La Scala forced to seal off 270 seats from auditorium
2 September 2009
The world-famous Teatro alla Scala yesterday closed the seating tiers in its upper gallery while work is carried out to remove asbestos, first discovered in December last year.
The theatre has closed off a section of 270 seats, and ticketholders will be offered upgrades when available, or refunds. The work is expected to be finished by the end of October, and thus will impact on the new production of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, staged by Robert Wilson.
La Scala press officer Carlo Maria Cella said the asbestos was found in a ‘very limited’ section of the vaulted ceiling above the upper gallery, and the area was immediately sealed until the problem could be fixed during the theatre’s summer recess. No asbestos fibres have spread into the theatre, Cella said, adding that the gallery will be fully operational in good time for the traditional opening of the La Scala opera season on 7 December, which this year features a new production of Carmen conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
Bolshoi music director resigns
21 July 2009, Moscow, Russia
Alexander Vedernikov: no compromises
After a week of rumours and rumblings, Alexander Vedernikov has officially announced his resignation as music director of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
The decision was made following a row with Bolshoi's management which is struggling to keep the once-revered institution alive. Vedernikov is said to be unhappy at the compromises imposed on his artistic planning at the Bolshoi, in the midst of a financial crisis exacerbated by the ongoing and ruinously expensive restauration of the company's historic theatre in Moscow.
Commenting on his decision which was announced as the Bolshoi is on tour to La Scala Milan, Vedernikov said: 'I have very good memories of the past eight years that I have devoted to Bolshoi Theatre. We made a great deal of effort to take the theatre out of creative crisis... Unfortunately now I find myself in disagreement with the Bolshoi’s management regarding its future. In this situation I decided that it is better to concentrate my efforts on developing my international career, and this will be more effective from all points of view.'
Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to works at the Bolshoi Theatre. The restoration process, begun in 2005, has already overrun by a year and, amid continuing recriminations, the current talk is of a possible 2011 reopening at best.
Rufus Wainwright opera
15 July 2009
Aix Festival announces future plans
7 July 2009, Aix en Provence, France
Sir Colin Davis
As the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's residency came to an end at this year's Aix-en-Provence Festival, it was announced that from next year, the London Symphony Orchestra under its music director Sir Colin Davis would be newly resident at the festival until 2013.
In its first year, the LSO will only be giving concerts over one weekend of the Aix-en-Provence festival; but in 2011 the orchestra will play for Natalie Dessay's first Traviata, with Frenchman Louis Langrée taking up the baton, while Sir Colin will conduct an as yet-to-be-announced Mozart opera.
Will the Berlin Phil be a hard act to follow? Read Francis Carlin's full report from the 2009 Aix-en-Provence festival in our forthcoming September/October issue of Opera Now
The truth about Bayreuth's links with Hitler - every nook and cranny to be searched
29 June 2009, Bayreuth, Germany
The past: Hitler with Winifred Wagner
The future: Katharina Wagner's new era of openness
Bayreuth’s Nazi past to come under renewed scrutiny
Adolf Hitler’s links to the Bayreuth Festival are to be fully investigated, said Katharina Wagner, the 31-year-old great granddaughter of the composer who took over as the Festival’s co-director last year. Ms Wagner – known for her iconoclastic approach to Bayreuth’s traditions and its identity – made her announcement at a press conference to launch Bayreuth’s current season (opening on 25 July), which includes revivals of the Ring cycle and of Katharina’s own controversial production of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
Bayreuth has struggled to shake off its Nazi associations: Hitler’s friendship with the Wagner family is well documented. He attended the festival every summer and it seems certain that Bayreuth’s ethos in the early 20th century played a part in shaping his personal political ideology. He had a close relationship with Katharina’s British-born grandmother Winifred (excellently recounted in Brigitte Hamann’s book, Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth), and the Nazi regime generously supported the Festival at a time when many other areas of Germany’s cultural life were being squeezed.
However some commentators feel that there is little left to unearth about the Hitler’s links to the Wagner family and that Katarina's comments are another indication of her media-savvy approach to running the Festival. Ms Wagner’s gesture certainly has more than a ring of a publicity stunt about it, at a time when Bayreuth is actively seeking sponsors and is opening out its audience base for the first time.
Meanwhile, Katharina’s has insisted that ‘every nook and cranny’ of the festival’s archives will have to be investigated so that Bayreuth can come to terms with a dark chapter in its history. ‘There's a shadow hanging over Bayreuth,’ she said, ‘and I feel a responsibility to try to get some clarity’.
In other related developments, Katharina Wagner has backed an initiative to put plaques in Bayreuth's park which point out that Arno Brekker, the creator of sculptures of Richard and Cosima Wagner, was Hitler's favourite sculptor.
Next year she also plans to host an exhibition on ‘silenced voices’ about the expulsion of Jews from Germany’s opera houses. Richard Wagner’s villa, Haus Wahnfried, where Hitler was a frequent guest, will also establish a permanent exhibition of the festival’s Nazi history.
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