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Opera Now provides a unique and all-encompassing perspective on the international opera scene through its lively and colourful mix of news, reviews, interviews, travel articles and commentary.

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News round-up - 17 June 2010

17 June 2010

LBO's Artistic and General Director, Andreas Mitisek
LBO's Artistic and General Director, Andreas Mitisek

Khachatur Badalyan
Khachatur Badalyan

Company’s subscriptions up by 35%

California’s Long Beach Opera (LBO) has announced profits for the current season thanks to a 35% increase in subscriptions, “dedicated donors” and productions that use “a lot of imagination instead of a lot of money,” said the company’s Artistic and General Director, Andreas Mitisek. LBO’s 2011 Season will feature one US West Coast and three Southern California premiere productions, including Cherubini’s Medea, Philip Glass’s Akhnaten, Shostakovich’s Cherry Town, and The Difficulty of Crossing a Field by Pulitzer-winning composer David Lang and playwright Mac Wellman.

28-year-old Armenian tenor wins first prize for men

28-year-old Armenian-born tenor, Khachatur Badalyan, has won the first prize for men in Moscow’s third biennial International Opera Singers Contest of Galina Vishnevskaya. He sang Lensky’s aria from the second act of Eugene Onegin and ‘Pourquoi me reveiller’ from Massenet’s Werther.  No first prize for women was awarded, but the second prize went to Viktoria Grig, a 31-year-old mezzo-soprano from Russia. 53 singers took part in the finals, 46 of whom were from Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. The remaining seven contestants came from Mongolia.

Re-branding heralds launch of other new initiatives

The new general manager and artistic director of Glimmerglass Opera, Francesca Zambello, has announced her plans for major changes to the 35-year-old summer opera festival in Cooperstown, N.Y. As well as changing the name from Glimmerglass Opera to Glimmerglass Festival, Zambello has promised to introduce Broadway musicals plus expanded offerings of concerts, cabaret and readings. A Glimmerglass Festival Artist in Residence will also be invited for the first time next year, and will participate in Festival activities throughout the summer.

19 June 2010 – Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Welsh National Opera

The celebrated Welsh bass-baritone, Bryn Terfel, will make his much-anticipated role debut this week as Hans Sachs in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The new Welsh National Opera production by Richard Jones is also a first for the company – and for Jones.

Singer’s body found in public park

43-year-old Washington National Opera chorus member, Don Diego Jones, was found shot to death last week in one of the city’s public parks. Jones had sung with WNO for the past 14 years and recently played the role of the Crab Man in a revival of Porgy and Bess.


World Premiere – A Dog’s Heart at Netherlands Opera

14 June 2010, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Alexander Raskatov´s 'A Dog’s Heart'
Alexander Raskatov´s 'A Dog’s Heart'(Photo: De Nederlandse Opera)

Russian composer Alexander Raskatov´s first opera, A Dog’s Heart, received an ecstatic reception at its world premiere in Amsterdam last week.

Rastov’s restless, exuberant music was a perfect match for the comic ingenuity of Simon McBurney, artistic director of Complicite, also making his operatic debut with this work.

Burney, with the help of the Blind Summit Theatre’s inventive puppetry, captures Russian satire at its best with his trademark screwball pacing and surreal sense of humour.

The opera, co-commissioned by the Netherlands Opera and English National Opera, is based on Michael Bulgakov’s sharp, witty anti-Soviet novel. It will receive its English National Opera premiere in November this year.


News round-up - 11 June 2010

11 June 2010

Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin(Photo: Steve J Sherman)

Conductor blames diva for his poor reviews

American conductor, Leonard Slatkin, who withdrew from the New York Metropolitan Opera’s recent production of La traviata after the opening night was panned by critics, has blamed his untimely departure on Angela Gheorghiu's "unprofessional behavior". At a press conference in Detroit this week he said that the Romania diva’s performance as Violetta was “not in league at all with what anybody else was doing” so he “got thrown” and “forgot about other people on stage at times.” Slatkin also countered his earlier statement (posted on his website) that he “had never conducted" La traviata before but “concluded that since everyone else in the house knew it, I would learn a great deal from the masters.”

Legacy of Henze’s ‘open festival’ ethos lives on

For his second year as artistic director of the Cantiere Internazionale d'Arte di Montepulciano, composer Detlev Glanert has created a programme “structured around the ideals and the aesthetics of Dante’s Divine Comedy – this year, the connection is with Purgatory.” The festival will feature four operas, including the world premiere of In ascolto di un re (Listening to a king) by composer Stefano Taglietti and librettist Raffaele Giannetti, the Italian premiere of Salvatore Sciarrino’s Luci mie traditrici (Lights, my betrayers), and a new production of Britten’s Albert Herring directed by Keith Warner.

Audiences rush to book for Torsten Rasch’s The Duchess of Malfi

English National Opera’s website crashed last week due to the high volume of people trying to buy tickets for The Duchess of Malfi. The new production is a collaboration with British experimental theatre company, Punchdrunk, and will take place in a vacant office block in London's Royal Albert Basin. A total of 13 performances have been scheduled, beginning on 13 July.

Fears of Valhalla-style collapse lead to six-figure investment

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has spent a sizeable six-figure sum on permanently reinforcing the company’s stage ahead of Robert Le Page’s new Ring Cycle production. The move followed a report by engineers, which indicated that the Canadian director’s 45-tonne set might cause the existing stage to collapse. 

Former boss of Heineken Irelend to lead struggling organisation

The former boss of Heineken Ireland, accountant Padraic Liston, has been appointed as the new executive director of Cork Opera House. His appointment is a step towards stabilizing the struggling organisation, which reported losses of EUR 83,000 for the past financial year. Liston replaces Gerry Barnes, who recently retired from the post after more than 20 years’ service.

Search for replacement to begin in coming weeks

Opera Boston has announced that the company’s general director of 14 years, Carole Charnow, is to step down at the end of July 2010. Music Director, Gil Rose, will continue to nurture the Company’s artistic vision while a replacement for Charnow is sought.

Italian baritone Giuseppe Taddei

Giuseppe Taddei’s career spanned 50 years and included more than 100 operatic roles. During two seasons at the Vienna Staatoper in the mid 1940s he was particularly celebrated for his performances of Mozart, later participating in the productions and recordings of Figaro, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni produced by Walter Legge. He also excelled as Gianni Schicchi and Falstaff, and was 70 years old when made his Metropolitan Opera debut with the latter in 1985. Giuseppe Taddei was born on 26 June 1916 and died on 2 June 2010, aged 93.


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.”


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