The European Network of Opera Academies – enoa - offers invaluable professional opera training for young artists across Europe. Through the creation, promotion and dissemination of opera, enoa is both stimulating new operatic work throughout Europe, and offering the best possible conditions for young opera professionals – singers, pianists, composers, conductors, librettists, stage directors, set and light designers – to begin a career in a globalised context.
Before allowing our Opera Britannia critics time off for good behaviour (or not!) this Christmas, we persuaded them to pick out the highs and lows from their 2013 operatic diaries. They were not confined to performances they necessarily reviewed, hence links to the official OB review may well lead to a difference of opinion or two! In a year in which the focus lay on anniversary boys Wagner, Verdi and Britten, there was plenty to sink our critical fangs into. Each of our reviewers was invited to submit their nomination for Outstanding New Production and Best Revival, along with Best Male and Best Female Performances, before disclosing the production or performance that provided their biggest disappointment of the year (cancellations notwithstanding).
After resisting the prevailing tide for opera houses beaming their wares to a worldwide cinema audience, English National Opera has seen the light. From 2014, selected productions will be screened at 300 cinemas around the UK and beyond, starting with its revival of David Alden’s production of Peter Grimes, starring Stuart Skelton. A new production, by Terry Gilliam, of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini will also be relayed. Gilliam’s earlier Berlioz adventure, The Damnation of Faust, was broadcast on television.
As the Verdi bicentenary year draws to its close there is one more special treat in store for opera fans in the London area – a rare chance to hear the world-famous Italian baritone Leo Nucci in recital at Cadogan Hall. This unmissable concert is part of the Rosenblatt Recitals series and will include popular arias from some of Verdi’s greatest operas; includingNabucco, Attila, I due Foscari, La traviata, I vespri siciliani, Un ballo in maschera and Don Carlo.
Full details of the programme and ticket information may be found here:http://www.cadoganhall.com/event/rosenblatt-recitals-leo-nucci-131212/ and please check back on Opera Britannia after the concert to read our critic Mark Pullinger’s review.
The prestigious Rosenblatt Recitals return to their new home at Wigmore Hall next week, offering the capital’s opera fans the chance to hear a wide range of new and existing international operatic talent in a series of ten concerts from now until June 2014. The series opens on 16thSeptember with Tenerife-born tenor Celso Albelo who will be presenting a predominantly Hispanic programme of songs and arias, with some Verdi and Donizetti thrown in for good measure.
Legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti has scored a Number 1 in the Classical Artist Album Charts, six years after he passed away. ‘Pavarotti: The 50 Greatest Tracks’ was released by Decca Classics, his career-long label, in celebration of a 50 year association.
Pavarotti made his first British TV appearance 50 years ago, on Sunday Night at the London Palladium (25/8), when he was introduced to the stage by Bruce Forsyth to a broadcast audience of 15 million viewers, and fast approaching is the 50th anniversary of his Royal Opera House debut at Covent Garden (21/9), where he was greeted by standing ovations and unanimous critical acclaim.
The 2013 Glyndebourne Festival closes with news of the 2014 Festival, Robin Ticciati’s first as Music Director. He is only the seventh conductor to hold the post in Glyndebourne’s 80- year history, following in the distinguished line of Fritz Busch, Vittorio Gui, John Pritchard, Bernard Haitink, Andrew Davis and Vladimir Jurowski.
The 2014 Festival opens with a new production of Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier directed by Richard Joneswith Robin Ticciati conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Kate Royalmakes her role debut as Feldmarschallin.Tara Erraught makes her role debut as Octavian and Teodora Gheorghiu makes her Glyndebourne debut in the role of Sophie.
On 31 August, Gloucester Cathedral provides the spectacular backdrop for a charity music festival to raise money for a newly commissioned stained glass window in memory of the composer Ivor Gurney, himself a native of Gloucestershire.
From 25th July, UK and Ireland cinemas are to screen a stunning production of Bizet’s Carmen recorded live from the waters of the Sydney Harbour, on a purpose built floating stage, against the magnificent backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has become a highlight of the Opera Australia Season. Last year, Verdi’s La traviata was the first ever opera to be presented on the astonishing floating stage suspended above the water in Sydney Harbour, and was hailed as a great success. This year Carmen takes the stage; dangerous, sexy and incandescent in a thrilling new production.
