Profiles & Interviews

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Over the next few months you can expect to read many interviews with some of today’s most influential and highly respected singers, composers, conductors, directors, writers and other key individuals in the world of opera. If you have any suggestions for someone who ought to be included in our interviews section, then please do email in with your ideas.

 


Opera Britannia Interview: Anja Harteros

Many critics are now beginning to seriously refer to you as the greatest soprano before the public today.  The combination of a great actress, with a wonderfully http://img641.imageshack.us/img641/7251/anjaharteros3.jpgsupple and full lyric soprano, capable of thrilling intensity with a unique and immediately recognisable timbre, makes you a rare and distinguished artist.  What impact has this had on you as a singer?

Well, I strive to do my best in each and every performance, and to always fulfil the role as well as I possibly can.  I am happy when my achievements are recognised and acknowledged, and I hope that I can give pleasure to people through my work.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Tim Meadhttp://img153.imageshack.us/img153/3580/basjachanowski.jpg

Starring as Clearte in Steffani’s ultra rare Niobe, regina di Tebe at The Royal Opera, countertenor Tim Mead spoke to me about the burgeoning interest in the countertenor voice and how his career took off after standing in for David Daniels in a performance of Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Lawrence Brownlee

Over the past few years the American tenor Lawrence Brownlee has been establishing himself as one of the brightesthttp://img229.imageshack.us/img229/7460/lbrownlee8x10compr300dp.jpg hopes in the supremely challenging field of bel canto opera.  Making a name for himself singing bravura roles like Arturo in I Puritani, Tonio in La fille du Régiment and Conte Almaviva in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, the opera world has warmly embraced a rare and distinguished voice, which undoubtedly will continue to thrill its listeners for decades to come.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Hanan Alattar

Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers comes to the English National Opera in an exciting new production by Penny Woolcock, http://img413.imageshack.us/img413/1797/alattarhanan.jpgfeaturing British tenor Alfie Boe as Nadir.  At the Coliseum I had the opportunity to discuss Bizet’s early masterpiece with the American lyric coloratura soprano Hanan Alattar, who is singing the role of Leila.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Government funding for the Arts

An interview with the Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP, Jeremy Hunt MP and Don Foster MP

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Bradshaw MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, as wellhttp://img535.imageshack.us/img535/5470/housesofparliament.jpg as his shadow opposites Jeremy Hunt MP (Conservative Party) and Don Foster MP (Liberal Democrats). With a brief which includes public subsidies for cultural institutions, I wanted to take the opportunity to find out a little bit more about their policies for arts funding following the general election, with a special emphasis being placed on those companies which stage opera.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Elisabeth Meister

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to secure an interview with the up and coming British soprano Elisabethhttp://img88.imageshack.us/img88/332/meister.png Meister, who is currently in her first year on the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at The Royal Opera, a programme noted for providing solid artistic support and experience for some of the very best emerging opera singers in the world.  Having seen many of them perform over the years, some of whom have gone on to highly successful careers, including Marina Poplavskaya, Andrew Kennedy and Matthew Rose, Meister is unquestionably the most exciting and talented I have yet seen.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Stuart Skelton

Acclaimed for his powerful voice, musicianship and dramatic conviction, Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton is provinghttp://img689.imageshack.us/img689/4864/stuartskeltonbyjohnwrig.jpg himself to be one of the leading heroic tenors of his generation.  Following on from a sensational Peter Grimes at the English National Opera in 2009, Skelton is back once again at the Coliseum to sing the role of Boris in Janacek’s Katya Kabanova. Catching up with him last week I asked about how his voice has developed over the years, what it was like to sing in a production as successful as the Peter Grimes, and whether Boris is anything more than a one-dimensional character.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Ivor Bolton

Recently I caught up with the celebrated conductor Ivor Bolton at The Royal Opera ahead of their first staging of Handel’shttp://img684.imageshack.us/img684/5996/ivorboltoncredit4christ.jpg Tamerlano, which allowed me to ask him about his passion for Handel, his time in Salzburg and Munich and his views on performance style within the baroque repertory.

