I just heard that the wonderful Isabel Leonard is the winner of the 2013 Richard Tucker Award, joining a roster of hugely distinguished singers including Renée Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, and Deborah Voigt. I guess this was a no-brainer in terms of making the choice. Isabel has been the dominant rising star in recent years - she was bound to win the "Nobel" prize!
Isabel sang with COT as long ago as 2008 - Zerlina in our infamous Diane Paulus directed Don Giovanni. Here she is with her Masetto, Ben Wager.
My last opera event in London for a bit is The Sunken Garden this evening. This is a new production/world première from the English National Opera at the Barbican. New opea stuff in London has been pretty remarkable these last few months. The bar is now set very high!
So the day is around the corner - I leave for Washington on Tuesday, then on to New York, Toronto, and Chicago. By the time I am back here on April 26 I will have heard the first 150 Neue Stimmen 2013 candidates. Our numbers seem to be up this year so it will be as crazy as ever I suppose. I then leave for Tokyo, Shanghai, and Beijing on May 3. You can follow me here!
Meanwhile I have to get my clothes in order! This is my perennial nightmare - having to pack enough but not too much; if I can avoid a checked bag I am happy. Five flights with a checked bag equals 100 minutes of wasted time.
I will miss the over the top funeral on Wednesday but will observe it from Washington DC. I am somewhat puzzled about this event. The other three greatest Prime Ministers in addition to Churchill since World War 2 were Clement Attlee, Harold MacMillan, and Harold Wilson. They were bid farewell with a degree of privacy with later memorial services attended by the great and the good. Churchill was a one off - the great wartime leader who united the country. I was out on the streets of London in 1965 to pay my respects. I fear that the whole affair on Wednesday may become an embarrassment.
London is blessed with sunshine today and 65 degrees. This is called a heat wave! The temperature in Washington on Wednesday will be 82 degrees. Oh dear, I will have to revise my packing list!
Andrew Davis is a Londoner - strictly speaking from Watford. But he is also a distinguished Chicagoan, loved and respected by public, colleagues, and friends alike. I was delighted to see him this afternoon rehearsing the BBCSO for this evening's concert at the Barbican. He was his eternally ebullient self - an attribute which has so enhanced musical life in Chicago these last 13 years.
We go back a long way of course. His operatic debut was at Glyndebourne in 1973 when I already had some part to play......and I was General Director when he succeeded Bernard Haitink as Music Director at the Sussex festival in 1998. So it was great to see him as always.
There was a another pleasure from this afternoon - to see Jonathan Brill who is now Andrew's manager. This last quarter century has seen Jonathan Brill develop into one of the most respected people in his business. He was for many years with CAMI - and he has now joined the superb team at Opus 3 led by David Foster which also includes my old friend Caroline Woodfield. I think that it is fair to say that things can get better with the passage of time. There is the evidence!
St Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge from Tate Modern 4 pm April 11 2013
I had hugely enjoyed the Lichtenstein retrospective at Chicago's Art Institute last year and had promised myself that I would see it again when it arrived in London - which it duly did in February. So I was there at last this afternoon, another grey miserable day. We are promised a heat wave at the weekend. Believe it or not!
Tate Modern has wonderful rooms for special exhibitions and this show fits it perfectly. It is on until May 27. To get to Tate Modern you have multiple choices - none perfect. My preference is to get the District line to the brand new Blackfriars Station and walk east to the Millennium Bridge - a great walk across the river from St Paul's. An alternative is a marginally shorter but gloomier walk from Southwalk station on the Jubilee line. Take your pick - of course it may depend on where you are coming from......!
Andrew Davis is in town with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. I will see him tomorrow - another nice reminder of Chicago!
There were fearsome crowds at the British Museum today when I took my daughter to see the Pompeii and Herculaneum show - a magnificent exhibition that is a "must see". If you can get in. It runs until the end of September and will merit another visit at a quieter time when one may feel less pressured to keep moving. And it is booked out anyway until next month for the General Public. Being a member of the British Museum is the only sure way in and it is probably one's civic duty to join up anyway! It is something of a bargain rather than a luxury.
It has been a Spring like day in London. It is now raining again. Will we ever get relief?
It is April 8 and there is scarcely a green bud appearing. It has been a long depressing Winter to be sure. There has been a little respite these last three days but it is now going to get colder again...........ugh! My lovely little neighbourhood of Parsons Green is a cheerful place nevertheless. But above you can see those still leafless trees this afternoon.
I will be off to Washington next Tuesday April 16. By the time I get back on the 26th I expect a transformation!
The delightful Justina Gringyte gave a splendid account of herself with David Gowland in the Crush Room of the Royal Opera House at 1pm. That is of course the old Crush Bar where the finest barmen in London served the opera audience for years up to the time of the rebuild in the late 1990s.
Miss Gringyte chose what I thought was a rather uniformly agonised program, songs of loss and despair and disappointment and general sadness. Not a lot of fun, but beautifully done, especially the Rachmaninov which suited her perfectly. She is a striking performer and personality. And she was greatly and rightly appreciated by the full house. And she then cheered us up enormously with William Bolcom's witty Amor as an encore.
Watch out next year for a new recruit to the Jette Parker program - this is the Russian mezzo soprano Nadezhda Karyazina whom I heard in Moscow in 2011, and brought to the Neue Stimmen finals the same year. She was the eventual 5th prize winner. She has developed really excitingly in the intervening time and will be an significant asset for the ROH from next September. Mark my words!!
I was at the Wigmore Hall yesterday evening and once again it was brought vividly to my attention that London has a wonderfully developed audience for 21st century music, and clearly that audience has a huge appetite which can scarcely be satisfied. Recent productions at the Royal Opera House were Harrison Birtwistle's Minotaur, and George Benjamin's Written on Skin. Both were sold out for the runs of multiple performances.
Yesterday was George Benjamin Day at the Wigmore. Sold out again! There are just so many people, endlessly curious, who are prepared to spend time and money on these explorations. And last night we were treated to three absorbing pieces by three intriguing composers - Benjamin himself, Francesco Antonioni, and David Sawer.
The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, conducted by George Benjamin, with guests soprano Susanna Andersson (remarkable) and contralto Hilary Summers (unique and indispensable), did the heavy lifting. And that included a bass flute!
So we had these three pieces - from Antonioni his Ballata from 2008, the world première of Sawer's Rumpelstiltskin Suite, and Benjamin's Into the Little Hill. I will not even attempt to comment critically on these - I am completely unqualified to so so. But believe me, if you respond to music's unique powers of expression, and respond yourself to its ability to express emotions and feelings that no language can, then you would be absorbed by each of these works. That's all I have to say - well not quite - the performances under the guidance of Benjamin were superb and those two singers.......well its as good as it gets!
Yes, we made it to the zoo yesterday and saw the new Tiger Territory!
This evening it is George Benjamin again - there is a whole day of him at the Wigmore Hall. I will just be there this evening and am looking forward to his Into the Little Hill.
"Maintenance is a breeze. I am so happy that we chose InstantEncore!"