South African Soprano, Pumeza Matshikiza, signs global record contract with Decca Classics/ Universal Music
A singer who grew up in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa, and discovered classical music, today signs a record deal with Decca, home to the biggest opera star in the world, the late Luciano Pavarotti.
Pumeza Matshikiza has already been described as “poised for operatic stardom” and “one of opera's most exciting new voices". But having been told she had no future as an opera singer in South Africa, she almost became a quantity surveyor.
Britten fans, rejoice! Opera North will be celebrating the centenary of the composer’s birth in style with a new autumn season dedicated entirely to three of his best-loved works. The season opens on 14th September with a revival of Phyllida Lloyd’s popular production of Peter Grimes starring Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Giselle Allen and Robert Hayward, followed later in the month by a revival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with James Laing, Jeni Bern, Yvonne Howard, Henry Waddington and the exciting young mezzo Kathryn Rudge.
The 2013-14 Rosenblatt Recital series has been unveiled, with an enticing blend of up-and-coming young singers and a few veteran performers. The biggest surprise is the appearance of Italian baritone Leo Nucci, who gives a special one-off concert with the Italian Opera Chamber Quintet at Cadogan Hall on 12thDecember, featuring some of the Verdi repertoire on which he’s built his long career. Nucci was last seen in London as Nabucco, warming up the production for Plácido Domingo. All other Rosenblatt Recitals take place in their usual home at Wigmore Hall.
English National Opera announced their new season this morning, boasting ten new (or ‘new to the UK’) productions and four classic revivals. Film director and Monty Python veteran Terry Gilliam returns to ENO to lend his talent to a new production of Berlioz’s rarely performed Benvenuto Cellini, with the American rising star Corrine Winters (this season’s stunning Violetta) taking the role of Teresa – the cast also includes Michael Spyres in the title role and Willard White and will be conducted by ENO Music DirectorEdward Gardner. If it’s anywhere near as good as Gilliam’s wacky but brilliant Damnation of Faust then we should all be in for an extraordinary evening.
South African soprano Elizabeth Connell (1946 - 2012) was acclaimed for her performances of the great Strauss, Verdi and Wagner heroines. On Saturday 27 April a special concert to honour her memory will be held at St John's, Smith Square, with all proceeds being donated to the Musicians' Benevolent Fund as well as the Elizabeth Connell Prize, an annual award for young dramatic sopranos.
Jennifer Rowley, the replacement Isabelle who found herself replaced at short notice before the premiere of Laurent Pelly’s production of Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable at the Royal Opera House this season, has spoken out about what really happened.
This morning the Royal Opera announced its plans for next season. While some of the productions and casts have been known for some time in opera press and blogging spheres, there’s always a frisson of excitement at the official unveiling of what lies ahead.
On Thursday 7th March the exciting young Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva will make her London solo concert debut at St James's Church, Piccadilly in a special charity event with proceeds going towards Pushkin House, the London Russian cultural centre. Though only 23 years old, Ms Lezhneva has been building a very promising career since her professional debut five years ago which includes operatic appearances at Salzburg and La Monnaie as well as several recordings.
Currently appearing at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Cavaradossi, tenor Massimo Giordano’s debut album will be released shortly. An exclusive BMG artist, the Italian tenor has recorded signature arias by Italian composers such as Verdi, Puccini and Giordano including arias from, among others, Don Carlo, Manon Lescaut and Andrea Chénier on a disc entitled ‘Amore e tormento’.
Welsh National Opera continues its exploration of opera with themed seasons in 2013/14, turning the spotlight on to an infamous royal dynasty, women behaving badly and religion. Eight new productions including a World premiere and a British premiere will be performed as well as a special Welsh National Youth Opera celebration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary year. The Orchestra of WNO will also perform in the International Concert Series at St David’s Hall in Cardiff and at residencies at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Welsh National Opera announced today that it will perform in London in an exciting new collaboration with the Royal Opera House. An initial series of three operas will be seen in the Capital including the first London performances of Richard Ayres’s Peter Pan.
Over three years WNO will stage the productions in the main house starting in 2014 with Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron. This will be followed in 2015 with Peter Pan and there will be a new commission in 2016 to commemorate WNO’s 70th birthday.
