Monday 4 February 2008

From this month's Opera

Gleanings from this months Opera magazine.

A couple of snippets from the profile of Gianandrea Noseda. He was the first foreigner since Albert Coates to be a regular conductor at the Kirov, and Coates worked there before the Revolution. He makes an interesting comment about the sort of conductors he is interested in encouraging in TurinI don't want singers to have an easy life with conductors who will simply follow them not matter what they do. It was Noseda's Beethoven cycle for the BBC in Manchester which had the remarkable download success, attracting 1.4 million downloads in 3 weeks. (Something the BBC have never repeated).

Over in Scotland there is an interview with Alex Reedijk, Scottish Opera's new head. Another fascinating fact, Scottish Opera's educational arm was the first to be established by a UK company. It is heartening to hear that in the 2008/09 season all of the company's 4 productions will be new ones, rather than rentals. But still a little depressing that they are only doing 4 productions, no matter how necessary this is economically. Still, their forthcoming evening of 5 1-act operas, all brand new and commissioned by Scottish Opera, is exciting. They plan to develop these further, let us hope that they have some success. But the workshop method, much beloved of opera companies, does not often seem to pay major dividends when it comes to operas; somehow the process often squeezes the life out of pieces.

An article on Balfe prompts much interest, but you'll have to go down to Haslemere if you want to hear his work, Opera South are staging The Bohemian Girl. Balfe's musical connections were remarkable. He sang at La Scala with Maria Malibran (in Rossini's Otello) and at La Fenice with her in La Sonnambul. He was in Milan when both Norma and La Sonnambula had their premieres.

An interesting conflation of obituaries - Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gudrun Wagner.

In Rio de Janeiro, Lithuanian mezzo Liora Grodnikaite gets fine reviews; I'm looking forward to seeing her in Massenet's Cendrillon when Chelsea Opera Group do it later this year.

Chicago has staged a new Die Frau ohne Schatten. I'd love to have heard it, with Christine Brewer as the Dyers Wife and Deborah Voight as the Empress. In NY the Met did its first Iphigenie en Tauride since 1917!

Back in Europe, Anger Nantes Opera gave the premiere of Susumu Yoshida's Sumidagawa, based on the same Noh play that Britten used for Curlew River. Remarkably the singers (one Canadian, Argentinian) sang the piece in Japanese, quite a feat. And in Frankfurt Richard Jones's new production of Billy Bud is set in a 1940's Naval College. Still in a Britten kind of mood, Turn of the Screw cropped up in Cremona sung in English by a mostly Italian cast. It is always heartening when this happens as too often you read about unusual repertoire cropping up in places with largely imported casts.

Over in Milan, Tristan und Isolde in a new production by Patrice Chereau, with Ian Storey as Tristan; he's a British singer who I've not really heard, he seems neglected over here. His Isolde was Waltraut Meier, and Michelle de Young was Brangaene, so no Italian speakers here. The role sounds as if it might be stretch of Meier (after all she is technically a mezzo) and I'd be interested to hear her doing it with a period band at a slightly lower 19th century pitch (assuming I'm right about the pitch being slightly lower).

It seems scarcely believable that Dennis O'Neill is 60 but there was a gala to celebrate this at the Wales Millennium Centre. And, having been cataloguing my old programmes, I must admit that his name crops up rather a lot in the operas I saw in Scotland in the late 1970's.

Stephen Petitt, in his thoughtful review of The Magic Flute performed by the South African Isango/Portobello Company makes an comment that there was not a single black face in the audience the night he was there. It would be interesting to know whether this changed over the course of the run or whether opera is just as problematic in London when performed by a black South African company.

We hear that... notes that Jeanne Michele Charbonnet will be Kundry in ENO's 2010 revival of Parsifal. I'm not sure about this one, I was less than thrilled with the concrete bunker production when new and Charbonnet failed to delight when heard in John Foulds World Requiem. Fascinatingly, John Copley has replaced Jude Kelly as the director of the new Merry Widow; definitely a sea change in the sort of production we might expect. We can anticipate that Copley will turn in a well made, very revivable production (unlike some recent ENO outings). Sarah Connolly is going to be doing Dido (Purcell) at Covent Garden. The big question being, what else are they putting on the bill? And Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez will be appearing in a new Donna del Lago, another of these travelling productions (Paris, London, NY, Milan). Still, I can hardly wait, definitely a mouthwatering cast. Amanda Roocroft is doing the Countess (Capriccio)for the first time with Opera North in 2010, now we'll have to find time to go and see that.

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