Classical Music Buzz
Gegen der Dummheit
Mysterious Lutoslawski Ravel Salonen Philh...
Esa-Pekka Salonen's Witold Lutoslawski series at the Royal Festival Hall confirms his reputation as an authoritative Lutoslawski interpreter. He knew the composer personally, but more importantly understands his idiom intuitively. In this superb concert, Salonen and the Philharmonia brought out the strange, intangible duality that makes Lutoslawski's music so intriguing. Salonen's Philharmoinia series follows Simon Rattle's Lutoslawski series last year with the Berliner-Philharmoniker. Both conductors bring their own insights. Comparison is pointless. Salonen, however, has the edge because he stresses the elusive nature of the music. In this programme, he paired Lutoslawski with Ravel with surprising results: Ravel has rarely sounded so magical.
Ma mère l'oye
is best known as a ballet, but it's not necessarily episodic story telling. Instead of crude cartoon colours, Salonen and the Philharmonia produced luminous, gossamer-like textures infused with light. If the tempi were a little slow, it was defined with real delicacy of touch, so it really did feel that the music was hovering in mid-air. This was Mother Goose for adults, with hints of hidden terrors.
In his extensive writings, Lutoslawski said that we hear music in the context of our feelings. Salonen's Ravel thus created a mood from which Lutoslawski 's
Symphony no 4
(1988-92) flowed naturally. This symphony is short, but in 22 minutes it unfolds with the compactness of a much larger piece. Dark chords suggest foreboding. A solo clarinet appears, its bright textures luring us deeper into the piece. Strident strings suggest alarm, or danger : the pace quickens, pauses and returns with wild, driven legato. Strings like whips, faced off by a solo trumpet, piano, and a trio of trombones. Perhaps we are in some strange forest, where the flute flutters like an elusive woodbird. The whole orchestra soars towards a wild climax, which suddenly disintegrates once more to solo clarinet and flute. A short passage for small drum and percussion, oddly reminiscent of
The Rite Of Spring
and the music disappears, elusively. What might Lutoslawski be suggesting? Primed by Ravel, I thought of Jean Cocteau's film
La Belle et la Bête.
Lutoslawski's 4th is a Salonen speciality. He recorded it within months of the premiere. We were privileged indeed to hear him conduct it with the Philharmonia.
Matthias Goerne was the soloist in Lutoslawski's
Les espaces du sommeil
(1975). This was written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, but Goerne is well on the way to putting his distinctive stamp on the piece. The text is by Robert Desnos, the surrealist who died in Terezin. Lutoslawski's setting has a hallucinatory quality. Extremes of pitch and volume unsettle any sense of repose. Fischer-Dieskau's voice has a lovely smoky quality on his recording, but Goerne's approach connects more deeply to the character of the music. "
Dans le nuit....les for
êts s'y heurtent confusément avec les créatures de légende et cachées dans les fourrées
." Goerne begins with a half whispered growl at the lower end of his register, blossoming forth into bright, clear colours that dissipate as soon as they're uttered. Goerne makes us listen to the composer, rather than to the beauty of the singing per se. His voice is dignified, suggesting the hypnotic pulse of sleep, while his sharp diction reminds us that the mind is alert.
Les espaces du sommeil
is a lovely piece but its true wonders lie in its mysteries. Protracted applause after this piece, and shouts of "Bravo!" which we don't often hear from staid RFH audiences.
Chain 2: Dialogues for Violin and Orchestra
(1984-85) is one of three otherwise unrelated pieces in which the composer explores the idea of a "chain" formed of interbraided links. It is almost more than straightforward concerto. In
, as Charles Bodman Rae writes in hisexcellent notes, "the strands are independent both melodically and harmonically, and their phrases begin and end in different places. The trick is in combining them into a coherent whole." Jennifer Koh was the soloist, playing with great verve and freedom. Some passages reach such high tessitura that one thinks of Szymanowski, though that might not be deliberate on Lutoslawski 's part. The two composers may be Polish, but they occupied very different worlds.
Salonen and the Philharmonia concluded with Ravel's
. My companion had heard snippets of this as members of the orchestra were tuning. We wondered, surely they must know the work so well they hardly need to practise? Perhaps the reason was that this wasn't any ordinary
, but a much more unusual interpretation. This waltz sounds as if it were being heard through a dream, a dance recreated through the prism of memory and distance. Ravel himself described it as "an impression of a fantastic, fatal whirling motion" Just as we'd heard Lutoslawsk's Fourth through the prism of Ravel, we now hear Ravel through the prism of Lutoslawski. Mysterious, elusive and surreal.