Royal Opera Live
On Monday 7th January, opera fans will have the chance to experience "unprecedented and unparalleled" access behind the scenes at Covent Garden as a live internet broadcast on The Space will show an entire day in the life of the opera house; including rehearsals for The Minotaur and the new Eugene Onegin, a masterclass with Sir Antonio Pappano, interviews with Sir John Tomlinson,Christine Rice, Harrison Birtwistle and Ryan Wigglesworth. Royal Opera Live culminates with an exclusive behind the scenes look at a performance of Act III of Die Walküre, which was recorded earlier in the season. The broadcast starts at 10.30am and finishes at 9.30pm and promises to provide a fascinating and informative insight into the world of The Royal Opera. Watch the trailer here.
Glyndebourne has announced details of its 2013 Season, the 79th Festival, which marks the final year of Vladimir Jurowski’s 13 year tenure as Music Director. He will conduct a new production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos directed by Katharina Thoma.
The year’s big anniversaries of Verdi, Wagner and Britten are all marked, with revivals of Falstaff and Billy Budd, plus a cinema screening of Tristan und Isolde.
This winter the Barbican Centre once again plays host to recitals by some of the greatest opera stars in the world today, starting with Latvian mezzo Elina Garanca who will be singing excerpts from Carmen as well as arias by Massenet, Tchaikovsky and Gounod on 2 October, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. On 15 November it’s the turn of the dazzling Cecilia Bartoli and the Kammerorchester Basel (programme to be confirmed), followed by America’s best-loved soprano Renée Fleming who will be performing Lieder by Mahler, Wolf, Arnold, Zemlinsky and Korngold on 9 December.
Recorded live in high-definition in March 2012, Opera Australia will be broadcasting Francesca Zambello's spectacular production of La traviata to cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Tuesday 31 July. Starring the dazzling Australian soprano Emma Matthews as the tragic Violetta, this open-air performance takes place on a floating stage in Sydney Harbour and promises to be a unique and very memorable event, complete with fireworks!
For details of participating cinemas and timings please click here
Finally, after so much distress, and just two weeks before opening night, the programme of the fifty-eighth Puccini Festival of Torre del Lago was unveiled on the 7th of July. I will not linger on the difficulties (deriving – in brief -from government aid that had been promised and then denied) that jeopardized the very existence of this edition of the Festival. This being Italy, a last minute solution is always found, among compromises of every kind: the original ambitious intention of presenting at least two new productions had to be scrapped and this year the Festival will present only old mise-en-scènes. It will also be the first time that a Verdi opera appears at the Puccini Festival, La traviata, a co-production with other Tuscan regional opera companies.
Congratulations to Scottish opera director David McVicar who receives a knighthood in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Birthday Honours. About to direct Berlioz's epic Les Troyens for the first time at the Royal Opera House, McVicar is widely regarded as one of the UK's top directors, whose work is sought internationally.
After missing several recent engagements (and having to lip-synch at the Champions League final in Munich last week), Jonas Kaufmann has withdrawn from the eagerly anticipated new Royal Opera production of Les Troyens in June. Bryan Hymel, who had already joined rehearsals at Covent Garden, has been announced as a replacement Enée.
ENO recently scooped two Olivier Awards (which doubtless tasted even sweeter for being held at the Royal Opera House): the Best New Opera Production for Rameau’s Castor and Pollux and the Outstanding Achievement in Opera award for ‘The Breadth and Diversity of the Artistic Programme’. That breadth and diversity is there in spades for the 2012-13 season, unveiled this morning at the Coliseum. Another bold, risk-taking season lies ahead, headed by two new works, ensuring this is no Mickey Mouse season!
The unveiling of the annual BBC Proms prospectus is always a cause for anticipation, even if, operatically, some of the key events have been open secrets for some time. Among the ‘known unknowns’ is Glyndebourne’s Le nozze di Figaro on 28th August. Conducted by Robin Ticciati, there’s a strong cast led by Vito Priante (Figaro), Lydia Teuscher (Susanna), Sally Matthews soprano (Countess Almaviva) and Audun Iversen (Almaviva). Dinner jackets and tiaras at the ready!
News and thoughts about the 2012-13 season from the Royal Opera, with full dates and casting information can be found here. The production of Rossini’s La donna del lago by Lluis Pasqual, a co-production with Paris and La Scala, has been scrapped after the disappointing reception it received and the Royal Opera has commissioned its own staging (oh that they had done the same with the Salzburg Rusalka!). John Fulljames now directs, with designs by Dick Bird. Starring Juan Diego Flórez, Joyce DiDonato, Colin Lee and a long-overdue House debut for Daniela Barcellona, it should be one of the musical highlights of the season.
