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Inaugural competition for young black opera singers

31 October 2009, Birmingham, UK

Prize factor: Sir Willard White
Prize factor: Sir Willard White

The final of the inaugural Voice of Black Opera competition will take place today in the Great Hall of Birmingham University, UK. A shortlist of seven singers have been invited to perform with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia before an international jury including legendary sopranos Grace Bumbry and Maria Ewing.

Launched earlier this year, the competition is organised by the British Black Classical Foundation, and will be a biennial event for singers of black and Asian heritage from across the Commonwealth.The Foundation's Patron, Sir Willard White, has given his name to the winning trophy and prizes include an engagement during the Rosenblatt Recital series at St John’s Smith Square in 2010 and coaching with Welsh National Opera.

Click here for more information about the Voice of Black Opera competition

Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes resurfaces after a century

30 October 2009

Christopher Ainslie as Artaxerxes
Christopher Ainslie as ArtaxerxesRICHARD HUBERT SMITH

The first new production of Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes in more than a century will receive its premiere at The Royal Opera’s Linbury Studio Theatre tonight.

Timed to introduce the 300th anniversary of Arne’s birth next year, the nine performances at the Linbury Studio are staged by the Classical Opera Company, conducted Ian Page, its founder and artistic director.

Arne’s original score for Artaxerxes was destroyed by fire in 1808, so Page has prepared a new performing edition of the work with a reconstruction of the final chorus by Duncan Druce (famous for his completion of Mozart’s Requiem performed at the Proms in 1991).

Artaxerxes, which received its premiere in 1762, was a unique experiment in writing an opera seria in English ­­– an experiment that proved successful. The opera stayed in the repertoire until 1843, and was given more than 100 performances by 1790 alone.

Best known today as the composer of ‘Rule, Britannia!’ from his opera Alfred, Arne was a hugely popular figure in mid 18th century England and one of Handel’s few credible rivals. The Linbury provides something of an antidote to a Handel centenary year which has seen a string of new productions and revivals of Handel opera across the world.

Domingo's first baritone role greeted with standing ovation

30 October 2009, Berlin, Germany

Bottom line: Domingo returns to his baritone roots
Bottom line: Domingo returns to his baritone rootsMonika Rittershaus

With half a century as one of the world’s leading tenors already behind him, Plácido Domingo last weekend received a standing ovation when he turned  baritone, in the role of Simon Boccanegra.

The star-studded premiere of Federico Tiezzi’s new production of Verdi’s masterpiece, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, took place at the Berlin Staatsoper on 24 October and will run until 13 November. Two further performances are scheduled to take place in March next year as part of the Berlin Festtage 2010.

The role of Boccanegra has been a long-time ambition for Domingo, who began his career as a baritone in 1959, before changing to tenor when he joined Mexican National Opera. Now, aged 68, his still-lustrous voice has lost its edge at very the top of its considerable range. He has been known to transpose roles down in recent years, and the decision to make the switch to baritone was officially announced in January 2007.

Domingo is the master of diversification. He is one of the most powerful administrators in opera, running major US companies in Washington and Los Angeles. And he is as likely to be found conducting in the pit as singing on stage these days. As a sideline, he has invested some of his considerable fortune in the restaurant business.

Although Domingo once said that Boccanegra would be his last stage role, he has already been booked to perform numerous tenor and baritone roles over the next five years, including more performances in the title role of Simon Boccanegra at La Scala (May 2010) and Covent Garden (June 2010)


More from the Berlin Staatsoper website

Opera North to present Ring cycle

7 October 2009

One of the UK’s five national opera companies, Opera North, has announced plans to extend its series of Opera in Concert, with performances of Wagner’s The Ring. The cycle has been devised in partnership with The Sage Gateshead and Symphony Hall in Birmingham, and will be given over a four-year period, beginning in 2011 with Das Rheingold. Die Walküre and Siegfried are scheduled to follow in successive years, culminating with Götterdämmerung in 2014. Performances will also take place at Leeds Town Hall and The Lowry SalfordQuays.

The Opera in Concert series has been running since 2005 and has included performances of Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, Nabucco, Salome and most recently Elektra, mostly under the baton of Opera North music director, Richard Farnes, who will also conduct The Ring; the idea being to extend the company’s repertoire to include pieces that are often challenging to stage in many of the theatres that Opera North perform in.

Opera North has also announced that Richard Farnes has committed to remain the Company’s Music Director until 2014.


Prestigious awards ceremony looks for public input

2 October 2009

Anja Kampe with Edward Gardner, who this year won an award for his conducting at English National Opera
Anja Kampe with Edward Gardner, who this year won an award for his conducting at English National OperaCharlie Hopkinson

Rosalind Plowright and John Berry who collected the award for English National Opera's production of Partenope
Rosalind Plowright and John Berry who collected the award for English National Opera's production of PartenopeCharlie Hopkinson

The Laurence Oliver Awards, among the most prestigious of all performing arts awards is offering two opera-lovers the chance to join the professional judging panel for the 2011 ceremony.

Selected candidates will have access to the full range of London’s operatic offerings for a year. Working alongside professional judges, the two chosen opera enthusiasts will be required to exercise ‘perception and clarity’ in their critical assessment of performances in order to make a final decision upon the winners.

Nica Burns, president of the Society of London Theatre, which organises the awards said: ‘We’re looking for dedicated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable people from all walks of life who are passionate about the performing arts. You’ll see the best of what London theatre has to offer in 2010, and have to make some very difficult choices!’ 

Recent recipients of  Laurence Olivier awards for opera include the likes of conductor Edward Gardner, Natalie Dessay at the Royal Opera House, as well as an award in recognition of English National Opera’s 2008 production of Partenope.

Those wishing to apply can pick up a leaflet from any one of the West End theatres or apply online at www.olivierawards.co.uk. Alternatively, candidates can request a form from the Society of London Theatre by emailing awards@solttma.co.uk or sending a stamped addressed envelope to Awards Office (P), 32 Rose Street, London WC2E 9ET.

Deadline for application is 30 November 2009.

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