 

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Opera Britannia Interview: Sarah Tynan

Jonathan Miller directs a new production of Donizetti’s timeless comedy The Elixir of Love, at the English National http://img444.imageshack.us/img444/5796/sarahtynan2creditinterm.jpgOpera. The production opens on the 12th of February with Sarah Tynan singing the role of Adina and John Tessier as Nemorino. I caught up with Sarah Tynan recently in rehearsal and asked her a few questions about her career, her relationship with ENO and what it is like to perform in Donizetti’s evergreen comedic masterpiece.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Anna Christy

The 4th of February sees the opening of the first revival of David Alden’s acclaimed production of Donizetti’s bel canto http://img203.imageshack.us/img203/4003/annachristycdarioacosta.jpgmasterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor at the English National Opera. Reprising her role as the ill-fated heroine is the American soprano Anna Christy. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Miss Christy at the Coliseum recently, giving me the opportunity find out a little bit more about her career, as well as to obtain some insight into her interpretation of the celebrated and supremely challenging title role, one associated with many of the greatest singers in operatic history. She is the sort of singer who clearly values both the musical and dramatic aspects of the work, but recognises that in order to elevate this role from the province of canary-fanciers, all of its virtuosic arsenal (which ranges from exquisite trills to laser-like acuti) must be invested with meaning and dramatic purpose, thereby achieving a genuinely moving theatrical experience.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Sir Charles Mackerras

Very few musicians today can claim the distinction of having worked with Benjamin Britten, but the eminent conductor Sir images/stories/sir charles mackerras   headshot.jpgCharles Mackerras, is certainly one of the few who have not only worked with Britten, but also knew him on a personal level. Sir Charles will be conducting five of the six performances of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, at the English National Opera from the 22nd of October. This will be the first revival of David McVicar’s celebrated production, first brought to the London Coliseum back in 2007. But this time it will be Sir Charles’s insightful conducting of Britten’s supernatural chiller, which for many will be the principal draw.

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Opera Britannia Interview: David Gowland

Since the Young Artists Programme was set up back in 2001 (partly funded by arts patron and internet billionaire, Albertoimages/stories/david gowland-col-oct 09 -   appr-crob moore.jpg Vilar), The Royal Opera has been busy nurturing and developing emerging talent, whether singers, conductors, répétiteurs or directors. Following the financial collapse of Mr Vilar, the Programme was transformed into the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, headed by its artistic director, David Gowland and administrator, Siri Fischer Hansen. The alumni include Marina Poplavskaya, Matthew Rose, Kostas Smorginias, Ailish Tynan , Katie van Kooten and Edgaras Montvidas, to name but a few of the artists who have successfully carved out operatic careers for themselves. Developing opera's future talent is clearly a very important aspect of the work of The Royal Opera, so there has been heavy investment in these young artists, both in terms of finance and education.

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Opera Britannia Interview: James Conway of ETO

The ultimate tribute to the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death is being undertaken by English Touring Opera this October,images/stories/james conway.jpg who are also celebrating their not inconsiderable 30th anniversary. Founded in 1980, and initially known as Opera 80, English Touring Opera has played an important role not only in bringing operas, both popular and less well known to the regions, but also in developing the careers of young artists, who have gone on to achieve great success in their own right. Some of the singers who have benefited from the spirited work of this company include Sarah Connolly, Susan Bickley, Mary Plazas and Christopher Purvis, to name but a few.

