News round up
13 June 2009
- The Salzburg Festival has announced that that Alexander Pereiria, currently general manager of the Zurich Opera House, will take over as artistic director of the festival from October 2010, planning his first event in 2011. Salzburg's current director, Jurgen Flimm, unexpectedly announced in Dec 2008 that he would step down from the post. Meanwhile, Andreas Homoki, currently Intendant at the Komische Oper in Berlin, will succeed Pereira in Zurich.
- Opera America has announced that the contract of its president and CEO, Marc A Scorca, has been extended through 2016.. In 2010, OPERA America will celebrate 40 years of service to the opera community and Scorca's 20th anniversary with the organisation.
- Cecilia Bartoli has won this year’s Sonning Music Prize, worth 80,000 Euro. The prize has been awarded annually by the Léonine Sonning Muisc Foundation in Denmark since 1959. Bartoli will receive the honour at a concert in Tivoli, Italy, in 2010.
- Washington National Opera (WNO) has announced that Jane Lipton Cafritz has been appointed Chairman of the company’s Board of Trustees, effective July 1, 2009. Cafritz succeeds John J Pohanka, who has served as Chairman for four years.
BBC Cardiff Singer of the World launches new award for young artists
12 June 2009
BBC Cardiff Singer of the World finalists, Yuriy Mynenko, Ukraine; Ekaterina Shcherbachenko, Russia; Jan Martinik, Czech Republic; Eri Nakamura, Japan and Giordano Luca, Italy
As the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition got underway earlier this week, a new award was launched to support young singers at the start of their careers.
Menna Richards, director of BBC Wales, announced the new bursary at the opening night of the Song Competition on 6 June: ‘A very generous lady and follower of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, Annie Sankey, has left the competition a bequest and I am thrilled this evening to be able to announce a new bursary in her name to support singers who take part in the competition.’
The bursary will be awarded in addition to the two other prizes offered over the 10-day competition. It comprises a £5000 award for the winner of the Song Competition, and a prize of £15000 for the winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.
This year’s finalists comprise of the youngest and oldest competitors from the competition and were each winners in their own concert performance which took place over this week. Yurjy Mynenko, who won Concert 3 will be flying the flag for Ukraine and is also the first ever countertenor to have made it to the final.
The Song Competition final will take place tonight (12 June) at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, followed by the main BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition final on Sunday 14 June.
Opera Now correspondent Yehuda Shapiro will be reporting from the finals of the Singer of the World this weekend. Visit this Opera Now webpage to read his assessment of the results.
To follow the results of the competition heats and to view highlights from the week’s events, visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/cardiffsinger
Furniture giant unpacks its first opera
10 June 2009, London UK
Flatpack Tom Lane
MAMMOTH MUSIC THEATRE
IKEA, WEMBLEY, LONDON
Review by Antonia Couling
This was a trip to IKEA with a difference. We were not used to being greeted by movement artists in the furniture giant's trademark yellow and blue livery, dancing with IKEA holdalls and clambering over the displays. Led up the escalator by a one of Mammoth Music Theatre's enterprising singers, we began our operatic exploration of home furnishings.
The concept for this opera was a cleverly thought-through. Every prop was sourced from the store and the action took place within the showroom cells (the cheapest sets going), moving from sitting rooms to studies, offices and bedrooms. Two couples experience the typical effects of shopping and the domestic tensions that inevitably ensue. The libretto consisted almost entirely of the repetition of IKEA product names, variously inflected to evoke appropriate emotions. A highlight was a scene where a character tried to assemble a bookcase, utterly flummoxed by the instructions and the need for four pairs of hands. Throughout his ordeal he sang ‘Billy, Billy, Billy’, in longing, frustration, anger and finally satisfaction when the job was done.
This is a show that could catch on, not least for its unusual theatrical impact in a very public place, where real customers shopping around us added their own dimension to the performance. While some IKEA punters did join our little throng of spectators, it was fascinating to observe others who totally ignored the fact that someone was singing at full volume in an area they wanted to explore, and walked right into the performance to check the runners on a chest of drawers.
