Classical Music Buzz > Brian Dickie
Brian Dickie
Life after 50 years in opera and still counting......
2730 Entries

I am off this morning to Chicago for the memorial service for our beloved Gladys Wolff, extraordinary board member and friend during my 13 years in Chicago.  She was ageless it seemed - in fact she was 97, a remarkable long life well and generously lived.  We must celebrate her and be thankful.  And that is what we will do tomorrow.

Today I have a long flight beginning at 7:45 am, then a happy evening with old friends this evening.  And of course I will catch up with so many others tomorrow at the Gladys event!  It is always great to be back in the city that was home for 13 years.  I wish I could stay longer this time.  Perhaps I will get back later in the winter - I must look at the CSO and Lyric calendars!

For now its an 8 hour flight...........

5 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Peter-hallThe news of Peter Hall's death announced this morning is hard to take - a towering figure who was part of the history of British theatre for more than half a century and a friend and colleague to so many of us in the opera business for decades.  The memories for me since 1969 are too many - a wonderful part of my life and career with Peter central to it for so long, a profound inspiration for us all at Glyndebourne.........

5 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Wigmore-hall

Flott Photo © Javier del Real

Felicity Lott displayed her inspirational qualities yesterday afternoon at the Wigmore Hall with four young singers, two sopranos and two mezzos.  She characteristically modestly rejected the "master" sobriquet implied by naming this event a "Masterclass" - and sweetly, with her irresistible grin, rejected the female form of the word!  But supremely authoritative she was, and it was fascinating to see and hear the difference that she made with each of these young people, rejected for the final at the semi-final stage of the Wigmore/Kohn Foundation competition but each nevertheless destined for great things.

We started off with Gemma Summerfield who greatly impressed her mentor in Roussel, then thrilled us all with her full exuberant lyric, warm and rounded, in R.Strauss' Cäcilie. 

Next up was Harriet Burns with Fauré and Clara Schumann.  Flott is revered in France for her singing of French song - and here was a wonderful opportunity for this young singer to get some guidance - and her response was impressive.  And Clara Schumann's Lorelei showed again what depth of talent there has been in this competition.

Our first mezzo was the dazzling Cherubino from this year's Garsington Figaro - Marta Fontanals-Simmons.  She is a winner who needs little discussion - and as usual she showed musical and vocal maturity in abundance.  She is well on the way with return engagements at both Glyndebourne and Garsington in forthcoming seasons.  I guess she is concentrating on opera but she is an intelligent and impressive songstress as well!

And the final "victim" was the outstanding Australian mezzo Lotte Betts-Dean, a singer of exceptional intelligence, curiosity, courage in her choices, and fearlessly bold in her exploration of the repertoire possibilities.  I was delighted that Flott drew attention to this.  Her repertoire for the competition embraced Haydn, Judith Weir, Jonathan Dove, Schubert, Honegger, Messiaen, Purcell/Britten, Webern, Schubert, Herbert Howells, Wolfgang Rihm, Ravel, Poulenc, de Falla, Rodrigo, Percy Grainger, Ives, Liszt, Sigurn von Koch, Fauré, Brett Dean, Nikolai Medtner, and Sibelius!!  I think that it would be hard to beat that!  And by the way she is a marvellous singer too!

I did not stay for the evening session - and I will not be at the finals this evening.  I have made up my mind about everything and it will be fascinating to see the outcome which will be available on the Wigmore Hall website later tonight.

5 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Wigmore hall song compI was at the Wigmore Hall yesterday afternoon to hear the 12 singers selected for the semi finals.  They each delivered a 20 minute programme which gave a really great idea of their skills and sympathies, and their versatility - or lack thereof.

I always think that the best plan is to go to the semi final round of a voice competition.  The chances are that the weakest candidates have been eliminated by that stage and that the dozen (in this case) remaining are likely to be the best of the bunch.  This is the point at which the vagaries of judging, the inconsistencies and prejudices, intervene to bring about a rather random set of finalists (in this case four from the twelve).  So to just attend the final means the probability of missing out on long term winners.  I often look back at our own experience with Neue Stimmen to see how many of the eliminated singers have gone on to magnificent careers, and so many of the chosen finalists have vanished without trace.  I did jury service for the Met competition for many years and the hindsight is much the same!

So singers take heart - a competition is a snapshot taken through multiple distorting lenses.

The finalists chosen yesterday evening contained some surprises I think it is fair to say.  From that it follows that those cast aside include some exceptional young artists who will go on the great things.  I do not pretend to be an expert in the song field so I defer entirely to the judgement, to the "collective wisdom", of the immensely experienced, distinguished and knowledgeable jury.  But as a very seasoned jury member myself in multiple competitions over many years I know only too well that one person's meaty 10 can be another's poisonous zero!  So I bet they had some interesting discussion.......

