Two tickets for Christopher Aldens' new ENO Rigoletto can be yours for the price of one using the promocode ENOVERDI.
The offer is available for all remaining shows excludes top price tickets (£110) and Secret Seats.
I usually test out these offers before posting, but I can't reach the ENO booking pages right now because they are TOO BUSY. Has the opera world gone totally mad? Next thing you know, international sopranos will be cancelling role debuts the week before rehearsals start. Oh, hang on.
King Priam/Paul Bunyan - English Touring Opera - Linbury Studio, 15/19 February 2014
English Touring Opera's spring programme is a bold one. Alongside the perennial The Magic Flute, they've chosen to present a pair of works so rarely shown that even seasoned opera buffs may never have caught a live performance. Both are mid-20th century, both by British composers, and neither satisfies the popular preconceptions about opera as the province of swooning divas and sobbing tenors.
It is de rigueur in opera circles to pronounce Michael Tippett's 1962 King Priam worthy but heavy going, the operatic equivalent of eating your alfalfa sprouts. It's certainly not fluffy fare, but any regular theatregoer will recognise Tippett's Brechtian-framed take on the Trojan War for the ambitious piece of drama it is, more akin to Euripides than Verdi.
Tippett was a better composer than lyricist and the lean and sparing score, led with assurance by Michael Rosewell, tells the story with a clarity sometimes lacking in his self-penned libretto. James Conway's production matches its starkness. There is no room for sentiment in this powerful tale of fate and family. Anna Fleischle's bold bone-and-feather designs are both primitive and timeless.
As the troubled Priam, wrestling with the responsibilities of leadership and the bonds of fatherhood, Roderick Earle is magnificent. The rest of the cast are terrific too, with the acting skills as well as the voices to inhabit Tippett's theatrical world.
What a contrast Paul Bunyan is. The closest Britten ever got to writing a musical, this 1941 effort inhabits that same strange interworld as Bernstein's Candide and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Ostensibly a series of yarns spun around the mythical American frontiersman Paul Bunyan, it turns out to be a none too reverential examination of the American Way. No wonder the early (American) audiences loathed it.
W.H. Auden's quirky libretto, almost too clever for its own good, was considered to be one of the work's problems. Auden even apologised to Britten later for burdening him with it. But heard today, with post-Sondheim ears, its wit and wordplay seems years ahead of its time. It is now evident as one of the highlights, along with Britten's masterful facility in turning idioms as varied as folk and blues into identifiably 'Brittenesque' numbers.
Is an opera or a musical though? In ETO's hands, it tends towards the latter. All the singers are opera-trained, but they sing in an old-fashioned musical style - that is, more Hollywood classic than modern Broadway belter, complete with a variety of American accents. The cast are all so superb it seems wrong to single any out for praise, but it was a special moment when Caryl Hughes punctuated the comic mayhem with the touching aria ‘Mother, O Mother’. Mark Wilde’s guitar-strumming Johnny Inkslinger and Abigail Kelly as the coloratura soprano dog caught eye and ear too.
Liam Steel's highly detailed production sets the whole thing in a log cabin. The many roles (the work was originally written for students) are compacted into a still-extensive cast of lumberjacks and their assorted hangers-on. If there's one problem with the production it's that Anna Fleischle single dark set, so stark and fitting in King Priam, sometimes seems cramped and claustrophobic in this character-packed comedy.
King Priam trailer:
Paul Bunyan trailer:
all photos © Richard Hubert Smith, www.richardhs.com
Anna Netrebko has spoken to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta about her multiple Faust cancellations.
Affirming that the reasons were exclusively musical and technical, she explained: "Contracts were signed a long time ago, before my voice and, as a result, my repertoire began to change. I decided that Faust doesn't fit - the moment has passed. I'm now facing heavier roles. I just sang Puccini's Manon Lescaut and I'll soon start preparing for Verdi's Macbeth. Faust right now? No way."
The tardy timing of the announcement is not addressed, but in the interview she goes on to explain the detailed and extensive work she recently did on Manon Lescaut in Rome with its conductor, Riccardo Muti. Could Muti's influence have assisted her decision?
Sonya Yoncheva has just cancelled her planned appearances in Berlin this March/April, leaving her diary free.
Yoncheva has already been announced as Netrebko's replacement at the Vienna Staatsoper in May.
Expect further news soon.
Public booking for Glyndebourne opens on 10 March.
If you want to jump the queues, tomorrow's Daily Telegraph (1 March) contains a special code that will allow you to book from 8am on Saturday 1 March.
I will print more details here as soon as I know them. However I'm not planning to get up at the crack of dawn, and I assume the Telegraph won't post the code online, so your best bets will be (a) check Twitter before 8am or (b) suck it up, go out, and buy a paper.