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Opera Britannia Profile: Ensemble Serse

In 2006 a unique ensemble was founded by male soprano Calvin Wells with the aim of bringing neglected baroque worksimages/stories/ensemble serse x1.jpg to the public, complete with the inventive and often florid ornamentation invariably utilized by the great singers of the 17th and 18th centuries. Ensemble Serse provides a startling contrast to the numerous Handel inspired foundations, bands and competitions which have become synonymous with the baroque revival. The reality is that Handel was but one of many composers who excelled during this extraordinarily creative period, often sharing the limelight with composers whom today are considered to be anything but his equal. However, contemporary criticism has conclusively shown that many of these other composers were at least as popular as Handel, and in some cases, decidedly more so. So why did Handel’s music emerge first within the baroque revival, whilst others languished in obscurity? Well Handel’s extraordinary gift for melody is one reason, but perhaps the primary reason is that Handel never really disappeared from the UK music scene, his oratorios, engorged and swelled by Victorian tastes for sombre, biblically inspired music, were often performed on a vast scale, and were incredibly popular. His music was, despite his roots, quintessentially English; he was our Orpheus Britannicus.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Marina Poplavskaya

It has been almost a year since Nicholas Hytner’s production of Don Carlo was premiered at The Royal Opera. Whilst the staging came in for a mixed critical reception, there was much praise heaped on Marina Poplavskaya’s debut performance as Elisabeth. Michael Church of The Independent described her as “transcendent”, whilst Rupert Christiansen of The Daily Telegraph said that she “was rich in timbre, subtle in phrasing and lovely to look at, floating gorgeously above the stave and easily dominating the ensembles.” This is considerable praise for a debut in a role, which has been sung by such luminaries as Caballé, Brouwenstijn and Tebaldi. But then Poplavskaya’s meteoric rise to fame since her lauded interpretation of Rachel in Halevy’s La juive back in 2006, is underscored by a rare and intense artistry, which marks her out as one of the great hopes of opera. Her commitment to her art is unequivocally absolute.

 

 

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Opera Britannia Interview: Eglise Gutiérrez

Today there are many coloratura sopranos all benefitting from the renaissance in bel canto operas, but most still fall withinimages/stories/eglise as la fee.png the category of small, white or silvery sopranos, buzzing around the vocal summits like maniacally possessed bees. Fortuitously, a soprano has at long last arrived on the world stage, who possesses a rich, warm, radiantly lyric soprano, that is capable of the most extraordinary excursions into the tonal stratosphere. Her name is Eglise Gutiérrez, a Cuban-born soprano who has been busy over the past few years wowing audiences in the United States and Europe with her mesmerizing interpretations of the heroines of Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Massenet and Delibes. On Monday the 7th of September she makes her debut at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, in the first of two concert performances of Donizetti’s Linda di Chamounix. The anticipation for vocal connoisseurs is positively palpable!

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Opera Britannia Interview: Roderick Williams

Recently labeled “Britain’s best baritone” by Andrew Porter in Opera magazine, Roderick Williams has emerged as oneRoderick Williams of today’s most distinguished singers, both in opera and in recital. He is the possessor of a rich and handsome baritone that is warm, flexible and used with intelligence. The artistry with which it is deployed is one of complete commitment, with articulation of text and drama given centre stage. His recording output verges on the prodigious, whilst his appearances both on stage and in concert generate enormous enthusiasm from both public and critics alike. Yet in many ways he is the antithesis of the star-seeking baritones with whom we are all too familiar.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Eri Nakamura

Since 2008 the Japanese soprano Eri Nakamura has been Eri Nakamura Courtesy of Intermusicawowing London audiences at The Royal Opera with her committed stage presence and gleaming voice. As a member of the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme, Ms Nakamura has consistently made her presence felt whether in smaller roles such as the 5th Maid in Elektra, or as she did when she sensationally stepped in at the last hour for an indisposed Anna Netrebko in Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. The possessor of a rich warm lyric soprano that can cleave through an orchestra with such precision and body, audiences and critics alike have proclaimed Ms Nakamura as a new major talent on the opera scene.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 29 November 2010 13:20 )  

Editorial

Metropolitan Opera Finances

A few years ago, a friend at a party who worked for one of our largest investment banks asked me, "Richard, do you know how to end up with a small fortune at Lazard Frères? Give us a large fortune." Such memories came to mind, inevitably, in reviewing the tax returns and accounting statements of the Metropolitan Opera for the year ending July 31, 2009, which have just been released. One has to emphasize that all these numbers constitute nothing more than a snapshot of the moment, which don’t take into account more recent developments, and are, even as presented, in summary form. But the statements show a decline of almost 20% on investments (down to $246 million), and an almost equal decline in the total asset picture (down to about $423 million) at the same time as liabilities have increased, including continuing (and not uncommon) obligations to the pension fund.  Read More>>

