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www.operanow.co.uk October 2011 | £4.95

AT THE HEART OF THE OPERA WORLD

Why kids hate opera New York city focus Opera’s journey from stage to film Who’s hot in Scandinavia?

Divine Diva

ANNA NNA N NA NETREBKO WIN

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21 October – 5 November, 2011

“Of all the international festivals I have attended, Wexford Festival Opera is the warmest, most welcoming, and the one that provides the greatest sense of discovery.” — Brian Kellow, Features Editor Opera News

La cour de Célimène (1855) Ambroise Thomas 21, 27, 30 October, 3 November

Maria (1903)

Roman Statkowski 22, 28, 31 October, 4 November

Gianni di Parigi (1839)

Gaetano Donizetti 23, 29 October, 2, 5 November

Plus daytime Concerts, Recitals, Lectures and ShortWorks

Booking Now Open Pumeza Matshikiza in Wexford Festival Opera’s 2010 production of Hubička by Smetana. PHOTO © CLIVE BARDA/ARENAPAL

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Secure your seats. Become a Friend of the Festival today at

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20/09/2011 12:26:05


Presents

LA TRAVIATA Traditional staging in Italian with English Surtitles

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23-27 Nov 2011

Tickets from Ticketmaster outlets nationwide Buy online: www.ticketmaster.ie Tel. 24 hrs: 0818 719 377 Group Bookings 10+ (no booking fee) Tel: 01 677 7770 Tickets from €35 to €125 Telephone & Internet bookings subject to 12.5% s/c per ticket (max €5.95)/Agents €2.00 Producers

International Leisure & Arts

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Contents

26 32

38

46

62

I like singing opera the old-fashioned way Anna Netrebko

FRONT OF hOusE

MAiN sTAgE

7 EDiTORiAl A new era for Opera Now

26 cOVER FEATuRE Opera’s reigning diva Anna Netrebko shares a cheese sandwich and a few home truths with our Paris correspondent Francis Carlin

8 FEEDBAck 12 NEws & NOTEs James Levine 40 years at the Met | Domingo’s 40 years in Covent Garden | A new opera house for Oman

iN ThE wiNgs 22 whO’s hOT iN scANDiNAViA A focus on young talent: Norway’s Audun Iversen and Mari Eriksmoen; Sweden’s Daniel Johansson

6

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32 pOsTcARD FROM… New York – setting the trend for today’s opera world 38 OpERA FOR kiDs Can children be taught to love opera?

ThE cRiTicAl ViEw 42 FROM sTAgE TO scREEN The journey from theatre to film | Cinema screenings from the Royal Opera House 46 liFE wiTh My VOicE Swedish soprano Nina Stemme conquers Wagner 48 OpERA BluFF Become an instant expert on Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

51-66 liVE REViEws Joyce DiDonato as Cendrillon in London. Summer festival reports from the UK. New horizons for America’s top festivals. Plus new productions in Lyons, Brussels and Long Beach, California 67 OpERA NOw cluB Exclusive offers and competitions from the world of opera

73 – 77 SPOTLIGHT Opera Now’s iNTERNATiONAl guiDE to the launch of the 2011/12 opera season.

NEW in Spotlight: Opera on TV and in cinemas

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CONTENTS | October Issue 2011

57

Welcome O MULTIMEDIA 68 DVDS Latest Releases 72 AUDIOFILE Stylish storage for your music collection

BACK STAGE 78 GRAND FINALE The murky origins of opera’s ‘Fat Lady’

pera Now is proud to present the first of its new monthly editions. The magazine has been at the heart of the opera world for more than two decades. Now, as a monthly, we are in a better position to capture the increasingly excitable pulse of opera as it enters the fast lane of 21st-century cultural life. Our access to world-class opera has been transformed in less than a decade. For example, the Met in New York notched up more than 2.6 million ticket sales for its international opera screenings last year and has plans to reach 1,600 cinemas in 51 countries this season. It’s a ringing endorsement of opera’s ability to engage a mass audience across cultures. But who is this audience and how will it evolve? Can opera attract a new generation brought up on the excitements of Wii and the internet? For many children, opera can seem scarily adult and demanding. However, as Rosie Johnson relates in this issue (page 38) there’s no better way to introduce kids (even bolshie teenagers) to opera than to get them involved on stage. Children are entirely comfortable with stories told through singing and music: it’s a basic tool for learning. When kids participate in performances of opera, they learn camaraderie, self-expression and confidence. It can also mark the start of a rewarding and life-long love of a superb art form.

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e hope you enjoy receiving your monthly magazine, but don’t forget Opera Now’s online resources. Our website offers regularly updated news and reviews as well as season brochures from a range of leading opera companies that you can flick through on-screen.You can also buy ON as a digital edition or app from pocketmags.com and the iTunes app store, giving you access to our global coverage of opera at the touch of a keypad...

COVER PHOTO Anna Netrebko by Dario Acosta

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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Ashutosh Khandekar 7

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FRONT OF HOUSE | Feedback

Letters to the Editor I read with interest Mark Glanville’s article ‘Barbarians at the gates?’ in your August/ September issue (page 118). I wouldn’t get worried about any slippery slope leading to the end of opera as a serious art form. I don’t think Popstar to Operastar will do that. I worry more about self-indulgent opera directors whose ill-conceived productions put genuine fans off the art form – myself included. Mary Stanton, Tyne & Wear, UK

Like Mark Glanville, I was worried about the way Popstar to Operastar turned the art of singing into a media circus. My main concern was that contestants were ‘bigged up’ by the judges to seem much better than they actually were. The standard of singing was in fact appalling, yet the judges were willing to give credit where it wasn’t due. This gave completely the wrong impression to the audience of what great singing is really all about. At least on programmes such as Pop Idol and The X Factor, the judges are highly critical of talentless impostors. Bring on Simon Cowell. Edward Storey, via email

EMAil operanow.feedback@rhinegold.co.uk

EDITORIAL & DESIGN Editor-in-Chief Ashutosh Khandekar Contributing Editors Francis Carlin, Tom Sutcliffe, Robert Thicknesse Editors-at-Large Ingrid Gäfvert (Europe), Juliet Giraldi (Europe), Karyl Charna Lynn (USA) Deputy Editor Owen Mortimer

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In the Spotlight section of the recent August/September edition you compare Pesaro in Italy to Blackpool with good weather. I consider myself to have a reasonable sense of humour but I find this comparison completely ridiculous. As a regular visitor to Pesaro for the Rossini Opera Festival, I quite frankly consider this an insult to Pesaro and its musicproud inhabitants. There is not a rollercoaster or slot machine in sight and I doubt if the Pesaro tourist board would be very happy to be compared with Blackpool. Andrew Fiori, Edgware, UK The Editor replies: Pesaro (unlike Blackpool) offers world-class music-making during the annual opera festival held in its attractive, historic town centre. But as a seaside resort, its reputation in Italy is unpretentious and slightly rough around the edges. Rather like Blackpool.

I was interested in the August/ September issue’s focus on small opera companies where new talent is nurtured, and I would be grateful if I could share with your readers what

was, for me and my friends, the operatic discovery of the year. Having seen an advert for Dorset Opera, I bought tickets for their summer festival. I set off with a party of opera-lovers with perhaps muted enthusiasm – a little known festival in the depths of the West Country was an unknown quantity. The first opera we saw in Bryanston School’s accommodating Coade Theatre was Puccini’s Tosca, which took off as soon as the brilliant Phillip Thomas raised his baton, and the best orchestra that I have heard in a very long time started to play. It was magical. Dame Josephine Barstow, who has sung Tosca so many times around the world, turned her talents to directing for the first time, presenting us with a traditional production where the acting was deeply felt and convincing. Lee Bissett, whom I remember representing Scotland in Cardiff Singer of the World, was magnificent. One of our party, an avid opera-goer, said Lee gave the best interpretation of Tosca, she had ever seen. Tenor Adriano Graziani sang his heart out as a mellifluous Cavaradossi, and young New

ONliNE www.twitter.com/operanow www.facebook.com/operanow

RHINEGOLD PUBLISHING LTD Publisher: Derek Smith Managing Director Mark Owens Managing Editor Keith Clarke Office Manager Lisa O’Donnell Head of Advertising Myles Lester Advertising Executives Peter Reynolds and Amy Driscoll Head of Marketing & Design Rebecca Ward Murphy Production Manager Nick Salt Marketing Assistant Frances Innes-Hopkins

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Zealander Philip Rhodes was a strong Scarpia. Next, we saw Verdi’s Otello, with the second of two casts. Anna Gregory’s production was also traditional and the marvellous orchestra was this time conducted by Robin Stapleton. The evening’s Otello was the huge-voiced Howard Haskin and his Desdemona, Australian soprano Catherine Bouchier, who got completely under the skin of this poignant role. Luca Grassi as Iago was the personification of evil and jealousy. The lovely young voices in the chorus of both operas were a treat. What an opportunity for young singers to have a concentrated two weeks of training with chorusmaster Nicho las Mansfield. Through your pages, we would like to thank Roderic Kennedy, the general and artistic director of Dorset Opera Festival, and send our heartiest congratulations to everyone concerned for giving us an experience that has changed our view of the UK’s unsung opera companies. How about a longer Festival next year? Margrette R Jones, via email

pOsT The Editor, Opera Now, 241 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8TF The presence of advertisements in Opera Now implies no endorsement of the products or services offered. We do our best to avoid inaccuracies but if you believe that an error has been made please contact the editor straight away without taking any other action and he will put the matter right to the best of his abilities. Printed in the UK by Wyndeham Grange Ltd, Butts Road, Southwick, West Sussex, BN42 4EJ. Distributed by Comag Specialist Division. Tel +44 (0)1895 433800

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19/09/2011 18:07


Ruddigore Gilbert & Sullivan 1887

‘This is one of the great Gilbert & Sullivan stagings... worthy of cult status in years to come’ The Guardian

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CADOGAN HALL

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa with Julian Reynolds, piano

Thursday 3 November, 7.30pm

The opera legend returns to London’s Cadogan Hall with a very special recital programme, including invited guest artists from her own Foundation, dedicated to nurturing the talents of the future.

Programme:

Handel

Poulenc

Giulio Cesare – Non disperar, chi sa?; Se pietà di me non senti; Piangerò la sorte mia

Carlos Guastavino La rosa y el sauce; Qué linda la madreselva; El clavel del aire blanco; Canción al árbol del olvido

Jake Heggie Masterclass – Monologue

Puccini

Das Rosenband; Cäcilie

Sole e amore; Morire

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Debussy Romance Hahn À Chloris Fauré Après un rêve Strauss Ständchen; Morgen;

Voyage à Paris; Hôtel; Les chemins de l’amour

MOTEZUMA Antonio Vivaldi

Vito Priante | Mary-Ellen Nesi | Laura Cherici Franziska Gottwald | Theodora Baka | Gemma Bertagnolli

IL COMPLESSO BAROCCO Alan Curtis EIGHT CONCERT SERIES 19 OCTOBER 2011 — 16 MAY 2012

The Tallis Scholars

The Eric Whitacre Singers

Magnificat Wednesday 19 October 2011, 7.30pm

Inspirations Wednesday 1 February 2012, 7.30pm

The Wellensian Consort

New York Polyphony

‘Choir of the Year 2010’ Blessed Cecilia Thursday 24 November 2011, 7.30pm

Tudor City Wednesday 21 March 2012, 7.30pm

The Armonico Consort

Bach: A Beautiful Mind Thursday 19 April 2012, 7.30pm

A German Christmas Story Wednesday 7 December 2011, 7.30pm

The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge What Sweeter Music? Friday 9 December 2011, 7.30pm

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Directed by Stefano Vizioli Recorded at Teatro Comunale, Ferrara, 2008

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20/09/2011 12:31:30


NEws & NOTEs

PREVIEWS, NEWS AND EVENTS IN THE OPERA WORLD VISIT WWW.OPERANOW.CO.UK FOR UPDATES

wExFORD FEsTiVAl TuRNs 60

By Tom Sutcliffe

Claudia Boyle as La Comtesse in Ambroise Thomas’ La Cour de Célimène at this year’s Wexford Festival. Photo by Maxwell Photography

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he Wexford Festival celebrates 60 years of serving up little-known works from the byways of opera, when it launches its new season on 21 October. Founded in 1951 by local opera enthusiasts in Ireland, the festival gathered critical acclaim from the very outset with a focus on operas that were obscure at the time, some of which have gone on to become much more familiar (such as Bellini’s La Sonnambula and I Puritani,Verdi’s Ernani and Massenet’s Thaïs). The American conductor David Agler, artistic director of the festival since 2005, has chosen to make up for Wexford’s neglect of modern operas in his programming. With an eye to saving costs, he has also set up coproduction deals with American festivals such as Saint Louis and Glimmerglass. 12

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In 2009, Agler presided over the inauguration of a fabulous new theatre for the festival. As Ireland’s first ever purposebuilt opera house, it stands as a monument to a reckless period of Irish extravagance, now vanished. There’s no question that the opera house is in the wrong place – if the aim was to make opera matter to the Irish public, it should have been built in Dublin. But the Irish government that backed the new Wexford opera house so generously, did so because the festival was a winner, and still is capable of being one. The traditional emphasis on the ancient, rare and unknown is back. The festival has cut out some Mondays and Tuesdays, instead of running on nightly after it starts. But the new theatre is harder to fill and financial realities in Ireland cannot be ignored. So the old recipe

may well be for safety first. But I am thrilled to be getting the chance to hear the admired and quite often revived Polish opera Maria by Roman Statkowski, who died in 1925 and was much influenced by Russian and German opera - Poland was part of Russia till almost the end of his life. With its Ukrainian folk elements and its freshness and unpretentiousness, this tragic tale of love denied could well be the hit of the year. French composer Ambroise Thomas is only known for his Hamlet and for Mignon, but most of his work was comic opera – of which La Cour de Célimène (all about a proto-feminist revolutionary determine to show that women can be as promiscuous as men) is one. Donizetti has also been a regular Wexford fixture, and Gianni di Parigi (not to be

confused with Gianni di Calais from two years earlier) is very likely to both entertain and impress. As usual, it is very difficult to know what to expect from the cast and production teams at Wexford: this is a festival where tomorrow’s stars cut their teeth. But in the new opera house, professionalism and imaginative economy are at a premium. I will be on my 26th visit since 1972, and others in the audience have certainly been more regular attendees than that. Wexford is a unique festival, following a recipe that can be found nowhere else in Europe or America. The programme for this 60th festival promises well and surely deserves plaudits for just happening at all after the Irish financial meltdown of recent years. www.wexfordfestival.com

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19/09/2011 18:07


NEWS & NOTES | October Issue 2011

wAshiNgTON NATiONAl OpERA iN kENNEDy cENTER MERgER By Karyl Charna Lynn

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ashington National Opera (WNO) has ceased to exist as an independent entity, joining the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as an affiliate. With a debt of $11m and on the brink of bankruptcy, the WNO had no other option except to close its doors (see ON Nov/Dec 2010 Survival Course). On a positive note, the affiliation is a win-win situation for both organizations. WNO is guaranteed long-term financial security as part of the fiscally sound Kennedy Center with a large infrastructure and the economies of scale that brings. The Center benefits by being able to offer opera (along with its National Symphony Orchestra) programming, and by being able to incorporate opera into its international festivals. Led by Michael Kaiser, former head of the Royal Opera and former trustee of the WNO, the Kennedy Center opened its doors in 1971. It houses nine theatres and stages making it America’s busiest performing arts facility. ‘This affiliation will allow greater possibilities for opera productions in the multiple venues throughout the Center,’ said Kaiser.

cOVENT gARDEN cElEBRATEs wiTh DOMiNgO

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he Royal Opera House is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Plácido Domingo’s Covent Garden debut with two special gala evenings on 27 and 30 October. The tenor, who turned 70 earlier this year, will be performing on both occasions. The programme brings together individual acts from three major works by Verdi and Domingo will be adding another baritone role, that of Rigoletto, to the Simon Boccanegra that he has already sung

in leading opera houses around the world. This is thought to be the 137th role in his repertoire Domingo appears alongside a group of leading singers assembled specially for the occasion, including Marina Poplavskaya (who recently sang Amelia to his Boccanegra at the Opera House); Italian tenor Francesco Meli in the role of the Duke in Rigoletto; and Georgian bass Paata Burchuladze. Music director Antonio Pappano takes charge in the pit. Domingo’s Covent Garden debut in 1971, as Cavaradossi opposite the Tosca of Gwyneth Jones. Photo – Donald Southern/ROH

lEADiNg TENOR iN ROAD TRAgEDy

I Salvatore Licitra: 1968 to 2011

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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talian tenor Salvatore Licitra has died at the age of 43 after suffering severe injuries in a scooter accident in Sicily on 27 August. Doctors believe that Licitra lost control of his vehicle following a cerebral haemorrhage, sustaining further head and chest injuries as he crashed into a wall. He was immediately

taken to the Garibaldi Hospital in Catania, Sicily, but never regained consciousness. Licitra first gained worldwide fame as a last-minute replacement for Pavarotti in Tosca at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 2002, and in Italy he was dubbed ‘the new Pavarotti’. Born in Switzerland in 1968, he studied at the Arrigo

Boito Conservatory in Parma before making his La Scala debut in 1999. ‘Licitra carried the tradition of Italian song into the opera house, through his natural feeling for the relationship between music and words,’ said a spokesperson for La Scala in Milan on learning of the tenor’s death.‘A decade of his personal history was interwoven with our theatre.’

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20/09/2011 12:32:16


NEWS & NOTES | October Issue 2011

MET chiEF cONDucTOR cANcEls All pERFORMANcEs

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he Metropolitan Opera’s music director James Levine has cancelled all his autumn conducting dates following emergency surgery for a damaged vertebra. Levine was recovering from a previous operation when he fell and injured himself in Vermont. The Met has promoted Fabio Luisi to the role of Principal Conductor until Levine returns. He will cover most of Levine’s scheduled performances, including leading new productions of Don Giovanni and Siegfried. ‘While Jim’s latest setback is hugely disappointing, he joins me in welcoming Fabio’s larger role,’ said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager. ‘I am very pleased that Fabio was able to rearrange his fall schedule, and I appreciate the understanding of those companies with whom he was scheduled to conduct.’

However, several of the companies affected are clearly angered by Luisi’s peremptory appointment. Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera is considering legal action against the Met after scrambling to replace Luisi for its forthcoming production of Elektra: ‘This unpleasant affair damages the world of classical music and opera,’ said a spokesperson. Luisi previously stepped in to replace Levine in April 2010, conducting three performances of Berg’s Lulu and four of Puccini’s Tosca. He was subsequently appointed as the company’s Principal Guest Conductor. Levine hopes to recover in time for next year’s new production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung (premiering 27 January 2012), as well as for the full cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen in April and May.

James Levine: forced to cancel after emergency surgery. Photo by Koichi Miura/Met Opera

Winner: Baritone Ben McAteer. Photo by Brian Morrison

FiRsT Ni OpERA cOMpETiTiON wiNNER ANNOuNcED

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aritone Ben McAteer has won this year’s inaugural NI Opera Festival of Voice competition at Glenarm, Northern Ireland. His prize includes a concert appearance alongside Dame Kiri Te Kanawa during this year’s Belfast Festival at Queen’s. Jury member Kathryn Harries, director of the National Opera Studio, told Opera Now: ‘There was no difficulty in choosing Ben as the winner, not just because he has a wonderful voice, but also because he sings with a positive and mature approach. His intention is always very clear, and he is able to translate that maturity into his sound.’ The 23-year-old McAteer, who is studying at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama, also recently won the 2011 Les Azuriales Ozone Young Artists’ Competition

Ben McAteer can be heard in concert with Kiri Te Kanawa at Belfast’s Ulster Hall on 30 October 2011. Visit www.belfastfestival.com

QuEEN sONJA wiNNERs ANNOuNcED iN OslO

T

he 2011 Queen Sonja International Music Competition has been won by Donghwan Lee, a 31-year-old baritone from Korea. He was one of six young singers who took part in the final at Oslo Opera House with the Norwegian Opera Orchestra under conductor Eivind Gullberg Jensen. Lee was awarded a diploma and prize of €20,000 by Queen Sonja. The Competition’s highest ranking Norwegian contestant was mezzo-

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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soprano Ingeborg Gillebo, who came second overall and received a special scholarship worth €6,000. Members of the jury included singers Ileana Cotrubas, Sir John Tomlinson and Siegfried Jerusalem together with senior figures from Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, BBC Cardiff Singer of the World, La Monnaie and De Nederlandse Opera. The Queen Sonja International Music Competition first took place in 1988 for pianists and has been a

Donghwan Lee with Queen Sonja and executive Director Lars Flæten. Photo by Johannes Granseth

biennial singing competition since 2005. Applications this year were received from over 200 singers in 43 countries worldwide.

