Women in Opera – Study Day with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Perhaps the best way to describe an OAE Study Day is that it’s like a television documentary, only live.

Taking place on Sunday 2 December in the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, this year’s Study Day centres around the OAE’s 2012-2013 series ‘Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers’, taking an in-depth look at women’s roles in music over the last 400 years.

There’ll be discussions about a range of different characters in opera, the women (and men) that played them and a look at some of the often little-known works by female composers.  The day will conclude with a performance by Robyn Allegra Parton.  While the term ‘Study Day’ might evoke a certain feeling of academia, fear not.  No exam is given at the end of the day and no prior research necessary.

The day will be hosted by presenter Rachel Leach and split into two halves, with tickets sold separately for each so you can pick and choose which sessions to attend (and you’ll have time for a nice bit of lunch in between).

Here’s a bit about how the day will unfold:

Session 1 – 10.30am-1pm:

Women in Cultural History
Deborah Leigh Simonton, of the University of Denmark, has a look at how women are portrayed in history, literature & musicals.

Women in Opera
Professor Rachel Cowgill, of Cardiff University, discusses female performers in Opera.  In this section, Rachel will address issues such as why men took on women’s roles in early opera and when women emerged to take on these roles as themselves, before going on to look at the rise of female performers as international stars.

Session 2 – 2pm-4.30pm.

A Look at Characters
Dr F. Jane Schopf, Programme Director of Opera Studies at Rose Bruford College.  In this session we’ll take a look at strong female characters from Operatic history, comparing and contrasting different composers takes on these characters.

Performance & Analysis
The day will conclude with a performance of Dido’s Lament by up and coming star Robyn Allegra Parton, as well as a guided tour through of another piece led by presenter Rachel Leach.

A nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon we think!

Full details and booking can be found here.


Five opera premieres described as “snapshots of lives on the edge”, were staged by Northern Ireland Opera last week in Belfast.

With music by five Northern Irish composers, including Conor Mitchell working with leading contemporary playwrights, musicians from the Ulster Orchestra and a talented cast of nine singers from across Ireland performed these compact, hard-hitting works conducted by Fergus Sheil and directed by Rachel O’Riordan.

Fionna Maddocks writes for The Observer:

“In this bouquet of new works, each opera was skilful, provoking laughter as well as sorrow and, at an average duration of 10 minutes, never a moment too long.”

Read the full review

All five works will be performed at Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday 13 July, 8pm as part of New Music 20×12 at Southbank Centre.

Find out more / book tickets

Watch a film of the New Music 20×12 composers talking about their commissions

You can experience all 20 commissions across one weekend at Southbank Centre from 13-15 July. Don’t miss your chance to get involved in talks, debates and workshops, as well as a unique opportunity to book a one-to-one composer surgery with one of the New Music 20×12 composers.

Find out more / book tickets

PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20×12 is a UK-wide commissioning programme initiated by Jillian Barker and David Cohen, and delivered in partnership with the BBC, LOCOG and NMC Recordings.


The Making of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Step into the world of Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and discover the work done behind the scenes to bring the Philharmonia Orchestra’s production of Bartók’s only opera to life.

Philharmonia Orchestra, Resident at Southbank Centre, bring to life this work in a semi-staged production on Thursday 3 November at Royal Festival Hall.


Get to know… Juan Diego Flórez

Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez kindly took the time prior to his Rosenblatt Recital here at Southbank Centre on Thursday 20 January to reflect on his career and tell us about his interests outside of music and the people he admires most.

Juan Diego Flórez

Juan Diego Flórez

Has classical music always been your first choice as a career? If you weren’t an opera singer what would you be?
Yes, music was always my first choice.  However, I think that I would have always done something that had to do with music. When I entered the National Conservatory of Music in Peru, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be an opera singer, I just wanted to study music. I was also more into pop at the time.

What would you consider the highlight of your career so far?
Though there have been many important moments, my debuts in Pesaro and at La Scala in 1996 when I was 23 are moments that I will always treasure. The operas were Matilde di Shabran and Armide by Gluck respectively.

You have always maintained a close relationship with your native country, Peru. How important is it that you stay faithful to your cultural heritage?
It is really important. The love for your country is something spontaneous and has to be unforced. In my case I love my country and its music, its food and traditions. I was raised with Peruvian music which I still treasure in my heart. I would like to do many things for the children and youth in Peru. I have created a foundation there in order to create children and youth orchestras. The project is inspired in the “Sistema” of Venezuela and it has the power to transform society through music.

You have sung in the most prestigious opera houses all over the world. Do you have a favourite opera house? If so, what is it that makes it so special?
I have sung a lot at the Met in New York, Royal Opera House in London, Staatsoper in Vienna and at La Scala in Milan. All of these theatres are special and I feel at home every time I return. They are theatres with great tradition. I feel fortunate to be able to perform in these amazing opera houses.

Another successful bel canto tenor who appeared in the Rosenblatt Recitals series last year, Lawrence Brownlee, is often compared to you in terms of voice and rise to fame. Do you like this comparison?
We are good friends and we have worked together in some occasions. He is a great singer and artist.

Your biography reads that yours hobbies include football, tennis, cooking and composition. Could you tell us more about your interest in cooking? Do you have a favourite recipe that you would like to share with our readers?
I love cooking. As a matter of fact I cooked Christmas dinner recently! But my wife has surpassed me. She is a really excellent cook. I like to cook Peruvian food, but also Italian. I love to make risotto, with mushrooms especially.

We know that Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio played an important role in helping you shape your voice and become the successful bel canto tenor you are today. Is there anybody else you admire? Could you name another artist who made a major impact on who you are today?
When I entered the conservatory in Lima I got hold of some cassettes of Pavarotti and Kraus. These two tenors made a big impact on me. Pavarotti’s shine and beauty of tone, and Kraus’ elegance and phrasing continue to be an inspiration for me.

How long will you stay in London in January and what will you do there? You sang in London many times in your career: is there a place you like to visit or something you like to do every time you come here?
I will stay for four days. I will rehearse and also enjoy some nice restaurants. I love to go to Nobu. I also like visiting the National Gallery.

Juan Diego Flórez is singing at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall on 20 January 2011. Buy tickets here.