*UPDATE* reader Michael points out the code is 10578.
Unfortunately not as a sub for Anna Netrebko - at this stage, anyway.
No, tonight it's the Festspielhaus Baden Baden who will benefit from Angela Gheorghiu's miraculous powers.
After Anja Harteros pulled out at the eleventh hour from tonight's Verdi Gala, Baden Baden were left with a major problem. No other soprano could slot into the planned programme, meaning her duetting partner Johan Botha was forced to cancel as well.
Luckily, SuperAnge was able to fly in - complete with a different Verdi programme, a tenor partner (Zoran Todorovich) and and an amenable conductor (Ivan Repušic).
"There are only a handful of singers in the world with the range to sing a night of Verdi," said a Festspielhaus spokesman. "It is the first time an artist has taken over an engagement here at such short notice to cover for illness".
Just in from the ROH:
"Anna Netrebko has regretfully withdrawn from the role of Marguerite in Faust with The Royal Opera in April 2014. This was to have been her debut in the role.
Anna Netrebko has asked us to forward the following: ‘I am so sorry to have to withdraw from the role of Marguerite in Faust. After much consideration and intensive preparation, I have come to the conclusion that the role is not right for me. I had been very much looking forward to making my debut in this role at the Royal Opera House and following it with further performances in Vienna and Baden-Baden. Unfortunately, I must now withdraw from all these productions. I am very sad to be disappointing my fans in London, Vienna and Baden-Baden and hope they will understand the difficult decision that I have had to make. However, I am very much looking forward to returning to The Royal Opera to perform with the Company again in 2015.’
We are working very hard to secure a good replacement for Anna Netrebko in this important part."
Not surprised at the decision - just at its astonishing lateness.
Terfel to the rescue!
Bryn Terfel has stepped in to replace Sebastian Catana, who has withdrawn from Tosca at the Royal Opera House. He sings Scarpia on 16, 19 and 26 June, with Lucio Gallo taking over on 21 June.
There are still plenty of tickets left, including some cheap ones.
A new report suggests Glyndebourne contributes more than £16 million a year to the local economy.
Most of this comes from ticket buyers, the report says, though some of the figures don't make perfect sense. The 98,000 festival visitors in 2013 spent more than £11 million at hotels, restaurants, shops and attractions - or £112 per person on average. However another statistic indicates that the 35% of visitors who stayed the night laid out an average of £81 per day. Guests who stayed the night spent less on average than those who didn't? Possible, but odd.
A further £3m goes in wages to Glyndebourne's employees - a more reliable figure since it's easier to measure. The Festival employs 150 direct staff all year round, 600 performing company and production staff and 1,500 artists and singers. In addition, £1.3m is paid to various local suppliers.
The report was commissioned by Glyndebourne and East Sussex County Council, with additional funding from Arts Council England and the East Sussex Arts Partnership, and was based on 3,367 survey responses.
The new mission of opera companies is to fox their customers with unreadable and/or incomplete season announcements. Or so it seems. After Barcelona's irritating Twitter drip-feed comes Zurich's online magazine - spread over 246 (!) pages, illegible on any screen smaller than laptop size, and impossible to auto-translate for anyone who doesn't read German. I can only hope they get their act together and stick it all up on the website soon.
Opera houses, all we need is a list of productions like this one, copy/pasteable, complete with dates and casting, and, ideally, Outlook calendar-compatible. The rest is for the souvenir brochure. And while we're at it, can you split up the opera and ballet? Two separate announcements mean twice the publicity, if you need tempting.
(UPDATE - all dates are now on the website.)
Back to Zurich, who seem to be untroubled by the financial strictures binding other houses. Their nine premieres include two contemporary operas (one for kids) and a Vivaldi rarity amongst the more obviously commercial offerings. And there's the usual quota of stardust sprinkled throughout the season.
The full list of premieres:
The revivals throw up a few interesting names too. One person I never expected to return to Zurich is Alexander Pereira - not least because of his Milan responsibilities. But he takes his turn on stage again as the Majordomo in a revival of the Guth/Luisi Ariadne auf Naxos. Another familiar face is Cecilia Bartoli on her annual visit, this time partnering Lawrence Brownlee in La Cenerentola.
Claus Guth's Tristan und Isolde reappears conducted by Jirí Belohlávek, and features Nina Stemme and Stephen Gould. But the hottest ticket is likely to be Anna Netrebko taking another bash at Anna Bolena, this time with Luca Pisaroni. To end the season, the reigning no.1 Elektra Evelyn Herlitzius is joined by Emily Magee in a revival conducted by Lothar Koenigs.
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