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NEWS & NOTES | October Issue 2011

glyNDEBOuRNE AppOiNTs NEw Music DiREcTOR The 29-year-old conductor Robin Ticciati has been named as the next music director of Glyndebourne Festival, succeeding Vladimir Jurowski in January 2014. He will be the seventh music director in the company’s 77-year history. The British-born conductor, who directed Glyndebourne’s Touring Opera from 2007 to 2009, said, ‘If there’s one thing I want to do in my time at Glyndebourne, it’s to find more ways of bringing opera to people under 30. It changed my whole life, and I want to share it.’ Ticciati is also the principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Bamberger Symphoniker. He recently conducted Le nozze di Figaro at the Salzburg Festival and will make his Metropolitan Opera debut in December this year with Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel.

Robin Ticciati: opera ‘changed my life’. Photo by Chris Christodoulou

OpERA gOEs uNDERgROuND iN NEw lONDON cluB By Peter Reynolds

O

n 20 July, a dark cavern underneath London Bridge train station was lit up by two of classical music’s brightest young talents at the London launch of Yellow Lounge, a new classical club night hosted by record label Decca. Firmly established in Berlin for a number of years and recently launched in Amsterdam, the Yellow Lounge aims to use a variety of different and unusual urban spaces to challenge the view that classical music is an elitist endeavour. ‘Classical music is too good to be locked up in the concert hall,’ says Mike Bartlett, head of Decca Classics UK. ‘There are great spaces out there and a new setting opens your mind to see and hear things differently.Yellow Lounge is a chance for people to explore and to be curious about music they may not have experienced before.’ The entertainment certainly did not disappoint, with live performances from classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglic and internationally acclaimed soprano Danielle de Niese. Karadaglic performed a delightful and impressive 20-minute solo set.

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De Niese then took to the stage with 11-piece Baroque ensemble Arcangelo, with the two performing an encore together to finish. De Niese was on top form and clearly in her element, loving every second of performing in such a close, intimate environment. As one might expect her set consisted of mostly Handel opera and some oratorio, but also included a couple of very charming Dowland lute songs. The highlight of the evening for me was her rendition of Dido’s lament; sublimely sung and so fitting to the dark, oppressive venue with the faint rumble of trains overhead. Before, between and after the live performances, ‘beefed-up’ classical music pumped from the speakers, accompanied by curious video installations projected onto the black bare-brick walls of this somewhat labyrinthine nightclub. Other than the rather varied clientele – from hipster students to old ladies in opera capes, and everything in between – this could have been a night out in any other London nightclub, particularly given the queue at the bar!

Yellow Lounge events will take place in Salzburg on 28 October and London during November. Visit www.yellowlounge.co.uk

Doing it in the dark: Danielle de Niese at the Yellow Lounge. Photo by Oliver Krug

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20/09/2011 12:32:59


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20/09/2011 16:14:46


NEWS & NOTES | October Issue 2011

puTTiNg DRAMA iNTO ThE pAssiON A new staged version of Bach’s St Matthew Passion has been commissioned by Vocal Futures, the charity founded last year by Suzi Digby (Lady Eatwell) to nurture a new, young audience for classical music. Lady Eatwell, who conducts the production with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, talks to director Patrick Kinmonth about how he will set about putting one of the greatest of choral works onto the stage. Suzi Digby: Does the fact that I asked you to direct and design a choral masterpiece as a fully staged production present particular challenges? Patrick Kinmonth: As a designer of sets and costumes for opera over the last 20 years, I have never tried to design an oratorio, let alone direct one! Designing Semele for English National Opera was a start I suppose, but that’s an opera in all but name – Handel probably called it an oratorio for political reasons. The Matthew Passion fascinates me as a piece of drama, because of its contemplative aspect.The story is told with the assumption that we already know what happens, so the action in the work is almost a surface or a background. Meanwhile, the music – and especially the arias – takes us between the stories into the deepest ocean of human emotion, with all the grace and mystery of a great whale drifting down into the dark.

I hope my production will do more than just illustrate the surface. It’s not about staging the crucifixion, but about trying to find a poetic series of images and gestures to take us into the core of the work’s emotional world. I’m playing with the essential materials of the Passion: bread, wood, metal, water, wine, vinegar, blood, thorn and flesh. The set and seats are made of wood and metal and the audience have to feel that they are a physical part of the set… being there should be a ritual that makes you feel how wonderful it is to be alive, in the presence of something as miraculous as Bach’s music, which seems beyond human comprehension.

SD: Willard White as Christ is the centre of the piece in my mind.

SD: You are working on a new translation of the text. How is it going? PK: I’m working the poet Jessica D’Este – we’re trying to combine the sonority of the German original with the simplest modern, demotic English. It is a huge

Performances 28, 29, 30 November at 6:30pm, at Ambika P3, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS. To book tickets visit www.vocalfutures.org

This month sees the UK premiere of the award winning Serbian chamber opera, Narcissus & Echo, by the Belgrade-born composer Anja Djordjevic, with a libretto by Maria Stojanovic.

Djordjevic’s music draws on Baroque structures and gives them a contemporary twist, in a score that won her the prestigious Stevan Mokranjac prize in Serbia.

The new chamber opera, performed in a new English translation, draws on a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses of the nymph Echo who falls in love with Narcissus, who has eyes only for his own reflection.

The UK tour will be launched at The Lowry, Manchester (5-7 October) and continues to the Theatre in the Mill, Bradford (13-15 October) and London’s Little Opera House at the King’s Head in Islington (19-20 October).

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challenge, but judging by the chorales that we’ve rendered into conversational poetry, we seem to be on the right track.We are using the German intermingled with the English. For example the first chorus starts in English and slowly adds German, so that you understand the meaning, then returns to the original sound of the German word.

PK: Casting Willard, who is obviously much older than Christ was when he died, suggested the idea to work with him as alternately God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the production.The rest of the cast draw on the newest generation of star singers at present in London.

uk pREMiERE OF sERBiAN OpERA

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

Eryl Ellis’s set designs for the St Matthew Passion in Ambika P3, an disused concrete laboratory in Central London

Award-winning composer Anja Djordjevic

www.thelowry.com www.brad.ac.uk/theatre www.kingsheadtheatre.com

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19/9/11 14:42:47 20/09/2011 12:34:22


IN THE WINGS | Talent spotting

Artist of the month

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orwegian-born Audun Iversen is making himself quite at home in Britain these days. This spring saw the 34-year-old baritone make his Covent Garden debut as Albert in Werther opposite Rolando Villazón, and he’ll be appearing as Marcello in La bohème and as Lescaut in Massenet’s Manon at the same house this season. Last season also saw Iversen on the road around the UK as Don Giovanni with Glyndebourne Touring, and he’s back at the Glyndebourne Festival next summer as the Count in a new production of The Marriage of Figaro. Meanwhile, this autumn finds him at English National Opera singing the title role in a new production of Eugene Onegin directed by Deborah Warner. ‘I find Onegin an exciting character,’ he says. ‘He’s a blank canvas that directors and singers can paint in so many ways. So far, he’s my favourite among the roles I sing.’ Iversen has had several outings as Onegin, including a new production at the Royal Opera in Copenhagen in 2009 directed by Peter Konwitschny, and another

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on tour in Europe with the Bolshoi Opera last summer. His sonorous voice combines a rich lower register with a free top and a shimmering and flexible vibrato throughout. It’s just perfect for Mozart, and it appears that he’s already stepping into some big shoes: ‘I was just dumbstruck when I was singing the Count in a revival of a vintage production of Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro at Deutsche Oper in Berlin and finding the name-tag Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sewn into one of the overcoats I was wearing!’ Like his legendary predecessor, Audun treasures the Lieder repertoire. The voice, however, also holds the promise of more dramatic things to come, and the singer says that he is looking forward to tackling Verdi’s mighty baritone roles. With his commanding stage presence and strong acting instincts, Verdi’s overcoats are bound to fit him every bit as well as Mozart’s when the moment comes. ENO’s Eugene Onegin runs at the London Coliseum from 12 November to 3 December. www.eno.org

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19/09/2011 18:08


IN THE WINGS | Talent spotting

Who’s hot?

Ingrid Gäfvert turns the spotlight on new talent from Scandinavia

Mari Eriksmoen

Audun Iversen. Photo by Tonje Eliasson

The 28-year-old Norwegian coloraturasoprano Mari Eriksmoen is one of the brightest operatic sensations on export from a nation that is currently producing topquality young singers in abundance. Mari’s voice combines rich resonance with crystalclear, precise delivery. Her considerable talent was recognised during her studies at the Opera Academy in Copenhagen, where she graduated in summer 2010. She was one of the young singers invited to sing at the opening ceremony in the new opera house in Oslo in spring 2008. Her big break came last autumn in Vienna when she was called in to replace a pregnant Diana Damrau as Zerbinetta in a new production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos at the Theater an der Wien.The performance earned her rave reviews, and the coming season will see her return to Vienna to sing Euridice in L´Orfeo and Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann.

30-year-old Swedish tenor Daniel Johansson graduated from the Opera College in Stockholm in summer 2010. Already much sought-after in Swe den, he appeared last season as a sincere and vocally impressive Faust at the Folkoperan in Stockholm. He also made his debut as Rodolfo, the romantic hero of Puccini’s La bohème, at the Royal Opera in the Swedish capital. The role, in fact, is still a little heavy for this singer, but his beautiful, lyrical tenor voice has definite dramatic potential if handled with care. The timbre recalls that of his legendary countryman Jussi Björling, with a golden clarity that expands and blooms with ease in the upper range. The singer is about to begin a twoyear contract with the Norwegian Opera. One of his first roles will be Tamino in a new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute in Oslo this autumn.

Daniel Johansson Credit: Emelie Joenniemi

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19/09/2011 18:08


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Staged works and performance opportunities to give you experience using the theatrical skills we teach you as well as the opportunity to perform the broad repertoire we cover in our training. Find out more about the excellent teaching and wealth of opportunities you can gain by studying with us: visit our website and apply via CUKAS.

www.bcu.ac.uk/conservatoire 024_ON_OCT.indd 24

20/09/2011 12:35:06


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This wonderful 34-CD box set, due to be released on 10 October 2011, features all ten of Wagner’s operas conducted by internationally renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim. Worth over £100, it is the perfect addition to any Wagnerlover’s CD collection. Courtesy of Warner Classics, Opera Now has one box set to give away to a very lucky reader. ARtIsts INcludE: Jane Eaglen · Peter seiffert · Waltraud Meier · René Pape · Siegfried Jerusalem · John tomlinson · José van Dam · Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra · Choruses of the Deutsche Oper, the staatsoper, the Berlin Staatskapelle and Bayreuth

To enTer The compeTiTion, email your name and full posTal address To compeTiTions@rhinegold.co.uk Entry deadline 31 October 2011. Entries supplied after the closing date will not be counted. Any entries supplied without a full postal address will not be eligible to win. No cash alternative will be offered for the CDs. Please note: email address may be used for marketing purposes.

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20/09/2011 10:28:57

Opera Now Oct 2011_Opera Now Oct 2011 12/09/2011 11:29 Page 1

15 March to 24 April 2012 Laurence Cummings Musical Director Handel Riccardo primo Handel Il pastor fido 1712 version Handel Messiah 1742 Dublin version Bach St Matthew Passion Handel Singing Competition 2012 Hasse Cajo Fabricio

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20/09/2011 12:36:05


MAIN STAGE | Anna Netrebko

BECAUSE SHE SHE’S S

IT

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19/09/2011 18:08


MAIN STAGE | Anna Netrebko

Anna Netrebko has been hailed as opera’s reigning diva of today, bringing a dark, dangerous glamour to the roles she sings on stage. Francis Carlin dares to interrupt her during a haute-couture shopping spree in Paris.

Š Esther Haase / DG

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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MAIN STAGE | Anna Netrebko

‘D

on’t worry, she’ll probably be good fun,’ said a fellow critic when I told him that I’d been asked to interview Anna Netrebko. Perhaps, but I was still nervous about meeting ‘the reigning new diva of the early 21st century’, as Associated Press has it. The fact that she had very rarely been heard in Paris only increased the mystique. I was advised that Netrebko has expensive tastes, so a branch of an upmarket tearoom in the Rue des Grands Augustins was the chosen rendez-vous, just round the corner from where she was staying. I ordered my lapsang and waited for the diva to make an entrance. But then came the last-minute drama.The Parisian summer was beset by non-stop torrential rain, and the area round Notre Dame was teeming with sodden tourists. My phone rang and a rather military voice delivered instructions, ‘This is Anna Netrebko. I can’t find a taxi!’ My heart sank: not only not there, but also incapable of walking the short distance from her flat. How diva-like can you get? Actually, I was being unfair. It transpired that Netrebko was in ultra chic Avenue Montaigne a few kilometres away, seeing an haute couture gown. Half an hour later, my mobile rang again, this time a slightly less martial voice appealing for help. In keeping with Parisian taxi-driver ethics, whereby passengers should know exactly where they are going or face the consequences, Netrebko had been dumped in a street nowhere near our rendez-vous. I went to the rescue. Marching down the street was a woman in leather jacket, loose-fitting turquoise dress and what looked like cowboy boots. Not very diva, but quite forthright in her opening salvo. When I asked her how it felt for her and her husband, Uruguayan baritone Erwin Schrott, to be called opera’s answer to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, she looked surprised and shrugged it off, ‘Really? I had no idea we had that reputation.’ Nor is she having any truck with ragsto-riches tales that she started out as a cleaning lady at the Mariinsky Opera in

St Petersburg before making a breakthrough: ‘That’s just journalists. I was a student at the Conservatory and did some cleaning to make money. Lots of young singers do it. You know, I’m really not interested in that label anymore. I wasn’t poor. My father was a geologist and my mother a civil engineer and I had a very happy childhood. It was very clear from the beginning that I had to perform. So cleaning? Forget it!’

T

he mood softens when the food arrives. Netrebko had ordered a toasted cheese sandwich without the ham that normally goes with it in France, ignoring the look of disdain on the waiter’s face. When it arrives, I see to my alarm that it comes with cucumber – erroneously labelled in that day’s news as the source of a life-threatening virus. Anna quips: ‘Better to die from cucumbers than lung cancer!’ and the ice is broken.

Every woman has to present the “full package”. You don’t have to be beautiful, but you have to find your style.

As Anna Bolena at the Met. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

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MAIN STAGE | Anna Netrebko

As Manon at Covent Garden. The production goes to the Met this season. Photo by Bill Cooper

S

he describes herself as a traditional character. ‘I like singing in opera the old-fashioned way. I have nothing against crossover – I’ve occasionally done some crossover projects with big concerts but it’s not a major focus.’ On the other hand, she’s very keen on the idea of opera in cinema.‘Peter Gelb, boss of the Met, was the one who really pushed the idea. He’s doing a great job. But not every work can be seen that close up. After all, opera singers are not necessarily very attractive at that distance. All that effort [pulls alarming face].’ I try to focus on her approach to her image.‘Image alone will not help you, but it does no harm if you look good. That sums it up. Every woman has to present the “full package”. You don’t have to be beautiful, but you have to find your style. When it comes to productions, I insist on looking at the costumes ahead of rehearsals as they can affect my performance.’ What if the dress is not to her taste? ‘Well,’ she says triumphantly but selfmockingly, ‘I’m doing Anna Bolena again, this time at the Met. I haven’t seen the dress yet as it’s a new production and if I don’t like it they will have to change it. I’m the queen and I decide!’ ‘My video blog is also part of the overall deal in terms of how the world sees me. That’s why I answer very different questions, including talking about beauty products.’ I tell her the story of a friend who

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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many years ago on the same day spotted Rudolf Nureyev in the Louvre and Kiri Te Kanawa shopping in the Monoprix supermarket on Avenue de l’Opéra for a T-shirt for her son. Each location struck us as an appropriate reflection of each star’s private life. So where would Anna Netrebko be found in an ordinary moment? ‘You will not find me in Monoprix. You will find me in Avenue Montaigne. I don’t like cheap things. Especially as I get older. When you’re young you have no choice. Look, the difference between designer goods and cheap things is huge.You can tell. And they last and stay in fashion for some time. And I wouldn’t be in the Louvre either. Growing up in St Petersburg meant I was surrounded by culture and palaces.’ Netrebko told one of her fans on her website that her favourite role in opera belongs to a tenor: the angst-ridden gambler Hermann in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. Does that mean she might be tempted to take on Lisa in the same opera? She slips into American slang that I jokingly suggest she’s picked up from stage hands at the Met: ‘No! It's far too heavy. I can sing some heavy roles but really don’t need to break my balls to get into the Queen of Spades. A role like Anna Bolena is worth it for me – it pays off. It would be different if I had been born a natural dramatic soprano – then I could sing Tchaikovsky’s music.’ 4p30

You will not find me in Monoprix. You will find me in Avenue Montaigne. I don’t like cheap things.

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MAIN STAGE | Anna Netrebko

Photo by Dario Acosta

Clearly, Tchaikovsky is a formidable challenge for Netrebko and she tells me why. ‘I avoided Tchaikovsky completely for many years. It’s the most difficult music to sing. My teacher always said, “Tchaikovsky is always too early, too early, too early... too late” – it never sits right for my voice.’ But what of her impressive 2009 Salzburg concert of Tchaikovsky and RimskyKorsakov songs? And do recitals represent a new development in her career now that she’s 39? ‘The songs came very naturally. I’ll be doing the same programme at Carnegie Hall. I enjoy recitals. It’s completely different. You have to be grown up, have something to say and you have to have attained maturity. I am now older and I find the time is right. Also the switch in technique is not harmful.’

T

I can sing some heavy roles but really don’t need to break my balls to perform Tchaikovsky.

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he future for Netrebko seems to be a move away from the lighter bel canto and French fare to meatier roles. I cannot help registering surprise when she announces Leonora in Verdi’s Trovatore. ‘Yes, it’s my next big role. Probably nobody can sing it today apart from Sondra Radvanosky, but it’s not that heavy really. It’s just that Verdi has you up there on a high C and then plunging low. I’ll be doing it at the Berlin Staatsoper with Barenboim and then at Covent Garden.’ The next surprise is her intention to have a stab at Verdi’s formidable Lady Macbeth sometime in the future. ‘Yes, it’s heavy but I want to sing it. This came to me when I was singing Bolena as I found it very similar in mood. But for now the Lady has to wait.’ In a lighter vein, but equally off her usual track, is Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin, scheduled for Dresden in 2015. ‘Erwin and I live in Vienna but I don’t really speak German. I understand it but I’ll have to apply myself for Elsa. If I’m going to do Wagner – and I can only do one (Lohengrin) – it has to be with Christian Thielemann.When I first saw him conducting I fell in love with him.’ And Richard Strauss? ‘I don’t know. It’s not because it’s Renée Fleming’s territory. She’s fantastic in it, but that sort of thing wouldn’t stop me. For the time being, the language would put me off. For Wagner I can break balls, but not for Strauss. My interest in Strauss is in the songs. That guy knew how to write for sopranos.’ Does she see herself as part of a new Russian trend away from bold and brassy singing that goes for volume at the expense

ANNA NETREBKO’S DIARY

2011 september, October

 The title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena Metropolitan Opera, New York October

 Recital at Carnegie Hall, New York December

 As Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at La Scala, Milan

2012 February 2012

 The title role in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena Metropolitan Opera, New York March, April 2012

 The title role in Massenet’s Manon at the Metropolitan Opera, New York May 2012

 Concert at The Musikverein, Vienna, with Daniel Barenboim May 2012

 As Giulietta in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Bavarian State Opera, Munich

of phrasing and intonation? ‘Well, my voice is naturally round, though perhaps a little too dark for my kind of soprano. But I can still hold my own. I’m very thankful to my Russian teacher. She gave me the technique to help me survive with a big orchestra.’ It’s time to wrap up. How would she like to be remembered? As a top, crowd-pulling super star famous for warbling in difficult positions? ‘No! Now every opera singer does that sort of thing, so it’s not fun anymore. No, I want to be remembered as a nice person.’ And, just as my fellow critic had suggested, no doubt as good fun too, whether joking about her husband:‘Russians find it very easy to pick up French. I even told Erwin my French was better than his even though I don’t speak it and he does!’; or delivering a marvellously funny coda on her new ‘exclusive’ recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon: ‘I can still sing for EMI. They might be competitors but they have to get on. One opera singer might be with one label, one from another, who cares? In any case, we’re all going to hell with this recording business!’

