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John Fulljames [Photo by Greg Funnell (2009)]
14 Jun 2011

New directions at the Royal Opera House

John Fulljames has been appointed Associate Director for Opera at the Royal Opera House.

New directions at the Royal Opera House

By Anne Ozorio

Above: John Fulljames [Photo by Greg Funnell (2009)]


He’ll be working with Kaspar Holten who becomes Director from September 2011. Fulljames is a daring, but inspired choice.

This could be interesting news. Currently, Elaine Padmore is Director of Opera, responsible for both artistic direction and production. When she retires in September, Kaspar Holten will become Director of Opera, while Cormac Simms, currently General Manager, will become Administrative Director.

Padmore was Artistic Director of the Copenhagen Opera before 2000, when Holten, then only in his mid 20’s, succeeded her. Now that she’s leaving the Royal Opera House, he’s following her to London. The transition should be smooth and relations between London and Copenhagen have been cordial.

In Denmark, Holten oversaw the opening of the new Opera House at Copenhagen in 2005, so he has sound management experience. But he’s also an opera director, who creates his own productions. He directed the famous Copenhagen Wagner Ring, which confirmed the company’s status on the European opera circuit. He’s also interested in film, and the possibilities film opens up for opera. His Juan, a retelling of Don Giovanni in English is being screened in film festivals around the world. He’s very much a hands-on artist, so it’s understood that he will be directing productions after current commitments in the next few years are cleared.

“It’s a hugely challenging time ahead”, says Antonio Pappano, Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Royal Opera House. “We’re continually striving to present the very best on our stages and I think with the combined energies and expertise of Kasper and John, and ably supported by Cormac Simms, audiences can expect to see some very fascinating developments building on the wonderful work of the past decade in the new theatre.”

John Fulljames is highly respected, and charismatic. Although he won a First in Physics at Cambridge he’s also a musician. He was a founder of The Opera Group, an adventurous company that specializes in chamber opera. If Fulljames’s work can be characterized in any way, it is influenced by his deep appreciation of the musical roots of opera. He’s even been a singer, so he understands voice.

fulljames-katie-leedale.gifJohn Fulljames [Photo by Katie Leedale]

Fulljames works closely with composers when he can, which is why he’s created so many modern operas. His staging of George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill was superlative because it was so true to the spirit of the opera. It was reviewed in Opera Today in July 2010.

Currently, Fulljames and the Opera Group are working on Luke Bedford’s Seven Angels. Bedford is one of finest young British composers, who has a special affinity for voice. Writing for the stage, however, is different from writing for the concert hall, so Bedford worked closely from the start with Glyn Maxwell, his librettist, who is both poet and playwright. Fulljames and artist Takamine Tadasu were involved at a very early stage. “As John has been involved in the project from the beginning”, says Bedford, “He’s seen how Glyn and I have shaped it, so he has a deep and sensitive understanding of what we’re trying to achieve.” Seven Angels tours from 17th June 2011 and reaches the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House from 12th July.

Recent productions elsewhere include The Excursions of Mr Broucek, Romeo et Juliette and Hansel and Gretel (Opera North), Gianni Schicchi, Zemlinsky Florentine Tragedy,Mavra (Greek National Opera), Von Heute auf Morgen (Lyon) Tobias and the Angel (Young Vic), Nabucco (Opera Holland Park),Rimsky-Korsakov’s Snegurochka for Wexford Festival which opened the new opera house in Wexford, Ireland, where he earlier directed Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah.

Anne Ozorio

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