ROH to premiere BBC 'Question Time' opera on 22 November
19 November 2011, London, UK
British politician Nick Griffin
By James Waygood
As part of the Royal Opera House’s Opera ‘Exposure’ series, Errollyn Wallen’s new opera Yes receives its world premiere in London next week.
The work is a ‘docu-opera’ focusing on reactions and responses sparked by the infamous occasion in October 2009 when the BBC invited controversial British Nationalist Party leader, Nick Griffin, to appear as a panelist on its televised political forum, Question Time.
The libretto, written by the playwright and critic Bonnie Greer, consists of her personal opinions together with public reaction, exploring the storm of strong views leading up to and following the broadcast. Greer, who was a co-panelist on the programme, described appearing next to Griffin as ‘probably the weirdest and most creepy experience of my life’. She will take part in the opera as herself alongside a cast of nine singers and an instrumental ensemble of seven.
At Tête-á-Tête Opera Festival held at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith last summer, composer Errollyn Wallen held a seminar discussing her writing process, which included excerpts from Yes. Combining her more lyrical style with contemporary writing, the music is a fusion that is original but accessible and catchy. From what I heard at the preview, Yes is set to be a bold and intriguing approach to issues of multiculturalism, racism and freedom of speech in today’s society.
Performances in the Linbury Studio Theatre from 22 to 26 October
US soprano sings live after being shot
10 November 2011, Memphis, US
A 24-year-old artist in residence with Memphis Opera surprised audiences last month by going ahead with two performances of Tosca – after being mugged and shot in the knee.
Stafford Hartman was attacked two days before the opera’s opening night, but said that she was determined ‘not to be a victim’, so went ahead with her offstage role of the Shepherdess from a wheelchair. She is expected to make a full recovery.
Wikileaks inspires new commission by Opera Australia
28 October 2011, Melbourne, Australia
Julian Assange(Photo: Espen Moe)
Opera Australia has announced plans for a new opera based on the life and work of Julian Assange, the controversial founder and figurehead of the whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks.
Assange, who was born in Australia, is said to have endorsed the project. He is currently in London fighting extradition to Sweden for alleged rape.
Opera Australia (OA) unveiled their plans after a workshop described by the company’s artistic director, Lyndon Terracini, as ‘really terrific’. He said that he hoped the new work would ‘speak to a younger audience than we normally play to’.
The Australian composer Jonathan Dreyfus has already been approached to write the score, though the project as a whole is still pending approval by OA’s board.
Domingo celebrates 40 years at Covent Garden
28 October 2011, London, UK
Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House(Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
Review by Francis Muzzu
After 230 performances of 26 roles with the Royal Opera, you could excuse Plácido Domingo for resting on his laurels. But at a performance yesterday marking the opera superstar’s fortieth anniversary with the company, he added yet another role to this list, singing the title role in Act 3 of Rigoletto.
The evening started with Act 4 of Otello, where Domingo’s formidable clarion tones overrode worry about the top of the voice. Descending to his current baritonal register, Rigoletto posed less of a problem, as the main burden of performance fell upon others. Next came Act 3 of Simon Boccanegra, which although beautifully phrased and acted, revealed a lack of true baritonal depth and richness. But an ecstatic audience would hear no wrong, and this truly amazing artist received the standing ovation he deserved.
Antonio Pappano offered sterling support in the pit, and particularly good contributions came from Ailyn Pérez and Francesco Meli in Rigoletto, and Paata Burchuladze in Simon Boccanegra.
ROH's Plácido Domingo Celebration will receive a second performance at 3pm on 30 October 2011
Barenboim for top music post at La Scala
14 October 2011, Milan, Italy
Daniel Barenboim(Photo: Ricardo Dávila)
Daniel Barenboim has been appointed as the music director of Milan's Teatro alla Scala. He will take up his appointment on 1 December, and his initial contract runs for five years.
Barenboim has already established close links with La Scala, spending around two months conducting the orchestra each season. His new contract formalises the relationship and increases his commitment to around four months per year.
The Berlin-based conductor will be seen as a steady hand at La Scala during turbulent times which have seen a succession of strikes and cancelled performances as unions take action against unprecedented budget cuts.
‘The Italians are extremely volatile,’ says Barenboim. 'This is both their charm and what often can stand in the way. But you cannot change this. I am very happy there.'
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