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20/09/2011 12:37:00

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MAIN STAGE | Postcard from New York

POSTCARD FROM

NEw yORk By Dan Booth

For a city associated with culture at its most cutting edge, New York’s operatic tastes have been surprisingly conservative.

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or more than a century the Metropolitan Opera (founded in 1880) was synonymous with the city’s moneyed elite, mounting lavish productions generously supported by wealthy patrons and featuring top international singers. Meanwhile, New York City Opera was founded in 1943 as a counterbalance to the Met’s highbrow remit, bringing affordable large-scale opera within the grasp of ordinary New Yorkers. This honourable mission has had its fare share of artistic success, but the company has also been dogged by financial problems that threaten its very existence.

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MAIN STAGE | Postcard from New York

METROpOliTAN OpERA

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he first Metropolitan Opera House launched its inaugural season in 1883 with Gounod’s Faust.This opulent theatre was established by New York’s new rich in reaction to the highly exclusive Academy Opera, a bastion of the city’s so-called ‘Knickerbocker Aristocracy’, made up of old establishment families of Dutch descent. From the outset, the Met has been a symbol of New Yorkers’ social ambitions, beginning with the patronage of prominent 19th-century industrialists and entrepreneurs such as the Roosevelts, Astors and Vanderbilts. The Met has never shaken off its association with status and money. In a cultural environment where state subsidy is minimal, the need to generate income is paramount in order to survive. So the opera’s fortunes are intimately linked with New York’s economic health. The institution almost collapsed after the Great Depression and during the war years; but the firm artistic hand of the Canadian tenor Edward Johnson, general manager from 1935 to 1950, and the establishment of the Metropolitan Opera Guild to raise money for the ailing enterprise, meant that by the 1950s, the opera house was once again on a healthy footing.

The opening in 1966 of the Met’s current home, a modernist theatre in the Lincoln Center on New York’s arty Upper West Side, expanded the audience capacity to 3,750, which meant that for the first time New Yorkers were able to buy affordable seats in their city’s premier cultural venue. However, topprice tickets in the orchestra stalls and parterre boxes still retail at between $300 to $400, and the recent gala opening for the Met’s new production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena (starring Anna Netrebko) saw tickets in the super-posh parterre priced at between $1,450 and $1,750, making the Met the most expensive opera house in the world. The all-star casts and the Met’s superlative orchestral and choral forces (presided over by music director James Levine for the past 40 years) mean that for lovers of old-style opera at its grandest, the Met remains the sine qua non of the art form. Throughout much of its history, the Met has resisted the trend to have all-powerful stage directors presiding over productions. Great singing and top-flight musicianship have been the hallmark of Met shows, and ‘safe’, crowd-pleasing producers such as Otto Schenk and Franco Zeffirelli have been favoured. 4p34

The Met’s 2011/12 Season The Met’s 2011/12 season features 26 productions, with casting that includes many of today’s most celebrated singers and several eminent stage directors. Currently running is David McVicar’s new staging of Anna Bolena featuring Anna Netrebko in the title role. This will be relayed live to cinemas on 15 October. Other highlights include the concluding sections of Wagner’s Ring cycle in Robert Lepage’s visually spectacular production. The New Year brings a world premiere of a ‘Baroque’ opera, The Enchanted Isle, a masque-like pastiche of music by Handel, Vivaldi and Rameau to a new libretto by Jeremy Sams and featuring Plácido Domingo, Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels and Danielle de Niese. www.metoperafamily.org

Before and after: Left, The original Metropolitan Opera House pictured in 1905. Right, today’s 1960s space-age lobby

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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MAIN STAGE | Postcard from New York

Peter Gelb, mastermind of New York’s operatic renaissance

The programming at the Met has traditionally been built around the tastes and ambitions of rather autocratic impresarios, foremost among whom was Sir Rudolf Bing, general manager from 1950 to 1972. Bing, an Austrian-born émigré, had been one of the founders of the Edinburgh Festival in 1947. Setting his sights on opera in America, he revolutionised the Met, turning it into one of the finest opera companies in the world by insisting on top-quality production values and establishing a roster of stars including Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Joan Sutherland, Renata Tebaldi, Jon Vickers, Franco Corelli and, controversially at the time, Marian Anderson, who in 1955 became the first black singer to appear in a major role at the Met (she sang Ulrica in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera). Bing’s legacy was consolidated by one of his successors, Joseph Volpe, who joined the Met in 1966 as a carpenter. By 1990, Volpe had worked his way through the ranks to become general manager. His strong commercial instincts and his insider knowledge of the workings of unions 34

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served the company well during a time of international expansion and technological innovation. Today, the Metropolitan Opera is something of a paradox. It still has a reputation as a bastion of elitism and a temple of ‘high’ culture in a city where courting the establishment is key to survival for large arts institutions. But Peter Gelb, general director since 2006, has instigated far-reaching changes and risk-taking ventures that seem to be paying off in terms of building a true mass market for opera for the first time in over a century. Foremost among these innovations is the Met’s transmission of its productions, filmed in high definition, into cinemas around the world, including a series of live relays of its major titles. Last season, more than 2.6 million tickets were sold for Met shows in cinemas (live and prerecorded). This is expected to increase in the forthcoming season, with 11 live relays to 1,600 cinemas around the world, including new ventures in China and Israel. The future of the Met, and perhaps of opera as an art form, seems to rest on the numbers game that 57-year-old Peter Gelb is playing so cleverly as he embraces mass media to generate audience levels that seemed impossible for opera a decade ago. As president of Sony Records classical music division before his Met appointment, Gelb was credited with rescuing classical music recording from

Juilliard Opera The Department of Vocal Arts at New York’s Juilliard School offers an advanced opera training programme for exceptionally gifted young singers at graduate and post-graduate levels. Emphasis is placed on finding and developing singing actors who are intellectually curious, physically adept and emotionally fearless. As well as access to its world-class faculty, Juilliard Opera students also benefit from an ongoing collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. This includes one full production each year conducted by James Levine, with the Juilliard Orchestra in the pit and Lindemann and selected Juilliard Opera singers on stage. Other performance opportunities throughout the year include two main-stage productions and one semi-staged

financial oblivion by championing film scores such as James Horner’s Titanic and signing crossover artists such as Charlotte Church to the label. The tactic drew accusations of ‘dumbing down’ when his appointment was announced at the Met. However, Gelb’s populist tendencies come from his commercial instincts rather than his cultural bent. He’s something of an intellectual at heart, intent on pushing boundaries whenever he can. He looks dry, academic even, but his sense of adventure is palpable. He marked his coming of age at the Met when he threw out Franco Zeffirelli’s staunchly traditional production of Tosca in favour of a new staging by the post-modernist Swiss director Luc Bondy. The Met’s old guard booed loudly even before the curtain went up on Bondy’s mildly controversial show. Meanwhile, the traditionalists can’t complain about the singing. The Met under Gelb remains a repository of the world’s finest artists. This season’s superstars include Domingo, Fleming, Gheorghiu, Netrebko, DiDonato, Terfel, Flórez… the roll-call of today’s operatic greats seems endless. In a sign that Gelb’s strategy is working: in June, the Met announced that it expects a balanced budget for its last season, the first time this has happened since 2004. In spite of an economy in decay, there is a sweet smell of success lingering around the Lincoln Center that promises great things to come.

production plus concert and recital work, including contemporary music projects and collaborations with Juilliard's new Historical Performance programme. ‘I came to Juilliard Opera from the young artist programme at Florida Grand Opera,’ says Juilliard graduate Jennifer Zetlan. ‘In my experience, Juilliard provides more intensive training and experience than young artist programmes connected to most US opera companies. I also don’t know of any other course that places so much emphasis on acting, which in today's changing world of opera is increasingly important. How wonderful to spend two intensive years focused on the self and the voice in an intimate setting, which I feel prepared me to leave Juilliard a fully equipped A-level artist.’ www.juilliard.edu

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MAIN STAGE | Postcard from New York

NEw yORk ciTy OpERA

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ou have to feel sorry for New York City Opera (NYCO), the second largest opera company in New York. Founded with the noblest of aims to make opera affordable for ordinary people at a time when the Met functioned as an exclusive club for the wealthy, the company has been dogged by problems throughout its history, often precipitated by tense relationships between its managers and its board. It’s just as well, then, to have an opportunity to accentuate the positive. Few opera companies have done more than NYCO to nurture young American talent that has gone on to gain international recognition. Renée Fleming, Carol Vaness, Elizabeth Futral, Samuel Ramey and David Daniels all had their careers launched by the company. Domingo and Carreras both made their New York debuts at NYCO before being snapped up by the Met. Above all, the company’s development is closely associated with one of America’s finest sopranos, Beverley Sills, who launched her career with NYCO in 1955 and later ran the company, showing a prodigious talent for fundraising, until 1979.

The company also has a reputation for championing new and challenging work that the Met, even in the more risky Peter Gelb era (see above), wouldn’t dare touch. Since its first season in 1944, NYCO has given 29 world premieres and around 62 American premieres of works ranging from the Renaissance to the present day. Now for the bad news.Without the rich donor-base of the Met, NYCO has suffered massive losses in the economic downturn. But the financial crisis isn’t enough to explain NYCO’s decline. Poor governance has played a big role, culminating in the bizarre and short-lived appointment in 2008 of the esoteric Belgian Gerard Mortier as general manager, a distinctly controversial pair of hands in troubled times. Desperate times have called for radical measures that focus on cost-cutting. Also on the agenda is a bid to re-invent NYCO in a world where the Met has stolen many of its trump cards and overshadowed its brand identity. In July of this year, NYCO announced that it would move out of its expensive home opposite the Met in the Lincoln Center and spend the coming season as an itinerant company, pitching camp in various venues around New York, saving around $2 million in rent.

The move out of the Lincoln Center comes, ironically, in the wake of a massive redevelopment of the theatre to better suit the needs of an opera company. Many artists, most vociferously the leading US soprano Catherine Malfitano, have spoken volubly against the move, fearing that without a permanent home, the company will lose its soul.This sense of discontent was compounded when music director George Manahan had his contract with NYCO terminated along with a raft of full-time employees with the company. George Steel, NYCO’s managing director since 2009, has rebuffed criticisms saying that the cuts were the only way to ensure survival, and that the move out of the Lincoln Center provides an opportunity to take opera out to a much wider constituency than culturesaturated, swanky lower Manhattan. Plans are afoot to push the boundaries even further to New York’s populous outlying areas, such as Queens and the Bronx, which have had little access to opera in the past. For now, NYCO will be performing in Brooklyn, East Harlem and Central Park. Finding the perfect sound bite to put a positive spin on the difficult task ahead, Steel has announced to the world that NYCO is taking opera back to the people. ‘The company’s stage will be New York City itself: A theatre with eight million seats.’ 4p36

NYCO’s 2011/12 Season With just 16 performances of four fully-staged operas, NYCO’s programme has to pack a punch to make an impact on New York’s opera scene. Verdi’s La traviata (directed by Jonathan Miller) and the New York premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Prima Donna come to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a venue with a strong reputation for opera. Director Christopher Alden’s edgy take on Mozart’s Così fan tutte takes place at midtownManhattan’s John Jay College in March 2012; and Georg Telemann’s rarely performed 1726 opera Orpheus will be staged at the Museo del Barrio on upper Fifth Avenue in East Harlem. Additional concerts are planned in venues all around New York – wandering minstrels indeed. George Steel, steering New York City Opera through troubled waters.

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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www.nycopera.org

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MAIN STAGE | Postcard from New York

Marcy Richardson in Kurt Weill Uncovered at operamission. Photo by Cory Weaver

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here are alternatives to the ‘big boys’ in New York, some traditional, some innovative, occasionally über-cool but always musical and serious about opera. Among the biggest and most innovative of New York’s smaller groups, straddling the mainstream and the fringe, is Gotham Chamber Opera, which presents new and rare work at venues around the city. Founded by artistic director Neal Goren, it aims to give audiences an unusual and intimate experience of opera in imaginative venues (think Haydn’s Il mondo della luna staged in a planetarium, and you’ll get the gist…). This season marks the company’s 10th anniversary with a revival of the opera that launched the new company – Mozart’s Il sogno di Scipione (scheduled for April 2012). Bringing things right up to date, meanwhile, is the world premiere this November of a specially commissioned work by composer-of-themoment Nico Muhly: Dark Sisters is the story of a woman’s struggle with life in a religious cult. With an unusual focus on Baroque repertoire, Opera Omnia performs in a fine, cabaret setting in Greenwich Village. Three years ago they offered a knockout English-language version of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea and just followed it up with Cavalli’s Giasone – its first staged performance in New York. Future

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plans are still to be announced. At the other end of the time-line is American Opera Projects and Opera on Tap, two groups that also collaborate with one another occasionally in a series called Opera Grows in Brooklyn. AOP showcases works that have not been presented anywhere before. Notable among these have been Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness, a preview of Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon, premiered at the New York City Opera, and a one-act monodrama commissioned from Daniel Felsenfeld (with a libretto by Will Eno) called Nora, in the Great Outdoors, which is what happens to the heroine of Ibsen’s A Doll's House immediately after she slams the door. AOP and Opera on Tap have commissioned a full-length touring opera called The Inner Circle, based on the life of the famous sexologist, Dr. Kinsey. Daniel Felsenfeld also curated Sex, Cigarettes and Psychopaths (A Night of Laughs) for the outré Opera Grows in Brooklyn, an evening of naughty opera and art song. The pub-audiences for these spirited events can meet the artists and composers after the performances. A group called operamission, under director and conductor Jennifer Peterson recently presented – both on site and on the web – a fully orchestrated, unrehearsed, assembled-on-the-spot one-act-per-evening performance of

La bohème with fine, professional singers. Referring to the evening as ‘Assembly Required’ is a hint at the group’s style. Back on more traditional ground is the Dicapo Opera Theatre, operating out of a jewelbox of a 204-seat theatre in a church basement on East 76th Street. A few years ago they offered Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in its three different editions by the composer, presented over the course of a weekend: the La Scala version on Friday, Brescia on Saturday, and the standard version on Sunday afternoon. Dicapo alternates standard rep with more adventurous programming; this coming season includes Puccini’s Tosca,Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella, Verdi’s La traviata and Menotti's The Consul (four performances each, sprinkled from October through April). Over in Chelsea on Manhattan’s West Side is the Chelsea Opera, with Menotti’s The Medium (November) and Lee Hoiby’s This is the Rill Speaking (June) on the roster. And last – for the moment – but not least, is the Bronx Opera, which this season will give Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Poisoned Kiss (January) and Hansel and Gretel (May). Also wandering minstrels, they perform in both the Bronx and Manhattan. Robert Levine

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19/09/2011 18:09


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20/09/2011 14:38:34


MAIN STAGE | Opera for kids

English Pocket Opera’s Pagliacci

Not just for grown-ups Rosie Johnson is slowly and by stealth turning her reluctant son into an opera lover. But why do so many children seem to hate opera, and what can parents do to change their mind?

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an I bring my game boy?’ ‘Can we leave before the end?’ I’m negotiating hostages with my son who doesn’t want to go to the opera. ‘It’s La fille du régiment!’ I bleat, ‘Not women in helmets singing Wagner.’ Neither reference means a thing; the most hackneyed operatic stereotype is lost on him. I promise him two ice-creams in the interval, then simmer with fury as he snores through Act I. ‘I see your son is shaping up for a career as an opera critic,’ whispers the chap on his other side. He wakes for Act II and loves it.Yes,it’s Laurent Pelly’s hilarious production with a side-splitting cameo from Dawn French, but he comments on other aspects of the performance: the conductor, the abstract scenery, the surprising vocal power of dainty soprano Natalie Dessay. My son George, like many children, doesn’t really hate opera; it just isn’t on

his radar. As an opera-obsessed adult, I’ve tried slipping opera sideways into car journeys and conversation, but he’s not that interested. I’m his mother so I’m not cool, and neither, by default, is opera. You can’t dance to it, it’s much too long and (often) in Italian. Some teenagers I know think opera is nerdy. Criticisms I’ve heard include that it’s to do with ‘knowing stuff ’ and ‘old people’. Another complaint is that singers ‘look stupid’ when they sing; which, when taken out of context, they do. Most of my son’s friends live in a social media world. Facebook, football and the Gorillaz are all in a day’s work; deciphering the Ring Cycle isn’t. Our sound bite culture means that four hours of Mozart doesn’t cut the mustard compared to ‘media stacking’ (watching TV, texting and playing Dungeons & Dragons at the same time).

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MAIN STAGE | Opera for kids

When asked if he liked opera, a 10-yearold boy gave a critique of a type of app on his iPhone. Even grown-ups often find it hard to understand the mangled vowels and elongated words of sung opera in English, and surtitles are a no-no to many children who don’t want to be reading if there’s action on the stage.

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here is hope, though.The view that taking children to the opera is the preserve of hot-housed kids with pushy parents doesn’t quite add up when faced with myth-debunking statistics. Research by Opera America indicates that audiences for opera are growing, particularly at grass-roots level. Much has been written about the audience development outcomes from education programmes and community operas, combined with the scatter-bomb appearances of opera festivals, pub performances, film screenings and video streaming from opera houses the world over. Several UK organisations already offer tasters and entry level courses. These range from Scottish Opera’s Baby O for children under two to the annual productions by Jubilee Opera and W11 Children’s Opera with young people up to 18. (See boxes below for more details.) Cynics may argue that such education programmes are merely a key to fast-track funding or a crafty means of holding onto charitable status; but those rolling up their sleeves and going into schools with opera workshops have a different take. ‘We don’t need to proselytise,’ says Mark Tinkler from English Pocket Opera

Company, which has an extensive opera education programmme. ‘All the elements that appeal to children are already there: music, drama, singing, set design and costumes along with storytelling, myth and history. ‘Children are open to all forms of music when they’re young. But taking a child to an opera cold is a mistake. Imagine sitting there for hours without the foggiest idea what’s going on. Much better to have

Some teenagers I know think opera is nerdy. Criticisms I’ve heard include that it’s to do with “knowing stuff” and “old people”. some inside scoop on the plot and music; get them singing and charging around in workshops first.’ ‘Teenagers are not biased against opera,’ says James Hancox from Glyndebourne’s education department. ‘It’s just completely alien to them. Very few have ever been to an opera, so the opportunity is there to start from neutral ground.’ 4p40

W11 Opera W11 Opera for Young People is a unique musical theatre company committed to promoting equality, access and opportunity in the performing arts. Founded in 1971, its mission is to create new repertoire for 9-18 year-olds by mounting world premières in December each year. These are outstanding examples of what can be achieved by casts made up exclusively of young people working in a very short rehearsal period. To date, W11 Opera has commissioned and produced 32 new operas involving almost two thousand children from diverse backgrounds. In recent years, W11 Opera has developed a community programme, offering specially hosted teas and performances to invited groups of school children, special needs adults and senior citizens. In addition, this year W11 is launching a programme of workshops in schools in conjunction with these Community Performances. While W11 Opera provides a unique opportunity for young people to perform and enjoy opera, it is also an invaluable showcase for contemporary composers, librettists and directors. Since 2001, the performances have been in professional venues, most recently at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

Knight Crew by Glyndebourne’s first composer-in-residence, Julian Philips. Photo by David Illman

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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This year’s 40th Anniversary Production will be Original Features, a new work by Julian Grant with a libretto by Christina Jones, which traces the fortunes of a faded Georgian townhouse and its inhabitants in the 1920s. www.w11opera.org

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MAIN STAGE | Opera for kids

STARTING POINTS English Pocket Opera Company Opera resources for children and teachers, including a free e-newsletter. www.epoc.co

ROH Education in Thurrock Details of the Royal Opera House’s new education facility in Thurrock, Essex. www.roh.org.uk/thurrock

Opera Land A new Glyndebourne website for children and young people to learn about opera. www.operaland.org

The Guardian A superb resource for opera education and performance. www.guardian.co.uk

Glyndebourne runs extensive education programmes in all key stages of education. ‘We get in there and unpack it beforehand,’ he says. ‘We play drama games and discuss the themes, the setting, the music. By the time they get to the performance there are plenty of hooks for their attention.’ Off-putting labels such as ‘intellectual’ and ‘elite’ don’t seem to influence youngsters. ‘The negative connotations of elitism are thrust upon them, not something children come to themselves,’ says Hancox.

