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Royal Opera music director says modern-day singers lack commitment of previous generations

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LONDON - Modern-day singers lack commitment and stamina compared to previous generations of performers, the music director of London's Royal Opera House said Wednesday.

Speaking at the announcement of the company's 2013-2014 season, Antonio Pappano said singers "are either weaker in their bodies or don't care," and need more periods of rest than previous generations.

His comments come in the wake of several high-profile pullouts from Royal Opera House productions this season.

Later, Pappano told the BBC that young singers are "faced with tremendous pressure ... PR pressure, image pressure, but also vocal pressure."

He also said modern productions, which are often filmed for broadcast, demand more rehearsal from performers. Travel and promotion duties also take a toll, he added.

"They are expected to sing more in the rehearsals, the rehearsals are longer, cutting of operas, which used to be a big tradition, is no longer seen in a favourable light," he said. "So they are singing much longer versions of the operas, even the popular ones. Maria Callas never sang a whole 'Traviata' in her life."

The company announced an ambitious season that includes new versions of Richard Wagner's "Parsifal" — directed by Stephen Langridge and starring New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill — and the first-ever Covent Garden production of Giuseppe Verdi's "Les vepres siciliennes," in a large-scale production, directed by Norway's Stefan Herheim, that includes 32 dancers.

Claus Guth will direct Richard Strauss's "Die Frau ohne Schatten," one of three productions marking the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth in 2014.

There will also be new productions of Wolfgang Mozart's "Don Giovanni," Giacomo Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" and Gaetano Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda," along with a revival of "Turandot" featuring American soprano Lise Lindstrom and a production of Puccini's "Tosca" conducted by Placido Domingo.

Royal Ballet productions include a ballet by Christopher Wheeldon based on Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" and new version of "Don Quixote" created by Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta.

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Online: www.roh.org.uk

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