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ROH to premiere BBC 'Question Time' opera on 22 November

19 November 2011, London, UK

British politician Nick Griffin
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

Stafford Hartman
Stafford Hartman

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.

Domingo celebrates 40 years at Covent Garden

28 October 2011, London, UK

Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House
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
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.'

 

Winners of the 2011 Gramophone Awards announced

7 October 2011, London, UK

Dame Janet Baker, winner of the Gramophone Lifetime Achivement Award
Dame Janet Baker, winner of the Gramophone Lifetime Achivement Award(Credit: Peter Crane)

This year’s Gramophone Awards have been announced at a ceremony in London hosted by the soprano, Susan Bullock.

The opera category went to Opera Rara for their recording of Rossini’s Ermione with David Parry and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring a cast led by the Italian soprano, Carmen Giannattasio.

Covent Garden’s artistic director, Antonio Pappano, appeared on no fewer than three award-winning discs in the categories for best Recital, best DVD Performance, and Editor’s Choice.

His winning DVD Performance of Don Carlo with Rolando Villazón in the title role was praised as ‘as fine an example of singing by a tenor in Verdi as we have heard in many a year: elegant in detail, movingly expressive and endowed with that special beauty of tone which was Villazón's distinctive gift’.

Another tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, topped the Recital category with his disc of verismo arias described as ‘a perfectly recorded and stunning recital’.

Meanwhile, Dame Janet Baker took home the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the world of singing and large legacy of recordings.

 


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