It has been announced that Yannick Nézet-Séguin will leave the Rotterdam Philharmonic as principal conductor after ten years, in 2018. He will accept, like Valery Gergiev before him, the title of honorary conductor and will return at frequent intervals. This deal has been sold to the players as ‘Yannick stays’. Actually, it’s Yannick goes.

Yannick has struggled to balance Rotterdam with two other posts in Philadelphia Orchestra and with the Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal.

He said in an official statement: ‘What will continue after 2018 is my unique, deep and wonderful connection with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and this is very meaningful to me. The format of our collaboration will change; plans are under active discussion and details will be announced at a later stage.’


The Rotterdam Phil has been unsettled by a long dispute with its general manager, who went on sick leave last year and was finally eased out in January. The orchestra presently has Hans Pott as acting chief exec.

Andrew Jowett, who has run Birmingham’s Symphony Hall since it opened – and in tandem with the historic Town Hall – has just announced his retirement. He has been in the job for 28 years and created the most efficient and focused pair of concert venues in the country, with regular visits from the world’s great artists and orchestras.

Andrew Jowett said today: ‘It has been an enormous privilege to have been part of the team which created Symphony Hall – the greatest concert hall to be built in the 20th century – and then to re-open and manage Birmingham’s historic Town Hall following its £5million renovation in 2007.’

It will be a helluva job to fill.

andrew jowett


Career note:

Andrew Jowett, OBE

Andrew Jowett has worked in the arts for over 30 years. On graduation from the University of Salford, he was appointed Assistant General Manager at The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. From 1979-1981 Andrew was Director of Darlington Civic Theatre, and from 1982-1988 he was Director of the Arts Centre, University of Warwick. Since 1989 Andrew has been Director of Symphony Hall, Birmingham and is responsible for its artistic programming, operation, and management. From 2007 onwards, Symphony Hall and Town Hall Birmingham have been managed together under the company Performances Birmingham Limited and Andrew is now Chief Executive of PBL as well as retaining overall directorial responsibility for Town Hall & Symphony Hall.

Andrew is Chair of the British Association of Concert Halls, a former Council Member and Vice President of UK Theatre Association, and Chair of the Advisory Board for the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton. He is a Trustee of the Young Musicians Trust, a Trustee of the Elgar Birthplace Foundation and Trustee of the Brant International Piano Competition. He is also a Member of the International Society for the Performing Arts and a Founding Member of the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO). Andrew is an Honorary Fellow of Birmingham City University and is a recipient of the Birmingham Civic Society Gold Medal, which is awarded to individuals who have made a significant contribution to life in the city. In June 2012 he was awarded the OBE in HM The Queen’s  Diamond Jubilee Birthday Honours for services to music.



From the New York Philharmonic archives (courtesy Mr Esa-Pekka Salonen):


there will be beer

Neil Shicoff has been appointed head of opera at the Mikhailovsky Theatre, the second opera house in St Petersburg. Shicoff has, for the past few days, been celebrating 40th anniversary events in Vienna, where he has spent much of his career and was once considered a candidate for head of the Staatsoper.

Here’s the ritual exchange of compliments:

Neil Shicoff_564x564

Neil Shicoff: ‘For the past 5 years, I have had a very close professional relationship with the Mikhailovsky Theatre. From the beginning, I felt like I was surrounded by a circle of friends, and over the years, I have followed the progress of this wonderful opera company and am very proud to be included in its continued growth! I am optimistic and hopeful that as Chief of the Opera of the Mikhailovsky Theater, I will be able to make further advancements in the areas of enlarging the opera repertoire, helping the soloists of the Mikhailovsky with their international careers, further present the Mikhailovsky into the international music world, develop new connections and co-productions with the leading opera houses of the world and find new young talented singers to bring to the theatre!

‘Two days ago, I was honored at the Vienna State Opera with a Gala performance celebrating my 40 years onstage. My many years of collaboration with the Vienna State Opera and continued cooperation with the house in the capacity of an honorary lifetime member will certainly provide a good opportunity to bring the two cities, St. Petersburg and Vienna, closer to one another. Both are so important in the history of music and art, and I believe more should be done to facilitate the flow of talents and ideas between these two great cities. I am very much looking forward to getting started!’

Vladimir Kekhman, Artistic Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre: ‘Our theatre is willing to expose itself to the very best that exists in the world music community and assignment of Neil Shicoff to the position of the Chief of the Opera sustains our strategy. I am convinced that an iconic artist, a person of keen intellect having a vast experience and artistic authority will procure that the theatre will hold the key positions in the world music community. And our soloists will acquire an outstanding mentor who will teach all the tricks of the trade’.

Eric Jacobsen, the enterprising cellist who co-founded Brooklyn Rider and The Knights, has been named music director of the Orlando Philharmonic. Aside from his other ensembles, Eric is also a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road project and a teacher at New York University.

He starts the sun job in October this year.


A programme on French public radio discussing Manet’s painting ‘Olympia’ was taken down by Apple, apparently because art discussions  are not suitable for general audiences.

