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Brian Dickie
Life after 50 years in opera and still counting......
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I have had a few days of catching up with old friends and colleagues, and a few more to go this week.  Last week it was the perennial delight of seeing Tom Graham who is as relaxed and amusing as ever, a big heart and a sharp observer of our musical environment.  Nobody can get away with anything......!

The occasion was celebration of his 70th birthday.  He had three - one in New York and two here in London the first of which I missed as I was in Denmark.  As always at such events there were many old friends and colleagues - a happy occasion all round. 

On Monday I was delighted to see John Willan after quite a little time, for lunch at the excellent Union Café in Marylebone Lane.  John was boss of the LPO during my last years at Glyndebourne, had an immensely successful spell at BBC Worldwide, was co-founder of Hazard Chase, and has recently opened a new "boutique" management company - Percius - which is already making waves.

There were more reminiscences on Tuesday with Alexander Oliver coming to dinner at Battersea.  Sandy is in London to direct the Academy of Ancient Music's semi staged performance  of Poppea at the  Barbican on Saturday evening.  This takes us back to the beginnings of Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 1968 - and Sandy has just retired from the leadership of the Opera programme of the Amsterdam Conservatory.  So almost 50 years of stories!

And today Christopher Hunt, who is in London for a few days from his home in France, was another visitor to Battersea.  So more catching up again.......

This evening I am at the Royal Academy of Music for the first Opera Scenes event of their academic year.  More about that tomorrow.

 

3 months ago | |
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From the first bar of Otello last night at the Coliseum it was clear that we were in for an evening of great music making under the inspiring guidance of Edward Gardner. The ENO orchestra and chorus have delivered some spectacular performances under their music director in the last 12 months - great scores such as Peter Grimes and Benvenuto Cellini  come to mind, and now Otello .  It has been a rich period and he will be greatly missed - lucky (clever) Bergen to have him in succession to Andrew Litton.

Otello-ENO-Alistair-Muir© Alistair Muir/ENO

In the cast first and foremost were the superb performances of Stewart Skelton and Jonathan Summers (above). In addition there was a notable Cassio from Alan Clayton and some splendid full blooded singing from the Desdemona Leah Crocetto. An as always at ENO these days there was strong casting down to the last little detail.

David Alden is unerring in my view - such an intelligent and musical director whose work at ENO has over the years given such lustre to the house.

I hate to mention my unease with this piece in English - but the adjustment was relatively easy with such fine performanes in all departments............funny thing, did not get the same feeling with the recent Traviata and Rigoletto. Maybe it is just the unique character of the word Bacio!  Somehow "kiss" does not quite make the grade!

4 months ago | |
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It is a lovely day today in London but what a struggle to get here yesterday!  After my truly wonderful week in Odense, brilliantly organised, delightful people, calm and unhurried, I came down to earth with a bang!

First my SAS flight to London was cancelled.  They then assumed that it would be just fine to rebook me on a 7:30 am flight this morning.  Fortunately I was being handled by a super star customer service person who agreed that this was unacceptable.  If only he knew what I then went through!  The solution of flying on Lufthansa through Frankfurt seemed reasonable enough.  What then followed was an historic catalogue of ineptitude, lies, and rudeness!  It is not a good idea to fly economy on Lufthansa.  This company employs world champion patronising little officials in uniforms.

1.  We could not board the flight to Amsterdam because the wheelchair had not arrived to take a disabled passenger off the incoming flight until one hour after that flight arrived!

2. We were informed that the reason for the flight delay was weather - we knew better!

3. Transferring from the arrival gate to the departure gate was a marathon hike.  And passport control out of Germany into this non-Schengen country is a laborious, understaffed, and over zealous, therefore time consuming procedure.

4. The Frankfurst London flight departed 90 minutes late - weather was the explanation again - no one believed it!

5. My carry on, which has been with me unquestioned for a good 2500,000 miles during the last three years, including on the previous flight from Copenhagen to Frankfurt of course, was suddenly deemed to be too large!  And the miserable little creature who dealt with this issue might need some education in manners in addition to good customer  practice.........

I ended up four and a half hours late. Well many people, including me, have experienced worse on premium airlines that are their countries standard bearers - but almost always with good honest explanations and courteous helpful airline staff.

But Lufthansa will definitely not be seeing me sometime soon, if ever.

Apart from that dear readers I am feeling invigorated and happy after my week in Denmark and looking forward to being back there next year.  And this week my first operatic excitement will be Othello at ENO.  That will be on Thursday.

4 months ago | |
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back in London after a horror travel day - more detail tomorrow!

4 months ago | |
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Odense saturday market

Saturday is market day in front of the Concert Hall in Odense - and so it was this morning when I went out for another walk about in this delightful place.  But the focus of the day was the finals this evening.  They are now over and we have the winners.

First was Sébastian Jacot who has given mature performances all week

Second was Yukie Ota who also took no less than three other awards - the children's prize (voted by the children of Odense), the Orchestra Prize, voted by the orchestra, and the Public's prize.  A remarkable achievement. 

And third was the stunning 18 year old Korean Yaeram Park who throughout the competition showed extraordinary musical integrity - the only player to perform Berio's Sequenza by memory.

It was a fine evening of music making with the first rate Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by jury member Patrick Gallois.  To hear the Carl Nielsen Flute concerto three times in an evening was a real treat.  What a fine work it is.......

