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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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Latest News

Plácido Domingo’s Operalia 2010 at La Scala, Milan

27 April 2010

Plácido Domingo
Plácido Domingo(Photo: Richard Haughton)

Plácido Domingo’s Operalia 2010 ‘World Opera Competition’ was launched on Sunday at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

40 singers aged 18 to 30 were heard in the first two days, out of whom 20 have been selected for today’s semi-finals.

10 finalists will go through to perform an aria of their choice on 2 May, each accompanied by the Filharmonica della Scala under Domingo and watched by a live audience of up to 3,000 people.

This year’s prizes include USD $30,000 for the two top winners (one male, one female) plus casting opportunities through Domingo and the option of joining his new Operalia Agency.

Operalia was founded in 1993 and takes place in a different city each year. Milan was chosen for 2010 because Domingo is currently celebrating his 40th anniversary at La Scala with six performances in the title role of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.

The Competition attracts more than 1,000 applications each year and is one of the most prestigious international platforms for young opera singers. Past winners who have gone on to achieve worldwide success include soprano Elizabeth Futral, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and tenor Rolando Villazón.


BBC opera series to begin on 24 May 2010

23 April 2010

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa(Photo: John Swannell)

Broadcasts in BBC's major new series, A Passion For Opera, will begin on 24 May and continue through until December.

Featuring newly-commissioned films and performance screenings on BBC Two and Four plus a series of special programmes on BBC Radio 2 and 3, A Passion For Opera offers plenty of substance to engage the serious opera lover.

Speaking about the initiative, which he described as "the BBC's largest ever celebration of opera", Radio 3 Controller, Roger Wright, said: "It allows us to join forces with other colleagues in BBC radio, TV and interactive, to offer listeners unique opportunities to hear first class performances as well as other programming including documentaries, behind-the-scenes glimpses and opera recommendations."

Highlights include a three-part TV series about the role of opera in Italian history and culture, hosted by Antonio Pappano, a documentary tracing the creation of Graham Vick’s recent productions of Aida in Bregenz and Othello in Birmingham, and programmes in which soprano Kiri Te Kanawa and tenor Rolando Villázon explore the secrets of their craft.  

Three full-length opera broadcasts are also planned: Simon Boccanegra (with Plácido Domingo making his baritone debut in the title role) and David McVicar’s Le Nozze di Figaro from Covent Garden, plus Jonathan Kent’s new Glyndebourne production of Don Giovanni.

Broadcast dates will be announced soon via this web page.


Billed as a nationwide hunt for an opera star of the future, the Radio 2 Kiri Prize was launched earlier this year and is the BBC’s answer to ITV’s controversial Popstar to Operastar.

Hosted by Kiri Te Kanawa, the competition is designed to open up opera to new audiences.

Fifteen Kiri Prize semi-finalists selected from regional auditions will perform on air during June as part of A Passion For Opera. The top prizewinner will go on to perform in September at the BBC’s Proms in the Park.


News round-up - 21 April 2010

21 April 2010

Polish soprano, Aleksandra Kurzak
Polish soprano, Aleksandra Kurzak

Move follows growth in trade between the nations

The Chinese government has committed funds of USD $43 million to build an opera house in the oil and gas-rich North African state of Algeria. Chinese companies will construct the new building in a move described by officials as “an important symbol” of the close ties between the two countries. With over USD $4.5 billion in trade last year (Source: AP), China is now Algeria’s second biggest trade partner.

Flight ban prevents artists from travelling

This week's flight cancellations caused by Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull have posed problems for several international opera companies. Polish soprano, Aleksandra Kurzak, captured media attention when she took a taxi from Warsaw to London to perform at Covent Garden, while conductor Julien Salemkour replaced Pedro Halffter in Strauss’ Salome at Berlin’s Staatsoper. New York’s Metropolitan Opera also had to reschedule rehearsals for Berg’s Lulu because Anne Sofie von Otter was stuck in Stockholm.

Falling audiences and tourism downturn blamed

Opera Australia has announced the company’s first financial losses in six years, blaming falling audience numbers and a decline in tourism for its operating deficit of AUS $907,677. The Australian reported that productions of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Massanet’s Werther had fared particularly badly. These were presented during the company’s annual summer season in Sydney, which normally attracts many tourists.  A year-long wage freeze at the company will continue until profits return.

