Autumn 2018 new season highlights
Autumn is already upon us! This new season sees a wide range of engagements for the artists of James Black Management. Here are a few highlights:
Marlena Devoe, having won a 2018 Leonard Ingrams Award from Garsington Opera at Wormsley, makes her debut with New Zealand Opera as Mimì in La bohème.
Jennifer France sings Her in the UK première of Dusapin’s Passion with Music Theatre Wales.
Anush Hovhannisyan sings Violetta in La traviata for her debut with Welsh National Opera.
Alwyn Mellor sings Gerhilde in Die Walküre for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Anita Watson sings Donna Anna in Don Giovanni for West Australian Opera.
Catherine Carby sings Siegrune in Die Walküre for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Rosalind Plowright, having made her Glyndebourne Festival Opera debut in Summer 2018, sings Madame de la Haltière in Cendrillon for Angers Nantes Opera.
Samantha Price sings Sonia in War and Peace for her debut with Welsh National Opera.
Angela Simkin sings Flosshilde in Das Rheingold / Götterdämmerung for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Sarah Pring sings Alisa in Lucia di Lammermoor for English National Opera.
Patrick Terry joins the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Alessandro Fisher, having made his Salzburg Festival debut in Summer 2018, joins the BBC New Generation Artist Scheme.
Peter Van Hulle sings Torquemada in L’heure espagnole for Mid Wales Opera.
Richard Pinkstone makes his debut with Scottish Opera on the 2018 Opera Highlights Tour.
Alexander Robin Baker sings King Hermann Augustus in Candide for Bergen National Opera.
Adrian Clarke sings Father Palmer in Silent Night for Opera North.
Stephen Gadd sings Monterone in Rigoletto for Scottish Opera.
Felix Kemp records Pierrot in Dame Ethel Smith’s Fête Galante with Odaline de la Martínez and Lontano for Retrospect Opera.
Ross Ramgobin makes his debut at the BBC Proms as Counsel for the Plaintiff in Trial by Jury.
Julien Van Mellaerts, Winner of the Maureen Forrester Award at the 2018 Concours musical international de Montréal, makes his debut with New Zealand Opera as Schaunard in La bohème.
Lukas Jakobski sings Leuthold in Guillaume Tell at the Theater an der Wien.
Nathan Fifield conducts Labyrinth (ballets by Martha Graham, George Balanchine, Joseph Hernandez and Ohad Naharin) for the Semperoper Ballett, Dresden.
Toby Purser conducts Stanford’s The Travelling Companion for New Sussex Opera, to be recorded by SOMM CD.
John Rigby conducts Classical Spectacular for Raymond Gubbay Ltd at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Critical acclaim for Jennifer France at Opera Holland Park
Jennifer France received outstanding critical acclaim for her performance as Zerbinetta in Opera Holland Park’s production of Ariadne auf Naxos this summer.
“This living jewel in opera’s crown” WhatsOnStage
“There hasn’t mean a more meaningful Zerbinetta than young Jennifer France’s...” David Nice - The Arts Desk
“…surely the Zerbinetta of our dreams: nimble in her acting as she is agile in her singing; she exudes charisma and guile in equal measure.” Matthew Rye - Bachtrack
“Jennifer France’s Zerbinetta brings the Composer down to earth with a lovely blend of pragmatism and tenderness, then in the Opera opens out into a sensational account of the long coloratura aria ‘Großmächtige Prinzessin...” Peter Reed - Classical Source
“Jennifer France’s sparky Zerbinetta rises to the virtuoso challenge of her showpiece aria with aplomb.” George Hall - The Financial Times
“Jennifer France, whose sparkly, girlish Zerbinetta wins the evening.” Erica Jeal - The Guardian
“Jennifer France is a revelation as Zerbinetta, carrying off ‘So war es mit Pagliazzo’ with a glistening sound, excellent coloratura and real panache.” Sam Smith - Music OMH
“Jennifer France was the true Sirius in a stellar show, delivering her vocal acrobatics with astonishing athleticism, precision and expressive nuance, all the while performing a teasing strip-show. Languor and assertiveness were wonderfully melded in sensual sublimity. It was hard to tell who enjoyed it most; France or the mesmerised audience.” Claire Seymour - Opera Today
“Jennifer France’s fickle, sexy Zerbinetta…on terrific form…” Fiona Maddocks - The Observer
“Her command of the music means that she can negotiate the felicitates of the staging with ease; but it was the vocal fireworks that were most memorable. She commands the stage with her mesmerising presence; her sound enchants the ear.” Colin Clarke - Seen and Heard International
“…a show stopping coloratura striptease, performed by (Jennifer) France with spectacular vocal panache.” Richard Bratby - The Spectator
“Jennifer France embodies the role of the life-loving Zerbinetta, sparkling in the coloratura showpiece ‘Großmächtige Prinzessin’.” Inge Kjemtrup - The Stage
“…a dazzling display of coloratura singing…” Claire Colvin – The Sunday Express
“…Jennifer France’s star-turn as Zerbinetta.” Hugh Canning - The Sunday Times
“(Jennifer) France delivers coloratura thrills whilst swinging across the stage in the skimpiest of costumes.” Neil Fisher - The Times
“When it comes to Zerbinetta, a role of a gold for a coloratura soprano, we’re in star-turn territory. Jennifer France has been championed by OHP for several years now and she returns the company’s faith in her by delivering one of the performances of the year. Decked out like Marlene Dietrich, France performs an elaborate striptease during her 12-minute showstopping aria and, I swear, makes eye contact with every hot-blooded male and female in the audience. More importantly, this living jewel in opera’s crown sings the heck out of her music - helium notes and all.” Mark Valencia - WhatsOnStage
Praise for JBM artists in ENO’s The Turn of the Screw last month
English National Opera’s new production of The Turn of the Screw in association with Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre enjoyed a successful run last month. There was praise for JBM artists Anita Watson as The Governess and conductor Toby Purser.
