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Brian Dickie
Life after 50 years in opera and still counting......
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In 1965 the first John Christie Award was won by a 22 year old tenor Ryland Davies.  And on Monday evening Ryland was at the Royal College of Music to introduce a programme showcasing some more recent winners - including Marie Arnet, Lyuba Petrova, Kate Royal, Louise Alder, Duncan Rock, and the 2015 winner, another 22 year old - the German soprano Nikola Hillebrand.

Ryland is one of the most loved personalities in our little world, as well as one of the wittiest.  And as predicted he treated us to some splendid stories about Glyndebourne figures Jani Strasser and John Pritchard.  It was very much a family evening with Mary Christie and Gus Christie present of course - as well as a good number of the older award winners as well as current staff members. 

All the singers were hugely supported by the two distinguished accompanists Duncan Williams and Simon Lepper.  The fresh singing of the two most recent winners, Nikola Hillebrand and Louise Alder, exemplified the spirit of the younger members of the Glyndebourne company, still now as always committed to recruiting and developing the finest young singers.  Louise Alder (2014) is well on her way, and at 22 Nikola has the operatic world at her feet.  If she does as well as Ryland did, maybe she will be back in 2065 to present the 100th Anniversary Gala!  One never knows!!

It was a happy trip for me down memory lane.....!

And this morning I was at the British Film Institute's London Film Festival screening of The Lady in the Van - it is a deeply moving as well as hilarious story with extraordinary performances from Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings.  One movie you must not miss.  It is released in the UK in November and in North America in December.  Wonderful.......

3 months ago | |
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The Wigmore Hall in London has a mightily impressive programme of activity and anyone visiting London should make it their business to look at the programming there - especially those whose passion is Chamber Music, Song, and Early Music.

One of its many pleasures is the series of Sunday morning events - the so called Coffee Concerts.  And I was there yesterday for the treat of the Carducci Quartet playing Shostakovich and Beethoven, a perfect hour of very high class music making to start the day!

The hall was packed and always is for this very popular series.  Tickets are a mere £13.50 each - and worth every penny.  And for those unfamiliar with this wonderful old recital hall this is a perfect introduction.  The riches are such that you may very soon become addicted.

This evening, in the Britten Theatre of the Royal College of Music, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first John Christie award at Glyndebourne. And the master of ceremonies will be the first award winner, Ryland Davies.  This will be a fun evening!

4 months ago | |
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English Touring Opera provide a wonderful service to opera lovers around the less trodden areas of England, and to much smaller theatres, mainly too small to accommodate the large companies - Opera North, Glyndebourne on Tour, and the Welsh National Opera. 

They opened their autumn season with performances in the Britten Theatre of the Royal College of Music and will proceed from October 16 to Buxton, Malvern, Durham, Harrogate, Cambridge, Bath, Exeter, and Snape. And they have three French operas in store - Pelléas et Mélisande, Werther, and The Tales of Hoffmann - just the Debussy to be performed, quite rightly, in French.

Pelleas melisande© Richard Hubert Smith

I was at the performance on Thursday evening - and there are two striking young singers in the title roles - Jonathan McGovern and Susanna Hurrell - seen above.  They will certainly grow into their roles during the coming tour for they have been well cast and are spot on for this elusive piece, magical and mysterious as it is. I do so hope that the audiences in these out of the way but quite sophisticated places will discover the seduction of this opera, one I fell in love with back in 1962 when it was the opening new production of my first season at Glyndebourne.  A revelation...........

ETO are adapting the orchestral contribution to each of these three pieces - and for Pelléas they have chosen the arrangement by Annelies van Parys. 

On Friday I spent the bulk of the day with my friends and colleagues at Garsington auditions - we heard a fine selection of the best of the new generation of British singers.  This was part of an ongoing assessment - few were completely new to me but it is good to watch these young people developing - something they do very fast when in their twenties!

Meanwhile we are all gripped by the Rugby World Cup.  Poor England were ignominiously knocked out last night.   So our hopes now rest with Wales, Scotland, and Ireland!  This early evening it is Ireland v Italy!

4 months ago | |
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Yesterday evening I was at the Barbican for two events in one - an opportunity for friends, colleagues, and the musical world at large, to remember with affection and respect Andrew Porter who died in April at 86, and a semi-staged performance of Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'ulisse in patria.

Andrew TorontoAndrew first - during his long life he enriched the musical world with his passion as well as his scholarship, his sensibility and his sensitivity.  I first met him a mere 53 years ago - last evening there were friends and colleagues going back much longer.  Jeremy Noble, David Cairns, Diana McVeigh, Jeremy and Gillian Isaacs, Christopher Hunt and many many others came to remember this unique spirit.  And we were grateful to Nick Kenyon and John Allison for organising this event, and to Nick for having hit the mark so well in his tribute to Andrew.

And what a special treat it was to see Diana Bradshaw there with her son James, Andrew's Godson.  And here in this photo by Tannis Toohy you have Andrew rehearsing the Zauberflöte which he directed in Toronto in 2005 at the invitation of the late Richard Bradshaw, the Canadian Opera Company's General Director.

The concert provided a welcome opportunity to hear Ulisse, now it appears less performed around the world than Poppea and Orfeo.  In the title role was the peerless Ian Bostridge, deeply inhabiting the role as only an artist of his supreme quality can do.  It would not be immediately obvious casting, but, my goodness, it was a success.  So good for the Academy of Ancient Music and their Music Director Richard Egarr, for giving us this opportunity.  He was supported in major and minor roles by a tremendous galaxy of singers young and not so young, including Alexander Oliver as Iro, a role he sang in the famous Peter Hall production at Glyndebourne in 1972!  And he sounded as fresh as ever - remarkable. In addition Sandy shared the staging credits with Tim Nelson.

