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Conductor Bertrand de Billy has walked out of the new Vienna State Opera Lohengrin just days before the premiere.  After objecting to a third act cut requested by director Andreas Homoki during rehearsals,  he asked Intendant Dominique Meyer to broker a compromise. But when Klaus Florian Vogt pitched in on Homoki's side, de Billy said he felt "let down". 

It's not clear exactly what was disputed, but it could be an add-on to Lohengrin’s In fernem Land monologue. Wagner himself cut this tenor-punishing, dramatically redundant extra at the time of the premiere, and it's generally left out today. When Semyon Bychkov incorporated it into his recent ROH outing, he thought it might be the first time it had been sung at Covent Garden.

However "It's no longer about cuts, but mutual respect and cooperation," de Billy said. "There is a line, and it has been crossed."  

The production was originally planned for Christian Thielemann, who had to pull out when he took over the Salzburg Easter Festival. To step into Thielemann's shoes, De Billy had to cancel a Parsifal in Munich and a Salome in Hamburg. 

Meyer dismissed the dispute as "about two minutes of music in an opera which is four and a half hours long. " Mikko Franck will now conduct it.

4 years ago |
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A few tickets, presumably returns, have appeared on the Bayreuth Festival website.

Don't hang around; they won't be there forever.

4 years ago |
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We're not getting the full Royal Opera House season announcement until next week, but thanks to one of its cinema distributors [link removed at distributor's request]we at least know what they're planning to screen. Here we go: 

The official program of the Live Cinema Season 2014/15

Thursday 16 October 2014 [7:15pm]
The Royal Ballet
MacMillan: MANON (live)
Cast tbc

Monday 27 October 2014 [7:15pm]
The Royal Opera
Verdi : I DUE FOSCARI (live)
New Production
Plácido Domingo / Francesco Meli / Conductor: Antonio Pappano

Wednesday 26 November 2014 [7:15pm]
The Royal Opera
Donizetti: L’ELISIR D’AMORE (live)
Vittorio Grigolo / Lucy Crowe / Bryn Terfel / Conductor: Daniele Rustioni

Tuesday 16 December 2014 [7:15pm]
The Royal Ballet
Cast tbc

Thursday 29 January 2015 [7:15pm]
The Royal Opera
Giordano: ANDREA CHÉNIER (live)
New Production
Jonas Kaufmann / Eva-Maria Westbroek / Conductor: Antonio Pappano

Tuesday 24 February 2015 [7:15pm]
The Royal Opera
Bryn Terfel / Conductor: Andris Nelsons

Tuesday 17 March 2015 [7:15pm]
The Royal Ballet
Petipa: SWAN LAKE (live)
Cast tbc

Wednesday 1 April 2015 [7:15pm]
The Royal Opera
Anne Sofie von Otter / Willard White / Christine Rice
Conductor: Mark Wigglesworth

Tuesday 5 May 2015 [7:15pm]
The Royal Ballet
Ashton: LA FILLE MAL GARDÉE (live)
Cast tbc

Wednesday 10 June 2015 [7:15pm]
The Royal Opera
Puccini: LA BOHÈME (live)
Anna Netrebko / Joseph Calleja / Conductor: Dan Ettinger

Sunday 5 July 2015 [2:45pm]
The Royal Opera
Rossini: GUILLAUME TELL (live)
Gerald Finley / John Osborn / Conductor: Antonio Pappano

4 years ago |
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Robert Carsen rocks the baroque by setting his new production of Rameau’s Platée at 31 Rue Cambon, birthplace of the Chanel fashion empire.  Tweed-suited Juno, queen of the gods, is a double for Coco Chanel herself. Husband Jupiter is a Karl Lagerfeld lookalike with white ponytail and dark glasses.

Bass-baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer must have got the shock of his life at the Opéra Comique last night when the real Karl turned up to pay tribute. Lagerfeld, a big opera fan, has designed costumes in the past. Bet none of them looked quite like that one.

4 years ago |
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Many of us have encountered some massive organs in our time. 

Few are as large as the monster recently revealed at the Royal Festival Hall.

To celebrate the restoration of the 60 year-old,  7,866-pipe, four-manual beast, the Southbank Centre has unleashed Pull Out All The Stops, "an organ festival on an unprecedented scale". There are solo recitals, new pieces from the likes of Sir John Tavener and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and artists Martin Creed and Lynette Wallworth are both incorporating the instrument into works.