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he Royal Opera House has a comprehensive education programme that includes a summer course for teachers to learn how to create an opera in their school. Their extraordinary premises in Thurrock is the hub of massive community outreach; Ludd and Isis last year included over

a thousand participants in a multidiscipline project, and there is now a community chorus that performs three concerts a year. The ROH also has an in-house youth company from 9 to 12 years. It garners raw, untrained talent through an audition process in local schools. These are snapshots of education initiatives; all major opera companies have education branches and recommendations for child-friendly repertoire, performance talks and workshops. Children might be reluctant at first, but George didn’t go a bundle on mushroom quiche before he’d tried it. There are ways to help a child develop an understanding, if not a love, of opera, and there are ways of slamming the door shut: five hours of Wagner with no ice cream would polish them off for good.

Jubilee Opera Since 1987, Jubilee Opera has been giving children and young people the rare opportunity to work and perform with professional directors, conductors, singers and instrumentalists, and so stimulate in them a lifelong love of music and performance arts. We mount a production every year, choosing works of the highest quality, such as Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and Let’s Make an Opera, The Happy Prince (Malcolm Williamson), Brundibar (Hans Krasa), and All the King’s Men (Richard Rodney Bennett). Intensive training sessions are held in all aspects of performance, including technical and stage management. We work closely with local schools to encourage and nurture keen newcomers. Our forthcoming sessions in the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, will culminate in a public showcase on 30 November. Frederic Wake-Walker (Artistic Director of Mahogany Opera) and choreographer Brian Coetzee will work with the children alongside our music team on The Beggar’s Opera (Pepusch) and The Threepenny Opera (Weill). This marks the start of a drive to recruit new children and, along with our existing members, to develop their performance skills over the next two years, leading up to a special production of A Time There Was for Britten’s centenary in 2013. Jubilee Opera will also train the children for Mahogany Opera’s 2013 tour of Britten’s Three Church Parables to Aldeburgh, London, St. Petersburg and Tokyo.

English Pocket Opera Company’s 2007 production of The Magic Flute Photo by: English Pocket Opera Company

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www.jubileeopera.org.uk

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Derek Block & Blackburn International Proudly Present two ELLEN KENT PRODUCTIONS

FEATURING THE INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED UKRAINIAN NATIONAL OPERA OF KHARKIV WITH INTERNATIONAL SOLOISTS, A HIGHLY-PRAISED CHORUS & FULL ORCHESTRA. BOTH PRODUCTIONS WILL BE SUNG IN ITALIAN WITH ENGLISH SURTITLES.

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20/09/2011 12:37:35


MAIN STAGE | Filming an Opera

Good shot! Richard Fawkes talks to Robin Lough, one of the unsung heroes of the art of directing opera for film

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hat exactly does a video director do? That was a question put to Robin Lough, one of our leading multi-camera directors who has worked extensively in opera. It was posed not by an uninitiated member of the public, but by an experienced film editor. Surely, the editor continued, the stage director has already done all the work? The question, says Lough, demonstrates not only woeful ignorance but reflects the current diminution of the video director’s

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status. Lough began directing multi-camera shoots 25 years ago, having learnt his craft working with Brian Large, one of the pioneers of filming opera and classical music for television. When Kent Opera’s video of Michael Tippett’s opera King Priam was first released, Lough’s name was on the front cover.You’d be hard pressed to find it on the DVD reissue. The filmed version of Glyndebourne’s allsinging, all-dancing production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare won awards, but Lough’s

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MAIN STAGE | Filming an Opera

): ‘Are the Robin Lough (far left it be slower? uld Sho t? fas too shots up ed igh we Everything is

direction of the DVD is not mentioned on the cover nor in the accompanying booklet. ‘There was one opera I did where the stills photographer was placed above me in the credits. I feel a little like Mozart when he went to Salzburg and had the “honour” to have his billing placed above the cooks at court!’ And it’s not just on DVD packaging that video directors are neglected. Magazines here and in the States no longer name them in review credits. ‘One is used to the fact that no music critic will review the

walk in from the left. The director then says: “Camera 3 get me a shot of them walking in”. I don’t work that way. I figure every shot should be carefully composed beforehand.’ The philosophy behind film direction of an opera always used to be to offer the viewer a sense of being in the best seat in the house.That has changed considerably thanks to camera technology developed for sport and the availability of long lenses developed to cover rugby and soccer matches. ‘You can really get in tight from a long way away, which means, heaven forbid, a camera can

Singers in really tight close-up can look horrible. You can see how much they’re sweating and that they are wearing a wig.

The video suite at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Photos by Robert Workman

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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camera work, and up to a point that’s right. Somebody buying a DVD of an opera needs to know whether the piece is well sung and if it’s an interesting production. Whether it has been beautifully shot seems to be very much a third or fourth consideration.’ Lough’s complaint arises not out of vanity, he insists, but comes from his belief that the video director’s role is vital, that the camera direction can make or break a stage production and ought to be acknowledged. There is, he admits, a paradox in that the better he does his job, the less he is noticed. So what does a video director do? ‘My task is to interpret on film whatever the director has done on stage. I decide where the cameras go and how many there are. I spend at least four days in rehearsals understanding the production, then three days preparing a camera script. In a twoand-a-half hour opera, that can be anything up to a thousand shots. Then we’ll try it out with the cameramen spending a day seeing what works, what doesn’t. Are the shots too fast? Should it be slower? Everything is weighed up. ‘A lot of critics think we just turn up on the night and say things like, “Someone’s going to enter from the top upstage left, get a camera on them.” There are directors who work that way.There’s one I know who doesn’t write a camera script but has a caller who announces, for example, that in the next four minutes four people are going to

practically get a shot up a singer’s nose. You couldn’t do that 20 years ago because lenses were not good enough. But this ability to get right in does have drawbacks. Singers in really tight close-up can look horrible. You can see how much they’re sweating and that they are wearing a wig. ‘People sometimes ask why we don’t just lock off a camera on a wide shot of the stage, since that’s what the audience sees. The answer is they don’t. What people do, often unknowingly, is what I do: edit. They see this person singing, then watch someone else’s reaction. They don’t sit watching a continuous wide shot. What I try to do is find the scene’s focus, develop it dramatically and not interfere with it. Wherever possible, I talk to the stage director.’ Lough’s first experience of working closely with a stage director was as a director for Peter Hall at Glyndebourne. ‘I would write a camera script and Peter, one of the all-time great stage directors, would look at it and say “I don’t think that’s quite what I want. I want this.” So we’d adapt and adjust until we got what he wanted. In the 25 years I’ve been directing I have never had a stage director say to me “I really didn’t like what you did”. Most are thrilled to have their production immortalised. It’s a shame there has been a steady decline in the recognition that someone has actually taken a lot of time and trouble to work it all out.’ 43

19/09/2011 18:09


Fri 7 Oct 7.30pm, Barbican Hall

Olga Borodina Image © Decca

The Russian opera star makes her much-anticipated return to the Barbican with an evening of music by her fellow countrymen including Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin and Shostakovich. Olga Borodina mezzo-soprano Dmitri Yefimov piano

“A towering figure with a magnetic presence that fills both stage and house.” The New York Times The City of London Corporation is the founder and principal funder of the Barbican Centre

Tickets £11 / 19.50 / 28 Book now | 020 7638 8891 | barbican.org.uk

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044_ON_OCT.indd 44

20/09/2011 12:46:27


Opera on screen

Just the ticket The Royal Opera House is launching another full season of cinema screenings around the world, from Manchester to Mexico City. Richard Fawkes takes stock of new developments Screen stars: Jonas Kaufmann and Angela Gheorghiu in the Royal Opera’s Adriana Lecouvreur, in cinemas this October. Photo by Catherine Ashmore

being shown in the week commencing 14 October. Among the productions to look out for in the future is another 3D opera following in the footsteps of the 3D Carmen screened earlier this year. Madama Butterfly was filmed in 3D when it was staged at the ROH in July. ‘We shot, as we did for Carmen in 3D, at two special performances. But even within the space of a year, 3D technology has moved on. Last time we had a massive truck outside the opera house. This year we didn’t need to have that; it was all done inside the theatre in our purpose-built media suite.’ The finished production will be shown next spring.

V

T

he Royal Opera House’s new season of cinema screenings opened with a live performance of Faust at the end of September and continues monthly until next May. This is the third full season of cinema screenings from the ROH, and the first to show entirely its own productions of opera and ballet (rather than a selection of operas filmed around Europe released by the ROH-owned production company Opus Arte). Only three of the productions are live; the remainder will be recorded. According to Elizabeth Bell, the ROH’s Head of Corporate Communications, audiences are divided fairly equally as to whether such screenings are preferable live or not. ‘Some people love the live experience. They like the energy of it and knowing it’s happening right there and then. Others prefer recorded productions because more time has been spent in post-production, so it has a more polished feel.’

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Audiences for cinema screenings have certainly been increasing. One hundred cinemas signed up for the very first live screening from the Royal Opera three years ago (of Don Giovanni).Today’s figure is around 600 cinemas in 22 countries worldwide. ‘The most important reason for having cinema screenings is to reach audiences that, for whatever reason, can’t come to see opera in our Covent Garden theatre,’ says Bell. ‘It’s really all about access.’ What is clear is that there is an enormous appetite for such screenings. Audiences are building all the time.‘Cinemas love it because they’re getting fantastic content into their theatres, which is great for their audiences. Also quite a lot are reacting with us online, particularly on Facebook and particularly from overseas. We’ve got terrific support abroad.’ After the UK, the second largest bank of supporters comes from Mexico. This month, Adriana Lecouvreur, starring Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann, is

iewers of opera on screen are used to having subtitles translating what the singers are singing. But the ITV-1 show Popstar to Operastar, which ran a second series in the summer, took operatic subtitling a significant step further. The London-based post-production company for Popstar to Operastar decided not just to subtitle arias in their original language, but to have a simultaneous translation in English. ‘itfc felt it would be more helpful to provide an English translation as well so that viewers could recognise the music by the English lyrics,’ explains Cherry Cole, itfc’s director of media access. ‘itfc’s suggestion to provide dual subtitles was innovative and we were keen to explore this option further,’ commented Jorge Saavedra of ITV. ‘Opera houses provide translated subtitles, so it seemed a logical move for us to do the same in our TV shows. We’re extremely pleased with the results.’ The challenge for itfc was to display both the original language and the translation on screen simultaneously in a two-line caption. And since Popstar to Operastar was live they also had to use voice recognition technology to produce subtitles from content not previously scripted, such as during the judges’ comments. It is believed that this is the first time simultaneous dual subtitles have been used in a television programme about opera, and viewer feedback has been positive. Could it set a trend for future DVD viewing?

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MAIN STAGE | Life with my voice Helen Loyd/EMI Classics

Life with my Voice

NINA STEMME

Swedish soprano Nina Stemme is one of the world’s foremost Wagnerians, but she began her singing career as a small-scale mezzo. She talks to Jason Victor Serinus about her extraordinary vocal transformation.

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MAIN STAGE | Life with my voice

Jason Victor Serinus: You made your operatic debut in the mezzo-soprano role of Cherubino in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro – an unlikely start for a future Isolde and Brünnhilde. How did that happen? Nina Stemme: I first started studying voice on and off at the age of 22. I had already studied business and economics at the university, and was playing the viola. Then, aged 27, I started at the opera house school in Stockholm. I didn’t really know where life was leading, and this voice thing pulled me along. Since I have a rather dark speaking voice, I landed upon the mezzo repertoire, but I wasn’t getting anywhere – I failed my auditions to the opera school twice! More and more people were asking me about the higher soprano repertoire, so I thought, ‘OK, I might as well just try it!’ JVS: When did it all come together? NS: In the first year of the opera school. I actually rebuilt my voice from scratch with the coach who ‘discovered’ my soprano. He told me that if I had to relearn my approach to singing every time I performed, I would take one step back. So I wasn’t really allowed to sing in front of people until my technique was more stable. Finally I got it, step by step. I sang lyrical parts and I only sang softly.When I sang my first role, Mimì in La bohème in an opera school production, my voice was almost too small for it. In 1993, the same year I got into the finals for the Cardiff Singer of the World, I won the first Plácido Domingo Operalia contest in Paris right before I graduated. That was my big break. But I used it to say no to all sorts of offers around the world, because I wanted to build a family. When I auditioned for Cologne Opera, I was already pregnant with my first child. I

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stayed in the Cologne ensemble four years. I was able to sing all the big Puccini roles, and a little bit of Mozart. Finally, in the 2000/2001 season, I sang my first Sieglinde there. JVS: And it meant you could be in one place and raise your child. NS: Yeah. Which then became two, and three [laughs]! The Domingo competition led to a contract in Bayreuth where I sang Freia in Wagner’s Rheingold. It’s a perfect role when you have a little baby. It’s one minute of singing, but you can study your experienced colleagues around you: John Tomlinson, James Levine… My oldest daughter was 3 ½ weeks old when I started rehearsals in Bayreuth. I refused to sing because my body was not healed yet. When I came to the premiere, she was 3 ½ months old and I quite coldbloodedly said, ‘I have to make this work. If it doesn’t, the choice is easy.’ I wanted a family, and that’s what counted in the long run. But together with my husband and wonderful family, we’ve managed. I have very strong will-power. JVS: How did you get from a voice not big enough to sing Mimì to Wagner’s mighty Isolde?

role through just for fun. And I decided that if I was going to try out such a big role, where better than Glyndebourne? I spent months studying it. I was completely absorbed by the role, and it went well. It’s such a long opera that you really need onstage experience to know how to handle it. JVS: Considering how much your voice has grown, when did you reach the point when you could say, OK, this is what I have, this is my ‘real’ voice? NS: It’s a constant questioning and struggle. I keep asking, ‘Is this really me? Am I allowed to sing this repertoire?’ Because that little voice that I started out with is still in there. Nina Stemme sings the role of Elisabeth in Paris Opera’s production of Wagner’s Tannhäuser this October. www.operadeparis.fr She also appears with Plácido Domingo in the highly recommended recording of Tristan und Isolde on the EMI label.

As an iconic Isolde at Glyndebourne. Photo by Mike Hoban

NS: I took one step at a time. Wagner was there early on, in the back of my head. I was fascinated by the way Wagnerian singers produced their sound. It was so far from anything I would have heard today, because those big voices still sang lyrically. In 2003, Glyndebourne asked me if I would do Isolde in their first ever Wagner production. I thought they were joking, so I just went away! But one of my colleagues who overheard the conversation said, ‘No. I know Glyndebourne. They’re serious.’ So, I went to my coach, and sang the

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OPERA BLUFF By Robert Thicknesse

How to be a know-all at the opera

EUGENE ONEGIN by Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky (1879)

Slavs to love! In short: A jaded Russian livens things up by shooting his best friend, spurning a girl’s love and then regretting it. plOT Act I: Deep in the Russian countryside, the peasants are dancing. A world-weary Onegin is back from his travels. His friend Lensky (a poet) takes him to visit his fiancée, the fun-loving and flirty Olga, at her family’s country estate. Olga’s bookish sister Tatyana, head full of trashy romantic novels, falls for Onegin big-time, and, scribbling through the night, writes him a letter declaring her feelings. The next day, Onegin meets Tatyana and rather rudely gives her the brush-off, claiming that though he’s flattered, he could only love her ‘as a brother’. Tatyana is distraught. Act II: Nonetheless, Onegin is invited to her birthday party (cue more dancing), where he annoys Lensky by chatting up Olga. This being Russia, a duel is arranged on pretty scanty grounds. Onegin pitches up late and kills Lensky in an offhand sort of way.

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Act III: Six years later, Onegin runs into Tatyana at a lavish ball in urbane St Petersburg (even more dancing, and rather stylish this time). Seeing her in her sophisticated finery, he decides she’s not so bad after all. She points out that it’s all very well telling her now but it’s too late: she is married to the very old (and very rich) Prince Gremin. Onegin is distraught.

Music A byword, of course, for romanticism, with its letter scene and loads of dancing. But there is more to it: catchy peasant songs, wistfully passionate arias, even a borrowed French folk tune. The tone ranges from elegiac to melancholy to suicidal, as befits a story of missed chances and the generally ghastly nature of an ineluctable fate. Although there is a six-year gap between Acts II and III, the thing is held together by a clever interweaving of

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MAIN STAGE | Opera Bluff

themes and keys, and Tchaikovsky’s music is so beautifully decorated and orchestrated (and tuneful) that it is impossible not to fall for it. The poet Lensky’s pre-death musings and old Prince Gremin’sVerdi-like eulogy on the joys of matrimony are the lesser-known highlights.

wORDs A selection of ‘lyrical scenes’ from Pushkin’s 5,000-line Byronic verse novel, an everyday Russian tale of meaninglessly psychotic behaviour. Shorn of Pushkin’s bitchy narrator, it becomes an emotional rendition of Tatyana’s sorry story of the impossibility of communication and the unhealthy consequences of love. It was patched together by Tchaikovsky with help from his brother Modest and a certain K Shilovsky.

DON’T Ask Whatever became of Olga?

sTRANgE BuT TRuE Upon receipt of a Tatyana-esque letter from a lovestruck female pupil during the composition of Onegin, the closet

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homosexual Tchaikovsky foolishly failed to follow Eugene’s example and agreed to marry his admirer. It was not a success. A couple of months later the composer wrote, ‘Death is indeed the greatest of blessings and I pray for it with all my soul.’

whAT ThE cRiTics ThOughT ‘We know butter is made from cream, but do we have to watch it being churned?’ (American composer Charles Ives)

iNTERVAl chATTER ‘Onegin is a tragedy of misread good intentions. Eugene realises Olga doesn’t love Lensky and tries to set him up with the much more suitable Tatyana: hence his own selfless rejection of her. He flirts with Olga for the same reason. It’s hardly his fault that Lensky and Tatyana are too thick to get the message. As a final act of unselfishness he attempts to save Tatyana from her hellishly dull husband, but this too is thrown back in his face.’

whERE NExT? There’s a plethora of productions of Eugene Onegin this season. If you’re quick you

can catch it at the Vienna State Opera at the start of October. A season highlight is English National Opera’s new production by Deborah Warner, starring the young Norwegian baritone Audun Iversen as Onegin (see page 20), rising soprano sensation Amanda Echalaz as Tatyana and Toby Spence as Lensky (12 Nov-3 Dec). There are also major productions in Valencia and Los Angeles before the end of the year.

REcORDiNgs Among the finest is on the Deutsche Grammophon label, with Thomas Allen as Onegin and a radiant Mirella Freni as Tatyana. James Levine conducts the superlative Dresden Staatskapelle. For authentic Russian colour, try the Philips label with Semyon Bychkov conducting and Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role.

iF yOu likED This… Don’t miss Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, a cautionary tale of gambling and madness (and yes, dancing).There’s a new production by Neil Bartlett at Opera North in Leeds this month.

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houSToN GRaNd oPeRa 2011 - 2012 SeaSoN Rossini

The BaRBeR of Seville oct 21 - Nov 6, 2011

Gunn, Martínez, Brownlee, Carfizzi, Ketelson; leonardo vordoni, conductor and Joan font, director.

Beethoven

fidelio oct 28 - Nov 13, 2011

Mattila, o’Neill, Tòmasson, Sigmundsson; Michael hofstetter, conductor and Jürgen flimm, director.

verdi

la TRaviaTa Jan 27 - feb 12, 2012

Shagimuratova, lomelí, Meoni; Patrick Summers, conductor and daniel Slater, director.

