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Christmas 2014

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Regime change at Madrid's Teatro Real

26 September 2013, Madrid, Spain

Gerard Mortier (above) will stay on as an artistic advisor to his successor Joan Matabosch (below)
Gerard Mortier (above) will stay on as an artistic advisor to his successor Joan Matabosch (below)

(Photos: Javier del Real)

Madrid’s Teatro Real has announced the immediate appointment of Joan Matabosch as the company’s new artistic director, ousting Gerard Mortier three years before his current contract was due to expire.

The decision followed hot on the heels of a row sparked by the Belgian-born Mortier, who suggested in a published interview that no Spaniard would be good enough to succeed him. He further warned that if the government imposed a candidate of whom he disapproved, he wouldn't see out his term.

Mortier, 69, told El País: ‘The government wants a Spaniard. That's no problem for me, so long as they're a good candidate. The important thing is not their nationality, but their quality … [but] I don't see any good candidates in Spain … this country has a number of extraordinary museum directors. But it's not the same in opera. There is no tradition here.’

Mortier took charge of Madrid’s opera house in 2010 after resigning early from his previous post at the New York City Opera. Known for shaking things up wherever he goes, his artistic agenda in Madrid has been characteristically bold, including staging Messiaen’s Saint François d'Assise and commissioning world premieres such as Glass’s The Perfect Amercian and (coming up in January) Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain.

Matabosch, who has held the post of artistic director at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu since 1997, said his goal at the Teatro Real would be ‘not to copy literally what Mortier has done, but it will be a project of continuity rather than trying to do the opposite and undermine the extraordinary legacy that he has left in Madrid.’

Matabosch will combine his existing role in Barcelona with his new role in Madrid for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, Mortier has been named as an artistic advisor to the Teatro Real, though the exact nature of his future involvement with the company remains unclear – a situation further complicated by the recent revelation that he is undergoing treatment for cancer.

 

Win a copy of 'The Verdi Edition' from Opus Arte

23 September 2013

Win a copy of ‘The Verdi Edition’ from Opus Arte: 12 complete operas on 17 DVDs!

Celebrating the work of Italy’s greatest musical dramatist, this new box set features some of today’s finest Verdi singers in productions from London, St Petersburg, Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona. Casting highlights include Renée Fleming as Violetta, José Cura as Otello, Byrn Terfel as Falstaff and Plácido Domingo as Simon Boccanegra.

To enter, simply drop us an email with the subject ‘VERDI EDITION’ to competitions@rhinegold.co.uk, or send a postcard to Rhinegold Competitions, 20 Rugby Street, London WC1N 3QZ. Please include your full name, address and a contact telephone number. (Deadline for entries: 1 November 2013.)

 

Handel's Acis and Galatea gets exotic treatment in Bhutan

23 September 2013, Thimpu, Bhutan

Traditional Bhutanese dancers get their first taste of Handel
Traditional Bhutanese dancers get their first taste of Handel(Photo: Aaron Carpene)

Report by Robert Turnbull

Ever protective of its cultural heritage, the South Asian kingdom of Bhutan is famously wary of the influence of Westerners and their wanton ways. That includes tourists, the number of which never exceeds 20,000 annually.

Yet when the Italian stage-director Stefano Vizioli and his Australian harpsichordist partner Aaron Carpene proposed taking Handel’s Acis and Galatea to the Royal Textile Academy in Bhutan’s capital, Thimpu, the Bhutanese prime minister and his cabinet were quick to approve. The project is officially a collaboration with the University of Texas at El Paso, which has long had links with Bhutan.

In this highly unusual ‘co-production’, set in early 20th-century Bhutan, four Western soloists, 14 chorus members and a 16-piece Baroque orchestra will be joined by nine Bhutanese dancers, singers and musicians. Local instruments include the Bhutanese dulcimer (yanchen), powerful Tibetan horns (dungchen) and drums (nga).

As project creator and the opera’s conductor, Carpene’s aim is to recreate the atmosphere of the Bhutanese tsechu, or 5-day religious festivals usually performed in the courtyards of monasteries.

‘The dancers’ presence underlines specific dramatic moments, celebrating happiness and nature,’ he explains. Meanwhile, the opera’s principal characters will take on Bhutanese identities, such as Polythemus, here portrayed as ‘a wrathful deity’.

