Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

London Bel Canto Festival 2019: an interview with Ken Querns-Langley

“Physiognomy, psychology and technique.” These are the three things that determine the way a singer’s sound is produced, so Ken Querns-Langley explains when we meet in the genteel surroundings of the National Liberal Club, where the training programmes, open masterclasses and performances which will form part the third London Bel Canto Festival will be held from 5th-24th August.

The Royal Opera Tours to Japan in September 2019

The Royal Opera is delighted to be returning to Japan in September 2019 as part of an exciting year of UK-Japan exchanges, titled UK in Japan 2019-20, following the Company’s hugely successful tour in autumn 2015.

Longborough Festival Opera announces collaboration with The Academy of Ancient Music in 2020

Longborough Festival Opera will collaborate with the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM) for its production of Monteverdi The Return of Ulysses in 2020. Robert Howarth will conduct Monteverdi’s beautiful, compassionate drama, with Tom Randle in the title role.

Glyndebourne’s first production of Dialogues des Carmélites to open Glyndebourne Festival 2020

Glyndebourne’s first production of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites will open Glyndebourne Festival 2020, it was announced today. The opera house unveiled its 2020 plans at an event in its recently built Production Hub, hosted by Glyndebourne’s new senior leadership team, Artistic Director Stephen Langridge and Managing Director Sarah Hopwood, who jointly replace the former position of General Director.

Garsington Opera Announces 2020 season and 2019 Paris Performance

Garsington Opera is delighted to announce the 2020 season that will open on 28 May, featuring three new productions - Verdi’s Un giorno di regno, Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto, Dvořák’s Rusalka and a revival of John Cox’s legendary production of Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Un ballo in maschera at Investec Opera Holland Park: in conversation with Alison Langer

“Sop. Page, attendant on the King.” So, reads a typical character description of the loyal page Oscar, whose actions, in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, unintentionally lead to his monarch’s death. He reveals the costume that King Gustavo is wearing at the masked ball, thus enabling the monarch’s secretary, Anckarstroem, to shoot him. The dying King falls into the faithful Oscar’s arms.

Martin Duncan directs the first UK staging of Offenbach's Fantasio at Garsington

A mournful Princess forced by her father into an arranged marriage. A Prince who laments that no-one loves him for himself, and so exchanges places with his aide-de-camp. A melancholy dreamer who dons a deceased jester’s motley and finds himself imprisoned for impertinence.

Thomas Larcher's The Hunting Gun at the Aldeburgh Festival: in conversation with Peter Schöne

‘Aloneness’ does not immediately seem a likely or fruitful subject for an opera. But, loneliness and isolation - an individual’s inner sphere, which no other human can truly know or enter - are at the core of Yasushi Inoue’s creative expression.

The London Handel Festival and The Royal Opera announce a co-production of Handel’s Susanna starring members of The Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme

The London Handel Festival and The Royal Opera today [14 May 2019] announced a co-production of Handel’s oratorio Susanna as part of the 2020 London Handel Festival. The new production, performed in English in the Linbury Theatre [5 - 14 March 2020], will star members and Link Artists from The Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. Handel’s Susanna was written for Covent Garden and had its premiere on the site in 1749, but has not been performed at Covent Garden since.

Royal Opera House announces 17 new productions for its 2019/20 Season

The Royal Opera House today launches its 2019/20 Season, unveiling an exciting range of new commissions, world premieres and much-loved revivals, supported by a diverse range of ticketed and free daytime events, activities and festivals for people of all ages. In the first full Season since the completion of the Royal Opera House’s three-year Open Up renovation, The Royal Opera Company unveils a host of innovative new work, with 13 new productions, including two world premieres, in the Season ahead.

In interview with Polly Graham, Artistic Director of Longborough Festival Opera

What links Wagner’s Das Rheingold, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Cavalli’s La Calisto? It sounds like the sort of question Paul Gambaccini might pose to contestants on BBC Radio 4’s music quiz, Counterpoint.

Carlo Diacono: L’Alpino

“Diacono himself does not know what musical talent he possesses” – Mascagni

Daniel Kramer to step down as English National Opera’s Artistic Director

Daniel Kramer is to step down as ENO’s Artistic Director at the end of July 2019 in order to focus on directing more opera and theatre full time.