Britten

The RaPe of luCReTia feb 3 - 11, 2012

deYoung, Griffey, Willis-Sørensen; Patrick Summers, conductor and arin arbus, director.

verdi

doN CaRloS apr 13 - 28, 2012

Jovanovich, Wilson, Goerke, hendricks, Silvestrelli; Patrick Summers, conductor and John Caird, director.

donizetti

MaRY STuaRT apr 21 - May 4, 2012

didonato, van Kooten, Cutler, Gleadow; Patrick Summers, conductor; Patrice Caurier and Moshe leiser, co-directors.

houston Grand opera orchestra and Chorus Richard Bado, Chorus Master

Call 800-626-7372 or visit HoustonGrandOpera.org Official Vehicle of Houston Grand Opera

050_ON_OCT.indd 50

Official Airline of Houston Grand Opera

20/09/2011 13:10:14


LIVE REVIEWS | Index

Live Reviews 64

62

61 71

70 usA

AusTRiA

58 Summer Festivals Round Up Glimmerglass Festival | Opera Theater of Saint Louis | Santa Fe Opera

68 Bregenz Festival

60 San Francisco Opera Götterdämmerung Long Beach Opera The Difficulty of Crossing a Field | Bard Summerscape, Annandale Die Liebe der Danae

uk & iRElAND

FRANcE 70 Lyons Opera Tristan und Isolde

BElgiuM 71 La Monnaie / De Munt, Brussels Les Huguenots

62 The Royal Opera Cendrillon 64 Festivals Round Up Glyndebourne Festival Opera | Grange Park Opera | Stanley Hall Opera | Iford Opera Bampton Classical Opera | Bury Court Opera Lismore Music Festival Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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LIVE REVIEWS | Festivals Round-up USA

LIVE REVIEWS

Festivals Round-up USA By H eidi Waleson

Controversial edge: Christopher Magiera and Aubrey Allicock in OTSL’s Klinghoffer. Photo by Ken Howard

Blazing and unforgettable: Alexandra Deshorties as Medea in Glimmerglass. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

A

ll three of the major US summer opera festivals have new brooms at the top, and the effects are starting

to show. Charles MacKay left Opera Theatre Saint Louis for Santa Fe Opera a few years ago, and Timothy O’Leary took his place as general director. But the most dramatic transformation is in Cooperstown in upstate NewYork, where, in her first season as artistic and general director, Francesca Zambello has shaken up the renamed Glimmerglass Festival with new energy and ideas. Not everything worked, but after the doldrums of the last few seasons, the change is welcome. In its heyday, Glimmerglass revitalised obscure operas and occasionally launched singing careers. This summer, Zambello took a chance with Cherubini’s Medea (in an Italian version) and on soprano Alexandra Deshorties, who delivered a blazing, unforgettable performance as the furious, revenge-driven sorceress. It was the same

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kind of completely unexpected thrill that I had at Glimmerglass in 1995, when the thenunknown David Daniels blew everyone away in the title role of Handel’s Tamerlano. A promising new direction for the festival – contemporary opera – was exemplified by the compelling and beautifully sung double bill of John Musto’s 2007 work Later the Same Evening (previously performed only by students) and the premiere of a commission, A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck by Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner. Zambello is smart about producing imaginative direction and design on slender means: Director Anne Bogart’s intense, stripped-down Carmen was a high point (as was its Carmen, the sultry-voiced, 24-year-old Ginger Costa-Jackson), and the double bill production was elegantly simple. The 900-seat Glimmerglass Theater should be perfect for another of Zambello’s innovations: classic American

musicals, produced with full orchestra and no amplification. But this season’s Annie Get Your Gun, by Irving Berlin, didn’t fly. Deborah Voigt lacked the brassy belt and theatrical sass to pull off the role of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, and Zambello’s direction didn’t capture the show’s distinctive style. Better luck in 2012 with The Music Man starring Dwayne Croft and Elizabeth Futral; teaching opera singers how to really do musicals, and hearing them without the interference of microphones, are valuable ideas. Zambello’s inventive repertoire planning and willingness to collaborate promise more stimulating things for next season: Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, a coproduction with the Cape Town Opera, featuring South African singers and bassbaritone Eric Owens, and Lully’s Armide, done in cooperation with Toronto’s Opera Atelier, which does period productions of Baroque opera-ballet.

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LIVE REVIEWS | Festivals Round-up USA

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Bryan Hymel as Faust in Santa Fe. Photo by Ken Howard

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pera Theatre Saint Louis is taking contemporary work seriously these days.The high point of its 2011 season was John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, a piece that other professional US opera companies wouldn’t touch because of the controversy stirred up about its supposedly pro-Palestinian sympathies at the time of its premiere 20 years ago. James Robinson’s thoughtful and sensitive staging should go a long way to opening minds about the piece.More of an oratorio than an opera, it centres on the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists, who murdered the Jewish American passenger Leo Klinghoffer and threw him overboard in his wheelchair. Its larger structure, alternating choruses with plot-centred scenes, explores the theme of exile and demonstrates how age-old resentments fester and explode in the modern world. Robinson’s compelling, well-cast production captured this larger theme, positioning the chorus as exiles,

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the Palestinians indistinguishable from the Jews. In tandem with conductor Michael Christie, the show admirably described the arc of Adams’s music, with its dreamlike, flowing passages interrupted by sharp, dramatically etched moments of fury and fear. OTSL continues to give a platform to emerging young singers. This season’s find was the tenor René Barbera, who was a fearless Tonio, popping out his nine high Cs with elan, in an otherwise uninspiring Daughter of the Regiment. Next year’s line-up continues the contemporary opera theme with another piece that American audiences wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Robinson, who is now OTSL’s artistic director, will stage the American premiere of Alice in Wonderland (2007) by Unsuk Chin and David Henry Hwang. The company is also happily following up on its magical 2010 production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music by presenting SweeneyTodd, led by OTSL’s music director Stephen Lord.

t the Santa Fe Opera, Charles MacKay is taking some chances with repertoire as well. I had to miss Menotti’s comedy The Last Savage, but I did catch Vivaldi’s Griselda, an interesting counterpoint to the prevalence of Handel in the US. Musically, it’s a fascinating piece, and offers great range for singers. Mezzo Isabel Leonard took on the challenge best, and was lovely as Costanza, and countertenor Yuri Minenko (Corrado) was lyrical and assured; unfortunately the Baroque expert David Daniels, who was to play Roberto, was ill on the opening night. Overall, the orchestra, led by Grant Gershon, had a better sense of the spirit and swing of the music than most of the singers did, and Peter Sellars’s updated, bare-stage production, featuring a garish mural by the Los Angeles artist Gronk and the director’s trademark gesticulations and floor-rolling, was bizarre and unilluminating. Still, commitment to production values is alive at Santa Fe. Stephen Lawless’s Faust, updated to the late 19th century, emphasised the darkly savage qualities of the opera, aided by Benoit Dugardyn’s ingenious set (vitrines that slid on from the wings), Sue Wilmington’s Victorian costumes, and the feverish intensity of the crowd scenes. The principal singers were rather underpowered, however, and Frédéric Chaslin, the company’s new chief conductor, brought vigour to the dramatic moments but dragged in the seduction scene. MacKay is heading into more obscure repertoire waters next year with Rossini’s Maometto II, billed as the world premiere staging of a definitive new performing edition, starring Luca Pisaroni. Also on the bill is Szymanowski’s King Roger with Marius Kwiecien and William Burden. The promise of those more established singers also bodes well for Santa Fe 2012. Showcasing new talent can be a terrific strategy, but some operas need more star power and experience.

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LIVE REVIEWS

Round-up USA Götterdämmerung Wagner SAN FRANCISO OPERA

vvv Francesca Zambello’s Ring cycle was supposed to have been produced in its entirety in Washington DC before transferring to the West Coast. But financial turmoil at Washington National Opera meant that San Francisco Opera got there first. In the cycle’s final instalment, Götterdämmerung, Zambello changed the primary emphasis from abuse of power, corruption and greed (so relevant to Washington DC) to the destruction of the environment and female power, themes perhaps more germane to California. The three Norns in the opening scene, weaving the destiny of the world, are clad in indescribably ugly green work clothes, hopelessly trying to untangle miles of unsightly black cables – a modern ‘rope of fate’ that short-circuits when connected to a (screen-projected) motherboard.

Nina Stemme plays to her strengths as Brünnhilde in San Francisco’s Ring. Photo by Cory Weaver

By Act III, the Rhinemaidens, carrying yellow bin bags, pluck tons of discarded plastic bottles and other debris from the banks of the polluted Rhine. Every scene had back-projections of billowing black smoke from what appeared to be oil refineries. It is pollution that leads to the ‘Twilight of the Gods’ in this production. Zambello put the focus on the all-toohuman aspects of Wagner’s gods. Gutrune was transformed into a buxom blond sexpot, and Hagen, a gangster, strutted around with a machine gun in a black leather coat. When he reminded Gutrune that she had no husband, she stuck her tongue out, eliciting laughs from the audience. When Siegfried was murdered, rather than being majestically carried off stage, he was carted away like an animal. Hagen, meanwhile, was suffocated with a yellow bin bag. Zambello made the women the true heroes of this opera. Only Brünnhilde, Gutrune and the Rhinemaidens are on stage in the final scene followed by a massive women’s chorus. At the final moment, almost as an afterthought, the men appear. The director’s overarching concept for Götterdämmerung, and its complex execution, were brilliant. There’s no question that the human dimension that she brought to the work, and the sometimes humorous interaction between characters that flowed from this, provided a momentum that made the five-and-a half hours fly by. But for me, it also detracted from the spine-tingling, superhuman aspects of Wagner that transport the spectator into the realm of the sublime. Ian Storey captured nicely Siegfried’s innocence and naivety. The voice seemed underpowered for the role, but he acquitted himself respectably. Conductor Donald Runnicles elicited magnificent playing from the orchestra. However, the focal point of this production was Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde, reminiscent of another incisive Swedish Wagnerian, Birgit Nilsson. Although lacking Nilsson’s incredible power, Stemme sang with strength and precision, secure in a role that she will surely inhabit for many years to come. Karyl Charna Lynn

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The Difficulty of Crossing a Field Lang LONG BEACH OPERA

vvvv At times, the Long Beach Opera’s reputation for doing things differently keeps us guessing. For composer David Lang’s minimalist charmer The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, craftily directed by LBO boss Andreas Mitisek, the path less trodden was taken by the audience: on arrival at Long Beach’s Terrace Theater we were seated onstage, while the performers – singers and the Lyris String Quartet – were set on raised platforms in the auditorium. As the curtain rose, the audience had the curious sensation of being perched behind it, a fitting twist for Lang’s beguiling puzzler of a piece. Lang and playwright MacWellman have created a hard-to-describe and easy-toappreciate small opera based on a quixotic story by the 19th-century American writer Ambrose Bierce, in which the central character, a farmer from Selma, Alabama, mysteriously disappears. In the opera, spoken and sung texts run in hypnotic circles. Fragments of the story emerge and are blurred, with vague allusions to the festering tension of slave culture in a pre-Civil War setting (including a role played by African-American ‘Boy Sam’, boldly sung by Eric B Anthony). Meanwhile a micro-courtroom drama attempts to lend order to an inchoate mystery. But the mystery wins out. Contained within this curious premise are existentialist commentaries on the nature of reality. The missing person at the centre is as much a metaphor as a character of real concern. Mark Bringelson brought a muscularity and fragility to his role as the soon-to-bemissing Mr Williamson, while soprano Suzan Hanson, an impressively versatile LBO regular, brought a haunting presence to the missing man’s wife, gradually sliding into insanity. Newcomer Valerie Vinzant, a fine emerging young singer, gave flesh and blood to the role of the Williamson Girl, both observer and uneasy participant in the missing-person saga.

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LIVE REVIEWS | Round-up USA

A mystery in the making: Long Beach’s Difficulty of Crossing a Field. Photo by Keith Ian Polakoff

Despite the work’s allure, the post-minimalist language used by Lang already sounds a bit old-fashioned, around a decade after the work’s premiere (in San Francisco). Has oldschool minimalism run its course? Suffice to say, this has been the season when minimalism came to Long Beach, between Lang’s compact curio and Philip Glass’s big-boned, big-toned Akhnaten. One difference with the Glass was that the audience sat in its allotted place. Josef Woodard

Die Liebe der Danae Richard Strauss BARD SUMMERSCAPE, ANNANDALE NY

vvv Completed in 1940, Richard Strauss’s penultimate opera, Die Liebe der Danae, was never fully staged during the composer’s lifetime. A planned premiere in Salzburg in 1944 was cancelled when all theatres were closed during the war (although a dress rehearsal, with invited guests, took place).The opera waited until 1952, again at Salzburg, to be seen by the public. The long work has, in essence, a short plot: The bankrupt King Pollux must resort to marrying off his gold-loving daughter Danae to the wealthy King Midas. Midas, however, is really a lowly camel-driver paid by Jupiter to court Danae for his own delectation. But Danae genuinely falls in love with Midas and rejects Jupiter, who strips the pair of their wealth and sends them back into the desert, where, much to

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his chagrin, they live happily ever after. The opera itself is a mixture of Strauss at his best and his not-quite-so-good: there are long-winded choral sections and moments for the soloists that just don’t catch fire. The orchestra, however, shows off the composer at his most inventive and its rapturous beauty was brought out by conductor Leon Botstein and his American Symphony Orchestra. Bard’s show, billed as the ‘first fullystaged New York production’, was a success. Botstein wisely pared several minutes of music out of the last act, sparing not only the audience but also Jupiter, who has quite enough to sing. The production, designed by architect Rafael Vinoly and Mimi Lien, updated the opera to present-day New York. Wall Street creditors hound Pollux; Jupiter is a mega-

mogul who sails into New York harbour with authority. His four ex-conquests, Semele, Europa, Alcmene and Leda, are Vegas floozies. Mercury, meanwhile, is a bike messenger. It’s all actually quite charming. Director Kevin Newbury kept things moving but relied on laughs to cover some awkward moments when Strauss’s (granted somewhat corny) moral lessons are being drawn. But the last act is a delight: as the curtain rises, we see our loving couple, confused after Jupiter’s trickery, living in their old Ford Pinto somewhere in the American West. Soprano Meagan Miller, a winner of the National Council Auditions of the Metropolitan Opera, sang the long title role with stamina, elegance and textual clarity, soaring through Strauss’s long vocal lines with dignity if not always the prettiest of tone. I was concerned that she was overusing her voice, but time will tell. Roger Honeywell tackled the cruelly high tenor part of Midas with courage and gorgeously ringing tone. Bass Carsten Wittmoser played out Jupiter’s complex character perfectly, though his voice failed him occasionally in a punishing role. Dennis Peterson’s Pollux was big-voiced and engagingly acted and Jud Perry’s Mercury was a delight. In the small role of Xanthe, Danae’s handmaiden, Sarah Jane McMahon’s high soprano blended well in a Rosenkavalier-like duet with Ms Miller, with both sopranos flying high. The rest of the cast was energetic and involved. A forgotten masterpiece? Not really; but not bottom-drawer Strauss either, just second-tier – a very honourable place to be. Robert Levine

Love triangle: Carsten Wittmoser as Jupiter, Meagan Miller as Danae and Roger Honeywell as Midas. Photo by Cory Weaver

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MAIN STAGE | New Season’s Preview

Cendrillon Massenet ROYAL OPERA HOUSE, LONDON � vvvv

Reviewed by Francis Muzzu Photography by Bill Cooper

‘We’ve done our best to take you on a gorgeous flight of fancy.’ It’s a rather rough translation of the closing lines of Cendrillon, Jules Massenet’s 1899 version of the Cinderella story. And indeed, by that point, I had been transported.

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Ewa Podle as Madame de la Haltière with Kai Rüütel and Madeleine Pierard as the ugly sisters

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Joyce DiDonato as Cendrillon

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hat a gorgeous opera this is! Admittedly there’s nothing deep or soul-searching, but we hear Massenet at his most ripe and luscious. A slightly duff start didn’t bode well. I think it’s time to declare a moratorium on productions that begin with servants scuttling backwards and forwards between rows of doors, every one busy being a ‘character’. It’s not amusing. Then we got to the singing, with Jean-Philippe Lafont (as Pandolfe) making a house debut about 25 years too late – a lot of character, a lot of heart, a lot of wobble. Thankfully things perked up immensely with the arrival of Ewa Podle as his wife, Madame de la Haltière, in a long-overdue return to the house. Looking cheerfully ridiculous in her exaggerated padded fishtail skirt, which caused her to walk somewhere between a mince and a waddle, Podle boomed and warbled her way through this gift of a role. Madeleine Pierard and Kai Rüütel scampered equally manically as her daughters. At the heart of the evening was Joyce DiDonato as Lucette, the titular Cendrillon. Few singers walk the stage with less of a barrier between them and the audience – DiDonato is a natural communicator, and she caught the simple charm of the girl to perfection. Likewise her voice was fresh, and though the role often lies at the top of her natural range she made the vocal line sound beautiful and unforced. Her duets with the richer-toned and coltish Prince Charmant of Alice Coote in fact edged into the somewhat more erotic sound-world of Esclarmonde, but a little spice amidst the sweetness was not amiss. La Fée, the fairy godmother of the piece, was also less twee and more seductive than

usual, with her languorous walk and curvehugging gown. Eglise Gutiérrez sailed stratospherically and sexily through every arpeggio and glissando, with her hushed and pleasingly husky tone. Laura Scozzi’s witty choreography moved effectively around her. Bertrand de Billy obviously enjoyed himself in the pit, and extracted every last drop from the score. Laurent Pelly’s production was simple and straightforward in telling the story, with Barbara de Limburg’s quickly moveable sets papered with pages from the original Perrault fairytale. And with Massenet’s impeccable timing, just as it could all have turned into sugar overload it finished with a cheerful address to the audience and the spell was broken. This production will be screened in selected cinemas worldwide during January 2012. Visit http://cinema.roh.org.uk for details

Dawid Kimberg as the Superintendant of Pleasures and Alice Coote (seated) as Prince Charming

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LIVE REVIEWS

Festivals 2011 UK & Ireland Reviews by Ashutosh Khandekar, Robert Thicknesse and Rosie Johnson

David McVicar’s sunny Meistersinger at Glyndebourne. Photo by Alastair Muir

Glyndebourne Festival Opera EAST SUSSEX

After the runaway success of Tristan und Isolde, it’s hardly a surprise that Glyndebourne set its sights on another Wagner opera. Sure enough, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg became the hottest ticket of the British summer opera season in 2011. David McVicar’s sunny, intelligent production updated the action by three hundred years or so, transporting the opera to Nuremberg in the early years of the 19th century (in designs by Vicki Mortimer). The aesthetic is Biedermeier, a world of bourgeois sentiment that suits the work perfectly, full of assured civic pride, domestic comfort and good old-fashioned values that seem just a little too smug not to be in for a shock (remember, the Napoleonic Wars are brooding…). Gerald Finley’s smallish but beautifully formed Hans Sachs fitted snugly into this world – a wise, decent widower but not too old or too jaded to be troubled by his feelings for the lovely young Eva (Anna Gabler). What Finley’s voice lacked in size, he made up for in refinement and beauty. This was just wonderful singing, Lieder-like in its nuances and perfect for the modest scope of this production. 58

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Finley’s fine performance was matched by that of Johannes Martin Kränzle as the prim, scheming town clerk Sixtus Beckmesser, marvellously comic in his dreadful vanity. Elsewhere, the casting was good if unassuming. Now for the proviso: the hole in the heart of this staging was Marco Jentzsch’s uncomfortable and wooden Walther von Stolzing. He may look the tall dark handsome hero, but on opening night, Jentzsch seemed like a rabbit caught in the headlights, overwhelmed by the enormity of what he was doing and realising he wasn’t quite up to it. The other new production of Glyndebourne’s season was Handel’s Rinaldo. Composed for the London stage, it’s a thoroughly English opera in spite of its Italian libretto, full of martial music (loads of trumpets) and tales of derring-do. Director Robert Carsen’s Harry Potter-meets-St Trinian’s setting seemed to be a neatly entertaining solution to the bombastic codes of chivalry in the work. There were some nifty bits of theatrical business in which horses and battlefields were translated into bicycle rallies and soccer games, and it was all spiced up with a few schoolboy bondage fantasies involving the French mistress. But there

Pillow talk? Alwyn Mellor and Richard Berkeley-Steele as Isolde and Tristan at Grange Park. Photo by Alastair Muir

was a one-track mind at work here and the jokes quickly became as monochrome as Gideon Davey’s grey-on-black scenery. There was some decent singing. Sonia Prina was touching if underpowered as Rinaldo, Brenda Rae pulled out the fireworks for the evil sorceress Armida and best of all was the confident, attractive baritone of Luca Pisaroni as Argente who brought some welcome substance to the silliness. AK

Grange Park Opera HAMPSHIRE

Wagner was once considered out of bounds by the country house opera brigade, but now they are all at it, from minuscule Longborough tackling the Ring against the odds in an Oxfordshire barn to mighty Glyndebourne, strutting with confidence on the Wagnerian stage. In the depths of the Hampshire countryside, Grange Park Opera was initiated into the Wagner club with a new production of Tristan und Isolde, designed and directed by David Fielding. His is an intriguingly contemporary, symbolist and strangely successful take on this Arthurian romance. Fielding is masterful in his control

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LIVE REVIEWS | 2011 Festivals Round-up UK & IRELAND

Natasha Jouhl and Grant Doyle in Stanley Hall’s Eugene Onegin. Photo by Clive Barda

of the shifting atmosphere of Tristan. He takes us from the stark reality of the first act (set aboard a modern ship transporting Cornish victims of war) into a series of dreamscapes, stunningly lit by Wolfgang Goebbels. There’s a druggy, film-noirish feel to the whole thing, from the silken boudoir where Tristan and Isolde have their first assignation to a luminous forest where larger-than-life dangers lurk during the royal hunt scene. Finally, we wash up in a claustrophobic seaside hovel where Tristan dies in a deflating lifeboat, surrounded by ghosts of his past. Think too hard about any one element, and you end up being baffled; but taken as a whole, Fielding’s surreal production amounts to something that makes subliminal psychic sense. Among the singers, Alwyn Mellor is a very fine Isolde, mature for her years and wonderfully absorbing in her dying soliloquy, delivered to the audience frontof-stage before a shimmering curtain. Stephen Gadd is a memorable Kurwenal, in superb voice, and the sturdy Richard Berkeley-Steele makes a pretty decent job of the killer role of Tristan. Conductor Stephen Barlow is a star in the pit with the English Chamber Orchestra, giving a thoughtful and wonderfully detailed reading of this score.