Ten young composers selected by professional jury

Ten young composers have been named as the winners of a nationwide competition to write fanfares for London’s Royal Opera House. The winners aged 11-14 were selected from more than 250 online entries by a panel of music professionals that included Royal Opera Music Director, Antonia Pappano. The winners’ fanfares will be recorded next week by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and from May onwards will replace the bell traditionally rung to signal the start of performances at Covent Garden.

Dallas Opera appoints new General Director

16 April 2010, [Originally posted on 12 April 2010]

Keith Cerny
Keith Cerny(Photo: Karen Almond / Dallas Opera)

Dallas Opera has announced the appointment of Keith Cerny as the company’s new General Director, effective 24 May 2010.

Currently the CEO of Sheet Music Plus, the world’s largest internet-based sheet music company, Cerny previously spent three years as the Executive Director and CFO of San Francisco Opera. Before that, he held senior executive positions with McKinsey & Company, Accenture and Russell Reynolds Associates.

He has also done pro bono work for English National Opera, Washington National Opera, Atlanta Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, Los Angeles Opera and Houston Grand Opera, and is currently serving on the Strategy Committee of Opera America.

With a BA in Music and Physics from Berkeley, an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, and a PhD in Economic Development Studies/Econometrics from the UK’s Open University, Cerny’s wide-ranging credentials “demonstrate that he fully understands, appreciates, and embraces both the business and artistic demands of a top-notch American opera company”, said Dallas Opera President, Dr. Kern Wildenthal.

Cerny himself has confirmed that his three main priorities as soon as he takes office will be to seek contributions to the opera's endowment, throw himself into programming decisions for future seasons, and use his knowledge of e-commerce to raise funds and encourage “more community participation.”

Speaking to Opera Now about the ways in which technology might be used to promote Dallas Opera under his leadership, Cerny explained that “I believe technology-based promotion is a key marketing tool for any performing arts organization, just as many for-profit organizations are now identifying new channels to build and maintain relationships with their customers.”

Although “very impressed with how tech-savvy the organization is already”, Cerny sees plenty of scope for further developments:

“As I take up my new role with Dallas Opera, I look forward to working with the team on additional enhancements to the company’s web site and online presence, including even more segmented e-mails, increased opportunities for online giving, potential linkages with other classically oriented media (e.g. radio) and additional educational content linked to the performance calendar."

Cerny’s appointment comes just a few months after the opening of the Winspear Opera House at Dallas’s AT&T Performing Arts Center. He will replace John T. Cody, Jr., who has held the position of Interim General Director since George Steel’s abrupt departure for New York City Opera in January 2009.

Earlier this year, Dallas Opera was offered an anonymous grant of USD $10 million, contingent on the company being able to match this amount with funds from other sources by 31 October 2011.

"The fundraising challenge is always out there with any opera company," said Cerny. "But Dallas Opera I think is very well positioned to put together the resources it needs. In particular, having access to a purpose-built opera house enables the company to attract top-tier artists, and audience and donor excitement."


English National Opera 2010/11 Season announced

15 April 2010, London, UK

'Radamisto' at Santa Fe Opera
'Radamisto' at Santa Fe Opera(Photo: Ken Howard)

Details of English National Opera's 2010/11 Season were announced today. Featuring a total of fourteen operas, ten will be new productions and nine will be co-productions with international opera houses.

Two premieres are also planned – the UK premiere of Alexander Raskatov’s A Dog’s Heart and the World Premiere of an opera by 29-year-old American composer, Nico Muhly, based on a true story about teenager who attempts to arrange his own murder via the Internet. 

An ambitious programme for lean economic times, ENO has built collaborative relationships with more than 20 overseas companies to make this Season possible, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Bayerische Staatsoper and De Nederlandse Opera.

For the fourth year in a row, ENO will also be working with London’s Young Vic Theatre to present a new co-production of Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses.

Other Season highlights include the Company premieres of Donizetti’s rarely performed Lucrezia Borgia and Handel’s Radamisto plus ENO debuts by directors Benedict Andrews, Mike Figgis, Terry Gilliam, Des McAnuff, Simon McBurney, Rufus Norris, Bartlett Sher and Dmitri Tcherniakov.

12 singers per year will now be selected for training

ENO’s Young Singers programme has been re-launched in an expanded form so that places for up to 12 singers per year will now be available. Designed for talented singers in the early stages of their careers, the programme was first launched in 1998 and a number of former participants have since gone on to important careers including Colin Lee, Leigh Melrose, Iain Paterson, Sarah Tynan and Elizabeth Watts.


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