Sight-reading help for iPad users
If your piano sight reading leaves a great deal to be desired then hope is at hand with a clever new iPad app which allows budding pianists to improve their sight reading skills while practising pieces from a library of over a thousand music samples of varying difficulty levels. SightRead4Piano was created by Dr Christopher Wiltshire of Wessar International in conjunction with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and various other examining boards, allowing piano students to download the official sight reading samples for each grade onto their iPad.
The app trains the brain and eye to achieve continuity and forces the pianist to keep going and constantly look ahead by quite literally making each bar disappear from the iPad screen as you play it. SightRead4Piano has been endorsed by the pianist Howard Shelley and goes on sale via the Apple app store at the end of January with average prices of less than £6 per grade. There are also plans to develop this interesting app for singers in the near future, as well as for guitar, strings, brass, woodwind and percussion.
Welsh National Opera announced details of their 2012-2014 seasons at a press conference today, where new Chief Executive and Artistic DirectorDavid Pountney unveiled plans including eight ambitious new productions and emphasised “the importance of risk taking and adventure, in spite of the economic challenges lying ahead”.
Wagner fans will be treated to a new production ofLohengrin to celebrate the bi-centenary of the composer’s birth while bel canto enthusiasts have a Donizetti trilogy to look forward to in autumn 2013 with three new productions of the Tudor operasAnna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux.
Congratulations to Antonio Pappano, music director of The Royal Opera, who was awarded a knighthood for services to music in the 2012 New Year Honours list. Pappano, who celebrated his 52nd birthday yesterday (30th December), has been at the helm at Covent Garden since the 2002-3 season and is also music director of the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome. He has featured on BBC television during recent years, explaining the world of opera to a wider public.
Lehman pulls out of Met 'Siegfried'
Gary Lehman, who was due to sing the title role of Siegfried in Robert Lepage's new production at the Metropolitan Opera, has pulled out because of illness, the Met have announced. Jay Hunter Morris, who made his Met debut in 2007 and performed the role of Siegfried in San Francisco Opera's recent production, replaces Lehman. Morris made his Met debut in 2007 as Števa in Janácek's Jenufa. Siegfried is conducted by Fabio Luisi, and also features Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde, Bryn Terfel as the Wanderer, Eric Owens as Alberich, Gerhard Siegel as Mime and Mojca Erdmann as the Woodbird. It opens on 27th October, with the 5th November matinee broadcast in cinemas in high definition.
Due to ill health, German bass-baritone Falk Struckmann has withdrawn from singing the title role in the Royal Opera’s production of Der fliegender Holländer.
Paul Guest talks to Ed Gardner ahead of ENO concert
On Sunday,Edward Gardner, music director of the English National Opera will take to the podium to honour the great Sir Charles Mackerras along with his colleagues Paul Daniel, Sir Mark Elder and a host of singers ready to remember the work of a much-loved colleague.
Ed kindly gave up some of his time to talk to me about the concert and Sir Charles himself.
Mozart Vocal Works at the Barbican
The Great Performers season at the Barbican continues in June with performances of 3 works by Mozart - Idomeneo (11 June), La finta giardiniera (24 June) and the Mass in C Minor (28 June).
The concert performance of Idomeneo on 11 June features the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble, a group known as one of the outstanding representatives of historically informed performances. Conducted by the ensemble's founder Thomas Hengelbrock, the cast includes Camilla Tilling, Steve Davislim and Khrystyna Daletska.
Further information can be found here.
English National Opera announced its 2011-12 season today, with the focus very much on new productions and living composers. There are new productions of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer (directed by Tom Morris ofWar Horse fame), Detlev Glanert’s Caligula, Wolfgang Rihm’s Jakob Lenz and Damon Albarn’s Doctor Dee, premièred as part of the London 2012 Festival to mark the hosting of the Olympic Games.
Garsington Opera has moved to the glorious estate of Wormsley in the Chiltern Hills, home of the Getty family, and opens its short summer season with Mozart's much-loved opera, The Magic Flute on 2 June 2011 in its beautiful, specially designed Opera Pavilion. The highlight of the season will be the British premiere of Vivaldi’s La verità in cimento, a rare treasure, by the composer best known for his violin concerto, The Four Seasons. Rossini’s delightful Il Turco in Italia completes the season that runs from 2 June – 5 July. All the coming season’s conductors and directors will be working with both established and emerging young singers, two of whom are making their British debuts.