"Opera on the BBC", a cross-network focus on music’s most glamorous art-form has been launched today with a performance on Radio 3 of Bellini’s La sonnambula with Natalie Dessay in the title-role. Television channels BBC Two and BBC Four will team up with Radios 2 and 3 to focus on opera during the spring and summer. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Rollando Villazón will front TV programmes focusing on the professional challenges that face a top-league soprano (BBC Two) and tenor (BBC Four). The Royal Opera’s music director Antonio Pappano travels through Italy exploring operas role in the country’s musical life in a three-part series on BBC Four.
Stephen Fry will look at the music of Wagner, music he has adored since a 10 year old. "I wanted to make the piece because of course he's not a simple composer, it's a lot to confront” he commented about this very controversial musician (BBC Four). Rick Stein will look at the parallels between food and cooking, with a gastronomic look at Italian opera.
Radio 3 embarks on a search for the nation’s favourite operatic aria. Rob Cowan and Sara Mohr-Pietsch will be overseeing this challenge on “Breakfast” (weekdays 7-10am) and will be revealing the top ten on June 2. “From ‘Che farò’ to ‘Nessun dorma’, I foresee an exciting battle for the top spot,” said Rob Cowan.
"Opera on the BBC is a great opportunity to celebrate opera in a way that no other organisation can, linking our radio, television and online offerings to bring audiences something really special. Throughout the year, Radio 3 is the home of opera and we are looking forward to working with our BBC colleagues to give opera an even higher profile in our programming, commented Roger Wright, controller of Radio 3 and director of the Proms."
The BBC Proms launch on July 16 and the first weekend sees concert performances of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra with Plácido Domingo) and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (with Bryn Terfel) – both of which will be broadcast live on Radio 3.
To add Gramophone’s voice to the search for the nation’s favourite aria, go to the Forum to make your suggestion.