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: Ailyn Pérez

Mark Pullinger

Ailyn Pérez made http://i687.photobucket.com/albums/vv232/IlGrandeInquisitor/AilynPerez_zps55add98f.jpga welcome return visit to The Royal Opera a few weeks ago to sing two performances of Massenet’s Manon, marking the first of a trio of roles at the House in the coming months. After wowing London with her exquisitely vulnerable Violetta in 2011, she appears for another run of La traviata (sharing the role with Diana Damrau) in May, singing opposite the Alfredo of her husband, Stephen Costello, while she makes her role debut as Liù tomorrow in Puccini’s Turandot. I caught up with her during a break early in rehearsals to discuss these roles, on performing opposite her husband and on how Ailyn got into music in the first place.

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Opera Britannia interview: Alan Oke

Mark Pullinger

Tenor Alan Oke http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/7132/l109.jpgis having a memorable Britten centenary. Having performed his first Peter Grimes this year, both at Snape and on the beach in Aldeburgh, he returns to the role of Gustav von Aschenbach in Opera North’s Death in Venice before he reprises the role of Ghandi in Philip Glass’ Satyagraha at English National Opera. Recent engagements have included Chairman Mao (Nixon in China) for the BBC Proms Caliban (The Tempest) for the Metropolitan Opera and Hiereus/ the Translator (The Minotaur) for the Royal Opera. I was particularly interested to discover Alan’s thoughts on performing such contrasting tenor roles as Grimes and Aschenbach and the different challenges they pose.

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Opera Britannia interview: Stuart Skelton

Mark Pullinger

Australianhttp://img706.imageshack.us/img706/3501/8qc5.jpg tenor Stuart Skelton isn’t one to let the grass grow under his feet. Last week saw him open in Calixto Bieito’s controversial production of Fidelio at English National Opera on Wednesday, swiftly followed by a concert performance (semi-staged) of Peter Grimes in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, the very next night. As if that wasn’t enough, a second Florestan back at ENO on Friday and a trip across the Thames for another Grimes on Saturday completed a marathon four day stint, before which I caught up with him to talk about his career, a forthcoming gala and life on the operatic circuit. He is a tenor in tremendous demand. Skelton sang another key role – Siegmund – in the Seattle Opera Ring this summer and Wagner features prominently in his schedules; the day after our interview, he flew to Bilbao for concerts of Act I of Die Walküre and excerpts from Lohengrin. How does he manage it?

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Opera Britannia interview: Sophie Bevan

Mark Pullinger

Soprano http://img401.imageshack.us/img401/6398/mci2.jpgSophie Bevan, recipient of the Young Singer of the Year at the inaugural International Opera Awards this spring, is a rising star on the British operatic scene. The past season has seen her make her Royal Opera debut, as well as her role debut as Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen for Welsh National Opera, which I reviewed on tour in Southampton. Song recitals are an important part of her work, with a high profile Wigmore Hall concert last spring and a recital at Hampstead Arts Festival ahead in the autumn. Sophie’s operatic work is increasingly taking her abroad and during a recent run of Siegfried Woodbirds in Lucerne, she reflected on the past season, as well as on the art of recital performances.

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Opera Britannia interview: Rinat Shaham

Mark Pullinger

Israeli born http://img28.imageshack.us/img28/4360/srf3.jpgmezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham has received accolades for her operatic and concert performances throughout the world. Born in Haifa, Ms Shaham completed her musical studies in the United States at the Curtis Instute of Music. While still a student she was invited to make her professional operatic debut as Zerlina with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.  A versatile artist equally at home on both concert and opera stages, Rinat has been praised in roles including Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande, Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites, Charlotte in Werther and  the title role in Cendrillon. She has performed the title role in Carmen all over the world, a role she recently performed on the floating stage of Sydney Harbour to great acclaim. A relay of this Handa Opera production will be beamed to cinemas across the globe later this month. Opera Britannia caught up with her ahead of this relay, whilst she is back in Sydney with Opera Australia as she takes on the challenge of her first Verdi role.

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Opera Britannia interview: Michel de Souza

Mark Pullinger

Last week, http://img199.imageshack.us/img199/7908/1vot.JPGbaritone Michel de Souza performed with his Jette Parker Young Artist colleagues in their end of year performance on the main stage. Michel is just finishing his first year on the Programme, during which he has made his Royal Opera debut and understudied some main roles. Performing Papageno on the main stage is a long way from singing in a boys’ choir in Brazil, a journey which included a spell at Scottish Opera, trying out big roles like Prince Andrei in War and Peace, so I was keen to discover more about his background and what he has learnt in his time in London.

