A new production about Anna Nicole Smith and the arrival of 3D broadcasts aim to widen the appeal of an art form that is perceived as elitist.
Where to go, what to do in 2011
It is the story of an immoral Lothario, a tale which begins with sexual violence and ends with divine justice. You'd have thought seasoned opera-goers would be well prepared for the exploits of Don Giovanni. But that hasn't stopped a new production from being accused of "shock tactics" by suggesting scenes involving gang rape.
If Robin Ticciati launched himself less than dramatically into the slow introduction of the overture of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the rest of his compelling reading of this concert performance with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra was instinctively and stylistically secure. Dedicated to the late Sir Charles Mackerras, this Don Giovanni was a young man’s account. With no over-elaborate ornamentation, no halting pauses, Ticciati secured modern playing but of a historically sound nature, with brisk tempi, bouncing and bristling.
The British tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson was one of the finest exponents in his generation of the roles originally sung by Peter Pears in the operas of Benjamin Britten. However, his interpretations were in no way copies of the senior tenor's idiosyncratic versions; rather, they were recreations of the music that perfectly suited his own voice and style. His other favourite opera composers were Monteverdi and Mozart, while he sang the great Bach Passions and Handel oratorios throughout his career. As a recitalist he was a founder member of the Songmakers' Almanac and specialised in Schubert lieder and Britten's canticles. He also became an excellent conductor, especially of operas in which he had himself sung, such as Monteverdi's L'Orfeo.
The Italian bass Cesare Siepi was one of the finest exponents of Mozart's Don Giovanni to tread the opera stage in the second half of the 20th century. He sang the role 71 times in New York at the Metropolitan Opera; he sang it at La Scala in Milan, the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Royal Opera House in London and many other places. He was also a powerful King Philip II in Don Carlos and sang at least eight or nine other of Verdi's rewarding bass roles. His range easily extended to Wagner, sung in Italian at La Scala and in German at the Met. His beautiful voice, strong, warm and supple, allied to good looks and a splendid stage presence, brought him a popularity that lasted throughout his long career.
Can Jonathan Kent and Paul Brown make 'Don Giovanni' as relevant today as it was when Mozart wrote it 223 years ago? Those lucky enough to hold Glyndebourne's golden ticket are in for a big surprise
It takes a bold woman to step into Cecilia Bartoli's slippers as the sexually voracious heroine in a production of Il Turco in Italia created expressly for her, but Aleksandra Kurzak is unfazed. "I don't think about comparisons at all," says the feisty Polish singer. "And in any case, she is a mezzo and I am a soprano, so it will be completely different." Ever since Placido Domingo singled her out in his Operalia festival 10 years ago, she's been topping the bill wherever she goes, but the secret of her confidence goes much further back.
The libretto has been taken from the sublime to a ridiculous conclusion. Instead of a "little book" - its literal meaning – the latest, and most avant-garde, of operas will feature little "tweets". In a blatant attempt to shake off its fusty image, the Royal Opera House has teamed up with the micro-blogging site to produce The Twitter Opera with a libretto composed entirely of public tweets.
The Haydn season kicked off with the obligatory splurge on Radio 3, and a massed charge led by Andras Schiff at the Wigmore Hall, but the really interesting thing was what the musicologist and fortepianist Robert Levin was doing at the Southbank. We quite often hear the fortepiano in these period-conscious days, but, sandwiched between performances on modern instruments, it always ends up sounding thin and a little bit impotent – so attuned are our ears to the luxurious richness of the Steinway.
In the first few minutes of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, Don Alfonso turns to the audience and says: “What a palaver. I thought I was in an opera!".
At least two of the works in this breezy, elegant recital were premiered with the ink still wet on the page. Mozart's fame as an improviser was at its height when the Sonata in G and Variations in G minor were first performed, and something of that extreme freshness can be felt in Petra Müllejans and Kristian Bezuidenhout's performance.
A season of performances from the Royal Opera House is to be screened live at cinemas in Britain and across Europe.
Maurizio Pollini's Mozart Concerto series with the Vienna Philharmonic continues with a flawless and buoyant performance of the A major and C minor concertos.
Glyndebourne's opera festival opens this weekend with a rich display of talent on offer. Jessica Duchen has been watching the stars prepare