More opera tomorrow - the long awaited English Touring Opera production of Pelléas et Mélisande.

4 months ago | |
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Friday blogRoyal Academy of Arts 2:50 pm September 23 2015

Ai Weiwei's show at the Royal Academy opened last week - and I was there the day after having seen the Barbara Hepworth show at the Tate.  How she would have loved it!

The blazing humanity and courage of this man shows through in this superbly mounted show - British curatorship at its very best.  So it is a must see for the Autumn season running until mid-December.

Friday blog-2

And yesterday evening I was at the dress rehearsal of English National Opera's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - surely also destined to be obligatory.  Patricia Racette throws herself superbly into the title role serious uninhibited work of the highest level.  And she is supported by a fine cast of British singers as is always the case at ENO.  I am dumfounded at the attack on this superlative organisation by the Arts Council

Mark Wigglesworth will tomorrow be making his debut as Music Director of ENO in this season opener.  The omens are good.

Friday blog-4on the way to the Coliseum - Trafalgar Square 5:30 pm September 24 2015

 

4 months ago | |
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The excellent King's Place was host to a special evening of music and poetry on Monday evening.  The Rimbaud and Verlaine Foundation jointly with Poet in the City presented a rare opportunity to hear all of Fauré's Verlaine settings in a single concert - there are just seventeen of them but is is unusual to hear them all in a single evening - and a huge treat of course.

And the occasion also marked the appearance from Peters Edition of volume 3 of the critical edition of Fauré's songs by Roy Howat and Emily Kirkpatrick both of who participated in the concert.  Two excellent young singers from the Royal Academy of Music and Guildhall did the heavy lifting - singing these wonderful settings with palpable affection and commitment.  These were Anna Sideris and Bradley Smith.  Very good indeed for them!  This was an altogether unusual and delightful evening of serious music making with some scholarship thrown in for good measure! 

Two figuresYesterday I caught up at last with the Barbara Hepworth exhibition at Tate Britain - a superbly mounted and unmissable survey of this wonderful sculptor and - also remember - designer of the sets and costumes for the first production of Michael Tippett's Midsummer Marriage in 1965.

The show is on until the end of October and is a wonderful opportunity see the panorama of this great artist's lifetime achievement. A real late afternoon pleasure on a damp London September day.

© Bowness -  Two Figures (Menhirs) 1964 

 

 

 

Things brightened up a bit around 6pm so I went to inspect the horses on the "beach" by the MI5 building near Vauxhall Bridge opposite the Tate. And what a pretty evening it had become!

Down stream from Vauxhall

4 months ago | |
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Orphee © ROH/Bill Cooper

The Orpheus story is everywhere these days and the latest arrival is the new production at Covent Garden of Gluck's masterpiece.  As is clear from the photo above it is a hybrid of staged and concert performance, much more than semi staged but with the orchestra plonked in the middle most effectively moving up and down on its platform......

The music is the thing, and the glorious score was superbly executed by John Eliot Gardiner and his regular collaborators, a much expanded English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi choir.  This was superlative music making with much glorious playing from every department and, especially, melting flutes in the Elysian Fields.  Immensely satisfying......

Making the adjustment to this tenor version for Paris 1774 is tricky for those old timers used to a mezzo or a counter-tenor.  However it is great to have the opportunity, especially with a singer of such distinction as Juan Diego Flórez in the title role.  But for a Glyndebourne-ite such as me it is difficult to efface the memories of Janet Baker in 1982!  

The production has been hugely successful and virtually sold out to the great credit of the ROH.  That in itself is hugely encouraging - may Gluck enjoy many more revivals in London's premier international house.

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4 months ago | |
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The "silly season" that is - and down to the serious business of reconnecting with colleagues, friends, and family after a disjointed last 5 months.  And we are preparing for a long cold snowy winter here in London we are told by the pundits of weather............like the chaotic winter of 2010.

But meanwhile I am looking forward to Covent Garden's new production of Orphée et Euridyce on Thursday - a first for me seeing it in French with a tenor (Florez).  It opened last night and promises to be "interesting" with two directors (Hofesh Shechter and John Fulljames) and a conductor (Gardiner) who always knows exactly what he wants.  We shall see - the ingredients look tasty anyway with Lucy Crowe and Amanda Forsythe joining Juan Diego Flórez to complete the small cast.

I am staying pit in London until I leave for Gütersloh for the Neue Stimmen finals on October 17. What luxury....!

 

4 months ago | |
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Along with many others I am taking it easy before the new season of activity starts in September.  I have been going full steam ahead since April - I will now be on holiday until September 12.

But there are exciting things coming up - lots of good things from both our opera companies as well as concerts galore at the Barbican and on the South Bank.  The touring operations of English Touring Opera and Glyndebourne will be worth paying attention to as well.  And of course in October we have the finals of Neue Stimmen in Germany.  And no doubt I will have some other travels........

Meanwhile enjoy what is left of your holidays, and may my American friends have a happy Labor Day weekend.

5 months ago | |
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LehnhoffThe death of Nikolaus Lehnhoff in Berlin last Saturday was announced by his family today. His many friends and colleagues in the UK, Canada and the USA will join with his family and colleagues in Europe in mourning a remarkable artist and a dear friend.

His relationship with Glyndebourne was central to a good proportion of his career.  He initiated a Janácek cycle in Sussex with Andrew Davis, he then joined me again in Toronto where he brought huge distinction to productions of Cosi and Don Giovanni, and we then worked together again in Baden-Baden in 1998 where he directed the Eugene Onegin for the European Union Opera.

But he is revered above all in the UK for his work at Glyndebourne - and for his extraordinary gift of friendship to the Glyndebourne "family" with whom he found himself as an artist and a person. He was greatly loved......

5 months ago | |
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