Photo : Wlodzimierz Pniewski & Lech Kowalski 1992
2 months ago
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Perceptive overview of books on Britten
It's Britten's centenary, and there's a big demand for books about him. But there;s precious little "new" information to unearth. The sensationalist syphilis story has been thoroughly debunked. It's a great angle for the prurient public but bears little relationship to reality. I'm quite appalled at how superficial, and even homophobic, some of the material is. Read my article
riangles and Britten biography
. There are so many aspects of Britten that could be explored, like his relationship with his father, and his connections to conventional British music circles. In the absence of new information, there's an even greater need for interpretive depth. That demands more academic rigour than tabloid journalism. It also benefits from genuine musical awareness. At last,
is an perceptive analysis, worth all the other "reviews" put together. Indeed, I might say, more perceptive than some of the books.
2 months ago
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Zamponi Ulysses on the Island of Circe
Last chance to catch an opera you may never hear again : Giuseppe Zamponi's
Ulisse all'isola di Circe.
Né probablement à Rome vers 1615, Gioseffo Zamponi fait carrière dans les Pays-Bas du Sud en entrant, en 1648, au service de l’archiduc Léopold-Guillaume, gouverneur des Pays-Bas. Son opéra
Ulisse nell’isola di Circe
, le premier opéra de style italien joué dans les Pays-Bas du Sud, est créé à Bruxelles le 24 février 1650 lors du mariage de Philippe IV d’Espagne avec Marie-Anne d’Autriche. On sait que le spectacle fut rejoué à Bruxelles, en 1655, pour la reine Christine de Suède, avant d’être ressuscité en 2006
". Strange choice for wedding music since Circe was a sorceress who murdered her husband and lives imprisoned on an island where she weaves sinister spells, surrounded by savage beasts who are in her thrall. When Ulysses's men land on the island they are turned into pigs. One wonders who the lions and wolves might have been ? Many rare operas are rare for a good reason, but
Ulisse all'isola di Circe i
s a genuine discovery.
Perhaps it's because the performance is exceptionally good. The ensemble is Clematis, highly respected European baroque specialists. Clematis is conducted here by Leonardo García-Alarcón, who helped found the group in 2001. Why Clematis? Clematis is "a
delightfully scented flower that represents the principles of idealism and of creativity. Such a name for an ensemble specialising in baroque music is more than justified, for it is creative in that this repertoire can only live if it receives an interpretation based on inspiration and renewal; it is idealistic in that such creative inspiration must of necessity be based on a great respect for the work as it appears in its original sources.
" Poetry like that perfectly describes their grace and refinement. Period instruments are unfairly maligned because they are misunderstood, but they are essential to the whole baroque aesthetic. This performance is outstanding. a perfectly poised balance of energy and refinement, Instruments and voices blend in perfect rococco elegance. Listen to
and to the "distorted" music that describes the effects of Circe's magic potions, and to the ballets which would have been integral to the opera.
The soloists are high level too. Cappella Mediterranea is another specialist ensemble whose members work closely together as well as pursuing separate careers. Céline Scheen sings Circe and Furio Zanasi sings Ulisse. Interesting sexual tension between them : attraction and repulsion in equal measure. Dominique Vlisse, the countertenor, sings Argesta, doing a long monologue in an "animal" voice. Indeed, lots of "animal" noises and banter in this opera, which must be why it was once so popular. Venus (Mariana Flores) and Mercury (Zachary Wilder) intervene. Baroque was not boring ! This performance took place at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in 2012. Catch it on
BBC Radio 3
for a few more hours.
2 months ago
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Verdi I Lombardi - UC Opera Bloomsbury
Don't miss UC Opera's Verdi
at the Bloomsbury Theatre.
are almost companion pieces, and the Royal Opera House is doing Verdi
from 30th March, on a much grander scale, for
suits grand designs. So if you're going to the ROH
, it's worth seeing the UC Opera
Visually, the UC Opera
i is so striking that it would stun audiences in bigger houses with better facilities. The drama starts with a simple, dark backdrop, a monochrome tower, a bright telephone box. The impact is immediate. Verdi set
at the time of the First Crusade to conceal its message at a time when much of Italy, once the seat of the Roman Empire, was ruled by foreign powers.This isn't really a battle between Lombardy and Antioch. The Lombards are tearing each other apart with rivalries, rather than facing their true enemies. In Verdi's time, Italy was a disunited conglomeration of small states that could not rise above petty self-interest towards a greater goal.
