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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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Guangzhou's 'twin boulder' Opera House opens its doors

10 May 2010, [Originally posted on 6 May 2010]

Guangzhou Opera House
Guangzhou Opera House(Image: Zaha Hadid)

Anna Shafajinskaya as Turandot
Anna Shafajinskaya as Turandot(Photo: Ken Howard / San Diego Opera)

A new 1,800-seat opera house in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou will open its doors tonight with a performance of Puccini’s Turandot.

Conducted by Lorin Maazel, the international cast for this staging of Reina Sofía's 2008 Palau de les Arts production includes Ukrainian soprano, Anna Shafajinskaya, as the Princess, Canadian tenor, Richard Margison, in his signature role of Calàf, and Chilean soprano, Christina Gallardo-Domâs, singing Liù.

The auditorium has taken five years to construct and cost one billion Chinese Yuan (USD $146 million). 

Built on the banks of the Pearl River, its bold and futuristic design by award-winning British architect, Zaha Hadid, looks like two giant boulders taken from the river bed.

It is likely to be one of the key attractions during this year’s Asian Games, due to take place in Guangzhou during November.

Together with its neighbouring multifunctional hall, the Opera House forms the core of the city’s growing cultural quarter, plans for which include a museum and sites for metropolitan activities.

It is now also the third largest auditorium of its kind in China, outranked only by Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Shanghai Grand Theatre.

A recent announcement by Guangzhou Opera House said that more than 200 performances are being planned for 2010, but further details have not yet been confirmed.


Richard Margison spoke to Opera Now after the first night of Turandot at Guangzhou Opera House:

“The new building is spectacular and is definitely going to be a landmark. It’s not quite finished yet, but the scope of the site that has been planned is very impressive.”

“The auditorium itself is pretty big inside, but still has an intimate feeling. I must also say that the acoustic is fantastic – not too dry and not too bright. Of course, during rehearsals it felt a little too bright, but with the audience in there it warmed up and the balance felt just right.”

“We kept the opening night performance going continuously. As a result, there weren’t many opportunities for people to applaud after each item, but at the end of the opera the response was extremely tumultuous and we received a long standing ovation.”

“The orchestra was the Shanghai Opera Orchestra and the chorus was also from the Shanghai Opera, augmented by a local chorus from Guangzhou. Their contribution to the performance was tremendous.”

“I don’t think that the technical team had had enough time to get used to everything, so there were a few glitches on the technical and make-up side of things, but nothing that can’t be ironed out over time.”

“All in all, it’s been a huge honour for me to be part of the birth of a new opera house and a new audience. It’s a wonderful venue and I’d certainly like to come back here to perform again in the future”


European Opera Days - 8-9 May 2010

7 May 2010

This weekend, 97 opera houses in 21 countries across Europe will celebrate the fourth annual European Opera Days weekend with a coordinated programme of activities called ‘Crossing Bridges’.

Participating companies are organising special programmes for children and young people, from workshops to performances with heavily discounted tickets, putting the focus on building new audiences and discussing directions for the future with a new generation of opera-goers.

Timed to coincide with Europe Day (9 May), European Opera Days is a joint initiative of Opera Europa and RESEO (the European Network for Opera and Dance Education).

“We believe that ’Crossing Bridges’ is a stimulating metaphor for the art of opera today”, say Opera Europa President, Joan Matabosch, and RESEO Chair, Linda Lovrovic.

“Often accused of being elitist and out-of-date, opera today is extraordinarily alive and kicking. Exploring unconventional spaces, performed in pubs and metro stations, it also uses multimedia and state-of-the-art technology to tell stories that speak across the boundaries of language and nationhood.”

If you are near an opera house in Europe on 8 and 9 May, go and see for yourself what opera is doing to build bridges, move beyond its own walls, and shake off the myth of elitism once and for all.

Next year's European Opera Days will be celebrated on 7-8 May 2011 and focus on creating opera for young audiences.


World Premiere - Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick at Dallas Opera

6 May 2010

(Photo: Karen Almond / The Dallas Opera)

Opera Now correspondent, Chris Shull, attended the opening night of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick at Dallas Opera and writes:

"Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick has been called the Great American Novel. Jake Heggie’s telling of the story is certainly a great American opera. In exciting world-premiere performances by the Dallas Opera, a vibrant cast headlined by Canadian star-tenor Ben Heppner, an atmospheric set enhanced by video projections, and Heggie’s sumptuous, noble score combined on May 5 for an exhilarating evening of music and theatre at Dallas’ new Winspear Opera House."