Wexford Festival Opera's award-winning Il bravo to be streamed on ARTE.tv

From 7 pm (CEST), this Sunday 21 April, ARTE, the European public service broadcaster, will stream one of last year’s Wexford Festival Opera productions, Saverio Mercadante’s Il bravo, which was recently named ‘Best Opera Production’ at The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards. Il bravo will be freely available worldwide on ARTE’s digital on-demand culture channel, Arte Concert, as part of ARTE’s 2019 Opera Season, a special online service for lovers of classical music. The opera will subtitled in English, German and French.

Bampton Classical Opera 2019: Stephen Storace - Bride & Gloom (Gli sposi malcontenti)

Newly-wed Casimiro and Eginia hardly seem to be enjoying a state of marital bliss. Why does Eginia sleep on her own, and why is her ex, Artidoro, still hanging around? He now seems to have an eye for the undoubted charms of Casimiro’s sister, Enrichetta - but she’s also attracted the lustful interest of dull and dusty Dr Valente, a man likely to turn nasty if thwarted …

Transylvanian-born mezzo-soprano Eszter Balogh wins the 2019 Handel Singing Competition

Following the final on Saturday 6 April, the Handel Singing Competition announced mezzo-soprano Eszter Balogh as the 2019 winner. Alongside Eszter, the finalists were Patrick Terry (countertenor), David de Winter (tenor) and William Thomas (bass) and the final took place at St George’s, Hanover Square in London in front of a live audience.

English National Opera announces 2019/20 Season

ENO’s 2019/20 season features seven new productions and three revivals, the greatest number of new productions for five years.

Boston Lyric Opera's East Coast Premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale

Anne Bogart directs East Coast premiere of Ruders & Bentley’s take on Margaret Atwood’s novel.

Christina Scheppelmann appointed General Director of Seattle Opera

Scheppelmann heads to the Pacific Northwest following leadership roles in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East

Handel Singing Competition semi-finalists announced

The Handel Singing Competition has announced its 13 semi-finalists who will be competing in the 2019 Competition. The semi-final is due to take place on 5 March at Grosvenor Chapel, and the final is on 6 April at St George’s, Hanover Square - both in front of a live audience. The Competition this year received over 170 applications from all around the world, from 25 countries as far afield as Argentina, Australia, Israel, the United States and Canada.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

Placido Domingo, Lise Davidsen and Ioan Hotea [Photo by Alastair Muir]
23 Jul 2015

Operalia 2015

‘Competitions are for horses, not artists.’ The words of Béla Bartók seemed apposite on Sunday night at the Royal Opera House, as 11 soloists walked swiftly onto the Covent Garden stage, performed their chosen aria, briefly acknowledged the applause and then returned summarily to the wings.

Operalia 2015

By Claire Seymour

Above: Placido Domingo, Lise Davidsen and Ioan Hotea

Photos by Alastair Muir

 

Captions indicated the singer’s name and aria title; images were projected onto the backdrop to set the ‘context’; rudimentary lighting weakly strove to establish mood. There were no surtitles. What was there to distinguish proceedings from one of Simon Cowell’s TV talent shows? Watching this conveyor belt of vocalists, I wondered why a young singer would put his or herself through a sort of operatic cattle-show which offered little chance to show one’s range and diversity or to achieve any ‘meaningful’ communication with the audience.

But, as Operalia’s founder Plácido Domingo remarks, even for the most gifted the world of professional opera is complex and challenging, and sometimes ‘very distressing to the point that sometimes a remarkable talent can pass by unnoticed’. Operalia was established in 1993 ‘to discover and help launch the careers of the best young opera singers’ — singers ranging from 18 to 32 years of age, of all voice tessituras and from every country in the world. And, it seems to be fulfilling its ambition to give vocal talent a leg-up, with singers such as Nina Stemme, Joyce DiDonato, Rolando Villazón, Erwin Schrott Brian Asawa, José Cura, Joseph Calleja, Ailyn Perez, Olga Peretyatko and Sonya Yoncheva coming to prominence at the competition in the early stages of their careers. Moreover, if the superficiality of this vocal parade was somewhat unedifying, then there was at least some compensation in that, having reached this final stage of the competition, all were in a sense winners — and that the contracts will not necessarily go to the official award recipients but to those who make an impression on, not only jury members such as Anthony Freud (General Director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago), Jonathan Friend (Artistic Administrator at the Metropolitan Opera), Joan Matabosch (Artistic Director at the Teatro Real in Madrid) and Jean-Louis Grinda (Director at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo), but also on other scouting impresarios and record producers.