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The one touch that Fielding really doesn’t pull off is the very ending of the piece. As Isolde’s ethereal Liebestod dissolves into nothing, Fielding has the ghosts of the two lovers stepping back onto the stage to confront the sight of their own funerals. It’s a jolt back to reality that jangles harshly with Wagner’s musical transcendence of worldly things. AK

Stanley Hall Opera ESSEX

In its 11th year, Stanley Hall Opera decided to get ‘serious’, in their words (if you buy the idea that Eugene Onegin is in any proper sense a more serious work than last year’s Barber of Seville, which is at least debatable). The company has a fixed artistic team – the talented young John Andrews conducting, Natascha Metherell (an ENO staffer) directing, designs by Elroy Ashmore and Mia Flodquist; I hope they continue to work together. The venue traditionally makes use of the stage’s natural backdrop of fields, which again was a handy hinterland for Tchaikovsky’s peasants to lurk in. The intimate textures that Andrews produced with his band of 18 instruments

(including five violins) fitted nicely with Tchaikovsky’s conception of something of modest scale; this was exactly the right nature of sound for the ineffable wistfulness of those first bars. And there were other good things too in Andrews’s brisk but elegant reading: the chattery quartet at the beginning of Act I came across more cleanly than I’ve heard it, with an easy and clear conversational style among singers and players that extended into the scenes of the couples together, the winding lines of string and woodwind beautifully articulated and the voices not competing in that my-vibrato’s-biggerthan-yours way one often hears, but working together in a matey kind of way. Metherell didn’t look much below the surface, but gave us the straight Tchaikovsky of naïve, honest Tatyana, pompous Eugene, flighty Olga and ardent Lensky. Natasha Jouhl is a young singer I’ve long admired, and her Tatyana was properly, romantically impetuous and likeable without really suggesting any great hinterland, the letter scene passionate and effective. Grant Doyle was the unreadable Onegin, behaving like Tatyana’s bank manager as he gave her the bum’s rush. Laura Kelly sang Olga with a lot of spark, and Shaun Dixon was Lensky. This was a good study of soft hearts in a hard world, but dug little of the depths and fruitfulness of this work of almost unbearable sensitiveness. RT

Iford Opera WILTSHIRE

As ever, Iford’s intimate cloister set among the stunning landscaped gardens of a terraced hillside, worked its magic through the summer, bringing opera right up close to the audience. This year’s Hansel and Gretel had two very strong central performances, and a hard-working staging by choreographer Will Tuckett (set in austerity 1950s) that was long on charm and detail if short on 59

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Duncan Rock as Iford’s Don Giovanni. Photo by Jessica Beveridge.

social critique. The evening eventually became a bit sweet-toothed for my taste but never induced the old finger-downthe-throat reaction whose angel-advocate is always hovering hopefully above Engelbert Humperdinck’s richly romantic opera. Broomsticks and a creepy puppet-cat joined the two worlds of neglectful home and wicked witch, and the childish larking of Act I was done with great warmth and humanity, and brilliantly performed by Ciara Hendrick and Aoife O’Sullivan, both completely convincing. Alun Rhys-Jenkins was an absolutely fantastic witch, a mad Fanny Cradock, jovial and terrifying. Oliver Gooch and his 16-piece orchestra Chroma had a good shot at capturing the lovely contrasting textures of the piece, but it was occasionally overplayed and muddy-sounding. Talk about a hostage to fortune: the prepublicity about Iford’s staging of Don Giovanni, performed by Opera della Luna, was all about its comic side and how the Prague version is a true opera buffa. If you go down this route, you’d better make people laugh – something which signally, and oddly, failed here. Director Jeff Clarke, presiding genius of the company, has never done anything not funny, as far as I can remember. So what went wrong? A comic Don Giovanni that doesn’t manage to raise any laughs can still provoke questions, and what Clarke did most effectively was to emphasise the qualities of human sympathy and companionship which Mozart proposes as the alternative to Giovanni’s reprehensible ways. One trouble with the Prague version is the reduction of Elvira to a figure of fun, with nothing to set against the fall-gal comedy of Act II, and a consequent rationing 60

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of the human warmth available.What there is must come from elsewhere, and Rhian Lois’s Zerlina came up with the goods, along with Victoria Joyce’s stylish Anna and Tyler Clarke, who did pretty well with the demands of ‘Il mio tesoro’. There were certainly good episodes here, but a general lack of energy – in Geoffrey Paterson’s 11-piece Orchestra of the Swan, too, in a rather oddly balanced arrangement. The relationship between Leporello and Giovanni never really took off, and Duncan Rock, who on paper looks perfect for the Don, didn’t actually bring convincing levels of masculine threat to the part. The family at the centre of the Lombard power-struggles of Handel’s Rodelinda is never a laugh a minute, but can rarely have seemed as droopy as the one in Martin Constantine’s glum production; one wonders how King Bertarido and co ever found the energy and will to reign. There was a certain deadening of the characters here. Gillian Ramm made a one-dimensional Rodelinda; well-sung but relentlessly miserablist, and traumatising her young son Flavio (subtly directed, and nicely played by Alex Surtees) to the point of provoking him to do her in. The director harped on the Rodelinda’s self-absorption, a novel interpretation of this apparently ballsy and constant spouse. James Laing was the equally sorry-forhimself Bertarido, singing with his usual amazing limpidity and naturalness. Losing power and family, he wandered around like Poor Tom waiting for someone to come and rescue him. For a bit of spirit and fire we had Doreen Curran’s mixed-motive Eduige, again

a somewhat flat characterisation but sung with burning conviction. The wicked usurpur Grimoaldo is actually a bit of a softy, undone and knowing it from the moment he fails to kill little Flavio, and in some ways this show’s most layered character; sensitively sung by Nathan Vale. In Jonathan Brown’s Garibaldo, at last, we had a character not infirm of purpose, which was a relief; and Owen Willetts made a highly sympathetic Unolfo, the counsellor who shows remarkable loyalty to this iffy gang. The score was stunningly played under conductor Christian Curnyn.The proportion of lulling, rustic, three-time arias in Rodelinda suggests that all the characters just want to get away from this hurly-burly and keep goats, and Curnyn’s rich-toned band (with the luxury of five violins!) mined this vein quite beautifully. RT

Bampton Classical Opera OXFORDSHIRE

You wonder how long Bampton’s guiding spirits Gilly French and Jeremy Gray can keep unearthing 18th-century works with enough zip to earn a staging. It’s a great cause, anyway, and to date they have excavated plenty of gems, including Storace’s Comedy of Errors, Soler’s Capricciosa corretta and Portugal’s Figaro, pieces which can hold their own in any company. I’m not sure Cimarosa’s Italian Girl in London is up to that, or even that of their previous foray into his work, The Two Barons of Rocca Azzurra; nonetheless it’s a perfectly likeable bit of Neapolitan flummery though each half is about ten minutes too long even for the tolerant and easily-amused. The premise, if any, is that the eponymous girl is masquerading as a French maid in a London hotel patronised by her ex (an English Lord), a Dutch salesman and an Italian idiot. All have their eye on the girl, but the proprietress fancies the Italian. A magic stone which makes you invisible is also notionally involved. Good things here started with the orchestra, playing to a really high standard under Thomas Blunt’s cultured direction, beautifully paced and elegant. And as usual Bampton had assembled an impressive cast, led by the always disciplined and assiduous Kim Sheehan as Livia. Adam Tunnicliffe sang the Dutchman stylishly, but the piece was stolen by the twin comic talents of Nicholas Merryweather as the absurd Polidoro and, most of all, by Caryl w w w. o p e r a n o w. c o . u k

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LIVE REVIEWS | 2011 Festivals Round-up UK & IRELAND

Adam Tunnicliffe, Nicholas Merryweather and Caryl Hughes in Bampton’s Italian Girl in London

Hughes’s Madame Brillante: this young Welsh mezzo sang a stunning Cenerentola at Iford last year, and here added effortless comic assurance to her portfolio, singing with focus and great technique. RT

Bury Court Opera HAMPSHIRE

John and Suzanne Coke’s exquisite barn at Bury Court is the latest venue to present grand opera on an intimate scale. It was hard to imagine how Rigoletto would play out in such a compact space, but from the first grippingly tragic bars of the overture, the performance unfolded with all the intensity needed for this brutal, beautiful piece. The Southbank Sinfonia, conducted with admirable precision by Simon Over, was placed above and behind the performers. There was no direct contact with the singers other than via a small monitor, and this meant the singers had to be very disciplined about tempi. The result was fuss-free Verdi. The casting was superb. Robert Davies’ eponymous anti-hero was sung with all the colour and dynamic range needed for an embittered father with unhealthy parenting issues. He wasn’t a hunchback in this production (by Emily Devlin), even though Rigoletto’s deformity defines his bitterness and insecurity. In spite of this, Davies was utterly convincing. His scenes with Gilda, sung with stunning acuity by Ilona Domnich (a pleasure to watch and hear), were heartbreaking in their simplicity. Anando Mukerjee was a sexy, sinister Duke. One could almost hear the sound of corsets hitting the floor as he groped every Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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nubile chick in his court. His voice has beautiful resonance in the lower registers but sounded strained at the top, but he’s young and has all the charisma needed for this role. Lilly Papaioannou applied every nuance of her faultless stage instincts and her rich mezzo voice to Maddalena, a small part of huge significance. She oozed sex and intrigue from her first shadowy appearance as the sidekick of the assassin Sparafucile, as he propositions Rigoletto. This was a well-thought-out production that rose beyond the limitations of the space, deploying the chorus with skill and using every entrance and exit available to powerful dramatic effect. RJ

Lismore Music Festival

COUNTY WATERFORD, IR ELAND The second year of the Lismore Music Festival, in a beautiful leafy part of west Waterford in Ireland, was if anything even more charmed than the first. The deluge will come, no doubt, but this year the place basked in Mediterranean temperatures (until the interval) to complement the tapassy pre-show grub and Sevillean flavour of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. As last year, the opera took place in the stable yard of Lismore Castle. Dieter Kaegi, usually an implacable Swiss modernist director, again showed his mellow side with a crowd-pleasing production that caused a touch of delighted outrage by way of a few bold words and contemporary dress, along with this year’s momentous coup de théâtre: a lovely horse (equipped with earplugs) for Zerlina’s entrance.

But nothing Kaegi does is stupid, and nor was this: fast and furious, done with terrific energy and edited for impetus, with Italian arias and Kerry profanities for the recitatives, the humour intentionally broad and with a saturnine villain of Murder in the Red Barn proportions at its centre (despite the usual lack of an identifiable crime). Things had been relocated to Ireland, with the Don (Andrew Ashwin) an Ascendancy toff taking unpardonable liberties with colleens of all classes, including a Zerlina who seemed to have emerged from My Big Fat Knacker Wedding. After a scratchy overture from David Adams’s eight-piece LMF Chamber Orchestra, whose nature as klezmer band had been wisely rethought (but was still a bit sax-heavy), things evened out and muddled along until Cara O’Sullivan (Anna) set a fire with ‘Or sai’: a note of real desperation and passion, and sung with complete commitment. A series of nice touches, later: Zerlina wrapping Masetto round her finger with ‘Batti, batti’, Giovanni’s serenade bringing girls to the windows like moths to a flame, Anthony Kearns’s beautifully-spun ‘Il mio tesoro’, a moment of still beauty in the turmoil. A lot of good energy here thanks to a distinguished cast (Fiona Murphy as derided Elvira and John Molloy the gobby Leporello). The band became quite elegant and then fairly scary in the graveyard scene with Cora Venus Lunny’s spooky fiddle scrapings and glissandos, but this is still the department that needs most attention. RT

Robert Davies and Ilona Domnich in Bury Court’s Rigoletto

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FESTIVAL FOCUS | Austr ia

The Bregenz Festival represents the biggest mass marketing of opera in the world today. Anybody questioning whether opera can be really popular just has to spend few days of summer on the scenic shores of Lake Constance, at the meeting-point of Austria, Germany and Switzerland, where a sell-out audience of nearly 7,000 gathers each night at the outdoor amphitheatre.

Bregenz festival BY TOM SUTCLIFFE

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FESTIVAL FOCUS | Austr ia

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The iconic image of Marat forms the centerpiece of Andrea Chenier. Photo by Karl Foreter

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regenz’s main attraction is its so-called ‘floating stage’ on the lake, which is actually a concrete raft presenting popular opera on a huge scale, amplified, colourfully acted, with masses of extras to fill out the epic crowd scenes – and yet without any compromises in the artistic department. The opera starts at 9.15pm, and the atmosphere as dusk falls and the distances of the lake fade into darkness, is magical. You don’t see the orchestra, since the players sit in an acoustic chamber under the stage and are audible through loudspeakers using a sophisticated sound system. Each major new lake-stage production is performed for two years running, and there is a premium on the designer coming up with an iconic image to give the festival its regular publicity boost. This year, a new production of Giordano’s Andrea Chenier topped the bill, with its story about the romantic and political intrigues surrounding the French revolutionary poet of the title, who ends up under the guillotine. Designer David Fielding turned for his thematic model to the famous Jacques-Louis David picture of Marat dead in his bath, stabbed by Charlotte Corday. The opera was in a sense constantly upstaged by the huge statue of Marat, upon which the action took place. The image was a conceptual reminder of the political passions that dominated the French Revolution, but this was not a ‘real’ space – not somewhere to which any part of the story naturally belonged. Yet so potent was the music and the singing, memorably conducted by Ulf Schirmer, that the non-narrative approach was in fact welcomed and absorbed by the public. Fielding’s spectacular set design sacrificed theatrical coherence in favour of iconic impact; but director KeithWarner’s rich, busy interpretation and the impressive cast (with British artists such as Rosalind Plowright, John Graham-Hall and Richard Angas, all excellent in supporting roles) clearly enthralled the audience.

On opening night, Héctor Sandoval was thrilling and magnificent in the title role (the tenor in this opera has to deliver at full tilt a succession of stunning arias). Scott Hendricks’s complex and well-drawn Gérard was no less imposing. Sadly, Norma Fantini as Maddalena was only moderately engaging. Giordano’s underrated opera is probably the least well-known work presented on Bregenz’s main stage to date. But Andrea Chenier proved to be a passionate, musically memorable drama that’s definitely worth catching at this astonishing location.

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his summer’s Bregenz Festival also saw a production of Miss Fortune (or Achterbahn to give it its German title), a newly commissioned opera by experienced British composer Judith Weir, which will premiere at the Royal Opera House in London next March. It’s a parable based on a Sicilian folk-tale about a privileged girl, daughter of Lord Fortune, who trusts in fate, heading off by herself when disaster strikes her wealthy family. After various bad experiences, she ends up on the sunny side of life exactly where she started out – winning the lottery. Tom Pye’s futuristic and intriguing designs looked beautiful and suggestive, once the story moved away from Lord and Lady Fortune’s eternal cocktail party. The performances of Emma Bell in the title role, countertenor Andrew Watts as Fate, AnneMarie Owens as a launderette lady called Donna, and the gifted Jacques Imbrailo rather wasting his talents on a wealthy young spark called Simon, were all deftly achieved in Chen Shi-Zheng’s competently straightforward but unexciting production. All perfectly fine, then – except the naive libretto written by the composer is clumsy and unconvincing. The appealingly colourful, even rather bubbly music seems often poorly linked to the narrative. Its worst aspect is the slow, plodding pace at which characters spout their clichés. Just exactly what is Judith Weir trying to say? Certainly nothing half as interesting as she managed in her remarkable 1993 opera Blond Eckbert. 63

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LIVE REVIEWS | France

Tristan und Isolde Wagner OPERA DE LYON vvvv Review by Francis Carlin Photography by Bertrand Stofleth

The chief architect behind this impressive staging of Wagner’s transcendental love story was Russian conductor Kirill Petrenko, who presided over slightly reduced orchestral forces in Lyons, an approach sanctioned by Wagner himself for smaller theatres. The result was a compelling exercise in chamber music that also mustered explosive power at dramatic climaxes. An overwhelming musical success: Clifton Forbis as Tristan and Ann Petersen as Isolde

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or years, Lyons Opera has avoided Wagner because the theatre’s pit is too small for a full-sized orchestra. The opera company’s boss Serge Dorny has shown a courageous determination to change this, even if his first attempt a few seasons back (Siegfried) was a very mixed experience due to an unsatisfactory production and a painfully noisy Brünnhilde. This new Tristan was much more successful and triggered a powerful buzz even if the production seemed to err on the 64

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side of simple good taste. Catalan director Alex Ollé and his theatre company Fura dels Baus delivered a muted staging, strange for an outfit that usually pulls out all the stops. The acting was sharply observed and designer Alfons Florès’ lunar sphere provided a viable symbolic framework; but Franc Aleu’s video work, one of Fura dels Baus’s main calling cards, was curiously self-effacing. The overwhelming success of Lyons’ new production was musical, notably Danish soprano Ann Petersen’s first Isolde. True,

in a bigger theatre, her gorgeously lyrical voice might be insufficient but this is how Isoldes should sound: fresh and totally alert to the dynamics in the score. She finished on fine, expressive form, an uplifting antidote to the edgy battleaxes we so often have to put up with in this role. Clifton Forbis, her experienced Tristan, has enough heft to fill a stadium without a mike but produced some exquisite sotto voce touches while trumpeting muscular fortes. His third act agony was a triumph of rage and frustration. Stella Grigorian’s bright girlish mezzo lacked the muscle to sustain Brangäne’s cantilevered line in Act II, but Christof Fischesser’s superb King Mark cradled his monologue like a polished Lieder singer. Like other Russians tackling Wagner, conductor Kirill Petrenko sometimes coaxes excessive vibrato from the strings (which sometimes made me think I was listening to Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet). However, the carefully engineered balance between pit and stage was astounding. The Opéra de Lyon will be presenting Shostakovich’s comically surreal opera The Nose this October, with stunning designs by South African artist William Kentridge which received rave reviews when the production was premiered at the Met in New York. Details in our Spotlight section.