 


Editorial Update: 20/01/10

Over the next few days you may notice a few peculiar things happening with the website as we undertake some necessary changes. Some of the reviews are likely to be missing their photographs on a temporary basis, as we re-organise the layout of the website. The biggest change will be to the Opera review page, where we will not only separate opera and oratorio reviews, but each opera company/venue will have their own unique review page. This will make it much easier for you to find reviews by company, rather than having to trawl through a very long list of operas which were previously sorted only by chronological date. Read More>>


Editorial Update 15/01/10

I am delighted to announce that Opera Britannia is now back online and more importantly, securely. For those readers who did not come across our Twitter and Facebook updates, we have since Christmas Eve been the target of a group of hackers determined to bring the website offline. We haven't as yet got to the bottom of the reason, aside from the fact that "political causes" were stated as the official cause! Naturally it has taken a considerable amount of work on the part of everyone involved with the website to make it as secure as possible. Read More>>


Domingo Cancellation

Placido Domingo has withdrawn from Tamerlano at The Royal Opera, following news that he needs to undergo "medically recommended preventative surgery". It is believed that he has been suffering from abdominal pains whilst performing in Tokyo and has been advised that an operation is required, with a rest period of approximately six weeks to follow. This has no doubt produced quite a headache for The Royal Opera who have heavily advertised Domingo's presence in this years schedule of operas. He is still due to perform in Simon Boccanegra in June, but one suspects that both The Royal Opera and the paying public will be on tenterhooks as to the likelihood of his participation.

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News

Aida Cast Change

Luciana D'Intino has withdrawn from the role of Amneris in the new David McVicar production of Verdi's Aida at The Royal Opera, on grounds of ill-health.  No further information is available at present, but the role of Amneris is now being taken over by Marianne Cornetti, who was last seen at The Royal Opera in September 2009 as Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlo


Satyagraha Remix at the ENO

Audience participation is taken a step further with the ENO’s Satyagraha Remix, inspired by the opera of the same name by Philip Glass. Members of the public are http://img90.imageshack.us/img90/4269/remixs.jpginvited to join composer Anna Meredith, sound designer Sam Godin and the classically trained Indian singer Falu, in an evening where they can record Satyagraha-inspired loops that will form part of the “Remix”. Read More>>

 


ENO Wins Southbank Show Award.

For the third year in a row, the English National Opera have won the Southbank Show Award in the opera category. This time the award was made for David Alden's critically acclaimed sell-out production of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes. The previous two wins were for their joint production of Lost Highyway and Punch & Judy with The Young Vic, and also for David McVicar's controversial, but well received production of Britten's The Turn of the Screw. Read More>>


Elisabeth Söderström dies aged 82images/stories/elisabeth soderstrm.jpg

News has just broken that the great Swedish soprano Elisabeth Söderström, died on Friday morning due to a stroke. Her professional debut was as Bastienne in Mozart's rarely performed Bastien et Bastienne at the Drottningholm Court Theatre in 1947. Although closely associated with the Royal Swedish Opera, she performed at all the major opera houses around the world. Her UK debut was at Glyndebourne in 1957, where she would return to sing numerous Strauss and Mozart roles, with which she was to become so closely identifable, including Octavian, the Composer, the Countess in Capriccio and Susanna. She was also famous for her interpretation of some of Janacek's female heroines, not least Kat'a and Jenufa, where in both cases she made distinguished recordings with Sir Charles Mackerras that have remained unsurpassable in the recording catalogue. Her first appearance at Covent Garden was with the Royal Swedish Opera as Daisy Dodd in Blomdahl’s Aniara in 1960. Söderström was an astonishingly versatile artist, who brought great commitment and beauty of voice to everything she did.

Poetry Corner

Biography: Mary Robertson is an Emeritus Professor in Neuropsychiatry at University College London and visiting Professor at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London. Aside from being an opera devotee, Mary is a published poet and photographer.

