Dame Kiri te Kanawa switches from opera to soap opera this autumn with a part in the next series of Downton Abbey. Her one-off role won't draw too heavily on her acting talents - she plays an opera singer who entertains a private gathering of posh titled folk.
Also recruited is tenor and Proms favourite Julian Ovenden, who has turned his classical training to the dark side with a highly successful career in musical theatre. Duet, anyone?
Obviously, the programme makers have had to be selective, and a US bias in both the music explored and the talking heads who explain it ultimately make the series less of a historical overview than an attempt to contextualise contemporary American art music, in the fashion of Alex Ross'sThe Rest is Noise.
Nevertheless it's worth seeing, at the very least for the amount of rare footage dug up. Stravinsky discussing The Rite of Spring and Gershwin playing tennis with Schoenberg are amongst the early highlights.
The first of three episodes was sneaked out last night - watch here if you missed out.
Their next task is to race round London sourcing props for Calixto Bieito's upcoming ENO Carmen as cheaply as possible. The team that returns to the Coliseum with
the most items for the least dosh wins.
His Zurich Opera Tosca and Carmen will be shown in full, in HD, and without breaks, together with the first and last act of the Met's Faust. In between we're promised an interview, a serenade and "musical surprises".
I'm not sure if/how you can get hold of this outside Germany, so any ideas are welcome.
Thanks to reader Michael for the following technical details about Tele 5 access in the UK:
Tele 5 Deutschland is
available, free to air
in standard definition only, on the 19.2 E Astra 1M satellite. This satellite
carries nearly all the German TV channels including ARTE. In the UK a 60 cm
dish pointing in the right direction is usually sufficient. Technical details
for Tele 5 Deutschland are: frequency 12480, vertical polarisation, SR 27500,
FEC 3/4. There is also Tele 5 Austria in standard definition on the same
satellite at 11244, horizontal polarisation SR 22000 FEC 5/6.
The HD channels for Tele
5 are encrypted and require a viewer card from the likes of Sky Germany.