Although Christian themes dominate the opera,
is not anti-Muslim as such. Oronte, the prince of Antioch, becomes a Christian without much inner anguish. One can read a nod here to Italian nationalism, since Italians dominated the church, although the Austrians, also Catholic, dominated the state in Northern Italy.Verdi must have been aware of the impact Griselda's hymn to the Virgin Mary would have on audiences. Caught up in reverence, they might, for a moment, forget the pettiness of worldly values and unite in the contemplation of more noble ideals. In the chorus "Jerusalem !", nearly everyone on stage joins in unison, transfixed by the vision before them.
This staging, designed by Will Bowen, directed by Jamie Hayes, and produced by Rosie Hughes, places the action in a land that hovers between modernity and a fading memory of the past, just as Giselda inhabits an alien land far away from her origins. Phone booths are relics. We don't communicate like that much now. This is an allusion to the theme of nostalgia that runs through the opera and fuels visions of an idealized future. The Tower is a Victorian photo of a real pub in The City of London, which you can still visit.. Once it was a tavern where cock fighting took place. It's a subtle detail but cogent. The Lombards are acting out a cock-fight on a grand scale.
Ellan Parry's costumes also follow this theme of unspecified timelessness. We could be at any time in the last century, or in the present. The men wear sharp suits, as so many Italians aspire to, but preen themselves on machismo. Without true religion, crusaders are no more than street gangs spreading their turf. At the end, chorus and remaining soloists stand together, their faces shining as they contemplate Jerusalem, at last within sight. We don't need to see a mock up. We can hear it in the orchestra and in the voices of the singers, and see it in their shining faces. Jerusalem isn't a physical place but a state of mind.
UC Opera is part professional, part amateur so the performances were good enough. Charles Peebles conducted. Katharina Blumenthal sang Griselda with firm assurance. John Mackenzie sang Pagano/the Hermit, pushing a supermarket trolley with neon cross. This was wittier than you'd expect. Pagano means "pagan", and the Hermit is an outsider, who has taken a vow of poverty. In these drab surroundings, the jewel colours of the cross shone even more brightly. Jeff Stuart sang Arvino and Adam Smith was a heroic Oronte. Sally Harrison sang Viclinda and Carola Darwin sang Sophia. Andrew Doll sang the Prior. Edward Cottell sang Pirro and Joseph Dodd was a distinctive Acciano.
For more information, see the
UC Opera website.
Read the full review
here on Opera Today
2 months ago
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Royal Opera House - new Executive Director
The Royal Opera House has just announced that Alex Beard will take over as Executive Director, after the departure of Tony Hall. Beard is a surprise choice but that's refreshing - he doesn't come from the usual performing arts cliques, and doesn't owe anything to anyone. A position like this needs someone with fresh objectives, who can support the new creative management at ROH, without too much baggage of his own. Beard is currently Deputy Director of the Tate Gallery, and its nation-wide group of galleries, which gives him experience broader than "just" London. The Tate is huge, and financially solid, which is more than can be said for many organizations. Beard is also on the board at Glyndebourne, so he knows opera, opera patrons and how the business really works from inside. He's also only 49, despite his long experience, which may suggest he has a good future ahead of him.
"He brings a wealth of managerial experience from his very successful partnership with Nick Serota at Tate, as well as the insights and perspectives that this role has given him.", says Simon Robey, Chairman of the Royal Opera House Board of Trustees. "I am confident he will forge excellent partnerships with our artistic leadership and our executive team, and that they will, together, lead the Opera House to still greater heights.”
Beard wasn't the person I was dreaming of when I speculated on who might be the new head at ROH. That man was more of a wild card, being so "European". Some of the other possible candidates were interesting, some would have been bad news. So Alex Beard looks like an inspired choice.