"…excellently conducted by Toby Purser…” Michael Billington, The Guardian
"…conducted with superb authority by ENO Mackerras Fellow Toby Purser." Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
“...Toby Purser’s impassioned conducting of excellent ENO instrumentalists…” Richard Morrison, The Times
“…a first night performance of scintillating precision under Toby Purser…" Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage
“Hers is a gorgeous, liquid lyric soprano…” David Nice, The Arts Desk
“Without disguising the Governess’ complexity…Anita Watson powerfully makes her a woman driven more by moral anxiety than by luridly subjective fantasy.” Michael Billington, The Guardian
“As the Governess, Asia Watson sang with a beautifully sweet tone and finely, entrancingly nuanced phrasing.” Claire Seymour, Opera Today
“…Anita Watson’s superbly expressive Governess…” Richard Morrison, The Times
Reviews for Scottish Opera new production of Flight
Scottish Opera’s new production of Flight has received much praise from the critics, especially for the performances of Jennifer France and James Laing.
“Jennifer France, as the God-like controller, alone in her tower, sings with a stunning clarity, giving the role a balanced fusion of dominance with serenity...”
“(James) Laing’s portrayal of the Refugee’s account of his journey is chillingly stirring, as he sings with impeccable vocal control...” The Arts Desk
“Flight is something of a passion play for our time, with the Christ-like figure of the Refugee, here sensitively portrayed by James Laing, at its centre. His separateness is given expression by the otherworldly timbre of the countertenor voice. Commenting on and overseeing the action is the icily celestial Controller, whose stratospheric vocal writing is deftly negotiated by soprano Jennifer France.” The Guardian
“Rising countertenor star James Laing makes consistently beautiful sounds as he converts the quiet despair of the central character, with soprano Jennifer France hitting the vocal heights as the stratospherically inclined Controller." The Stage
“...it is quite superbly cast across the board, the vocal quality startling from the start, with counter-tenor James Laing as the Refugee and stratospheric soprano Jennifer France, as the Controller…” The Sunday Herald
“All members of an expert cast seize every opportunity that Dove offers them – and if I single out James Laing as the refugee and Jennifer France as the air-traffic controller, that is only because they are presented with the biggest vocal challenges, met with gusto in both cases.” The Telegraph
“...a cast whose comic timing is as sure as their vocal prowess. In the latter department, Jennifer France’s quasi-supernatural airport controller is first among equals. I’ve rarely heard such ravishingly pure phrasing of notes so high above the stave, especially in her final transcendental duet with James Laing’s touchingly portrayed refugee.” The Times
Jette Parker Young Artists 2018/2019 announced
The Royal Opera has announced the latest singers to join its professional development programme, the Jette Parker Young Artists. We're delighted to announce that countertenor Patrick Terry will be one of the five new singers to join the Company in September 2018. They were chosen from more than 440 applicants from 59 countries and will join six others who continue on the Programme into their second year next Season.
Anush Hovhannisyan debut at Scottish opera
Congratulations to Anush Hovhannisyan on a highly successful role and company debut for Scottish Opera as Violetta in La traviata.
For The Sunday Times, Hugh Canning wrote:
“Anush Hovhannisyan sweeps all before her with her bright, lyric soprano and tall, handsome figure. She’s helped by David Parry’s stylish, Italianate conducting, but I’d hazard that this was a “star is born” moment for the young Armenian.”
Reviews for Lee Bisset as Isolde at Longborough Opera
Lee Bisset received outstanding reviews for her return to the role of Isolde in Longborough Festival Opera’s revival of Tristan und Isolde, The Times writing:
"Lee Bisset is an overwhelming and richly luminous Isolde, taking us from death-filled desires to feverish love with stamina and insight."
