Saturday, June 14, 2008

Forthcoming Production - THE SONG OF RHIANNON for W11 Opera

I am pleased to report that I have been invited to direct the next newly commissioned opera for W11 Young People's Opera this autumn.

The opera, based on stories from the 'jewel of Welsh medieval literature', The Mabinogion, has been created by composer Mark Bowden and librettist Helen Cooper.

I first worked with Mark and Helen at Aldeburgh when they attended a course for composers and librettists at the Britten Pears school in Snape where I had been invited by Aldeburgh Productions Chief Executive Jonathan Reekie to work alongside composer Giorgio Battistelli to help a group of writers develop their creative partnerships.

In 2002 I directed the first production of Giorgio Battistelli's new opera THE EMBALMER - for Almeida Opera, which was outgoing Artistic Director Ian McDiarmid's Almeida 'swan song'....

THE SONG OF RHIANNON will have its world premiere at The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith on December 5th 2008.

For further details about the production, please follow this link to visit the W11 homepages:

  • W11 Opera for Young People Home Page
  • Monday, June 09, 2008

    My new OHP production of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment - Anthony Holden's review from The Observer

    "With due respect to the winners - Ralph Kirshbaum's RNCM Manchester International Cello Festival - I was sad not to see Opera Holland Park carry off the Royal Philharmonic Society's Concert Series and Festivals prize at last month's annual RPS Music Awards. Under general manager Michael Volpe and producer James Clutton, OHP has raised its game immeasurably these past few years, introducing well-chosen rarities and rejuvenating standard fare with a judicious mix of established talent and bright young stars in the making. The coveted RPS nomination was in itself handsome public recognition of all they have achieved......

    .......The (first night's) surprise sunshine palpably lifted both cast and audience for an exhilarating romp through Donizetti's La Fille du régiment, so infectiously enjoyable that swallows kept swooping through the auditorium as if for passing peeks at William Kerley's witty, tasteful staging, briskly conducted by Robert Dean. The peacocks, too, were back in full squawk as Sarah Pring's forceful Marquise and Graeme Broadbent's Basil Fawlty-like Sulpice offered sturdy support to two young principals surely destined for operatic glory.

    The young Korean soprano Hye-Youn Lee sings with such beauty, and acts with such engaging aplomb, as even to evoke memories of Natalie Dessay's landmark performance as Marie at Covent Garden last year. In the Brazilian tenor Luciano Botelho she has a Tonio of natural lyric beauty, and the same easy stage presence, and also blessed with a winning smile. If he cracked on three of those testing nine top Cs in 'Ah, mes amis!', despite the entire audience willing him on, it sounded to me like first-night nerves; I have no doubt he'll pull them off as the run continues, as will the Trovatore cast when the sun shines on them, too."

    Saturday, June 07, 2008

    My new production of La Fille du Regiment - a review from

    Here's a review by Hugo Shirley of

    Donizetti: La fille du régiment

    Korn/Ferry Opera Holland Park

    Kensington, London, 7 June 2008

    It says a great deal for the quality and sheer exuberance of Opera Holland Park's new production of La fille du régiment that it suffers little from comparison with Covent Garden's big-budget, big-star production of a year ago. After the poor weather of the season's first night, the sun was shining and in William Kerley's intelligent and economical production, Donizetti's comedy fizzed along beautifully, funny and touching by turns.

    Initially, in Tom Rogers' designs, the stage is dominated by three different sized triangles: an abstract representation, one assumes, of Act One's 'Tyrolean mountains'. As the act gets underway, these triangles are halved and shifted about to create a fluid set. One segment contains a statue of the Virgin Mary which is the focus of the chorus' prayers at first, then revealed to contain beer for the victory celebrations. Other segments contain props for later in the act: tables and benches for the soldiers, an oven for a bun-baking routine that accompanies Marie and Tonio's first duet; they are also handy for draping tricolours in the 'salut à la France' chorus. Necessarily the Second Act calls for a few extra props, but the staging still retains a feeling of fluid economy. In contrast to season's opening production of Il trovatore, the cast and chorus are expertly directed. There is no shortage of clowning about but it is slickly planned and executed and Mandy Demetriou's choreography is taut, flirting with but never crossing the line into excessive camp.

    Despite all the high spirits, there's nothing frivolous about the very serious demands the opera makes of its leading pair. Hye-Youn Lee, making her OHP debut, was little short of a revelation. It was immediately clear that her voice is an instrument of quality: smooth and creamy up and down the range, clearly and crisply produced. Her coloratura was delivered with applomb but she was also touching in her exquisitely sung Second Act aria. Some may complain that the voice itself lacks character, but it's a pleasure to hear this tortuous role negotiated with such style and ease. And although some of her dialogue failed to come across, her excellent acting more than made up for it; her scene with Marquise de Berkenfeld at the piano, was an undoubted comic highlight of the evening.

    For a long time, this opera was known mainly for containing one of the most taxing tenor arias in the bel canto repertoire. On this occasion, it seemed as though Brazilian tenor Luciano Botelho's nerves got the better of him. He's set to cover Juan Diego Florez for the Royal Opera's production of of Matilde di Shabran next season and has a lot of the peruvian tenor's engaging stage manner. He also has a beautiful voice - sweet and with a very slight, fluttery vibrato – and sang for much of the first act with pleasing stylishness, hitting his high notes with ease. However, as soon as we got to 'Ah! Mes amis', he seemed to tense up: he paused before the first of the nine top Cs and teetered precariously on the last; the intervening attempts to hit the note were as nerve-wracking for the audience as they evidently were for him. It was a shame, because he also acted well throughout and although tiredness crept in a little, gave a beautiful rendition of 'Pour me rapprocher de Marie' in the second act.

    Sarah Pring, as the Marquise de Berkenfeld, was the pick of the supporting cast, wonderfully pompous but ultimately human, she was particularly fine in delivering her extensive dialogue naturally and idiomatically. Graeme Broadbent's preening and mischievous Sulpice also gave consistent enjoyment, performed with a light comic touch. The other parts were all well taken and it was a relief to have Nuala Willis's gloriously conceited duchesse de Crankentorp avoid the kind of scene-stealing shenanigans that Dawn French indulged in at Covent Garden.

    After an account of the overture that was not ideally tidy, Robert Dean elicited some lively and alert playing from the orchestra. Although happy to give his singers time when they needed it, he kept the score skipping along nicely, and there was some excellent solo work from the woodwind and principal cello in particular. The chorus, evidently enjoying themselves immensely, sang, pranced and acted with gusto.

    In all, this is an immensely enjoyable production: well-rehearsed, often extremely funny and with some genuine vocal fireworks. As nerves settle, it has the potential to get even better. Well worth catching.

    Friday, June 06, 2008

    La Fille du Regiment - new production for OHP just opened...two on-line reviews...

    My new production of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment at Opera Holland Park has just opened.

    To read the first on-line reviews please visit these websites:

  • La Fille du Regiment - Holland Park 2008 - Review at

  • La Fille du Regiment - Holland Park 2008 - Review at

  • Please follow this link to more details about this production, further performance dates and the rest of the Holland Park season:

  • La Fille du Regiment - Holland Park 2008

  • Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    The Beggar's Opera 2008 - Photographs by Leslie Maazel

    Leslie Maazel took some excellent photographs of the recent production of Benjamin Britten's Beggar's Opera which I directed a little earlier this year in the USA.

    His father, who was conducting, seemed to be happy in his work...