Read Libération here.

manet olympia

Public television in Seattle has broadcast a report on the state of equality in the US podium.

In the top 25 US orchs, with budgets over $15 million, there is only one music director – Marin Alsop at Baltimore.

But down the budgetary scale there does seem to be an upturn, slow at it may be. Watch.


photo: Sarah Ioannides

Yorkshire, as Ed Milliband discovered to his election-trail embarrassment last week, is different.

Opera North (based in Leeds, Yorks.) has just announced its new season.

It features English Rose soprano and all-round good sport Leslie Garrett in the world premiere of a chamber opera set in a gay nightclub.

Further details: Mark Simpson’s chamber opera, Pleasure, tells the story of Val (Lesley Garrett), who works as an attendant in the toilets in Pleasure, a hedonistic gay club in the north of England. When Nathan, a beautiful and unpredictable young man, arrives in Pleasure and leaves a gift for Val, it marks the beginning of an emotional and violent night.

Like, different.

Rest of the season follows.

leslie garrett




Opera North’s 2015/16 season opens in style with a brand new production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, a co-production with Welsh National Opera. A landmark of 20th century American musical theatre, Kiss Me, Kate is directed by Jo Davies following critical and audience acclaim for her previous productions of Carousel, The Marriage of Figaro andRuddigore.


Staging Porter’s witty, jazz-inflected reworking of The Taming of the Shrew, with classic numbers including ‘Too Darn Hot’ and ‘Always True to You in My Fashion,’ is the realisation of a longstanding ambition of Opera North’s, and follows on from the Company’s previous productions of pieces by Kurt Weill, Stephen Sondheim, George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hammerstein. This new production of Kiss Me, Kate is designed by Colin Richmond with choreography by Will Tuckett, and features casting from both opera and musical theatre, including Quirijn de Lang as Fred Graham/Petruchio and Jeni Bern as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine.

Giordano’s Andrea Chénier is given a new production by Annabel Arden, exploring the chaos of revolution and the role of the artist in a time of political turmoil. Conducted by Oliver von Dohnányi, the cast includes Rafael Rojas as Chénier,Robert Hayward as Gérard and Annemarie Kremer as Maddelena, returning to Opera North following memorable performances in the title role of Norma (2012) and as Vitellia in La clemenza di Tito (2013).

Much-loved works return to Opera North’s repertoire, bringing together the ensemble talents of a new generation of UK and international singers. Our productions of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Mozart’s Così fan tutte and Donizetti’sL’elisir d’amore have been enjoyed by audiences throughout the North and further afield; the latter two, in particular, demonstrating Opera North’s international reach – Così has played at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival in New York andElisir at Spain’s Ópera de Oviedo.


Tom Cairns’ intense and powerful production of Jenůfa also returns, now with Swedish soprano Ylva Kihlberg (Emilia Marty, The Makropulos Case, 2012) in the title role and Susan Bickley as the Kostelnička, conducted by the young Serbian conductor Aleksandar Marković.  As well as making his Opera North main house debut, Marković will open theOrchestra of Opera North’s 2015/16 symphonic concert programme in September, with a concert at Huddersfield Town Hall as part of the Kirklees Concert Season.
The Orchestra of Opera North plays a vital role in concert series in the Yorkshire region and stands alone in its ability to perform as both an opera and a concert orchestra. Its approach is fresh and enthusiastic and offers Opera North great versatility in our performance capabilities. Concert highlights in 2015/16 include Richard Farnes continuing his tenure with a performance of Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra, part of both the Kirklees Concert Season and the Leeds International Concert Season, and Jac van Steen conducting a programme of classical and neo-classical repertoire including Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in the Royal Concert Hall, Harrogate.

Another returning artist is Howard Shelley, back after his Chandos recording of Beethoven’s complete works for piano and orchestra with the Orchestra of Opera North, to play and conduct Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto, Op 73, ‘The  Emperor,’ while David Angus returns to conduct Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7.


New collaborations and commissions


A new chamber opera, Pleasure, receives its world premiere at the Howard Assembly Room at Opera North in April 2016. It is the fourth new opera commissioned and produced as part of a three-year partnership between Aldeburgh Music, The Royal Opera and Opera North. Created by the young composer Mark Simpson and writer Melanie Challenger, the opera tells the story of Val (Lesley Garrett), who works as an attendant in the toilets in Pleasure, a hedonistic gay club in the north of England. When Nathan, a beautiful and unpredictable young man, arrives in Pleasure and leaves a gift for Val, it marks the beginning of an emotional and violent night. This new production is directed by Tim Albery, with set and costume designs by Leslie Travers.


Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, a major artistic collaboration between Opera North and the West Yorkshire Playhouse, will be staged in June 2016. It brings together two of Leeds’ top arts organisations for their first ever large scale co-production, directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining.


Casting for Into the Woods will draw on the musical and dramatic strengths of the versatile members of the Chorus of Opera North, the Company’s core full-time professional ensemble, many of whom regularly take principal roles in Opera North’s productions.