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LIVE REVIEWS | Belg ium

Les Huguenots Meyerbeer

Plenty of thrills: Eric Cutler as Raoul and Marlis Petersen as Marguérite

THÉÂTRE DE LA MONNAIE/DE MUNT, BRUSSELS vvv Review by Francis Muzzu Photography by Clärchen und Matthias Baus

Premiered in Paris in 1836, Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots was an instant hit. It was the first work ever to be performed more than 1,000 times at the Paris Opera and it inaugurated the new Royal Opera House in London in 1858.

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erformances of Les Huguenots these days are few and far between. It’s an expensive opera to stage, requiring seven leading singers – including Raoul, one of the most challenging tenor roles in the repertoire. So hats off to La Monnaie for pulling off this operatic feat. Such was my enthusiasm for this rarity that I attended two nights in a row in Brussels in order to see both casts. Director Olivier Py’s production was fast and clear in its storytelling: metal pavilions, towers and tables were moved swiftly around the stage, and a staircase advanced and receded as necessary, creating a dark, atmospheric environment with enough of a visual nod to the 16th century to satisfy traditionalists, but at the same time keep things edgy enough for anyone hoping for something more interpretative. So far so good, but I felt that Py didn’t ultimately follow his ideas through. Why were the costumes such a mishmash across

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centuries: someone in full 16th-century rig standing next to a Victorian gentleman holding a Kalashnikov? Why did everyone walk atop the furniture all the time? And why did people’s clothes fall off so often? But the action moved apace, the audience seemed intent in its concentration, and Acts IV and V were as thrilling as one might hope. A lot of credit is due to Marc Minkowski’s conducting. He relished Meyerbeer’s fascinating orchestration and his coherent approach stopped such a long evening from rambling. The orchestra responded with gusto and the chorus was superb, deserving the highest of praise. The casts were a mixed bag. The first night had the edge: the notable American tenor Eric Cutler was a stylish and idiomatic Raoul, thrilling at the big moments; Marlis Petersen’s Marguérite combined vocal fireworks with an interesting portrayal of the queen’s public and private lives;

Jérôme Varnier’s Marcel blustered fanatically. As Valentine, Mireille Delunsch seemed at sea, with some panicked phrasing, cloudy diction and tuning problems – an off night or the wrong role? Yulia Lezhneva’s Urbain twittered cutely, but once again this was strange casting. In the second cast, only Ingela Brimberg (Valentine) had the real measure of the drama with vocal resources to match, even if the sound she makes is slightly faceless. Blandine Staskiewicz’s Urbain was vocally and dramatically integrated, and her tone suited the role, with its mezzo tints. Common to both hard-working casts were Jean-François Lapointe (Nevers) and Philippe Rouillon (Saint Bris), contrasting baritones both capable of providing thrills. La Monnaie will be presenting another rarity this October – George Enescu’s Oedipe, premiered in 1936. For details see this issue’s Spotlight section. 65

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LIVE REVIEW NOTES

William Tell Rossini BBC PROMS

vvvv� When is too much not enough? Perhaps with William Tell, if you relish the opportunity to hear Rossini’s final opera in the original French, albeit in concert form at the Proms. Antonio Pappano avowedly loves the score, and following concert performances in Rome last year with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, also recorded, the whole enterprise was shipped over to delight an eager Prom audience. If Pappano had elected to play every note Rossini wrote we’d still have been there long after midnight, so a sensibly cut version was used (though I have to admit to particularly missing the elegant trio for the three women in Act IV). And superbly played it was too. Pappano and the orchestra breathed life into the score at every opportunity; he caught the rhythmic spring of the Pas de Six in Act I, the elegance of Mathilde’s entrance aria, the grandeur and spaciousness of the finale. No detail was too small for illumination, but nothing was fussed over and there was a natural sense of pace. The playing was inspired, and each section of the orchestra seized its moment in the spotlight with zest. The chorus was also magnificent, particularly stunning in its softer moments.

Conductor Antonio Pappano. Photo by Musacchio Ianniello/ EMI Classics

The singers were more of a mixed bunch. Michele Pertusi has long experience in the title role (well, as much as one can have these days), and remains a noble presence and voice – but it is only fair to point out that there his resources are not as thrilling as they have been. John Osborn sang Arnold, the tenor role infamous for its welter of top Bs, Cs and even a couple of C-sharps. Having recently seen him pace himself cautiously through another role created by Adolphe Nourrit, Raoul in Les Huguenots, I must admit he threw himself into this performance with rather more gusto, though he paid for it by his final aria, where the glancing top Cs in the cabaletta were nearer to Bs, though the sustained notes hit the nail on the head. Despite his vocal prowess he once again

William Tell on CD Recorded live during concert performances in Rome, 2010, Pappano’s conducting and the contributions of the Orchestra and Chorus of the Academy of Santa Cecilia provide excitements comparable to the 2011 Proms performance. Gerald Finley’s Tell is thrilling of tone and makes a strong impression in this relatively unshowy role. Hedwige is MarieNicole Lemieux, whose rich mezzo is rather under-utilised given the cuts.

EMi classics - B004xMw70w, 3 cDs

ON TOUR

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Francis Muzzu

Otherwise things remain much the same, with John Osborn’s confident Arnold, Malin Byström’s problematic Mathilde, and Elena Xanthoudakis’s vivid Jemmy. The sound is good if not quite crisp enough, and at this low price do consider this as an option against the estimable Gardelli version, also on EMI, or the thrillingly sung Chailly set, albeit in Italian, on Decca (both considerably more expensive).

A Magic Flute Mozart

Photo by Pascal Victor

remained a curiously impassive performer. Malin Byström’s Mathilde was more problematic; with an elegant voice to match her persona, she is obviously a talented soprano. But her sometimes choppy phrasing and bumpy coloratura made for very uncomfortable listening at times. No such problems for Elena Xanthoudakis as Jemmy, whose bright soprano remained sweet to the top of its range, and even in concert performance she is a natural communicator. Likewise, Patricia Bardon emoted gravely but elegantly as Hedwige. Of the smaller roles, I particularly enjoyed Matthew Rose’s sonorous Walter, Carlo Bosi’s incisive Rodolphe, and the luxury casting of Celso Albelo as Ruodi.

Peter Brook has made a career of being a theatrical iconoclast. In his approach to Mozart’s Magic Flute, he has compressed the opera to half its length; this is certainly a version, not the real thing. A cultured piano tinkles away during the (French) dialogue, referencing the removed music of Ladies and Boys or gently rhapsodising. The singers do not declaim but speak to each other, singing their German arias rather quietly.

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Everyone is barefoot, and two actors eclipse the singers with their assurance as they involve themselves in multitasking representation of birds, snakes, slaves, boys. Brook imposes a stillness that can allow quiet voices to be heard. And there is a sweetness about this Flute, the basic humanity of the action emerging through the removal of the original’s excess baggage. Continuing its tour around Europe, Peter Brook’s A Magic Flute can be seen at the Megaron in Athens between 2 and 5 November. www.megaron.gr

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OPERA NOW CLUB Welcome

to the second instalment of the Opera Now Club. Every month, the club gives you the best in exclusive offers from the world of opera. Choose from discounts on cinema and opera tickets, music downloads, CDs, DVDs and more.

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CINEMA: SHOWCASE CINEMA TICKETS We have 2 pairs of tickets to give away to each of the following LIVE screenings from the Met, New York:

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• Don Giovanni at 6pm on Saturday 29th October • Siegfried at 4pm on Saturday 5th November • Satyagraha at 6pm on Saturday 19th November • Rodelina at 5.30pm on Saturday 3rd December • Faust at 6pm on Saturday 10th December The winner(s) can choose to see these at the following cinemas: • Showcase Bluewater • Showcase Cinema de Lux Cabot Circus, Bristol • Showcase Cinema de Lux Westfield, Derby • Showcase Cinema de Lux Highcross, Leicester TO FIND OUT HOW TO ENTER visit www.rhinegold.co.uk/onclub For more information about performances visit www.nationalamusements.com/events/met_events

CINEMA: PICTUREHOUSE MEMBERSHIP There’s still time to get 20% off your Picturehouse membership and watch the Metropolitan Opera’s new A still from a recent Opera Siam season liveoffrom UK! The season, which runs from October 2011 – April 2012 includes Donizetti’s production Blue the Beard’s Castle at TheBolena, NationalGlass’s TheatreSatyagraha, of Thailand Verdi’s Ernani and a new production of Massenet’s Manon as well as a Anna world premiere production of The Enchanted Island.

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RECENT RELEASES DVDS

CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA/ PAGLIACCI Mascagni/Leoncavallo

by Richard Fawkes

MOTEZUMA Vivaldi

ARMIDA Rossini

Arthaus 101 489 - 1 DVD

Dynamic 33586 2DVDs

Decca 074 3416 2 DVDs

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This production of opera’s favourite double bill comes from Zurich and stars leading Argentinian tenor José Cura in both. Turridu and Canio are roles that suit Cura to perfection, and since he can also act, both performances pack a powerful dramatic punch. In Cav there is strong support from Paoletta Marrocu as Santuzza, Liliana Nikiteanu as Lola and Cheyne Davidson as the jealous Alfio; in Pag, Carlo Guelfi is an outstandingly malevolent Tonio. Fiorenza Cedolins shines as the two-timing Nedda. Stefano Ranzani conducts both operas with a strong sense of urgency that is thrilling. If you are a Cura fan, you won’t want to miss this set.

Vivaldi’s opera was first performed in Venice in 1733, almost certainly with the composer conducting. It was then lost for many years, being rediscovered in 2002 in a library in Berlin, having been removed to Kiev during World War Two. The newly discovered score was incomplete, with only 17 out of 28 numbers being intact, so Baroque scholar Alessandro Ciccolini, aided by the conductor Alan Curtis, has reconstructed the missing parts. It is their version, already recorded on CD, which was filmed, for the first time, in Ferrara. Curtis directs Il Complesso Barocco with panache through a score full of richness, light and shade. The singing overall is exemplary, especially from Vito Priante in the title role, and Stefano Vizioli’s production tells the story clearly and imaginatively.

Renée Fleming seems to be on a crusade to prove that there’s not a lot, if anything, she cannot sing. She trills away as Armida the Sorceress, hot on the heels of the DVD of Richard Eyre’s staging of La Traviata for Covent Garden in which she sings a moving Violetta opposite Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja’s Alfredo (with the bonus of Thomas Hampson as Giorgio and Antonio Pappano in the pit (Opus Arte OA 1040D). Armida is a long piece which never quite comes together in Mary Zimmerman’s stylised production, in which the characters engage in lots of very purposeful walking around. So it’s all down to the singing. Rossini calls for six tenors, though in this Met recording, the British singer Barry Banks sings two roles. The lead tenor, in the role of Rinaldo, is Lawrence Brownlee, a singer whose advance to the front rank continues apace. And what about Fleming in a role once claimed by Callas? She acts agreeably, sings spiritedly and is, let’s face it, utterly captivating.

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MULTIMEDIA | DVDs

ACI, GALATEA E POLIFEMO Handel

MARINO FALIERO Donizetti

LA CENERENTOLA Rossini

Dynamic 33645 1 DVD

Naxos 2.110616-17 2 DVDs

Dynamic 33662 2 DVDs

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It used to be received wisdom that Handel’s operas were unstageable, that they were oratorios which could really only be performed as such. Imagine the challenge that a director faces with this, one of Handel’s earliest pieces, written while in Italy as a young man. It has a cast of just three who have to sustain our attention over 90 minutes during which very little happens. And yet, for this production, which began life in Turin, director Davide Livermore has come up with an approach that is riveting – he has doubled up on the cast so that a mime artist, dressed in identical clothes (which are sometimes shed), mirrors each singer, thus revealing inner feelings in the most striking manner. It is hard to take your eyes off the stage. It helps, too, that the singers are so good, with the rich-voiced Sara Mingardo outstanding as Galatea, Ruth Rosique the perfect foil as Aci, and Antonio Abete a blustering Polifemo. Antonio Florio directs a performance by the period instrument band Cappella della Pietà de’ Turchini that is a triumph. The recording is also available on the Dynamic label as a two-CD set (CDS645/1-2).

This was the prolific Donizetti’s 50th opera. The story is based on an attempt by Marino Faliero, the Doge of Venice, to lead a coup and become Prince of Venice. The opera was premiered in 1835, the same year that saw Bellini’s I Puritani and Donizetti’s own Lucia di Lamermoor reach the stage. After the first night, Bellini, Donizetti’s great rival, wrote to his uncle that it was incredible a composer with such talent could write such a bad opera. Was Bellini right? On the evidence of this showing from the Bergamo Festival, he probably was. Despite atmospheric sets, it is a stand-and-sing piece which needs exceptional voices if the lack of vocal highlights is to be overcome. The chorus is spirited and Giorgio Surian is a striking Doge, but some of the principals are over-parted. Rachele Stanisci, as Elena, strains in the upper reaches of the voice. What could have been an interesting discovery proves a disappointment.

This is the production of Rossini’s comic opera that reopened the rebuilt Petruzzelli theatre in Bari in 2010. A pity it could not have been more festive for the occasion. The problem is Daniele Abbado’s production which never really gets off the ground. It has a look of low-budget and no real style to it. The singers, however, all work hard and José Maria Lo Monaco in the title role is particularly impressive. The ensembles are well handled by conductor Evelino Pido, and it is only when the company lines up to sing directly to the audience that the performance comes to life.There is nothing about this production that would make one choose it over the Glyndebourne DVD of Cenerentola directed by Peter Hall.

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NExT issuE NOVEMBER 2011

ThE cOMEBAck kiD

 ROlANDO VillAZÓN

Jessica Duchen talks to the Mexican tenor about his return to opera after a brush with vocal catastrophe, and his appearances on TV’s Popstar to Operastar

 ThE wORlD’s BEsT TENORs Opera Now goes talent spotting to find a new generation of Domingos and Pavarottis

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Opera in Madrid and Barcelona Living Legends: Montserrat Caballé

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iN ThE OpERA hOusE The brave new world of virtual opera

Rolando Villazón Photo by Anja Frers / DG

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www.rhinegold.co.uk Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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MULTIMEDIA | Audiofile

AUDIOFILE sOuND STORAGE

How can your whole music collection be available at the touch of a button while still sounding fabulous? Rafael Todes finds a storage system that hits all the right notes

y experience listening to CDs is that I regularly play a handful of the same ones, and the boxes end up on the floor in pieces! The Meridian Sooloos is an elegant system for storing all your CDs in one place, without compromising on quality (unlike the iPod). Plus you can access this store from any room in the house. The system’s Control 15 interface is the most inviting way to choose music that I’ve yet come across. There is an elegant silver-framed monitor with a touch-screen, so you see the CD covers in front of you. Touch the album you want to hear, hit the play button and you’re away... When the unit was first delivered, I had to fight my kids for the privilege of using it. My children would never go to the cupboard and chose a CD to put on, so it was interesting to see how a beautifully designed interface drew their attention and led them to listening to more music. (For once, the ‘Wife Acceptance Factor’ of this particular device was positive, on the grounds that it eliminated those ugly CD boxes.) The unit plugs into your router, and to add a

new CD, you simply post it in the slot for around eight minutes, while it is copied to the hard disk. It checks the information with no fewer than five databases, for the tagging, ie artist, album, resolution etc, and seemed to be reasonably accurate with its attributions. There is a free iPhone and iPad app which enables you to control the selection of material and volume from an armchair. While it doesn’t have the full artwork, and lacks the aesthetic experience of the monitor, it is useful and works well. You can set the system so that any computer in the house has access to the library, and the music will be streamed wirelessly through the network. It is possible for two or more people to be accessing the library at the same time. The pièce de résistance, however, is that this latest model now plays high-resolution files, up to 96Khz/24Bit, which add a sense of dimension to a recording – capturing the soundstage more effectively. You will also need a DAC, a digital-to-analogue converter. Meridian make one to go with the Control 15 unit, which then outputs into a preamplifier. For the purposes of this review, I used a Weiss DAC202 reviewed previously.

M

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ow to put all this to the test: first up was the classic 1974 recording of Britten’s Death in Venice, which begins with Aschenbach (Peter Pears) walking in the suburbs of Munich, expressing his innermost angst. Peter Pears’ characteristic voice has real presence – strong, rich and full. The woodwind and brass solos are peppered around the virtual soundstage, and the ambience of the hall is beautifully captured. The Meridian does a particularly good job of the chorus scenes. It manages to provide a detailed sound in what is sometimes the most demanding job for digital: portraying large forces. There is the added comfort of not having to get up to change the record every 25 minutes or the CD every 76 minutes. If the early attempts at CD players would scream at the top end, this seems to be the opposite. Swapping over to the Meridian DAC (Media Source 600) further increases the creaminess of the sound, at a slight cost of the Weiss Dac’s crystalline clarity. Deciding which is better is a personal choice, depending on the palette of tone colours that you want from a DAC.

How does the Meridian Sooloos compare with the best CD transport in the same price range? Using a Cyrus CDXTSE with a Chord Indigo Plus connection cable, I listened to the third movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. The Cyrus/Weiss combination produced a really clear, sparkly sound, with the instruments clearly defined in space and beautifully separated in their different sections. The Meridian server, feeding the Weiss DAC and Indigo Chord Plus delivered a marginally less detailed but smoother sound. A touch of the sparkle had disappeared, but the resultant mixture was far from unpleasant to listen to, just slightly less refi ned. Where the bass quality of the Cyrus was taut and punchy, the Meridian lost a touch of that incision, yet sounded fuller in some respects. As a digital transport then, the Meridian does a fi ne job but doesn’t rival the best optical designs. This is a rare product that facilitates and enhances your enjoyment of music, and would be a great asset in any musicloving home.

For further details visit www.meridian-audio.com

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19/09/2011 18:11


SPOTLIGHT OPERA NOW’S WORLDWIDE EVENTS GUIDE OCTOBER 2011

Mariusz Kwiecie as Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. Photo by Nick Heavican

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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SPOTLIGHT OPERA GUIDE OCTOBER 2011

top FIVE thIngs to sEE BERliN From the House of the Dead Janácek Iconic French cinematographer Patrice Chéreau directs one of the 20th century’s most disturbing and stirring operas.

pARis Tannhäuser Wagner Nina Stemme makes her role debut as Elisabeth. Sir Mark Elder conducts.

NEw yORk Don Giovanni Mozart Handsomely cast, with theatre doyen Michael Grandage in the director’s seat.

lONDON Marriage of Figaro Mozart Phyllida Loyd directs a new generation of top British talent.

both ardent actresses who should play up Elektra’s hysteria to the hilt.

BERliN

DEuTschE OpER BERliN Don Carlo Verdi Cast Roberto Scandiuzzi, Massimo Giordano, Boaz Daniel, Ante Jerkunica Conductor Donald Runnicles Director Marco Arturo Marelli Oct 23 to Nov 12 (6 performances) +49 30 34 384 1 www.deutscheoperberlin.de A solid cast and experienced artistic team should make Verdi’s sprawling political thriller especially compelling for its Berlin performances. Massimo Giordano is a name that’s increasingly being associated with heroic, Italianate tenor roles as he establishes himself on the international opera circuit.The new production will be revived in April 2012.

MuNich

sTAATsOpER uNTER DEN liNDEN

Les contes d’Hoffmann Offenbach Star casting sees Rolando Villazón as Hoffmann in search of his ideal woman.

From the House of the Dead Janá ek Cast Willard White, Roman Trekel, Eric Stoklossa, Štefan Margita Conductor Simon Rattle Producer Patrice Chéreau

AMsTERDAM

ThE NEThERlANDs OpERA Elektra R Strauss Cast Evelyn Herlitzius, Camilla Nylund, Michaela Schuster, Hubert Delamboye Conductor Marc Albrecht Producer Willy Decker

Oct 3 to 17 (6 performances) +49 30 20 35 4-0 www.staatsoper-berlin.de

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Based on Dostoyevsky’s novel set in a Siberian labour camp, Janá ek’s bleak yet deeply humane depiction of men in captivity is surely one of the most powerful operas of the 20th century. This superb production (already seen in New York, Milan and Vienna) is by the iconic French film director Patrice Chéreau. A cast of international heavyweights performs under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.