The Southbank Centre have kindly offered one pair of free tickets to a reader for any one of the remaining concerts in the festival:

If you'd like to win this pair of tickets, please answer this question in the comments box below:

What would you like to see at the Southbank Centre?

(This can be anything  - a 6 month Jonas Kaufmann residency, free beer on Fridays, a website improvement. sunset over the Thames, etc. There is no guarantee the SBC will read them, let alone act on them, by the way).

The winner will be chosen at random from all answers, so don't worry about how long/short/clever yours is.

Please make sure you type in a valid email address (only I will be able to see it) so that I can contact you if you win. Tickets can be collected from the Southbank Centre on the night.

Comments will close at 6pm on Wednesday 26 March, so please get your answer in by then.

4 years ago |
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This morning the Vienna State Opera put their entire 2014-15 season on sale at the same time they announced it, in case you were wondering why their website's been slow or completely down all day. Well done, Wieners.

The chaos disguises an average 5% price increase, which Intendant Dominique Meyer says is necessary to compensate for the static public subsidy. Unlike standard UK practice, the price rise is helpfully weighted towards the more expensive tickets.

As usual, it's a busy season, with 223 staged opera performances, few of which are even 20th century, let alone modern. There will be six new productions: 

  • Idomeneo  October 2014 c: Christoph Eschenbach, d: Kasper Holten, with Michael Schade, Margarita Gritskova, Maria Bengtsson, Chen Reiss 
  • Khovanshchina 15  November 2014 c: Semyon Bychkov, d: Lev Dodin, with Ferruccio Furlanetto, Christopher Ventris, Herbert Lippert, Andrzej Dobber, Ain Anger, Elisabeth Kulman, Norbert Ernst
  • Rigoletto 20  December 2014 c: Franz Welser-Möst, d: Pierre Audi, with Piotr Beczala, Simon Keenlyside, Valentina Nafornita?, Elena Maximova 
  • Elektra  29 March 2015 c: Franz Welser-Möst, d: Uwe Eric Laufenberg, with Anna Larsson, Nina Stemme, Anne Schwanewilms, Falk Struckman 
  • Don Pasquale  26April 2015 c: Jesús López-Cobos, d: Irina Brook, ? with Michele Pertusi, Juan Diego Flórez, Alessio Arduini, Valentina Nafornita?
  • The Tempest (Austrian premiere) 14 June 2015 c: Thomas Ades, d: Robert Lepage, with Adrian Eröd, Audrey Luna, Stephanie Houtzeel, David Daniels

Vienna maintains its reputation for attracting the top conductors, with an Ariadne auf Naxos from Christian Thielemann, and a couple of Ring cycles from Simon Rattle. Kirill Petrenko conducts a Rosenkavalier with Soile Isokoski and Alice Coote, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin a fliegende Holländer revival featuring Bryn Terfel.

Vienna wouldn't be Vienna without a sprinkling of stardust, and it welcomes Juan Diego Florez in L'Elisir d'Amore and La Cenerentola, Domingo as Nabucco, Anna Netrebko as Anna Bolena and Angela Gheorghiu (together with Ramon Vargas and Ludovic Tézier) in Werther.

My casting pick however is a revival of Claus Guth's Tannhäuser. Myung-Whun Chung conducts the unbeatable line-up of Kwangchul Youn, Robert Dean Smith, Christian Gerhaher, Camilla Nylund and Iréne Theorin.

Detailed dates, casts and everything else you might want to know are already (yay!) on the website.

They've even got a list of the shows which will be livestreamed (€€€ applies).

4 years ago |
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What is the most inappropriate and unhelpful way to release new season details? Chasing Twitter's tail is the online magazine: old media in the ill-fitting clothes of the new. Scattering information here there and everywhere, sacrificing content to design, and entirely unsearchable. Online magazines work for image-rich content consumed in a single sequence. They don't work for reams of wordy, multi-layered data. You want to know when a particular opera's being shown, or if a certain artiste is appearing? Good luck - and congratulations if it takes you less than 50 page flips to find out.

Semperoper Dresden have a perfectly good website, but they've chosen instead to release next season's details via magazine. Somewhere in there you'll find new productions of Le nozze di Figaro (directed by Johannes Erath) and Der Freischutz (directed by Axel Köhler and conducted by Christian Thielemann). Thielemann also conducts Anja Harteros in Der Rosenkavalier.

