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29 October 2014
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BBC Summer of Opera
Maria Callas

BBC Summer of Opera


Arena: Luciano Pavarotti - The Last Tenor
BBC TWO, 29 May

Arena looks at the life and career of Luciano Pavarotti, one of opera's modern icons, whose thrilling voice and unique personality have touched countless people throughout the world.

A household name for most of his extraordinary career, Pavarotti was the first ever classical musician to reach the top of the UK pop charts and his performance of Nessun Dorma during the 1990 World Cup was watched by millions.

For 40 years, Pavarotti has been hailed as one of the greatest tenors of all time, an artist fit to rank alongside the great Enrico Caruso.

Never before has he granted a television crew such intimate access to his private life and his globe-trotting personal schedule.

In Los Angeles, The Last Tenor follows Pavarotti backstage as he greets celebrity admirers including Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman and Lionel Ritchie.

In Bath, the cameras slip behind the scenes as he is reunited with the Three Tenors, the most successful grouping of classical performers ever seen.

In Modena, his hometown in Italy, the Maestro pulls together a horde of international names including Bono, Queen, Eric Clapton, Ricky Martin and Andrea Bocelli for his Pavarotti & Friends concert to aid the children of Iraq.

The film is also an exploration of Pavarotti's Italian background and upbringing.

Luciano was inspired from an early age by his father's tenor voice and both of them were members of Modena's Corale Rossini which won the 1955 Eisteddfod in Llangollen.

After initial successful performances in Italy and Sicily, he made his international breakthrough at Covent Garden in 1963 as understudy to his idol Giuseppe di Stefano.

The film traces his rise to international stardom through a sequence of classic archive performances.

Despite his fame, Pavarotti has always remained grounded in his native Italy, both in Modena and at his seaside home in Pesaro.

He allowed access to some of his most intimate family moments, including his wedding to Nicoletta Mantovani last December and the christening of their new baby Alice in the cathedral in Modena.

The Last Tenor is a unique portrait of a legendary singer and a family man who has remained close to his roots.

I Want To Be Pavarotti
BBC FOUR, 29 May

This is the fascinating story of music teacher Robert Alderson and his pupils.

Alderson is a singing teacher at the Royal Northern College of Music whose ability to identify a singing voice with potential has made him both successful and controversial.

He can spot new talent merely by hearing a child shout in a playground.

Under Robert's tuition his students rise from the ranks of those with seemingly ordinary vocal ability to being able to attain an operatic sound by fully utilising their voice.

This programme focuses on three of Robert's newest students as their voices, dress and attitudes are dramatically transformed.

Mario Chalilopoulos isn't an obvious candidate for the world of opera. Having sung The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round on Pop Idol, Pete Waterman told Mario he'd heard 'frogs with more talent'. Suffice it to say, he never made it past the first round.

But Robert Alderson watched that episode of Pop Idol and heard in Mario the makings of a fantastic tenor.

We follow their journey as Mario travels from Middlesborough to meet Robert and is transformed from a 20-year-old drifter to a singer with real talent and ambition.

After only 10 lessons, Mario bravely takes to the stage to sing a recital in front of his friends, family and peers with amazing results.

Thirty four year old Mike Bracegirdle was a Finance Director earning more than £150,000 a year, with a beautiful wife, a Mercedes and a seven bedroom house.

But he decided to give up the job to follow his lifelong dream of becoming a great tenor, going to study with Robert as a postgraduate at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

After just six weeks at the college, Mike gets the lead part in the end of year opera - an amazing feat considering that everyone else going for the part has been singing for years.

Viewers follow Mike as he prepares for the part of Tom Rakewell in The Rake's Progress and as he discovers the huge personal sacrifices he's going to have to make if he's to follow his dreams.

David Shaw is a 17-year-old from Oldham. His parents, Roy (a cab driver) and Christine (a schoolteacher), do everything they can to send David for lessons with Robert.

David even has a job icing cakes in a supermarket to supplement the family's income.

Viewers go with him to the audition that will decide whether or not he gets a place at the Royal Northern College of Music as an undergraduate, and wait nervously with Roy and Christine as the letter arrives that they hope will tell them David's dream has become a reality.

Barbara Bonney Masterclass from the Wigmore Hall
BBC FOUR, 29 May

This is another chance to see the leading international soprano Barbara Bonney in her series of amateur master classes.

Barbara has had great success presenting master classes in London, Bath, Amsterdam and Paris.

These master classes appeal to a wide range of people at the Wigmore Hall and the Assembly Rooms in Bath. For example, participants included a Korean engineering student, a retired bank manager and a yoga teacher.

Members of the audience are invited to participate by preparing a piece of music and bringing along the score.

All names are placed in a hat and eight lucky names pulled are invited on stage for individual impromptu tuition.

The ensuing programme will be infused with the tension and drama of the occasion as the audience at home share the nervous anticipation of those in the hall.

Barbara's enthusiasm and passion for amateur music making is evident in her judicious use of criticism and enthusiasm as she takes these amateur singers through their paces and passes on her tips for improvement.

Turn of the Screw
BBC TWO, 5 June

Shown just before the documentary Britten's Children, this version of the opera Turn of the Screw has been filmed specially for BBC television and shot on location in an 18th century house.

Based on the story by Henry James, Britten's opera tells of a governess who takes charge of two children at a distant country house.

She begins to see the ghosts of the dead former governess and her valet lover. As the ghosts begin to have an increasing effect on the young children the governess realises she must either leave or confront the spirits.

Eventually she is able to exorcise the supernatural visitors, but not without tragic consequences.

The Turn of the Screw is directed by Katie Mitchell, the highly acclaimed opera and theatre director whose television debut was the very successful BBC Wales production The Stepdaughter (based on the first act of Janaceck's Jenufa).