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Opera Britannia interview: Susana Gaspar

Mark Pullinger

The silvery http://img834.imageshack.us/img834/2363/susanagasparah1.jpgstrains of Portuguese soprano Susana Gaspar have recently been heard emanating from on high in the Royal Opera House’s auditorium as the (suitably angelic) Voice of Heaven in a starrily-cast revival of Don Carlo. When we met last week, we mused that the final performance on Saturday would be her last role at Covent Garden as a Jette Parker Young Artist, aside from their matinee summer showcase on the main stage. “I’m singing First Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Adina and Magda in Act II of La Rondine,” she reveals. We discussed her progression as an artist and what she has learnt from colleagues with whom she has worked (and whom she has covered), as well as how she is preparing for the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in which she is appearing next month.

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Opera Britannia interview: Jessica Pratt

Nicola Lischi

NL: Let’s start http://img853.imageshack.us/img853/4408/jessicaprattcondro.jpgfrom the very beginning. I know you were born in the U.K. and grew up in Australia. Could you tell us something about your background?

JP: I was born in Bristol. My father was a tenor and changed professions when my mother was expecting me. He was offered a position as a director of music at a local school, and decided to accept it because it was a more stable position, and we lived in England until I was 11. I enjoyed watching his lessons. He would only teach me and my brother solfeggio and musical games, and we liked to compete, such as who could pick the most difficult note in a chord

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Opera Britannia interview: Krassimira Stoyanova

Mark Pullinger

Bulgarian http://img203.imageshack.us/img203/3237/stoyanovacesarebellafro.jpgsoprano Krassimira Stoyanovais currently performing the role of Tatyana in Kasper Holten’s much-anticipated new Royal Opera production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. It is her second time performing the role, having previously sung in Stefan Herheim’s production for Netherlands Opera. Both productions make use of flashback techniques, so I was keen to seek her views on how she felt they compared, as well as to find out which roles she was preparing, both for stage and for disc. Krassimira made her role debut here in 2002, singing Mimì, but is seen far too infrequently in London, being more often found in Vienna, New York or Germany’s opera houses. I caught up with her in her dressing room at the Royal Opera House. We began by talking about her musical roots.

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Opera Britannia interview: Emma Matthews

Mark Pullinger & Antony Lias

Regarded as one http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/5849/emmamatthewbridgetellio.jpgof Australia’s foremost sopranos, Emma Matthews is Principal Artist with Opera Australia, for which she made her debut as Damigella in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea in 1993. She is renowned as a bel canto soprano but her repertoire extends beyond 19th century operas to Berg’s Lulu and Richard Mills’ The Love of the Nightingale, the role of the Nightingale having been written for her. In 2010, she made her Covent Garden debut and Deutsche Grammophon issued her first solo disc ‘Emma Matthews in Monte Carlo’. Emma has just finished a run in Lucia di Lammermoor for West Australian Opera. Earlier this year, she made her role debut as Violetta in La traviata, a performance being beamed to UK cinemas. Opera Britannia caught up with her last weekend, ahead of the broadcast.

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Opera Britannia interview: Anna Leese

Mark Pullinger

A year ago, http://img856.imageshack.us/img856/3381/copyofannaleese.jpgsoprano Anna Leese was juggling the role of Suzel in L’amico Fritz at Opera Holland Park with representing New Zealand in the BBC Cardiff Singer competition. Now she returns to OHP to sing the role of Tatyana in their eagerly anticipated new production of Yevgeny Onegin, directed by Daniel Slater. The last time I met Anna was at the opening night of ENO’s new Onegin production. After chewing over Deborah Warner’s staging there and discussing aspects of English Touring Opera’s revival, both of which were performed in English translation, we turned to the current production and how rehearsals were going.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Thomas Guthrie

Steve Silverman

English Touring http://img833.imageshack.us/img833/2598/tomguthrie.jpgOpera’s new production of The Barber of Seville opens on 8thMarch at the Hackney Empire. It is directed by Thomas Guthrie, whose second production this is for the company following his well-received Fairy Queenlast year. A former ROH Young Artist, he may be unique in that he enjoys successful parallel careers as both a singer and a director. Acknowledging that he was not originally enamoured with Rossini’s opera buffa, considering it to be a piece of froth often weighed down with extraneous business, his opinion changed when he had the opportunity to work on the Royal Opera House’s current staging. He worked alongside the production’s creators, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, during its original run, and subsequently assistant directed a revival.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Giselle Allen