I am looking forward this afternoon to the masterclass that Felicity Lott will be giving with the disappointed semi-finalists.  There is a huge amount of talent there, including some very high class young women each of whom I expect to be hugely responsive to the magic that Flott will sprinkle on them. It will be a joy to see her working with these young people.

My silence over the past ten days is entirely attributable to non blogworthy activity - connected with family events including the getting together of all four children and eleven grandchildren in one place at the same time, and also my brother-in-law's 80th birthday celebration which took place on the Bluebell Railway - a fun day!

5 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Aug 26 walkBattersea Park 10:15 am August 26 2017

It is great to be back in London knowing that I am actually going to be staying put for more than a few days.  I will not now be going anywhere until the Neue Stimmen finals in October.  It is about time since I seem to have been on the go since the end of April!  Of course I might get restless in September......!

It has been a lovely day today with the temperature rising beyond 25 C. I walked with my younger daughter to Sloane Square this morning, through Battersea Park then over Chelsea Bridge and up Lower Sloane street to get Nespresso pods in Peter Jones - my wonderful local department store. I am now reloaded with caffeine supplies to last the next six weeks!

Aug 26 walk-2Albert Bridge from Chelsea Bridge 10:25 am August 26 2017

We then made our way down the Kings Road to the excellent branch of Waterstones book shop for things for two grandchildren whose birthdays fall in the coming week, then down to Chelsea Town Hall, down Oakley Street, and over Albert Bridge and though the park to complete the circuit.  That all accounted for 9,000 paces!!  Good going! 

Aug 26 walk-4Chelsea Bridge from Albert Bridge 11:55 am August 26 12017

This evening it is dinner with my dear old friend David Sigall.  So that is a short train plus bus ride for me to Barnes.  We will have a lot of catching up to do.  It is good to be home.

5 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Maltings evening
Pre-concert light at the Maltings 7:15 pm August 24 2017

There was a beautiful last evening for me at the Maltings yesterday - with the music of course still winning the fight for attention in this beautiful place.  Just!

We were treated to an immaculate but still appropriately exuberant account from Edward Gardner and the LPO of Richard Strauss' Till Eulenspiegel - followed by the eternally elegant Renée Fleming with the Four Last Songs plus Morgen and Cäcilie as encores.  A feast indeed for lovers of Strauss and his wonderful songs for sopranos.  That includes me!

And then we had Elgar's first symphony.  Here we saw and heard exactly why Ed Gardner is going down so well in Bergen where he is Music Director of that splendid old orchestra. His temporary (I hope) loss to the opera world is the symphonic world's gain. His years at ENO will be looked back on as golden ones as were those of a number of his predecessors - Colin Davis, Alexander Gibson, Charles Mackerras, Mark Elder......to drop a few good names!

It was also great of see and hear the LPO in such fine form - they were the orchestra of Glyndebourne for 25 of the 27 years that I worked there so I hold them in particular affection.  And it was so good to see my old mate Santiago  still there in the cello section 45 years later!

These 4 days in Suffolk have been a real treat.  Life is good! Back to London this morning.

5 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Snape evening

After an evening of exceptional singing of assorted Sistine chapel music the post performance solitude of the marshes around the Maltings was some kind of a mystical magic.......what a place this is.

Harry Christophers and the Sixteen spun their web to a full house - not a lot more to say other than to remark on an extraordinary soprano seemingly coming from heaven with an unearthly purity and beauty of sound.  I am not sure who it was as the programme had no list.  But I suspect it was Alexandra Kidgell - whoever, astonishing....!

IMG_5983 (1)

I spent some of this morning at the Maltings again so as to be able to look at Michael Flint's exhibition of etchings.  Michael is an entertainment and intellectual property lawyer of considerable distinction - long since retired and a ridiculously youthful spritely 85 year old.  He is pretty pleased by the number of red dots on the 50 or so etchings on display at the Maltings since the end of July.  They are in limited editions of course, of 25 or 35 so you had better leg it to Suffolk as they are going fast and when done the plates are destroyed, and that is that!

After this thorough review Michael and Phyllida and I popped down to Iken for a short pre lunch walk - then back to Orford for lunch in the garden on what turned out to be a warm sunny day.