Carpene stresses the project’s appropriateness for a Buddhist society: ‘Pastoral themes and celebration of metamorphosis resonate deeply with the most transformative spiritual experiences represented in classical Western as well as Eastern philosophical traditions.’ Acis’s death, for example, will accompany a traditional Bhutanese cremation dance as well as a mourning song.

Acis and Galatea receives its premiere in Thimpu on 12 October 2013. The production will be repeated at El Paso Opera in October 2014.

 

International vocal competition results round-up

12 September 2013

Russian soprano Aida Garifullina and Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li
Russian soprano Aida Garifullina and Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li© Photo Ennevi

Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition takes place in a different country each year. In 2013 it was Verona’s turn, coinciding not only with Verdi’s birth bicentenary but also the centenary of the city’s summer opera festival, with Domingo at the helm for the celebrations.

The joint first prize winners of Operalia 2013 are Russian soprano Aida Garifullina and Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li. Each took home US$30,000 in prize money, and will receive future opportunities to perform worldwide through recommendations made personally by Domingo.

Oslo’s Queen Sonja International Music Competition has also been won by a Russian soprano. Kristina Mkhitaryan, who is a graduate of Moscow’s Galina Vishnevskaya Theatre Studio and the Russian Gnesin Academy of Music, came out top in a field of 211 singers from 47 countries. The competition’s international jury, chaired by Sophie de Lint of Zurich Opera, included singers Dame Felicity Palmer, Carol Vaness and Wolfgang Holzmair, plus key industry figures from the UK and Scandinavia.

The first-prize in this year’s Les Azuriales Young Singers’ Competition was awarded last month to the American-Korean countertenor Kangmin Justin Kim. Kim impressed the judges with a unique voice that is vibrant and resonant throughout its countertenor range. With his striking stage presence and an especially beautiful, well-controlled high register, Kim has been earmarked for a big career on the international opera stage. Aged just 24, Kim was born in Chicago and is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Now in its third year, NI Opera’s Festival of Voice is held in the charming village of Glenarm on the Northern Irish coast. The Festival includes a competition for Irish singers, presented by BBC Radio 3’s Sean Rafferty. The winner of this year’s competition has been named as Sinéad O’Kelly, a Belfast-born soprano who is currently studying at London’s Royal College of Music. Her winning programme featured arias and songs by Donizetti, Bizet, Monteverdi, Fauré and Barber.

 

British bass Richard Angas dies aged 71

22 August 2013

Richard Angas as the Mikado at English National Opera
Richard Angas as the Mikado at English National Opera(Photo: Bill Rafferty)

The British operatic bass Richard Angas has died, aged 71. Angas, who was preparing the role of Swallow for Opera North’s production of Peter Grimes in Leeds, collapsed during a rehearsal. He was taken to hospital but died shortly afterwards.

Opera North’s general director Richard Mantle posted a personal message about Angas on the company’s website: ‘We are incredibly sad to lose such an esteemed and admired performer, and so suddenly. Richard was a giant of the opera world in every possible way, a performer of great character and charisma, generous hearted and an incredible friend to all who knew and worked with him. He will be sorely missed.’

A versatile and much sought-after performer, Angas’ towering physique (he was 6ft 7in tall) lent him an exceptional stage presence. He worked extensively in Britain and Germany, and was a principal bass with English National Opera for 15 years. Most recently, he played the title role in Sir Jonathan Miller’s ENO production of The Mikado (a role he first performed with the company in 1986), and earlier this year appeared in productions of Welsh National Opera’s Lulu, Wagner Dream and The Cunning Little Vixen.

Angas’ commitment to performing contemporary works also saw him participate in the world premieres of Hans Werner Henze’s We Come to the River at Covent Garden in 1976, Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus at ENO in 1989, and the UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream at the Barbican under Martyn Brabbins in 2012.

‘I owe a great deal to Richard Angas,’ Sir Jonathan Miller told BBC News. ‘Apart from the fact that he was one of the great performers in a long-lasting production of The Mikado, he was one of the most convivial professional companions whose company I enjoyed for many, many years.’

ENO music director Edward Gardner praised Angas’ ‘magnificent voice, warmth and strength of character’.

  • Richard Angas, operatic bass, born 18 April 1942; died 20 August 2013



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