Classical Music Buzz > Intermezzo
opera and concerts in london and beyond
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As you have probably noticed, the site has been malfunctioning for the last few days. This is due to a cyber attack on the host, Typepad. If you're having trouble reading or commenting, that's why. I'm just as frustrated as you are.

The problem seems to be under control for now, but I have not been given an all-clear, so I don't anticipate resuming regular posting until Tuesday, at the earliest.

2 days ago | |
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Make an appointment with your sofa on Bank Holiday Monday - the BBC are screening a special one hour TV version of the radio play Under Milk Wood to celebrate Dylan Thomas' centenary.

In addition to a host of Welsh acting talent, they've secured the services of Tom Jones as Captain Cat, Bryn Terfel as Reverend Eli Jenkins and Katherine Jenkins (above, clearly labelled) as Polly Garter. 

6 days ago | |
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Bryn Terfel celebrates his 50th birthday with a one-off concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 20 October 2015. Little black dress optional.

Ticket prices start at £38.20, but the best seats - Arena front and Stalls - are £79.  Booking has already started.

7 days ago | |
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Faced with an explosion of protest about the way he appears to have sold Salzburg Festival operas to La Scala, Alexander Pereira has backtracked on some of his earlier statements. Is Milan to pay Salzburg "well over one million euros" (as he himself told the Salzburger Nachrichten), or was it more precisely €1.28m or €1.6m, as different newspaper reports have claimed? And are there six operas, or seven?

None of the above, it seems. In a new interview with the Salzburger Nachrichten Pereira explains more clearly how many operas and how much money is involved.  

Salzburg, he says, has so far agreed only four operas will travel to La Scala, namely Die Meistersinger, Falstaff, Don Carlo and Lucio Silla - all from the 2013 Festival. The total price for these is between €650,000 and €690,000, and this amount will help shift some of the 2013 Festival deficit.

Some of these are not exactly 'sales', because La Scala will co-produce - meaning they bear a proportion of the production costs, then share in any future income from sales to other opera houses. Die Meistersinger is a co-production between Salzburg, La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera and the Paris Opera. La Scala takes a 10% co-production stake in Lucio Silla, which is otherwise shared equally by the Salzburg Festival and the Mozarteum Foundation. For Don Carlo, costs and revenues are divided 75%/25% between Salzburg and Milan, resulting in a payment of  €250,000 from Milan to Salzburg. Falstaff is the only straight sale, priced at €130,000.

For these four operas, "letters of intent" have been signed. These are legally binding, but are not full and final contracts. (The question of whether Pereira had the authority to sign these on behalf of La Scala remains - and if he didn't sign them, then who did?)

So what about the talk of six or seven operas? This relates to 2014 and 2015 productions about which there have been only negotiations, with no documents signed as yet. These possibilities are Rosenkavalier, Il Trovatore, Charlotte Salomon and Endgame. Any income the Salzburg Festival receives from selling these to La Scala will be accounted for in the year of the production, not backdated against the 2013 deficit.

Surprisingly, the Nachrichten says that both the Mayor of Salzburg and the Festival President have backed Pereira and his sales. That suggests neither believe his claim that he could have sold these productions for more elsewhere, which would have increased Salzburg's revenues. Or perhaps they just want to avoid any further embarrassment.

8 days ago | |
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Not many takers so far for Valery Gergiev's Mariinsky Ring, which rolls into Birmingham in November. A glance at the Birmingham Hippodrome website suggests only around a quarter of the seats have been sold.

Individual tickets for the four operas are now available at prices ranging from £115 to £200 per opera - or more than four times what you'd pay for a Welsh National Opera show at the same venue. As reader Bohdan wrote to me "I was initially quite excited when you announced this event a few months ago, but now that I’ve seen that a reasonably priced ticket will cost £200, I shan’t be going. In my opinion it’s way over-priced for this particular production." A sentiment I am sure will be shared.

9 days ago | |
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The 2015 Salzburg Easter Festival programme was announced today, and the big draw is Jonas Kaufmann.

He makes role debuts in Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, topping off his Salzburg stay with the tenor part in Verdi's Requiem - all conducted by Christian Thielemann.

The rest of the four-night programme has a Russian flavour, with a symphony and a concerto each from Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

If you fancy going, you'd better have deep pockets. Festival tickets are notoriously pricey; this year's maxed out at €490. But with only 12% of the festival's €6m budget covered by the public purse, there isn't much scope for cuts.  