Placido-Domingo-and-Operalia-2015-Winners_(c)-Alastair-Muir.pngPlacido Domingo with the winners of Operalia 2015

Previously held in various cities around the globe, the Operalia Finals reached London for the first time this year. After three days of preliminary rounds involving 40 contestants drawn from 21 countries, the 11 finalists gathered at the Royal Opera House for the concluding round. Each participant sings one aria, accompanied by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Domingo (the event was live-streamed by Medici TV). Born in Madrid to parents who were stars of the zarzuela, Domingo has also established a Zarzuela competition in honour of his parents and to encourage singers to work in this art form; 5 of the 11 singers also presented an aria in the Zarzuela competition.

Much clearly depends on the soloist’s choice of aria; somewhat disappointingly, but not surprisingly, all bar one of the singers selected from the French and Italian nineteenth-century repertoire. The exception chose Wagner.

And aria-choices did prove influential. The two First Prizes, for Best Male and Best Female Singer, went to Romanian tenor Ioan Hotea and Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen. Davidsen had to wait until the end of the roll call to perform ‘Dich teure Halle’ from Tannhäuser but this clearly had no effect on her nerves, and she thrilled with a towering performance of majestic power and penetration. Her plush sound was pin-point accurate and her technical assurance unwavering, though it was rather a stand-and-deliver performance. Davidsen has made a habit of winning prizes of late, including the Léonie Sonning Music Prize, Danish Singers Award 2014 and the Kristin Flagstad Award 2015. She was also, just a couple of weeks ago, a triple winner at the 2015 Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition in Amsterdam, where she picked up Second Prize as well as the Prize of the International Media and the Audience Prize. On this occasion, she also won the Audience Prize (a Rolex watch — courtesy of the sponsors) and the Birgit Nilsson Prize) for performances in German repertoire by Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner).

Hotea’s ‘Ah mes amis’ from La Fille du regiment confirmed both his courage and his ability to firmly nail the nine top-Cs. In Donizetti’s showpiece and in the Zarzuela competition — where his performance of Seranno’s ‘La roca fria del calvario’ from La Dolorosa won him his second First Prize of the evening — Hotea also used his bright shining tenor to engage the audience and convey role and situation, something which both of the American baritones participating, Edward Parks (who had the tough job of opening the competition and was awarded Third Prize) and Tobias Greenhalgh found more challenging in ‘Largo al factotum’ (Rossini, Il barbiere di Siviglia). New Zealand tenor Darren Pene Pati made a big impact with his honey-toned rendition of ‘Tombe degli avi miei’ from Lucia di Lammermoor: with his endearing, relaxed voice and engaging manner, Pene Pati was the foreseeable and worthy recipient of the Audience Prize for Best Male Singer.

The remaining male participants, French tenor Julien Behr — who sang Gounod’s ‘Salut! Demeure chaste et pure’ from Faust with charm but without strong impact — and South-African bass-baritone Bongani Justice Kubheka — who struggled with some of the upper notes in ‘La calumnia’ (Il barbiere) and occasionally lost his grip on the orchestral safety-reins (though Domingo was not particularly helpful to his singers) — did not quite have the necessary technical arsenal at their disposal.

Among the female competitors, Australian Kiandra Howarth (who as a Jette Parker Young Artist is familiar with the Covent Garden stage) impressed with an impassioned rendition of ‘Amour, ranime mon courage’ (Gounod, Faust) showing the diverse colours of her soprano; Howarth was awarded the Culturarte Prize (chosen and offered by Bertita and Guillermo Martinez from CulturArte de Puerto Rico). American soprano Andrea Carroll was persuasive in the Zarzuela round, giving a vivid performance of ‘Al pensar en el dueño de mis amores’ (Chapi, Las hijas de Zebedeo) after a slightly nervous ‘Qui la voce’ (Bellini, Il Puritani) in the main competition. Noluvuyiso Mpofo from South Africa held my attention in ‘É strano, è strano … Sempre libera’ (Verdi, La Traviata) and was awarded Third Prize.

In ‘Il dolce suono’ from Donizetti’s Lucia Korean Hyesang Park revealed a sparkling soprano more than capable of scaling the coloratura heights; she worked hard to establish character too, though I found her posing and gesturing rather mannered — particularly so in the zarzuela ‘No sé que siento aqui’ (Fernández Caballero, Château Margaux). Hyesang Park carried off both Second Prize and the Zarzuela prize, but I could not understand why she was permitted to perform the whole of Donizetti’s mad scene, cabaletta and all, which at 20 minutes or so gave her a platform equal to that of all four preceding participants combined, and thus the opportunity to show her vocal diversity. If there is no rule on the length of aria, then perhaps there should be.

Claire Seymour

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):