News: ROH Young Artists Concert announced; Aronica to play Rodolfo in ROH Bohème; De Niese in Barbican's Mostly Mozart Fest; Buxton and Iford Arts Fests 2008

Opera and festival news

26 January 2008

Jacques Imbrailo (credit: Neil Gillespie)

The Royal Opera House has unveiled details of the annual summer concert given by the talented professionals on its Jette Parker Young Artists Programme on 20 July 2008.

In their most ambitious concert ever, the Young Artists will perform two fully-staged extracts from operas by Mozart and Strauss and will end with the gran pezzo concertato from Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims. All ten singers on the programme, plus the conductor, directors and répétiteur, will participate in the concert, which focuses on three operas set in the rococo period, two of them set in France and one based on a French play, all of them involving Counts and Countesses.

The fourth act of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro is the first extract. It will be conducted by Andrew Griffiths and directed by Vera Petrova, both of the Young Artists Programme. The cast includes the lovely soprano Kishani Jayasinghe as Susanna, Krzysztof Szumanski as Figaro (read our recent interview with him here) and, most excitingly of all, Jacques Imbrailo as the Count, a role he'll play under the baton of Emmanuelle Haïm at Opera de Lille later in 2008 (also interviewed by us recently, here). Tanya McCallin's sets from the Royal Opera's production of Figaro will be used throughout.

The Orchestra of Opera North will be on hand to accompany the concert, and after the interval Opera North's Music Director Richard Farnes will take over to conduct the Fugue, Duet and Octet from Richard Strauss' Capriccio. Imbrailo returns to play Olivier and is joined by Pumeza Matshikiza as the Gräfin, Anita Watson as Die Sängerin and Haoyin Xue as the Tenor. Thomas Guthrie will direct the extract, following on from his staging of Donizetti's Rita at the Linbury Studio Theatre in October 2007.

Ending the evening is the remarkable concertato from Il viaggio a Reims, Rossini's brilliant pièce de circonstance written for the coronation of the French King Charles X in 1825. It was designed to showcase the finest performers of the day but Rossini assumed it would be of limited utility beyond the coronation so he reused much of the material in Le comte Ory. The gran pezzo concertato is one of the most amusing and spectacular set pieces in all Rossini, featuring four national songs or anthems and ten star solo parts. Jayasinghe will play Madame Cortese to Matshikiza's Corinna; Watson, Xue, Imbrailo and Szumanski return with Monika-Evelin Liiv, Ji-Min Park, Kostas Smoriginas and Vuyani Mlinde filling up the other parts.

The Young Artists' Concert is a matinee this year, starting at 3pm, and will be preceded by a half-hour pre-performance talk chaired by David Gowland, Artistic Director of the Young Artists' Programme. Booking opens for Friends on 19 February and 26 March for the general public. The cheapest seats are a mere £2 for this one-off extravaganza, rising to £32 in the orchestra stalls.

In other Royal Opera news, we hear that Italian tenor Roberto Aronica has been signed up to play Rodolfo in the July 2008 revival of La bohème, alongside Nicole Cabell (opens 13 July 2008); the part of Rodolfo had not been filled when the season was first announced. Exciting news, too, about the casting of the company's studio production of Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès (who's conducting the ROH Rake's Progress in July). British soprano Joan Rodgers will play the Duchess, Alan Ewing is the Hotel Manager, Iain Paton is the Electrician and Rebecca Bottone is the Maid. Timothy Redmond conducts Carlos Wagner's new production (opens 11 June 2008). Finally, the dates and productions for this year's BP Summer Big Screen relays have been announced. On Sunday 1 June, the ballet Romeo and Juliet will be broadcast at 3pm to public squares up and down the country, followed on 3 July at 6pm by Don Carlos starring Simon Keenlyside and on 16 July at 7pm by Le nozze di Figaro conducted by Charles Mackerras.

Andrew Griffiths

Over at ENO, the news is that Jude Kelly has withdrawn from the company's new production of The Merry Widow and will be replaced by John Copley. It's a disappointment on a number of levels: a new script for the show by Dillie Keane and Sandi Toksvig has been rejected in favour of one by Jeremy Sams, and it's probably inevitable that Copley's approach will be more traditional than that of Kelly, Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre and director of ENO's excellent On the Town. Even more than before, pressure will be on the stars Amanda Roocroft and Alfie Boe to deliver the sparkle that the operetta needs.

Meanwhile, the Barbican's Spring-Summer 2008 brochure features on the back cover a tantalising picture of soprano Danielle De Niese, who is to appear in one of the summer's Mostly Mozart Festival events. It seems there are to be performances of Così fan tutte and La clemenza di Tito with performers including The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Alison Balsom, Carlo Rizzi and Edward Gardner. Full details are announced in early March.

A tempting line-up of operas comes to the Buxton Festival this year. At its centre is a Triple Bill of Vaughan Williams' Riders to the Sea and Holst's Savitri and The Wandering Scholar, but also on offer are Weill's Street Scene, Handel's Samson, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Metcalf's A Chair in Love. Sir Thomas Allen will give a celebrity recital on 9 July.

Finally, a brief mention of Bath's Iford Arts annual summer festival, which will this year present three operas. The Marriage of Figaro is conducted by Andrew Griffiths of the ROH Young Artists Programme (from 19 June); the Early Opera Company will perform Cavalli's Giasone under their conductor Christian Curnyn (from 11 July); and there's a rare chance to see Verdi's Un giorno di regno in a new English translation, from 22 July.

By Dominic McHugh