Terry Blain

Opera doesn't get much http://img824.imageshack.us/img824/3065/enopassenger.jpgcloser to the bone than Mieczyslaw Weinberg's Die Passagierin (The Passenger). Written in 1968 to a libretto based on death-camp survivor Zofia Posmysz's eponymous novel, it not only addresses issues arising from the Holocaust (in which Weinberg's own family was murdered), but actually sets large parts of the action in Auschwitz itself, unflinchingly interleaving harrowing details of inmate life there with the plush setting of a cruise liner, on which a former guard at the camp is sailing with her husband to Brazil.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Lukas Jakobski

Paul Guest

Polish bass http://img96.imageshack.us/img96/5628/lukasjakobski.jpgLukas Jakobski began his music training as a bassoonist, then studied singing at Poznan Academy of Music and with Graeme Broadbent at the RCM. Awards include the Kathleen Ferrier Bursary and Concordia Serena Nevill Award. He has participated in masterclasses with Michael Chance, Alessandro Corbelli and John Tomlinson

 

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Opera Britannia Interview: Marina Poplavskaya

Mark Pullinger

Royal http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/2862/marinapoplavskaya007.jpgOpera premières are relatively rare events. Anna Nicole may have caused a stir at Covent Garden recently, but a lesser-trumpeted event was the first performance – admittedly over a century after its composition – of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride. Singing the role of Marfa was former Jette Parker Young Artist Marina Poplavskaya, with whom I caught up this week to discuss the production. Our conversation also discussed all things Verdi and her development as an artist.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Daniele Rustioni

Paul Guest

Daniele http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/480/danielerustioni.jpgRustioni studied at the “G.Verdi” Conservatoire in Milan and took part in conducting postgraduate courses at the Accademia Musicale Pescarese, at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana and the Royal Academy of Music. In addition, he attended masterclasses with Sir Colin Davis, Kurt Masur and Gianandrea Noseda. In 2007, Daniele made his debut with the Teatro Regio Orchestra in Turin, where he returned in 2008 to make his operatic debut in Italy with La bohème. He conducted the Verdi Requiem at the Great Hall of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Society upon invitation of Yuri Temirkanov in addition to new productions of L’elisir d’amore and Pagliacci at the Mikhailovsky Theatre.  In 2008 he won his place on theJette Parker Young Artists’ Programmemaking him assistant to Music director Antonio Pappano.

I managed to catch Rustioni before his penultimate performance of Aida at the Royal Opera House:“Let’s go” said Rustioni in his youthful eagerness.

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Opera Britannia Interview: Michael Fabiano

Stephen Jay Taylor

There can’t be many opera singers, least of all non-Italians, who have already made their debuts at La Scala in a principal role – Rinuccio, in Gianni Schicchihttp://img27.imageshack.us/img27/8100/michaelfabiano51.jpg whilst under the age of 25 and technically still only a student. Indeed, when Michael Fabiano finished his two-and-a-half months’ long stint of both covering, and singing scheduled performances, in Milan in the Winter of 2008, the day after he returned to Philadelphia he was back at the Academy of Vocal Arts rehearsing La traviata on the Friday; slept soundly through the Saturday; and at the crack of dawn the following day was back singing at his local church where he was still employed as a chorister. The remarkable surrealism of such a scenario is not lost on the tenor, who chuckles heartily at the very memory. But then, Michael Fabiano is remarkable in a number of different ways, of which his youth is only the most visibly obvious.

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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 ( Sunday, 16 February 2014 23:03 )  

Recent Reviews

Puccini: Tosca

Renée Fleming, our hostess with the mostest at the Metropolitan Opera’s latest cinema relay of Tosca a few weeks ago, urged us – as ever – to experience opera first-hand and to ‘come visit the Met’ or to support your local opera company. The Opera Britannia excursions budget wouldn’t get you as far as York, let alone New York, so my local company it was and performing the same opera too. Tosca is very much the safe, financial bolster to Welsh National Opera’s Tudor trilogy in its autumn season – a crowd-pleaser of a production excavated from 1992, but which seemed even older.


 

Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

And so to Milton Keynes, pursued by a perishing wind fit to crack the famous concrete cows. The Milton Keynes Theatre, as a venue, is one of the jewels in the ATG crown, big enough to house almost any touring product, with spacious and well-designed auditorium and foyers. Unfortunately it is marooned in one of those soulless retail areas surrounded by a sea of mediocre chain outlets which offer the same tat or that which passes for food in a thousand other identical areas the world over. Whether it was position or the icy blasts which accounted for the poorly populated house is hard to say.