Howard Assembly Room and Opera North Projects


The 2015/16 season will continue to see a stunning range of guest artists giving performances in the Howard Assembly Room, a venue in the heart of Leeds with an eclectic programme of music, film, performance and talks that is continuing to build its reputation for varied, exciting and unusual programming. Leading international artists visiting the Howard Assembly Room in 15/16 include the sufi singer Sain Zahoor, Tuvan throat singers Huun-Huur-Tu, the Brodsky Quartet, pianist Freddy Kempf, tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Simon Lepper, and in a new collaboration withLeeds Lieder, Kate Royal and Joseph Middleton.

Many of the events in the Howard Assembly Room are commissioned, curated and produced by Opera North Projects, which creates an alternative strand of work across different artforms, with a focus on collaboration. Current projects includeLulu: A Murder Ballad, created and co-produced with The Tiger Lillies in 2014, which now tours to London for the first time with a week of performances in November 2015 at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House.


The company continues to redefine the artform for new audiences, taking two Opera North Projects commissions to festivals stages at Latitude and Wilderness in Summer 2015. I am Yours, Yours am I’, will travel to Latitude as the Thursday night takeover in the ‘Faraway Forest,’ a site-specific open air setting for the ethereal love duet ‘Pur ti miro’ from Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea (Thu 16 July 2015).  The Devil’s Jukebox, a tour of five centuries of Faustian music curated by cellist Matthew Sharp, will be the Saturday night headliner on the arts stage at Wilderness Festival(Sat 8 August 2015).


Opera North Projects commissions around The Ring include a new folk-based performance exploring Northern mythology and traditional songs, and the annual Liberty Lectures series in the Howard Assembly Room taking the theme of Apocalypse from Götterdämmerung.



The competition, which has yielded some major talents – Sonya Yoncheva (2010), Erwn Schrott (1998) – is coming to London for the first time in July. The finals will clash with the opening weekend of the BBC Proms.

Bad timing, Plácido. (Oh, he’s conducting, too).

domingo operalia

Press release:



“My purpose in Operalia is to help identify not only the best voices, but also to discover those singers whose personalities, characters and powers of interpretation show that they have the potential to become complete artists. Individuals such as these become tomorrow’s stars.” Plácido Domingo

Operalia, Plácido Domingo’s major international singing competition, is being hosted by Covent Garden for the first time in its 22 year history.  The competition starts on Monday 13 July with a public final at the Royal Opera House at 6pm on Sunday 19 July.

Founded in 1993 to discover and help launch the careers of today’s most promising young opera singers, Operalia is open to singers of all voice types between the ages of 18 and 32.  The competition has for over 20 years promoted artists of the calibre of Angel Blue, Joseph Calleja, José Cura, Joyce DiDonato, Carmen Giannattasio, Ana María Martínez, Ailyn Pérez, Erwin Schrott, Nina Stemme, Rolando Villazón and Sonya Yoncheva.  Contralto Claudia Huckle, who won the Birgit Nilsson Prize in 2013, is the first British singer to have been awarded a prize.

The competition – which is hosted by a different city every year – receives hundreds of applications, from which only 40 are chosen to participate and compete in front of a jury of 10 leading industry professionals including general managers and casting directors from some of the most important international opera houses.  Although Plácido Domingo does not vote himself, he is actively present throughout the competition offering advice on artistic and career development to all of the participants.  While the quarter-finals and semi-finals are closed to the public and are carried out in audition form, the competition final on Sunday 19 July will see Plácido Domingo conduct the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House in a Gala Concert on Covent Garden’s main stage.

Committed to excellence, elegance and consistency, Rolex is once again proud to present Plaìcido Domingo’s Operalia, the World Opera Competition, marking its 14th consecutive collaboration since 2001.

“Plácido has created this legacy of defining what our generation of singers should be about…  We watch him giving back to us as young artists and we think ok, not only are we hopefully lucky enough to have a career but there’s also an afterlife to that and we need to make sure that we’re bringing along the next generation behind us.” Joyce DiDonato


It has been a while. The composer died in 2007 and complications with his performing and recording rights mean that his music hardly ever gets a hearing. So a new Decca release by a young Italian pianist who had worked with Stockhausen and won his approval presented a good opportunity to test how the music had stood the test of time.

It’s my album of the week on Click here to read.

Vanessa Benelli Mosell_Stockhausen1_credit Alain taquet_500

The company has posted an operating loss of A$2 million in fiscal year 2014, down slightly from $2.4 million the previous year. Chief executive Craig Hassall said this was ‘an outcome we cannot sustain over time’.

Box-office performed well below expectations. Rehearsals have been shifted to mornings, to free up the auditorium for outside hires and savings are being sought in every department. Lyndon Terracini’s position as artistic director will be under increased scrutiny.

sydney opera evacuated

Jim Wilkinson is retiring as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Symphony, after emerging once before from retirement to dig the orch out of a wide-ranging crisis.

His successor has just been announced. She’s  Melia Peters Tourangeau and she flies in from Salt Lake City, where she’s president and CEO of Utah Symphony and Utah Opera.

Ms T is 43. And she has brought Utah out of the wilderness. Looks good for Pitts. Read here.