(New poems added: 04/08/2010)

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Around the Houses

November 2010

Contributions to "Around the Houses" for November, include news about Erwin Schrott, Rolando Villazon, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Anja Harteros. Read More>>

"Around the Houses" concentrates on providing the latest news on future plans for opera companies around the globe, artists schedules, cancellations and interesting snippets of information. We will try and avoid unsubstantiated gossip wherever possible, but all of our sources will remain completely confidential.  If you would like to advise us about potential news for this section, then please feel free to email us at info@opera-britannia.com.

Recent Reviews

Out and About

Opera Britannia's US column

With this first column of Out and About, the Editor has given me an opportunity to share with you news and a perspective on opera, which comes not only from the major houses in New York, but from important New York recitals, from performances in the smaller venues in the city where new or rare works are done, and from events outside of New York City. Upcoming columns will be devoted to recent important productions in the mid-West, and to a new opera in Boston starring male soprano Michael Maniaci. I also look forward to reviewing works and recordings which have passed undeservedly from the public eye, as well as offering some general reflections, musings, and, inevitably, complaints, about the state of opera in general. I hope a good time will be had by all.

Metropolitan Season Announcement

The big news this week comes from the Metropolitan Opera, which on Monday announced its plans for the 2010-2011 season, which includes two Met Opera Premiers (John Adams's Nixon in China and Rossini's Le comte Ory), five additional new productions, including the first two parts of an awaited Robert Lepage Ring, 11 HD transmissions, Music Director James Levine's celebration of his 40th Anniversary with the Company, a tour of Japan and, buried a bit deeper in the fine print, an increase of 6% for subscriptions, and 11% for individual tickets. Read More>>


CD Reviews

The Sacrifice (James MacMillian): Chandos

There can be no doubt whatsoever that James MacMillan’s The Sacrifice is one of the most accessible contributions to the world of British opera since Benjamin Britten, with audiences responding http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/1576/thesacrifice1.jpgeven as warmly as they did to Thomas Adès’ The Tempest. Both these works were broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and each of these broadcasts has been cleaned up and recently issued on double CD (Adès on EMI, 2009; MacMillan on Chandos, 2010). Both operas also have composers who enjoy successful careers as conductors, but while Adès conducted The Royal Opera House forces at Covent Garden, it was unfortunate that on the night when The Sacrifice was broadcast from the Wales Millennium Theatre with Welsh National Opera, MacMillan was unwell and was therefore forced to hand over the reins to Anthony Negus.

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Recital Reviews

Joyce DiDonato in Recital

Wigmore Hall, 26th January 2010

Joyce DiDonato is very obviously a great favourite with London audiences, and on the very day we finally officially emerged – pro tem, at least – from eighteen months http://img718.imageshack.us/img718/7392/joycedidonato1.jpgof recession by the magnificent margin of point squit of a zillionth, it was nice actually to encounter something quite so uncomplicatedly positive as her recital. Opera singers, in the up-close and personal context of a recital room, fall into extremely contrasting categories, ranging from the all-singing, all-dancing Ethel Merman-esque firecrackers (Cecilia Bartoli) to the half-barmy and catatonic (um, better exercise some discretion here, I suppose) by way of sassy, sweet ‘n simple, straightforward or sepulchral, the raunchy or the reverential, the bullish or the businesslike.

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DVD Reviews

Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier (Decca)

Evidently, productions of Der Rosenkavalier have a habit of outliving their directors. In a positive flurry of recent revival activity that has seen the work severally staged athttp://img684.imageshack.us/img684/8026/derrosenkavalierdvdcove.jpg Covent Garden, the Metropolitan and, as preserved on this DVD, the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, each of the original directors was no longer around to supervise his show's latest outing. This matters less, of course, in stagings that cleave close to the scenic and theatrical givens of the work as conceived by Hofmannsthal and Strauss in microscopic detail, than in ones like that under consideration here that avail themselves of varying degrees of liberty and licence.

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