Other reviews were no less enthusiastic:
“Isolde is a passionate young girl with a manipulative streak. But what Wagnerian soprano ever troubles to convey such mundane intricacies? At Longborough Lee Bissett does so, and with enormous intelligence and conviction. Not only does she sing with power and control, but from the start she creates, through bodily gesture and mobile facial expression, a vivid image of a young woman who is finding it hard to decide whether she hates or is in love with the man who is escorting her to marry the King of Cornwall. And once she has made up her mind, she conveys equally well the rapture and intensity, and the inevitable doom, of the love in question.“ The Arts Desk
“First among equals was Lee Bisset, a natural Wagnerian who impressed as Sieglinde in Opera North's Ring project, and who here delivered an Isolde that was more than the equal of any you will find on the international stage today." Bachtrack
“By not getting in the way, the staging enhances the intensity between the lovers, and with Peter Wedd (who was in the original run) and Lee Bisset you see and hear something quite remarkable unfold, something you know the opera carries but which rarely erupts to such annihilating effect, and it’s not just because they both are easy on the eye. On first-night Wedd’s singing was heroic and tireless, and the final Act must count as this already-superb Wagner-tenor’s finest achievement, on top of which he delivers Tristan’s madness with a truly distressing realism. Bisset’s soprano had the penetration, lyricism, range and volume to encompass Isolde’s imperious will and extreme vulnerability in Act One and, with Wedd of course, a sensationally erotic love-duet in the next one; they practically devoured each other, matched by singing of sublime tenderness and volcanic passion.” Classical Source
“Lee Bisset’s Isolde is remarkable, so beautifully expressive and vocally powerful." Mark Ronan
“As well as proving the most engaging and subtle of actors, Lee Bisset is vocally brilliant, with a soprano that can display sensitivity, restraint, strength and power while still always achieving a sense of overarching unity." Music OMH
“Peter Wedd and Lee Bisset excelled in the title roles, their obsessive love so quietly erotic you felt almost voyeuristic watching them, their singing tireless, searing, intelligent.” The Observer
"The most important change of cast is the Isolde of Lee Bisset. Two years ago (her predecessor) was powerful and passionate, sometimes almost too loud, but Bisset has a greater regal presence, a richer tone, and integrates passages that can sound like mere declamation into the overall forward pressure of the drama. She and the Tristan of Peter Wedd make the most convincing couple I have ever seen in this work." The Spectator
"I fear that I will run short of compliments for the two title characters. Lee Bisset, who debuted in the second cast in 2015, turned out to be the Isolde of my dreams, finished in every inch, felt to the very depths. This is one of those singers who rivet one’s attention from their first entrance onstage, engage the listener not only with perfect mastery of their part, but also with an accurate feel for the words and fantastic acting. Bisset pulled off something that (her predecessor) had previously been unable to manage – to show Isolde as an equal partner to Tristan, a strong woman aware from the outset of her feelings, with which she initially fights as fiercely as she later yields to them. Her dark, expressive, strikingly powerful soprano sparkles with every hue of emotion: it sounded one way in the fiery, furious duet with Brangäne, another way in ecstatic union with Tristan, for whom she had longed for years." Upiór w operze
Lee Bisset as Isolde, Peter Wedd as Tristan and Stuart Pendred as Kurwenal.
JBM artists triumph in The Grange Festival’s ‘Albert Herring’
Tenor Richard Pinkstone made his professional opera debut in the title role of Britten's Albert Herring at the inaugural season of The Grange Festival. The Arts Desk writes:
"In perfect synch with their instrumental colleagues throughout, the singers are both magnificent soloists and - again as becomes especially apparent in Act 3 - team players. Richard Pinkstone gives us a different, and utterly credible, take on shop-boy Albert, the good boy voted May King since all the village girls are, in the words of the chief moralist, "not virgins but trollops". Tied to his widowed mum's apron strings but clearly strong enough to break loose from the first, this Albert has the operatic-tenor heft for the will to freedom in the voice from his very first scene, rather than the usual softer grain of the lyric-character choral scholar. The emancipation sees him very much in control; again, it's completely believable."
There will be further performances on 29 June, 1, 7 and 9 July. Full details here.
Richard Pinkstone as Albert and Kathleen Wilkinson as Mrs. Herring. Photographer: Alastair Muir.
Alessandro Fisher becomes Associate Artist for Classical Opera
We are thrilled to announce that tenor Alessandro Fisher has been announced as Associate Artist for the 2017/2018 Classical Opera season, alongside mezzo soprano Emily Edmonds and tenor Thomas Elwin.
The scheme was launched in 2006 by Classical Opera’s founder and artistic director Ian Page to consolidate the company’s work in assisting the development of young singers in the early stages of their career. Previous participants of the scheme include Louise Alder, Allen Clayton and Sophie Bevan.
Alessandro appeared as Christian in the company’s recent production of Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebotes. The new Associate Artists will all feature in a new semi-staging of Mozart’s La finta semplice at Queen Elizabeth Hall on 6 & 8 June 2018, and will also appear in a concert performance of the same opera at Birmingham Town Hall on 2 June 2018.
New releases for June
Anush Hovhannisyan sings Three Songs by Glinka with Malcolm Martineau, piano, on Decades: A Century of Song, Volume 2, now available on Vivat CD. Anita Watson sings Second Flowermaiden on Parsifal with the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, now available on the Hallé’s own label.