 

Mozart: The Magic Flute

For all the risk-taking in the operatic world, productions which are guaranteed bums-on-seats bankers are like Nibelung gold. To scrap not one but two such productions is a brave move for English National Opera this season. We shall see what Christopher Alden inflicts on Rigoletto in the spring, replacing Jonathan Miller’s famous Little Italy staging. Meanwhile, Nicholas Hytner’s much loved production of The Magic Flute has finally been laid to rest (after a few ‘absolutely your last chance to see’ revivals), replaced with this new one by Simon McBurney and Complicite.


 

Shostakovich: The Nose

Described at the time as “an anarchist’s hand grenade,” The Nosewas not well received and soon disappeared from view, although Malko, one of Shostakovich’s teachers at the Conservatoire, recognised the quality of the score. It was composed in 1927-28 and given a concert performance, against Shostakovich’s better judgment, in 1929: “The Nose loses all meaning if it is seen just as a musical composition. For the music springs only from the action...It is clear to me that a concert performance of The Nose will destroy it."


 

News

ENO goes widescreen

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.


 

 

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

Dmitri Platanias will sing the title role when the Royal Opera revives its new production of Nabucco. Mariusz Kwiecien will be joined by Saimir Pirgu in Steffen Aarfing's production of Szymanowski's King Roger at Covent Garden in 2015. The Royal Opera will stage Andrea Chenier in 2014/15 with Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Željko Lucic.

Anna Netrebko is due to sing the role of Lady Macbeth for a single performance at the Bavarian State Opera in June 2014.

Maria Agresta will sing Lucrezia in Verdi's I due Foscari in the 2014-15 season at Covent Garden. Placido Domingo does the Doge double, adding the baritone role of Francesca Foscari to his Simon Boccanegra.

Corinne Winters, fresh from her triumph as Violetta in ENO's production of La traviata, is to return to the Coliseum next season as Teresa in Berlioz's Benvenuto CelliniMichael Spyres sings the title role in a production which sees the return ofTerry Gilliam to the director's seat, after his Damnation of Faust debut.

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"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.

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CD Reviews

Vivaldi: Catone in Utica (Naive)

Althoughhttp://img197.imageshack.us/img197/8908/gkdw.JPG he claimed to have composed around ninety operas, there cannot be many left in the archives of the Biblioteca Nazionale in Turin for Naïve to record in its ongoing Vivaldi Edition if you discount pasticcios, reworkings and incomplete works. Their latest offering, the fourteenth opera in the series, falls into the latter category, for only Acts II and III of Catone in Utica have survived. The opera was written to celebrate the culmination of his third and final season at Verona’s Teatro dell’Accademia Filarmonica – a profitable success for the composer. Premiered in 1737, it is unknown whether Act I was even written by Vivaldi himself, or whether music by other composers was employed.

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Recital Reviews

Anne Sofie von Otter: Alumni Series

Milton Court, 23rd November 2013

When this http://img14.imageshack.us/img14/7950/npze.jpgrecital was first drawn to my attention, such is my regard for the Swedish mezzo that I immediately withdrew from reviewing Albert Herring some two hundred yards down the road in the Barbican, and enthusiastically opted for what I thought was an evening of French chansons and mélodies. What a prospect! Anne Sofie von Otter let loose on Chausson and Debussy, Fauré and Poulenc, perhaps some Gounod and Bizet, with maybe a little Délibes and/or Satie by way of let-your-hair-down encore material. All with her long-term musical accompanist Bengt Forsberg summoning up the necessary style. Rapture guaranteed, for which I arrived fully prepared.

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DVD Reviews

Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia (EuroArts)

Scholars now http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/5228/vu6o.jpgcast doubt on Lucrezia Borgia’s credentials as mass poisoner, but Donizetti’s operatic treatment on her historical character would have us believe she spiked drinks with cantarella and laced dishes with deadly nightshade like nobody’s business. Lucrezia, here on her fourth marriage (in reality, her third) to Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, is reunited with Gennaro, her long-lost son. Unfortunately, she withholds this vital information from him and from her husband, who suspects her of conducting an affair. It’s as free an interpretation as the lusty television series The Borgias, which never got as far as this in Lucrezia’s marital history, but none the worse for that.

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