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Stuttgart State Opera appoints new Music Director

15 April 2010

Sylvain Cambreling
Sylvain Cambreling(Photo: Marco Borggreve)

French-born conductor Sylvain Cambreling has been appointed as the new Music Director of Stuttgart State Opera by the company's artistic director designate, Jossi Wieler.

Wieler has invited Cambreling to conduct one production during the 2011/12 Season then take over as Music Director in 2012/13.

Wieler himself is due to join the company in 2011, succeeding Manfred Honeck.

Cambreling previously held the post of Music Director at La Monnaie in Brussels from 1981-1991 followed by four years at the helm of Frankfurt Opera in the 1990s. Although he has since conducted extensively at the Opéra National de Paris, this will be his first major appointment with an opera house since leaving Frankfurt.

Speaking to Opera Now, Cambreling explained that “After I left Frankfurt in 1997 I decided I would never take on an opera house again – it was too much work. But that was as general artistic director, and being a Music Director is very different. I love theatre music and even when I am busy conducting other repertoire I am first and foremost an opera conductor. So I am very excited to be trying again.”

Whilst it is too early to be talking about specific productions that he is planning with Wieler, Cambreling is candid about his desire “to work as a team” and develop close collaborative relationships with his new colleagues in Stuttgart.

Earlier this month, Cambreling was also appointed as the principal conductor of Tokyo’s Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. He has been Chief Conductor of the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg since 1999.


News round-up - 14 April 2010

14 April 2010

James Levine
James Levine(Photo: Steven Senne / AP)

The Golden Room, Teatro Colón
The Golden Room, Teatro Colón

Music director to undergo surgery on his lower back

Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine has withdrawn from his remaining performances with the company this season to undergo surgery on his lower back. A total of seven performances due to be conducted by Levine – three of Berg’s Lulu and four or Puccini’s Tosca – will now be conducted by Fabio Luisi. Levine’s scheduled performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra have also been affected.

City's mayor confirms date – 24 May 2010

South America’s most famous opera house will reopen on 24 May following renovations lasting more than four years, says city mayor Mauricio Macri. The spectacular 2,478-seat Teatro Colón (Columbus Theatre) in Buenos Aires was supposed to be ready for its centenary in May 2008 but will now reopen on the eve of Argentina’s independence bicentennial.

69-year-old tenor to sing Simon Boccanegra in Milan on Friday

Plácido Domingo will return to the stage on Friday this week with the first of six performances in the title role of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at La Scala in Milan. The 69-year-old tenor has spent the past month recovering from cancer surgery. He told the BBC that "The joy at returning to Milan is immense."

Torsten Rasch’s The Duchess of Malfi

English National Opera has teamed up with the British experimental theatre company, Punchdrunk, to co-produce a new opera by German composer Torsten Rasch. Based on John Webster’s Jacobean drama The Duchess of Malfi, the site-specific production will be performed in a vacant office block at Great Eastern Quay in London's Royal Albert Basin. A total of 13 performances have been scheduled, beginning on 13 July.

Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb speaks to Vanity Fair

In this month’s Vanity Fair, Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb speaks to Contributing Editor, Nina Munk: “Examining the Met’s $47 million deficit, the horrendous economics of opera, and the effort to sell high culture to the masses, the author reveals what a huge risk the controversial impresario is taking.”


Kenneth McKellar, who died on 9 April aged 82, was a lyric tenor once described by Adrian Boult as “the best Handel singer of the 20th century”. He was invited by Benjamin Britten to sing the role of McHeath in a production of The Beggar’s Opera in 1965, but subsequently abandoned the operatic stage to focus on building a repertory of Scottish and popular songs.

Jazz opera for London schools endorsed by Olympic Games

13 April 2010

Julian Joseph with pupils from Hackney's Kingsmead Primary School
Julian Joseph with pupils from Hackney's Kingsmead Primary School

Shadowball, a pioneering jazz opera for school children in the London Borough of Hackney, has been awarded an 'Inspire Mark' by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

The 'Inspire Mark' is bestowed on outstanding projects that contribute to the 2012 Games' lasting legacy and the Cultural Olympiad.

Created by jazz musicians Julian Joseph and Mike Phillips for the Hackney Music Development Trust (HMDT), Shadowball tells the story of the struggles, triumphs and challenges facing black athletes in the USA during their sixty year exclusion from Major League Baseball.

Alongside baseball, the opera also charts the development of jazz during the time of segregation when, against heavy odds, black athletes and jazz musicians were using sport and music to reach their dreams and inspire others.

"Shadowball is a story of triumph in the face of adversity”, says Joseph. “It demonstrates the greatness of a people denied their civil liberties. How do you thrive in an unjust system? Baseball and jazz. Reflect on it and it makes a mockery of that system and did so at the time. The truth is that we must learn these lessons and all of us embrace and own this history in its glory and its horror."

Two performances of Shadowball involving jazz vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, Julian Joseph and 120 Hackney school children will take place on 29 and 30 June at London's Mermaid Theatre. Leading up to these performances, the project’s extensive education programme will include music workshops with Julian Joseph and baseball training in more than 20 Hackney schools.


