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Cutting edge youth opera festival starts today

4 November 2009, Utrecht, The Netherlands

The fifth jubilee Yo! Opera Festival for young people opens today in Utrecht, Netherlands, with the premiere of Grensgevallen (Borderline Cases), celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Based on the responses of 10 young people who were asked “What do you want to do to change the world around you?”, Grensgevallen is made up of 10 short operas, movies and games.

It’s just one of several new projects that will be showcased at Utrecht’s city theatre, the Stadsschouwburg Utrecht, between 4 and 8 November 2009. 

Other highlights include a multimedia rewrite of Shakespeare’s Othello, an opera “in the mix” with different music styles, and a fairytale show for very young children that takes them on a journey through theatre and music.

Alongside these performances, the festival will host Stand Up Dreaming, the fifth international Yo! Opera Meeting for young opera professionals, at which the dreams of the next generation of creators and producers will be debated.

Three prizes of 1000 Euros are being offered to young opera makers for new production ideas that will be realized at the next Yo! Opera Festival in 2011.

Founded in 2001, the Yo! Opera Festival has already been a platform for 38 world premieres of works by young composers from across Europe as well as Mexico, and last year was awarded 50,000 Euros by the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund for work in the field of youth opera.

Visit the official Yo! Opera website to find out more

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.


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