Snape aug 2017

5 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Croft stephany© Monika Rittershaus

Richard Croft (Tito) and Anna Stéphany (Sesto) in Glyndebourne's La clemenza di Tito

What a pleasure it always is to return to Mozart at Glyndebourne - the composer's natural home in England.  And last night I saw the new La clemenza di Tito at last, an evening of almost unalloyed musical, vocal and directorial pleasure.  As one critic most perceptively put it "Guth’s is the most grown-up (staging) of any opera seen in the UK this summer".  He did also remark that Glyndebourne's production of Hamlet by Neil Armfield earlier in the summer also competed strongly for such an accolade.  I agree.  Glyndebourne has had a good year again!

For me of course the cast brought back good memories and special artists - with Richard Croft and Anna Stéphany stealing the show with unbeatable performances as Tito and Sesto.  Richard is a much loved singer rich in years and experience but as fresh of voice as ever he was.  He was our Ferrando in Così in the Mozart year 1991 in Toronto - just emerging at that point onto the international scene.  He was memorable in Glyndebourne in Theodora in 1996, and a wonderful Idomeneo in Ravinia in 2012.  How good it was to see this dear man and artist still at the very top of his game.

Anna Stéphany was originally cast to sing Annio in this production - and at a late stage took over Sesto, sweeping all before her with a performance of prodigious vocal and acting quality.  This was hardly a surprise to me for Anna had been a magnificent Medée in Charpentier's opera at Chicago Opera Theater in 2011.  But my goodness how she has grown during these last 6 years since she astonished us all in Chicago!

Another good thing was to see Robin Ticciati back in Glyndebourne's pit with the splendid Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in excellent form as usual. He did indeed preside over a wonderful evening of music making and music theatre.

I am off to Suffolk this afternoon and will be at a couple of Proms at the Snape Maltings this week. Another magic place.

 
5 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

Tete a tete
It is hard to believe that the amazing Bill Bankes Jones' Tête à Tête is 20 years old - but it is and there was a great party at the RADA studios on Sunday evening to mark the event and celebrate its achievements.  What a delight it was to be there and see Bill as unstoppable as ever.  And it was good to have personal though remote appearances from two of its former music directors - Stuart Stratford now music director of Scottish Opera (seen above with Bill via Skype on Sunday evening) and Tim Murray all the way from Cape Town.  I had the coincidental pleasure of seeing Tim in Cape Town just ten days ago - on the day on which he was recording part of his delightful message (it was hilarious by the way!).

Tete a tete-2
And it was so nostalgic at all levels to have been delivered some Salad Days - which I had seen as a child, and then again at Riverside Studios just half a dozen years ago.  Thanks for the memory Tête à Tête!

Now for a short trip to Paris, then Glyndebourne's Tito next Monday. 

6 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story

IMG_5933
I have been off line for the last week - on holiday in Portugal with some of my family, in a beautiful place east of Faro with no phone signal and no internet access.  After the first shock it was bliss!

Immediately before that I had a crazy hectic three days flying on Wednesday August 2 to Cape Town via Dubai, then after less than 24 hours in Cape Town returning to London via Dubai again by Saturday afternoon.  And I left for Faro the following morning - somewhat exhausted and ready for a five day chill out in temperatures of 90 plus!

This somewhat elongated route was one in the eye for British Airways who charge a scandalously high price for the direct flight to Cape Town and whose business class service has fallen behind the pack - so we decided that I should take Emirates who have a convenient connection through their amazing Persian Gulf hub.  And to to gild the lily I was upgraded to first class on the flight out to Dubai.  See the nourishing evidence below!

IMG_5894

This was all in the aid of finding the last couple of singers for the Neue Stimmen finals.  And sure enough it worked with two outstanding baritones going forward - last time it was all about the tenors and a mezzo!

There has been a remarkable rise in the accomplishment of South African singers during the last half dozen years.  We had two prize winners in 2017, the Belvedere competition went to Cape Town a year ago, and a South African was the winning male singer in Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition in Moscow last month.  

A good deal of recent success has been due to the presence in Cape Town at UCT of Kamal Khan, a passionate committed and inspirational friend to singers - rigorous and demanding certainly, and that accounts for his remarkable success.  But he has been greatly loved there and it is extremely worrying that he will be spending less time there in the coming years.  We shall see how that plays out……

I am now done with Neue Stimmen travels until we all gather together in Gütersloh for the final stages during the second week of October.  But I still seem to find it difficult to stand completely still.  I will spend a few days in Paris next week - for the first time for getting on for a year.  And I am looking forward to three days in Suffolk the following week, including a couple of Snape Proms.  And I will squeeze in my last visit to Glyndebourne for 2017 - La clemenza di Tito which has had a huge success.  More about that after the event!

But now for a relaxing weekend with chores like confirming my rightful place on the electoral register.  Life is tough!

6 months ago |
Tag
| Read Full Story
41 - 50  | 123456789 next
InstantEncore