BRussEls

ThÉÂTRE ROyAl DE lA MONNAiE Oedipe Enescu Cast Dietrich Henschel, Jan-Hendrik Rootering, Robert Bork, Natascha Petrinsky, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Ilse Eerens Conductor Leo Hussain Director Alex Ollé, Valentina Carrasco

world prEmIErE choIcE

OpERA hONg kONg

Dr Sun Yat-sen Huang Ruo Cast Warren Mok, Hui He, Xiaolin Zhou, Dong-Jian Gong Conductor Yan Huichang Producer Chen Xinyi Oct 13 to 16 (2 performances, then on tour)

The Opera Hong Kong world premiere of Sun Yat-sen.

Opera in China has been growing in popularity over the past decade. New opera houses have sprung up all over the country, but more as statements of cultural prowess presenting opera from abroad rather than making provision for home-grown opera. So it’s good to see a new, entirely Chinese opera receiving its world premiere in Hong Kong. Dr Sun Yat-sen, by Huang Ruo, celebrates the centennial of the 1911 Revolution and is based on the life of the political revolutionary often referred to in post-imperial China as the ‘Father of the Nation’. The opera tours to major cities in China, including the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing.

Oct 6 to 31 (9 performances) +31 20 551 8922 www.dno.nl A new production by the celebrated German director Willy Decker. The title role will be shared between Evelyn Herlitzius and American Wagnerian soprano Linda Watson,

From the House of the Dead in Berlin. Photo by Ros Ribas

Elektra in Amsterdam

Hong Kong Cultural Centre, +852 2234 0303 www.operahongkong.org

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spOTlighT: Opera guide

Oct 22 to Nov 6 (9 performances) +32 2 229 12 00 www.lamonnaie.be An epic 20th century rarity that is gradually creeping into the opera house schedules more and more regularly in Europe. The staging comes from the creative team behind Fura dels Baus, one of the most lively and innovative theatre troupes in Europe.

lONDON

FRANkFuRT

A new production of Mozart’s classic comedy of social manners that showcases a new generation of British talent directed by one of the most illustrious names in the world of theatre.

OpER FRANkFuRT L’étoile Chabrier Cast Guy De Mey, Paula Murrihy, Juanita Lascarro, Simon Bailey Conductor Henrik Nanasi / Karsten Januschke Producer David Alden Oct 2 to Nov 12 (8 performances) +49 69 212 02 www.oper-frankfurt.de Chabrier’s opera is a real charmer – a sophisticated, melodious tale of star-crossed lovers, with a happy ending. American director David Alden brings his quirky side to the proceedings.

lEEDs

OpERA NORTh The Queen of Spades Tchaikovsky Cast Orla Boylan, Josephine Barstow, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Jonathan Summers Conductor Richard Farnes Producer Neil Bartlett Oct 20 to 28 (4 performances) +44 113 243 9999 www.operanorth.co.uk The renowned writer and director Neil Bartlett stages a new production of Tchaikovsky’s torrid tale of gambling and obsession, with Josephine Barstow providing a star turn as the creepy Countess.

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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ENglish NATiONAl OpERA The Marriage of Figaro Mozart Cast Iain Paterson, Kate Valentine, Roland Wood, Kathryn Rudge Conductor Paul Daniel Producer Fiona Shaw Oct 5 to Nov 10 (10 performances) +44 20 7836 0111 www.eno.org

The Passenger Weinberg Cast Michelle Breedt, Giselle Allen, Kim Begley, Leigh Melrose Conductor Richard Armstrong Director David Pountney

rEVIVAl hIghlIghts

ROyAl OpERA hOusE, lONDON Faust Gounod

Catch the last few performances of David McVicar’s spectacular production of Gounod’s devilishly tuneful grand opera. The dashing Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo sings the title role opposite Angela Gheorghiu’s Marguérite. René Pape is a definitive Mephistopheles. (The cast alternates, so check carefully if you’re particular about who you want to hear.) Continuing until 10 October (9 performances)

La traviata Verdi Richard Eyre’s oft-revived production, with gorgeous period designs by Bob Crowley, is a Royal Opera classic. It’s also a superb vehicle for leading sopranos to show their mettle. This Traviata runs intermittently through the entire ROH season, featuring the likes of Marina Poplavskaya, Ailyn Pérez, Ermonela Jaho and Anna Netrebko in the title role. Oct 3 to 22, Nov 25 & 28 (21 performances ongoing to 25 January)

Oct 7 to 25 (5 performances)

Der Fliegende Holländer Wagner

The UK premiere of a powerful and intense piece about an encounter, after the passage of years, between a holocaust survivor and her Nazi prison camp persecutor. Premiered in 1968, the opera was ‘rediscovered’ at last year’s Bregenz festival. Think ‘Shostakovich with a Jewish accent’.

A revival of Tim Albery’s Olivier Award-nominated production adds impressive nautical paraphernalia to Wagner’s atmospheric and spine-chilling score. The huge hull of the ghost ship looms large in Michael Levine’s evocative set designs.

Castor and Pollux Rameau Cast Sophie Bevan, Laura Tatulescu, Allan Clayton, Roderick Williams Conductor Christian Curnyn Producer Barrie Kosky

Oct 18 to Nov 4 (6 performances)

English National Opera’s production of The Passenger. Photo by Karl Forster

Oct 24 to Dec 1 (8 performances) Australian director Barrie Kosky has become something of a legend at the Komische Oper in Berlin, where he takes over as artistic director next year. Expect a witty, camp, even outrageous staging, expertly conducted by Christian Curnyn.

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SPOTLIGHT OPERA GUIDE OCTOBER 2011

Bryn Terfel, Eric Owens, Patricia Bardon Conductor James Levine Director Robert Lepage

The Nose in Lyons. Photo by Ken Howard/ Metropolitan Opera

Oct 27 to Nov 5 (3 performances)

lyON

OpÉRA DE lyON The Nose Shostakovich Cast Albert Schagidullin, Alexander Kravets, Andrei Popv, Vladimir Ognovenko, Conductor Kazushi Ono Producer William Kentridge Oct 8 to 20 (7 performances) +33 472 00 4500 www.opera-lyon.com South African artist William Kentridge has produced a series of superbly witty and highly original designs for Shostakovich’s quirky and surreal allegory about a man who turns into a nose (based on a story by Gogol). The production has already wowed audiences in New York and in Aix-en-Provence.

MuNich

BAyERischE sTAATsOpER Les contes d’Hoffmann Offenbach Cast Rolando Villazón, Diana Damrau, John Relyea, Conductor Constantinos Carydis Director Richard Jones Oct 31 to Nov 25 (7 performances) +49 89 21 85 01 www.staatsoper.de An all-star cast sees Villazón returning to a key tenor role that he had to cancel when he was scheduled to sing it at the Met two years ago. The

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incredible Diana Damrau sings all three demanding soprano leads. Richard Jones’s productions are always fascinating, and the show comes to London in February next year at the English National Opera.

NEw yORk

ThE METROpOliTAN OpERA Don Giovanni Mozart Cast Mariusz Kwiecien, Marina Rebeka, Barbara Frittoli, Luca Pisaroni, Ramón Vargas Conductor James Levine Director Michael Grandage Oct to Nov 11 (9 performances) +1 212 799 3100 www.metopera

Robert Lepage’s Ring, with its massive headline-grabbing set packed with breathtaking special-effects, continues apace. While there’s plenty of style and technical wizardry, the staging has been criticised for its lack of substance. Rising American tenor makes his first appearance In this cycle in the role of Siegfried. The complete Met Ring will be presented next spring.

pARis

pARis OpERA Tannhäuser Wagner Cast Christopher Ventris, Nina Stemme, Stéphane Degout, Sophie Koch, Conductor Mark Elder Director Robert Carsen Oct 6 to 29 (8 performances) +33 1 43 43 96 96 www.operadeparis.fr

Renowned British theatre director Michael Grandage takes on his second opera, and promises his audiences a Don Giovanni with a real erotic charge. The dashing Polish barione Mariusz Kwiecien is a good start when it comes to sex appeal, well-paired with Luca Pisaroni as his side-kick Leporello. The other roles in this tight ensemble bring together some of opera’s top names. The production will be revived in Feb/Mar 2012 with different casting under the baton of Andrew Davis.

Ms Stemme makes her muchanticipated debut as Elisabeth and joins a fine cast under a conductor who is a superlative interpreter of Wagner’s music. A production not to be missed.

sAN FRANciscO

sAN FRANciscO OpERA Lucrezia Borgia Donizetti Cast Renée Fleming, Francesco Meli, Vitalij Kowaljow, Elizabeth DeShong Conductor Riccardo Frizza Director John Pascoe Oct 2 to 11 (4 performances) +1 415 861 4008 www.sfopera.com There’s a superb cast led by Renée Fleming in San Francisco for John Pascoe’s dark, neo-gothic production of Donizetti’s bloody bodiceripper, which received excellent notices when it was first staged at Washington National Opera in 2008.

ViENNA

wiENER sTAATsOpER La traviata Verdi Cast Natalie Dessay, Charles Castronovo, Fabio Capitanucci Conductor Bertrand de Billy Director Jean-François Sivadier Oct 9 to 24 (6 performances) +43 1 51 444 2960 www.wiener-staatsoper.at First produced in Aix-en-Provence, this production seems made for the mercurial talents of the gamine Natalie Dessay. Sivadier’s cool, intelligent production places Violetta in the world of the theatre, with its public displays and its private heartaches.

ThEATER AN DER wiEN Siegfried Wagner Cast Gary Lehman, Deborah Voigt,

Gary Lehman as Siegfried at the Met

Xerxes Handel Cast Danielle de Niese,

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spOTlighT: Opera guide

Malena Ernman, Bejun Mehta, Adriana Ku erová, Luciana Mancini, Anton Scharinger, Andreas Wolf Conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi Director Adrian Noble Oct 18 to 27 (5 performances) +43 1 58 830 660 www.theater-wien.at Handel opera is Danielle De Niese’s natural milieu and she exudes her charisma whenever she is on stage. Adrian Noble is one of the most illustrious figures in British theatre and makes one of his rare forays into opera.

ZuRich

OpERNhAus ZÜRich Otello Verdi Cast Peter Seiffert, Thomas Hampson, Fiorenza Cedolins, Stefan Pop Conductor Daniele Gatti Director Graham Vick Oct 20 to Nov 27 (8 performances) +41 44 268 64 00 www.opernhaus.ch Verdi’s powerful reworking of Shakespeare’s dark and penetrating exploration of jealousy is in experienced hands as director Graham Vick works with a topflight international cast in Zurich’s intimate opera house.

OpERA ON TOuR ENglish TOuRiNg OpERA The Fairy Queen Purcell | Xerxes Handel | Flavio Handel Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London, Oct 6 to 15 (7 performances) Oct 17 to Nov 26 will tour to Bath, Buxton, Cambridge, Lincoln, Harrogate, High Wycombe, Snape, Exeter, Malvern.

Opera Now OCTOBER 2011

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+44 20 7833 2555 www.englishtouringopera.org.uk

OpERA ON scREEN

English Touring Opera constantly reminds us that small scale can still mean high quality. Its productions are consistently welltailored and often wonderfully cast – a chance to catch tomorrow’s greatest talents as they embark on their careers. This autumn’s early opera line-up is no exception.

A round-up of productions in cinemas worldwide by Richard Fawkes

glyNDEBOuRNE ON TOuR La bohème Puccini Glyndebourne, Oct 8 to 27 (6 performances) Nov 1 to Dec 10 will tour to Woking, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Plymouth, London, Stoke-on-Trent (12 performances). Don Pasquale Donizetti Glyndebourne, Oct 9 to 29 (7 performances) Nov 2 to Dec 3 will tour to Woking, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Plymouth, London (10 performances). Rinaldo Handel Oct 22 to 28 (3 performances) Nov 3 to 24 will tour to Woking, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Plymouth (4 performances). +44 1273 812 321 www.glyndebourne.com Glyndbourne’s touring arm has established a very distinct identity from the main festival, presenting rising young stars in repertoire that doesn’t merely re-hash offerings from the summer. David McVicar’s acclaimed La bohème makes a welcome return to the tour. French director Mariame Clément promises to infuse her new production of Don Pasquale with her characteristic wit and style, while Laurence Cummings adds his Handelian expertise to Rinaldo.

• Metropolitan Opera Live in HD 15 October: David McVicar’s new production of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena stars Anna Netrebko in the title role, Ekaterina Gubanova as her rival Jane Seymour and Ildar Abdrazakov as Henry VIII. Marco Armilicato conducts. If you’re a collector of mad scenes, you won’t want to miss this. • 29 October: Michael Grandage’s new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Mariusz Kwiecien in the title role. Also in the cast are Marina Rebeka, Barbara Frittoli, Ramón Vargas and Luca Pisaroni. The conductor is James Levine. • 5 November: Robert Lepage’s new production of Wagner’s Siegfried can be seen with Gary Lehman in the title role and Bryn Terfel singing the Wanderer. And don’t forget the Saturday radio broadcasts from the Met which can be heard live on BBC Radio 3. Full details of what is on, where and when, from the Met website: www.metoperafamily.org • Royal Opera House, London Covent Garden’s new cinema season continues with a recording of the recent production of Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur. Angela Gheorghiu sings the title role, Jonas Kaufmann is Maurizio and Mark Elder conducts. Not being live, performances will be screened at a time and on a day to be decided by the cinema manager but will be sometime during the week commencing 14 October.

Full details of Royal Opera House productions and of cinema venues showing them can be found on the Royal Opera House website: www.cinema.roh.org.uk • San Francisco Opera San Francisco Opera’s Grand Opera Cinema Series continues with four more productions being released for showing in local West Coast cinemas, beginning with Verdi’s Otello. Johan Botha sings the title role with the Bulgarian soprano Zvetelina Vassileva as Desdemona and Marco Vrato as Iago. The company’s music director, Nicola Luisotti, conducts. Also being released this month are productions of Il trittico, Salome and The Magic Flute. None of these screenings are live. If it’s the live experience you want, watch out for details of free live simulcast screenings throughout the West Coast, including to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. Details of productions and cinemas taking part in the SFO’s big screen programme can be found on SFO’s website: www. sfopera.com/Watch-Listen/GrandOpera-Cinema-series.aspx • Opera Australia Opera Australia is in the process of doing a deal with ABC Television for showing their productions on television. Expect an announcement soon, together with updates on cinema and DVD releases. Check out www.operaaustralia.org.au/whatson/cinema • A site worth exploring if you want to know more about cinemas that screen opera is www.operaincinema.com

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GRAND FINALE

‘It ain’t all over till the Fat Lady sings’ It’s an off-the-shelf phrase that’s become common currency beyond the opera world. But, asks Andrew Green, who put it on the shelf in the first place?

T

here must have been a time when opera-goers expected their divas to come in gargantuan sizes. Where else could people have got the idea that every opera ends with a big aria for an even bigger female singer? The example often given is Brünnhilde’s massive twentyminute solo tour de force at the end of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle. The archetype is reinforced by the image of a buxom soprano wearing a helmet and clutching a spear and shield. However, there are other larger-than-life suggestions for the origin of the phrase. Its first operatic use is cited as being by none other than Al Capone. The story goes that on a visit to the opera (Capone was, after all, Italian), he dragged a couple of cronies along. Soon bored, the pair got up to leave, only for Capone to snarl, ‘Siddown...it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.’ That’s one of the many accounts of a phrase whose origins appear long lost. Grasping at straws, some claim it refers to US comedienne and singer Lulu Roman. She was troubled by a thyroid problem that meant a life-long battle with obesity – and she always sang a closing number at the end of a popular 1960s variety show, Hee Haw. Others turn for explanation to the traditional vernacular of churches in the American South: ‘Church ain’t out until the fat lady sings’ is the reported saying

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here, for reasons that are self-explanatory. Whatever the truth, the phrase’s wider familiarity perhaps came from its use in a sporting context. The first such occasion on record appears to be a 1976 match between US basketball teams the Red Raiders and the Aggies, during which the latter rallied in the closing stages. Raiders staff member Ralph Carpenter reportedly had the press box in fits with his cautionary, ‘The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings...’ which he later claimed to have been completely spontaneous. And the phrase supposedly infiltrated the media from there. Should the phrase now be deemed politically incorrect? A year or two back, my eye was caught by the newspaper headline: ‘It’s All Over for Fat Lady Singers as Slimline Divas Triumph.’ The review which followed observed that at the Salzburg Festival,‘Opera’s new breed of slight, scantily clad sopranos take the plaudits.’ One of this breed, the extremely svelte Danielle de Niese, explained: ‘We couldn’t go on being elephants on stage.’ Quite. To be cruel, though, I’d have to say that evidence from the recent Cardiff Singer of the World contest suggests that old traditions die hard… Ouch! Further reading: When the Fat Lady Sings: Opera History As It Ought To Be Taught by David W Barber, with a foreword by singer/comedienne Anna Russell.

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2011 12

BIRMINGHAM INTERNATIONAL CONCERT SEASON

OPERATIC HIGHLIGHTS IN BIRMINGHAM Friday 21 October 2011, 7.30pm

Saturday 3 March 2012, 4pm

DUKE BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE

NELSONS CONDUCTS TRISTAN

Philharmonia Orchestra Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor Measha Brueggergosman soprano Sir John Tomlinson bass Measha Brueggergosman © Cylia von Tiedemann/ Deutsche Grammophon.

Antonio Pappano. Photo: Sheila Rock.

Debussy Prélude à L’Après-midi d’un faune Janácek Sinfonietta ˇ Bartók Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (semi-staged)

Wednesday 11 January 2012, 4.30pm

Friday 6 April 2012, 4pm

THE ROYAL OPERA: DIE MEISTERSINGER

GOOD FRIDAY: GERGIEV CONDUCTS PARSIFAL

The Royal Opera Chorus The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Antonio Pappano conductor

Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg Valery Gergiev conductor

All-star cast includes: Bryn Terfel Sachs Sir John Tomlinson Pogner

Saturday 30 June 2012, 4.30pm

ANDREAS SCHOLL SINGS BACH

WAGNER’S RING: DIE WALKÜRE

Andreas Scholl. Photo: Eric Larrayadieu.

079_ON_OCT.indd 79

Valery Gergiev. Photo: Marco Borggreve/ Decca.

Wednesday 1 February 2012, 7.30pm Andreas Scholl countertenor Kammerorchester Basel Julia Schröder leader

Supported by

Andris Nelsons. Photo: Marco Borggreve.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Andris Nelsons conductor Torsten Kerl Tristan Lioba Braun Isolde

Town Hall renovation funded by

Opera North Richard Farnes conductor Dame Anne Evans artistic consultant

search ‘Town Hall Symphony Hall’

@THSHBirmingham

20/09/2011 15:55:19


R OPERA DO CASTELO COMPANY

OPERA FOR ALL, EVERYWHERE, IN THE XXI CENTURY ARTISTIC DIRECTION: CATARINA MOLDER

A EUROPEAN OPERA COMPANY

on tour

(im)possible mission magic flute c r e at i v i t y, f l e x i b i l i t y, va r i e t y a n d s u s ta i n a b i l i t y

CREATIVE

FORMATS DESIGNED

C

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FFOR ALL

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audiences, happening everywhere

CM

MY

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OPERA FOR FESTIVALS

CMY

AND IMPACT EVENTS MIXED

K

PROJECTS OPERA AND COMMUNITY

OPERA FOR YOUNG audiences SITE-SPECIFIC PROJECTS: OPERA IN PUBLIC GARDENS, MONUMENTS AND CASTleS OPERA IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, ON THE STREET! OPERA IN CITY RUINS, IN QUARRIES AND DAMS OPERA BRIDGES: PROJECTS INVOLVING SEVERAL COMPANIES AND COUNTRIES throughout EUROPE New commissions

WWW.OPERADOCASTELO.COM i n f o @ o p e r a D O C A S T E L O.C O M

OBC_ON_OCT.indd 1

Lisbon office: 00 351 936 355 794

00 351 211 548 471

21/09/2011 10:00:56

 
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