The production designer was Alison Chitty (renowned for her work in opera, theatre and on Mike Leigh's films) and the piece was conducted by Richard Hickox (acclaimed for his recording of Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring).

Peter Quint is played by Mark Padmore, The Governess by Lisa Milne, Miss Jessell by Catrin Wyn Davies, Mrs Grose by Diana Montague, Miles by Nicholas Kirby Johnson and Flora by Caroline Wise.

Britten's Children
BBC TWO, 5 June

No composer has ever written so much music for and about children as Benjamin Britten - a fascinating subject explored in this psychological portrait.

Benjamin Britten wrote two operas specifically for children to perform and there are plenty of concert works for children to sing.

Many of his operas deal with the loss of innocence in the young and their corruption by adults. And he often seems to regress to his own childhood, an idyllic period when he, as the youngest of the family, was the golden boy and apple of his mother's eye.

The film, directed by John Bridcut, explores Britten - the man and the music - through the prism of his work with young people.

Maria Callas: Living and Dying for Art and Love
BBC TWO, 12 June

Director Steve Cole takes a new look at the story of Maria Callas, one of the most loved and admired divas to ever grace the opera stage.

This documentary explores the parallels between Callas' life story and that of Puccini's Tosca, the character she became synonymous with following her performance in 1964 at Covent Garden.

Put together in just six months, Franco Zeffirelli's production of Tosca at Covent Garden is still hailed by most critics as unsurpassed - Callas gave a moving and deeply memorable performance that defied her ill health and broken heart.

Sadly, although one of Maria's most famous performances, it was to be one of her last.

The Callas story encapsulates glorious highs and tragic lows, a tale of unrequited love and personal tragedy within the glamorous heights of fame and fortune.

Maria Callas - Living and Dying for Art and Love tells the story of the staging of Zeffirelli's Tosca and brings to life the most tragic and dramatic role of the most tragic and dramatic of divas.

It features rare footage never before seen in the UK including: a colour section of Act I filmed from the wings; over a hundred stills from Act III, shot from a single position as if frames from a movie camera; Tito Gobbi, the singer playing opposite Callas as the character Scarpia, in interview about the Callas performance plus a wealth of supporting documents and stills.

In addition to this, the programme includes a rare pirated audio of Callas' final opera performance taken from 1965 when she returned to Covent Garden to sing as Tosca one last time.

Great names talk on camera about Callas for the first time. Touched by her talent and charisma they include: actress Judi Dench, whose visits to the Tosca rehearsals she describes as 'life-changing'; opera singer Grace Bumbry, who knew Callas and herself later played Tosca in the same production; legendary tenor Placido Domingo; and Antonio Pappano, Musical Director of the Royal Opera House.

They tell viewers of Maria's magic and charm, and also recall the tragic story of heartache brought on by her uncertain relationship with Aristotle Onassis, leaving Maria broken voiced and broken hearted and ending the career and spark of one of opera's greatest legends.

Don Giovanni
BBC TWO, 13 June

Peter Brook's stunning production of Mozart's Don Giovanni from Aix-en-Provence is brought to BBC TWO this summer.

The international cast is led by Peter Mattei as the feckless Don Giovanni, who loves women as much as wine and can relinquish neither.

Peter Brook's vision brings out the energy, grace, humour, tenderness and seriousness of the opera, conducted by rising star Daniel Harding.

Faust - live from the Royal Opera House
BBC TWO, 19 June

BBC TWO presents a live performance of Gounod's opera Faust with its popular tale of magic, menace, sex and religion.

Broadcast live from London's Royal Opera House, David McVicar's new production boasts a stellar cast including Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel as the devilish Mephistopheles and Roberto Alagna as the ambitious Faust, who barters his soul with the Devil in exchange for sensual pleasures.

Since its first performance in Paris in 1863, Gounod's Faust has been one of the most popular of French operas and a worldwide favourite.

Famous for such musical showpieces as the Soldier's Chorus and the sparkling Jewel Song, its Romantic indulgence in magic and menace, sex and religion still have a compelling charm.

This Faust is one of at least 16 operas based on the Faust Legend. It is also one of the most successful operas ever written - performed more than 2,000 times in Paris alone by 1934.

Die Walkure, Act 3
BBC TWO, 27 June

Live deferred

English National Opera (ENO) will make history this summer with the first opera performance at the Glastonbury Festival.

ENO will join headlining acts Sir Paul McCartney, Oasis and Muse on the main Pyramid stage, performing to a huge crowd.

Paul Daniel, ENO's Music Director, will conduct the full Orchestra of ENO and principal singers in a concert performance of Act 3 of Wagner's The Valkyrie.

Act 3 includes the Ride of the Valkyries which few festival goers will fail to recognise as the theme music to the film Apocalypse Now.

Eugene Onegin

BBC FOUR, 4 July

Welsh National Opera's acclaimed new production of the most successful of Tchaikovsky's ten operas is a romantic tragedy of desperate lost love, in which Eugene Onegin realises too late that he has rejected the woman he loves, Tatyana.

Based on Pushkin's classic poem about Onegin, the opera is full of passion, power, drama and excitement.

Glyndebourne 2004
BBC FOUR, 11 July

An exciting double bill broadcast live from the beautiful grounds of Glyndebourne this year offers two operas: Puccini's popular comedy Gianni Schicchi with a rarity - Rachmaninov's The Miserly Knight.

Puccini's only comedy features the loveable rascal Gianni Schicchi who can remedy any situation, down to impersonating a notary and dictating a new will.

Rachmaninov's dramatic tragedy with an all-male cast is based on a Pushkin poem and features duels, denouncements and death.

Both operas are directed by Annabelle Arden.

The operas will be shown on BBC TWO later in the year.

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