I am really sad to be leaving here tomorrow morning.  I will be leaving a lovely group of new friends and colleagues.  We have worked so happily together this last week, listening and eating together and sharing so much.  The competition has been beautifully managed by the Odense Symphony Orchestra and Nordic Artists teams, all co-ordinated by the ever cheerful, though overworked as they always are, project manager Georgina Mongaya Høgsholm.

I am looking forward to being back in Denmark next year when I will be on the jury of the Nikolai Malko conductors competition.

4 months ago | |
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Late night news - the three contestants who qualified this evening for the finals are:

Yukie Ota - the now world famous Butterfly girl from Japan by way of Chicago

Sébastian Jacot - a Swiss flautist from Geneva

Yaeram Park - an eighteen year old young woman from South Korea, studying in Paris

Tomorrow evening each will play the first movemment of one of the Mozart Flute concertos, and the Carl Nielsen Flute concerto, in its entirety of course.

Now for sleep - it was a long day.

4 months ago | |
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There was a spectacular concert by the eight flautist members of the jury yesterday evening - pure joyful music making by eight star players totally endowed with enthusiasm and joy, as well as skills of the highest order.

Flute playing members of my readership may particularly appreciate this for the repertoire for this kind of concert is full of riches largely unknown by the general music loving public.

We began with a delicious Trio Sonata in C major  by CPE Bach - played by András Adorján and Rune Most, with the excellent Leif Greibe at the piano, as he was all evening when required. This was followed by the star trio of Patrick Gallois, Robert Langevin and Raffaele Trevisiani with Kuhlau's Op 13 no 2 for three flutes.  The amazing duo of Danish flautists Thomas Jensen and Toke Lund Christiansen then gave us a suite from Carl Nielsen's Aladdin music - four dances arranged by Toke - and a phenomenally entertaining thing it is.  It is wonderful material for any occasion when two outstanding players are available.  This was followed by an intensely musical performance of two of Schumann's Op 94 Romances, played by Robert Langevin.

The great Pierre-Yves Artaud then took his piccolo from his pocket saying that he doesn't really like it.  But he wrote a piece for it fifteen years ago just to see whether it would be possible to play with elaborate extended techniques on "this little machine" and actually produce a pianissimo. Well of course he did with this splendid little piece Eole (this is the French name for the Greek God of winds.) So you flautists out there who haven't tried this do so - its fun and its composer brought the house down!

Pierre-Yves continued with a performance of Yoshihisa Taïra's Filigrane for flute and piano - another fascinating piece pushing way beyond what I thought to be the boundaries of what is possible with the flute. This week has been an education indeed!

András then played Wilhelm Popp's Opus 407 (!) - a splendid czardas for flute and piano called Gruss an Ungarn.  At last something in András's mother musical tongue, albeit written by a German.

After a short pause we had something more conventional though no less delicious - Mozart's Flute Quartet K 285, played by Rune Most with colleagues from the Odense orchestra, and the evening ended with the Denisov piece illustrated in my blog yesterday!

It was a joyful evening amongst a group of amazing characters who adore their instrument and clearly love and respect each other.  This was the very best of professional music making - and it was a huge privilege to have been there with them.

This morning we had the first half of the semi finals.  This evening we have the rest with orchestra. In the meantime I took another quick spin around town on this sunny afternoon.  It is a delightful place!

Odense Friday walk
The garden of the Hans Christian Andersen house, Odense

4 months ago | |
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There has been live streaming of the competition this week.  Today we have the semi-finals - this morning from 10:00 European time until 2:00 pm, and this evening from 7:30 to 10:30.  This evening is with orchestra, giving you the opportunity to hear CPE Bach's splendid D minor concerto no less than five times, and a rare chance to hear a beautiful concerto by François Devienne, his seventh.

The live stream comes from Danish radio.  Do try to look in - things are getting exciting.  And our Butterfly girl, Yukie Ota, is bound to be a great attraction!

You can see the precise timetable and repertoire by following this link.

4 months ago | |
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Odense evening walk

We are in Denmark's third city and a short walk around the centre at 5:30 pm indicates that this is a quiet town in step with the gentle nature of Denmark and the Danes.

Odense evening walk-2

I did not stray too far from the Radisson Hotel and the Concert Hall which comprise our base camp.  It was leasurely and peaceful, just what is needed before the excitiement of eight flutes in full cry this evening.

Odense evening walk-3

There is not a lot of traffic even at what might in other places be considered to be rush hour. The main hazards are cyclists who are well catered for although I get the cycle tracks and pedestrian areas confused.....

Odense evening walk-4

I was on a cycle track to take this photo of the Tin Soldier - but leapt clear in time to tell the tale.......

4 months ago | |
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Flute Jury

This evening we have a concert by the jury - less the one non flute playing member!  Above you see them this morning rehearsing a piece by Edison Denisov for eight flutes - variations on the Priests' March from The Magic Flute.  And it is dedicated to one of our jury members, András Adorján.

They are - from the left - Raffaele Trevisani, Rune Most, Robert Langevin, Patrick Gallois, András Adorján, Thomas Jensen, Pierre-Yves Artaud, and Toke Lund Christiansen

Eight great hard working people!  And they have spent much of the rest of the day rehearsing for this evening's concert and giving masterclasses for the students of the Orchestra Academy here in Odense.

Flute Jury-2

Rune Most, Toke Lund Christiansen, and Robert Langevin before this morning's rehearsal

It is another beautiful day here in Odense, and I must get out a little to enjoy the September northern sunshine.

4 months ago | |
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