News round-up - 9 April 2010

9 April 2010

Daniel Barenboim
Daniel Barenboim(Photo: Sheila Rock)

Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze(Photo: Schott / Peter Andersen)

Berlin’s oldest opera company moves to Charlottenberg’s Schiller Theatre

Staatsoper Unter den Linden director Jürgen Flimm and music director Daniel Barenboim have announced details of the company’s 2010/11 Season. Coinciding with the start of a three-year residency at Charlottenberg’s Schiller Theatre during extensive renovations to the Staatsoper’s home, the Season will open on 3 October with the world premiere of Metanoia - über das Denken hinaus by composer Jens Joneleit. In addition, Guy Cassiers’ new Ring cycle will be launched with performances of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, plus six other new productions are planned: Stravinsky's The Rake’s Progress, Berg’s Wozzeck, Bernstein’s Candide, Tomasso Traetta's AntigonaPeter Eötvös's Tri Sestri and Toshio Hosokawa's Matsukaze.

Elegy for Young Lovers – 24 April to 8 May 2010

London’s Young Vic theatre is to host seven performances of Hans Werner Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers in a new English National Opera co-production directed by Fiona Shaw. With a libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, this rarely performed 20th-century masterpiece offers an excoriating critique of the Romantic notion of the artist as hero.

Linda Jackson to serve as onsite liaison to Francesco Zambello

Linda Jackson has been appointed as the new Managing Director of Glimmerglass Opera, the 35-year-old summer opera festival in Cooperstown, N.Y. An arts professional with more than 20 years experience in the field of opera, most recently as Managing Director of Connecticut Opera, Jackson will act as onsite liaison to Glimmerglass’s new General & Artistic Director, Francesca Zambello. 

New Realities | New Strategies - 9 to 12 June 2010

Composer Daniel Catán, whose opera Il Postino will be premiered at LA Opera in September, has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for this year’s OPERA America Conference. The Conference, hosted by LA Opera in June 2010, will explore new strategies for safeguarding the sustainability of the industry in the wake of the global recession.

Concert dedicated to the memory of Christos Lambrakis 

A concert has taken place in Athens dedicated to the memory of Greek media entrepreneur and builder of the Megaron/Athens Concert Hall, Christos Lambrakis. The performance of Mozart’s Requiem featured Bulgarian soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow alongside Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa, tenor Mario Zeffiri and bass Christophoros Stamboglis. Lambrakis died in December 2009 after receiving heart surgery in Athens. He was 75.

Graham Johnson and Steuart Bedford remember Philip Langridge

8 April 2010

Philip Langridge as Aschenbach in the Opera Australia 2005 production of 'Death in Venice'
Philip Langridge as Aschenbach in the Opera Australia 2005 production of 'Death in Venice'(Photo: Branco Gaica)

Philip Langridge as Marquis in Berg's 'Lulu' at the Royal Opera
Philip Langridge as Marquis in Berg's 'Lulu' at the Royal Opera(Photo: Clive Barda)

Following the death last month of Philip Langridge, pianist Graham Johnson and conductor Steuart Bedford have spoken to Opera Now about their memories of working with Langridge, his legacy and the qualities that made him one of the finest English tenors of his generation.

“Philip was an unpublicised national treasure”, says Johnson, “and in terms of what he did to serve British music, I can’t think of any British artist who deserved a knighthood more.”

Well known for his interpretations of Janáček and modern British operas, Langridge particularly excelled in the works of Britten, successfully reinventing roles that had been written originally for Peter Pears.

“Along with Anthony Rolfe Johnson, he was one of the generation of tenors who inherited the mantle of Peter Pears,” explains Johnson. “When I heard Philip in the flesh do Death in Venice at English National Opera, I told him that he was the greatest Aschenbach I had ever heard – which is remarkable considering that I helped Peter Pears learn this role and was his friend and admirer for many years.”

Bedford, who recorded Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with Langridge for Collins, was similarly impressed: “You can’t really go about Britten’s work by copying Peter Pears. You have to do it your own way, and Philip was one of the people who managed to do that successfully. His interpretations were always entirely valid and convincing.”

According to Johnson, the fact that Langridge had trained initially as a violinist meant that he approached singing with an unusually strong grasp of musical form and structure: 

“Somebody who understands sonata form after having performed violin sonatas will think of music in larger structures, and will never interpret an operatic role as a series of individual phrases and sections. I know that one of the things Claudio Abbado loved about working with Philip was this total musicianship. Abbado felt a musical kinship with Philip.”

Langridge turned 70 last December but his future schedule showed no signs of plans to slow down. According to Johnson, “the fact that Philip died ‘in harness’ – with several years of future engagements already in the diary – is evidence of the commitment that led him to master so many roles in such different operas.”

Searching for a suitable epitaph for Langridge, Johnson cites ‘Starry Vere – god bless you’ from the libretto of Britten’s Billy Budd: “This phrase, sung by the sailors on deck as they turn to salute their captain, captures Philip’s star-like quality and his important position as a role model for the younger generation.” 

The full transcript of this interview with Graham Johnson will appear in the May/June issue of Opera Now.

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