Image: Whale boats and the ocean created by video projections in The Dallas Opera's world premiere production of Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick.

Chris Shull reviews Moby-Dick in the July/August issue of Opera Now, which also features Heidi Waleson's review of the world premiere of Amelie, at Seattle Opera. 


News round-up - 6 May 2010

6 May 2010

Alan Gilbert
Alan Gilbert(Photo: Mats Lungquist)

Fabio Luisi
Fabio Luisi(Photo: Barbara Luisi)

2.2 million sales - up 400,000 on last year

The Metropolitan Opera in New York has announced record sales of 2.2 million tickets for nine high-definition telecasts this season, an increase of 400,000 from 2008-2009. This takes the total sales for 'The Met: Live in HD’ series to 5 million tickets worldwide over five seasons. The 2010-11 Season will include 11 telecasts, beginning with Wagner's Das Rheingold 9 October.

Costumed singers and live-action animation

New York Philharmonic Music Director, Alan Gilbert, will conduct the orchestra’s first ever fully-staged opera at Avery Fisher Hall on 27 May 2010 – a production of Ligeti’s Grand Macabre featuring costumed singers and live-action animation. If the project is successful, Gilbert hopes to present the first New York production of Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise in 2013.

Appointment to bolster role of music director, James Levine

Italian conductor, Fabio Luisi, has been appointed as the principal guest conductor of New York’s Metropolitan Opera. This announcement follows the withdrawal of music director, James Levine, from several recent and forthcoming performances due to health problems. Luisi replaced Levine in Tosca last month, and will conduct Lulu instead of Levine during May.


Bryn Terfel’s annual music festival in Wales will stage a comeback this year after signing a new long-term agreement with promoter, Universal Music Classical Management & Productions (UMCMP). The festival was cancelled in 2009 due to financial difficulties but Terfel is confident that it will return in 2010 with its "best ever line-up”.


American opera director, Frank Corsaro, is to receive an honourary doctorate at this year’s Juilliard School Commencement Ceremony on 21 May. He is one of seven Outstanding Artists and Cultural Leaders being honoured and will attend the ceremony at Alice Tully Hall to collect his doctorate in person.


British set designer, David Myerscough-Jones, whose distinguished career spanned opera and theatre, has died of cancer aged 75. He created highly acclaimed designs for television productions of Britten’s Peter Grimes and Owen Wingrave in 1969-70 and received a Royal Television Society Award for his 1975 production of Wagner’s A Flying Dutchman.

British soprano, Mary Sansom, who sang with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company between 1956 and 1964, has died aged 74. She recorded four lead roles with the Company for Decca, including Patience and the shepherdess Phyllis in Iolanthe.

Operalia 2010 winners announced

4 May 2010

Winners Sonya Yoncheva and Stefan Pop with Plácido Domingo at La Scala
Winners Sonya Yoncheva and Stefan Pop with Plácido Domingo at La Scala(Photo: Operalia)

28-year-old Bulgarian soprano, Sonya Yoncheva, and 23-year-old tenor, Stefan Pop, have taken the top prizes in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia 2010.

The competition's final took place on Sunday at La Scala in Milan.

Thirteen young singers each performed an aria with the Filharmonica della Scala under Domingo.

Yoncheva distinguished herself with a rendition of ‘Je marche sur tous les chemins’ from Manon, while Pop chose ‘Che gelida manina’ from La bohème.

Their prize money of USD $30,000 apiece will be supplemented by casting opportunities through Domingo plus the option of joining his new Operalia Agency.
Second prizes of USD $20,000 were awarded to Italian soprano, Rosa Feola, Ukranian bass, Ievgen Orlov, and Italian tenor, Giordano Luca, while third prizes of USD $10,000 went to Russian soprano, Dinara Alieva, and South Korean bass, Chae Jun Lim.

This year also saw the introduction of the Operalia Birgit Nilsson Prize for German operatic repertoire, won by American bass-baritone, Ryan McKinny, singing ‘Die Frist ist um’ from Der Fliegende Holländer.

The final was attended by a live audience of 3,000 people and streamed online in 81 territories. It will be available to watch for free until 2 July via


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