Autumn's starry Strauss sequence - Arabella, Capriccio, Daphne, Thielemann, Fleming, Hampson - is already on sale (if not sold out). The rest goes on sale on 28 March. With luck the website might be updated by then. You will need to move quickly for the Rosenkavalier, by the way.

4 years ago |
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0afffcb240e76c83096a7ea6fb88d175[1] What Twitter's REALLY for

It is the year 2014, and opera companies still don't get Twitter.

Welsh National Opera attempted to tweet their new season this morning. But you can't dice a season into 140-character chunks. And what WNO have on offer next year needs a bit of context to sell it even to regular operagoers, let alone the general public. Their website is (at the time of writing) not much more helpful, but at least you can find a list of operas.

Intermezzo to the rescue - if you want the full details, including casts and dates, read below.

As you will see, there are five new productions. Four are directed by WNO's own David Pountney - presumably a cost-saving measure rather than a bout of late-career megalomania. The one that isn't is the British premiere of Richard Ayres' Peter Pan, which debuted last year in Stuttgart. This also makes its way to the ROH next summer for a couple of dates.

Barry Banks heads the excellent casts assembled for the mini Rossini-fest of Guillaume Tell and Mosè in Egitto. Please don't ask me what Chorus! starring Lesley Garrett might be - I fear to think. Pelléas et Mélisande (with Jacques Imbrailo and Jurgita Adomonyte) is the final new production.

Dominic Cooke's family-friendly The Magic Flute makes multiple appearances, and there's a return for Richard Jones's Hansel and Gretel. Both are sung in English, which should aid their appeal to newcomers.



William Tell | Rossini - New Production. (c. Carlo Rizzi, d.David Pountney). William Tell - David Kempster, Arnold - Barry Banks, Mathilde - Gisela Stille, Gesler - Clive Bayley, Jemmy  - Fflur Wyn, Hedwige - Leah-Marian Jones, Melchthal/Walter - Richard Wiegold, Rodolphe - Nicky Spence

Moses in Egypt | Rossini - New Production.  (c.Carlo Rizzi/Simon Phillippo, d.David Pountney). Mosè - Miklós Sebestyén, Osiride - David Alegret, Amaltea - Christine Rice, Aronne - Barry Banks, Faraone - Andrew Foster-Williams, Amenofi  - Leah-Marian Jones, Elcia  - Claire Booth, Mambre - Nicky Spence

Carmen | Bizet. (c.Erik Nielsen/James Southall, d.Patrice Caurier & Moshe Leiser). Carmen - Alessandra Volpe/ TBA, Don Jose - Peter Wedd/Gwyn Hughes Jones, Escamillo - Kostas Smoriginas/TBA, Micaela - Jessica Muirhead

Chorus! | New Production. Starring Lesley Garrett and WNO Chorus,  directed by David Pountney

The Magic Flute | Mozart. Sung in English. (c.Lothar Koenigs, d.Dominic Cooke). Tamino - Allan Clayton/Benjamin Hulett, Pamina - Sophie Bevan/Anita Watson, Papageno - Jacques Imbrailo/Daniel Grice, Sarastro - Scott Wilde, Speaker  - Ashley Holland, Queen of the Night - Samantha Hay

Hansel and Gretel | Humperdinck. Sung in English. (c.Lothar Koenigs, d.Richard Jones). Gretel - Ailish Tynan, Hansel - Anna Grevelius, The Witch - Adrian Thompson, Peter - Ashley Holland, The Mother - Miriam Murphy

Pelléas et Mélisande | Debussy. New Production. (c.Lothar Koenigs, d.David Pountney). Pelleas - Jacques Imbrailo, Melisande - Jurgita Adomonyte, Golaud - Christopher Purves, Genevieve - Leah-Marian Jones

The Magic Flute | Mozart. Sung in English. Tamino - Benjamin Hulett, Pamina - Elizabeth Watts, Papageno - Daniel Grice, Sarastro - Scott Wilde, Speaker - Ashley Holland, Queen of the Night - Kathryn Lewek

Peter Pan | Richard Ayres/Lavinia Greenlaw. New Production, British Première. (c.Erik Nielsen, d.Keith Warner) Peter Pan - Iestyn Morris, Wendy - Marie Arnet, Mr Darling / Captain Hook - Ashley Holland, Mrs Darling / Tiger Lilly - TBA, John - Nicholas Sharratt, Michael - Rebecca Bottone, Nana - Aidan Smith






4 years ago |
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