To be certain of tickets, you need to buy a membership (€300, or €50 for under-35s), then a four-night subscription (€410 to €1,190). These will go on sale at the end of this month. Any single tickets not bought by members are sold later in the year (€170 to €490 for the opera).

9 days ago | |
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Is Peter Gelb the best-paid man in American opera? The answer may surprise you.

U-T San Diego has examined the 2012 tax returns of 22 US opera houses and worked out who earns most in each.  Here's a taster of the top-end:

    1   San Francisco Opera
        Top-paid official: David R. Gockley, general director and CEO
        Total compensation: $1,508,940
    2  Metropolitan Opera, New York
        Top-paid official: Peter Gelb, general manager
        Total compensation: $1,433,787
    3  Los Angeles Opera
        Top-paid official: James Conlon, music director
        Total compensation: $1,182,7230

    4  Lyric Opera of Chicago
        Top-paid official: Sir Andrew Davis, music director and conductor
        Total compensation: $883,956
    5  Washington National Opera
        Top-paid official: Placido Domingo, former general director
        Total compensation: $600,000

10 days ago | |
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Has Alexander Pereira gone too far this time?

The Italians have finally cottoned on that there might be something a bit funny about an opera boss selling a bunch of productions to himself (as reported here on an otherwise joke-free 1 April).

So they're now questioning the legality of the sale of seven Salzburg Festival productions to La Scala, as engineered by the outgoing Salzburg/incoming La Scala head Alexander Pereira.

Pereira is still (technically) in charge of the Salzburg Festival, and does not (technically) accede to the Milan position until the Salzburg one ends in September 2014. But he's keen to get going, and since the appointment was announced back in 2013, he has made himself busy on La Scala's behalf.

However the problem with the horse-trade is that Pereira can't sign anything on behalf of La Scala until he formally takes over from Stéphane Lissner. It is unlikely in any case that the management, whether Pereira or Lissner, has the authority to commit the theatre to such a large sum without the approval of the directors. And the directors haven't been consulted, according to the "shocked" Mayor of Milan, who is on the board. "I learned of the affair from the press," he said.

However the Salzburg Festival is so confident it's a done deal, they have included the sale value in ther accounts. Not surprisingly,  the Italian press are now asking whether any contracts were signed, and if so, who signed them.

They also wonder whether the package is the bargain Pereira claims. He says the seven Salzburg productions (Don Carlo, Die Meistersinger, Lucio Silla, Falstaff , Il trovatore, Der Rosenkavalier and Endgame) will cost La Scala far less than seven new ones. But the Italians question his assumptions. They point out that the new Rome Manon Lescaut cost little more than the Salzburg productions, and that there will be additional costs for resizing the sets, as the Milan stage is narrower and deeper than the Festspielhaus. I would add that some of these productions will debut at the 2014 Festival, so they haven't even been seen yet. Who can know at this stage how transferable they are, from either a quality or technical perspective?

With only one supporter willing to speak up for him - his musical director appointee Riccardo Chailly - Pereira has been forced to defend himself. He tells La Reppublica "I am 67 years old and have a lot of experience, but I know that La Scala is the most difficult theatre in the world....they have tried to attack me with accusations of theft that do not correspond to the truth.  I will report everything to the Mayor of Milan and the La Scala Board and I am sure that all will be clarified."

There remains one more peculiar aspect of the case that remains unexplored. The total amount involved, which was previously reported to be €1.6m, has now gone down to €1.28m. By amazing coincidence, the difference represents the small surplus the Festival would have made if the productions were sold at the original price. At the new total, the 2013 Festival balances its budget. Isn't that a little odd?

Pereira claims to the Milanese that he's got them a bargain, so the obvious question (which nobody has asked yet) is - has the Salzburg Festival been sold short? Could it have obtained a higher price for its productions in an independently-brokered sale? If the Austrian press has half the intellectual curiosity of its Italian counterparts, this is the question it should be putting out there.

11 days ago | |
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Turn to page 86 of the just-released Wigmore Hall 2014-15 season brochure, and there it is, in black and white.

As noted on Intermezzo back in February, Jonas Kaufmann is to play Wigmore Hall on 11 January 2015. Helmut Deutsch accompanies; programme to be confirmed.

Tickets are expected to go on sale in September/October. Prices are not mentioned, but the normal range for a song recital is £15-£50.

Unless you want to rely on returns, your best (though not guaranteed) chance of getting one is to become a Wigmore Hall Friend. Experience suggests all or most requests at Patron or Benefactor level are likely to be satisfied. Lower levels may miss out due to demand.

11 days ago | |
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