stafford-Allen (Champagne)
Toby Stafford-Allen (Champagne)

Warwick Thompson reports on the premiere of Peter Cowdrey’s The Lovely Ladies at Christie’s in London. 

Wine and opera have always been happy bedfellows - think of all those brindisis and Champagne choruses - but now the relationship has become even more intimate. In Peter Cowdrey and Hamish Robinson’s charming forty-minute divertissement, The Lovely Ladies, it’s the wines themselves who do the singing.

A rumour reaches a cellar that Michael Broadbent, the Christie’s auctioneer and noted wine critic, may be retiring. The wines get into a flap, and compete to see which of them should lure Broadbent into celebrating their virtues once more. Should it be Champagne (Toby Stafford-Allen), a jazzy playboy with a neat line in 12-bar blues? Or the full-bodied Côtes du Rhône (the hugely enjoyable Lilly Papaioannou), a seductive Carmen-like temptress in a clinging red dress? Or the conservative Bordeaux (Richard Suart), a delightfully crusty military type? The problem is resolved when the ghost of legendary wine connoisseur George Saintsbury (Michael Chance, accompanied by a Handelian violin obbligato and sounding suitably heavenly) reassures them that the retirement rumour is false.

Cowdrey’s amusing chamber score mixes pastiche and direct quotes with a light hand, and Rosie Johnston’s production, set on a simple raised dais with a translucent scrim at the back, choreographs the action with impressive clarity. The libretto doesn’t contain quite enough dramatic bouffe to motor the plot, and it’s never made clear what the characters want to achieve or why they should be so worried about a critic retiring. But the score is so pleasing and the vocal writing so graceful that, with a bit more tension injected into the plot, Cowdrey’s enjoyable Premier Cru work could easily step up to Grand Cru Millesime.

This performance was in given in aid of the charity Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres.


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