14 Feb 2007
The Handel Singing Competition 2007 – Win or Lose?
Singing competitions are a mixed blessing.
I met with the embattled artistic director of the Opéra et Orchestre National de Montepellier not to talk about his battles. I simply wanted to know the man who had cast and staged a truly extraordinary Mozart/DaPonte trilogy.
Maria Nockin interviews tenor Saimir Pirgu.
Italian conductor Claudio Abbado, former principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, has died aged 80
Matthew Polenzani reprises the role of the Chevalier des Grieux in Jules Massenet’s Manon at the Royal Opera House. “I love coming back to London”, he says, “It’s a very good house and they take care of you as a singer. And the level of music making is unbelievably high”.
On Saturday evening January 25, San Diego Opera opens its 2014 season with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s verismo blockbuster Pagliacci (Clowns).
The Flying Dutchman is a transitional piece because Wagner was only beginning to establish his style. He took some aspects from Carl Maria von Weber and others from Italian composers like Vincenzo Bellini.
The Royal Opera House has its own DVD arm, Opus Arte, and is developing quite a global following with its cinema broadcasts.
On a personal level, I feel that Dolores is almost like Emmeline grown up. Their circumstances are not exactly parallel, but they are both women at very different points in their lives whose stories involve dilemmas with life-changing outcomes.
With the help of Andrew Welch, a London theatrical producer who had adapted several of King’s works for the stage, including this one, I got the rights to both Dolores Claiborne and Misery.
On September 18, 2013, San Francisco Opera will present the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s opera, Dolores Claiborne, which has a libretto by J. D. McClatchy based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name.
Ermonela Jaho caused a sensation at Covent Garden in London five years ago, when she took over Violetta at short notice from Anna Netrebko.
What do you get if you cross Benjamin Britten, ‘one-page scores’, an innovative performing ensemble and ‘Wigmore Learning’ — the Wigmore Hall’s imaginative outreach programme which aims to provide access to chamber music and song through innovative creative programmes, online resources and events?
Marseille woke up this past January 11 stunned to find itself number two on the New York Times list of 46 places you should visit in 2013 (Rio was number one, Paris just made the list at number 46).
Garsington Opera at Wormsley is producing the British premiere of Giacomo Rossini´s Maometto Secondo. Garsington Opera is well-known for its role in reviving Rossini rarities in Britain. Since 1994, there have been 14 productions of 12 Rossini operas, and David Parry has conducted eleven since 2002. He´s very enthusiastic about Maometto Secondo.
Rossini’s La donna del Lago at the Royal Opera House boasts a superstar cast. Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez are perhaps the best in these roles in the business at this time. Yet the conductor Michele Mariotti is also hot news.
It would seem a logical step for the mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey to take on the role of the Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.
“Aim for excellence”, says Douglas Boyd, new Artistic Director of Garsington Opera at Wormsley, “and the audience will follow you”.
When I spoke with Zandra Rhodes, she was in her large San Diego workspace, which she described as having walls decorated with her own huge black and white drawings.
Palm Beach audiences are famous for their glamour, but in recent years a special star has sparkled amid the jewels, sequins, feathers and furs (whatever the weather).
When the soprano Jessica Pratt first arrived in Italy, she had yet to learn the language or sing in a staged opera.
Singing competitions are a mixed blessing.
For some singers they can become a way of life, travelling from continent to continent, from jury to jury, seeking that golden fleece of success with which to adorn their CV and give them, they hope, access to commercial success on the opera and recital stage, and even (less likely these days) a recording contract. For others they can be nothing but frustrating and counter-productive, and are quickly abandoned as a route to a worthwhile career in opera.
A relatively recent recruit to the roster of such competitions is in the specialised field of baroque singing, and specifically of Handel’s music: the London Handel Singing Competition. There has been a significant increase in the popularity of this composer’s vocal music over recent decades, and even the most staid of traditional opera houses can usually boast at least one of Mr. Handel’s masterpieces in their current repertoire. With this change has come the perceived need for specialist singers trained in the idiom and comfortable with its demands, and this is where the London Singing Competition finds its niche.
Established in 2002 by musical director Laurence Cummings, the format has not changed a great deal from those early days, except that all applicants are now heard, either live or on CD, and the Competition Finals are held now in the middle of the annual London Handel Festival, based in the composer’s old church of St. George’s, Hanover Square. Looking through the requirements for entry, it is obvious that the students and young performers are expected to do a lot of work: research and carefully thought-out repertoire is at a premium. The early rounds to hear the 70-80 applicants are held at the Royal Academy of Music in London, although singers from overseas can send in suitably-recorded CDs instead. After that, the Semi Finals and Final are public affairs in front of the panel of Adjudicators and live audience, and take the form of a semi-formal concert. Like some other competitions, the HSC has introduced an Audience Prize, and this is an opportunity to both empower the listeners, involving them in the eventual outcome, and to give the singers a second chance of success. It is not uncommon for this prize to go to a different young performer than the one chosen by the jury – and who’s to say who will be proven right in time? As has been seen over and over again, win or lose, just appearing in the Semis or Finals can have a great impact on a singer’s career as the events are always attended by music business folk on the look out for new talent.
At the risk of being invidious, some very interesting and talented singers have done well at the HSC, and their names are already becoming well known in baroque circles both in the UK and further afield: Andrew Kennedy, Lucy Crowe, Elizabeth Atherton, Iestyn Davies, and Nathan Vale, to name just a few, have all made their mark since reaching the Finals over the past five years and have embarked on promising careers in opera.
Looking ahead, the HSC is intending to broaden its remit and wants to encourage more foreign singers to apply. To this end, they are offering limited bursaries to help with travelling costs, and this can only result in an even more exciting competition of the highest standard in the future.
This year’s Final is on Monday April 23rd, at 7pm, at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square, London, and the Adjudicators will be Ian Partridge, Catherine Denley, Michael Chance, Lindsay Kemp and Stephen Roberts.
For more information on application go to: http://www.london-handel-festival.com/competition.htm
Sue Loder, 2007