As for us opera goers, it was impossible to ignore shopping opportunities as we were led around the store, and I found myself making mental notes of things that took our fancy. I even lost my mother at one point (again, part of the IKEA experience) when her eye was caught by a particularly appealing kitchen utensil.
Tom Lane’s music was performed on keyboard, accordion, cello and viola, and sadly failed to live up to the ideas in this piece. Sparing in variation and range (apparently it was all inspired by the two notes that the composer’s food mixer makes), the score was pretty repetitive and uninventive. But nonetheless, this was a strong illustration of how opera can convey feelings and sentiments that permeate every day experiences in a way that other art forms can’t.
Holland Park Opera proves there's nothing like a Dame
4 June 2009, London, UK
Majella Cullagh as Elisabetta and Yvonne Howard as SaraFritz Curzon
By Francis Muzzu
'The other night we stood in the wings watching the dress rehearsal, and we thought "that's Richard Bonynge!"' says General Manager of the Festival, Mike Volpe. Apparently Bonynge came to see the production of La Fille du Régiment last year, and was grabbed for the job then. 'We were thinking of Roberto Devereux, and off the cuff I asked him and he said yes' says James Cutton, the Festival Producer - 'Well', adds Volpe, 'he was right there!' They obviously still can't quite believe their luck at persuading the veteran maestro to open this summer's run with the Donizetti rarity.
After this mutual pinch-yourself session, the pair describe how they plan the festival each year. They’ve just finished organising 2011, and Clutton explains how each year comprises of a mixture of operas to appeal to as wide an audience base as possible; ‘We do a couple of certainties, and we’ve had a theme of verismo, and with Janáček we’ve found a new thread’. He’s referring to the success of Jenufa in 2007, and the forthcoming Kát’a Kabanová this year, for which they aimed to get as many of the same production team back together; Olivia Fuchs returns to direct, and Sophie Duprels and Anne Mason to lead the cast. In fact they’re very keen on the idea of threads, indeed ‘breaking down the barriers’. The verismo specialism has offered rarities such as Iris, Fedora and L’amore dei tre re, and next year a new thread starts with Pelléas et Mélisande. 2010 also sees the first Holland Park productions of La Forza del Destino and Francesca da Rimini, another long-lost verismo warhorse; ‘We’ve already got the hospital treatment lined up’ laughs Volpe.
Still, the great and the good descended upon the park for the opening performance of the 2009 festival. The immaculately tailored Bonynge looked sprightly and received much cheering as soon as he appeared. Lyndsay Posner’s production look very fine in a traditional way, and Leonardo Capalbo made a welcome return in the title role, as did Yvonne Howard as Sara. Majella Cullagh’s Elisabetta went for the full Bette Davis effect, and her dramatic focus and vocal technique compensated for a less than beautiful voice. And one last treat – as the audience entered the auditorium for Act II, a ripple of spontaneous applause started upon the appearance of Dame Joan Sutherland as she took her seat, soon leading to a full-scale ovation as the cheering audience stood and craned for a glimpse of the legendary diva.
Deborah Voight makes role debut as Alceste in New York
27 May 2009, New York, USA
As another installment in the New York City Opera’s dribs-and-drabs, homeless season, the company and the Collegiate Chorale presented Gluck’s Alceste (the 1776 Paris version) at the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center, in a one-night-only, concert performance on May 26th. The raison d’être was clearly to showcase soprano Deborah Voigt, who was singing the title role for the first time in her career. It was not a happy outing.
George Manahan led the approximately 60-strong orchestra and close to 170-strong chorus in a beautifully played and sung but gargantuan and un-stylish, un-French performance, and Voigt sang accordingly. She was announced as having a bit of flu, but while that may excuse the rawness at the top of her voice, the un-focused center, weak lower register and utter refusal to sing below mezzo-forte seem more fundamental at this point. In addition, with eyes glued to the score, she seemed not quite familiar enough to offer any textual nuance or shadings; her anger at the gods was of the same texture as her pleadings and exhortations of love for Admète, here sung with true style, flair and consequence by veteran tenor Vinson Cole.
The others in the cast were unsubtle, and one is left with the impression that Alceste does not fit Ms Voigt either vocally or temperamentally. A disappointing evening, all around.
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