2 months ago
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Wagner Die Feen Chelsea Opera Group
The Chelsea Opera Group brought Wagner's
to the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Although some of the singing was very good indeed, the performance was, to be kind, somewhat rough and ready. But this was precisely why it entertained. Wagner's
was written when he was only 20.years old. It's a work of exuberant teenage enthusiasm. To give it the polished sheen of his mature work would spoil its naive charm.
Growing up in Leipzig and Dresden, there was no way Wagner would not have been influenced by Carl Maria von Weber. Echoes of Weber keep resounding throughout
, making us recognize just how great a debt Wagner owed Weber and the whole early Romantic aesthetic, which itself stems from the baroque. That's why it is essential to appreciate operas that might not be "modern taste", like
Listening through the blinkers of modern taste is bigotry. We can't appreciate Wagner fully without understanding his roots. Although we recognize references to Mozart and Beethoven, the Weber references dominate. Weber, Mendelssohn and Schumann might have been heading in terms of creating new forms of music theatre. We're blinded by modern taste to think mainly in terms of late 19th century style.
is interesting because it shows Wagner working within Weber's style without much success. The ensemble writing, for example, isn't elegant. We need to wait for the quintet in
before Wagner releases true good-natured harmony.
It's also interesting to hear how much
suggests about Wagner's later work. Even at this early stage in his career, Wagner is not following conventional icons, but developing his own. Ada is half-fairy, half-mortal, like Loge. She must hide her identity from Arindal, though they love each other and have raised a family. Lohengrin merely sails away from Eva on his swan-ship. Arindal and Ada are cursed with a ferocity that makes the curse of the Ring look tame. Ada is imprisoned not by a ring of fire but by a block of stone, from which she can only be released by love. The fairies in
are warrior-like precursors of the Valkyries. Even Lora, Ada's sister, is formidable, more Brünnhilde than fairy tale princess.
Some of the best music in
is written for the female voices. Ada's call for action is stunning, then completely upstaged by Ada's long, stirring monologue. It feels like a duel between voices as well as between roles. For me, Act 2 made the whole evening worthwhile. Kristin Sharpin, as Ada, in particular, was impressive, especially the
monologue, with its sudden leaps up the scale. There's
chorus, too, but the solo writing is infinitely sharper. Why don't we hear more of Sharpin? It takes some doing to trump Elisabeth Meister, whom we all know and love, and who was a superlative Lora. But Wagner gave Ada the bigger part.
David Danbolt sang Arindal, another huge part complete with mad scene, a reference to
, where the hero is unmanned by love and grief. Early Romantic plots may seem ludicrous to us, but to audiences in their time, elaborate plots reflected the sagas of the baroque. When
Robert le Diable
came to London, someone sneered that the production didn't take the opera seriously enough. But neither did Meyerbeer nor the generations who flocked to performances. The idea that everything has to be realistic, or that every word counts is an affectation that stems from much later. Wagner created the revolution, but he learned to do so from the early Romantic interest in individualism, poetry and philosophy.
Good cameos from the soloists who included Mark Stone as Morald, Lora's lover, Andrew Slater as Gernot and Andrew Rees as Morald. Emma Carrington sang Farzana and Eva Ganizate sang Zemina, Ada's fairy handmaidens who resolve the convoluted plot by showing Arindal how to save Ada.
I'd really like to hear
with period instruments, to release the rambunctious energy in the opera. It isn't a great opera by any means, but if all we ever listened to was "great", our culture would be impoverished. In this Wagner anniversary year, we don't necessarily need more re-runs of repertoire we already know. Despite the ropey orchestra and chorus, this
was worth hearing because it was done with such enthusiasm. Better that a million times than stilted, superficial performances that take themselves too seriously and teach us nothing. The Chelsea Opera Group are largely amateurs, so it's much more important that they're emotionally engaged and enthusiastic. Please also read
Mark Berry's review
, which will also appear in Opera Today.
2 months ago
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ROH 2013-2014 Linbury Studio Theatre
The Royal Opera House main hall
is good. The more you delve the more intriguing it gets. Same, too, for the 2013-2014 season in the Linbury Studio Theatre. Real cutting edge stuff coming up, but tried and trusted too. What a pity that the Linbury is too small to accomodate the audience it could attract. Plus, the seating is so cramped that anyone over 40 or 5 foot 6 cannot sit in comfort. Perhaps ROH should be thinking like Nicholas Kenyon at the Barbican, who is outsourcing medium sized events outside the main building. The Linbury is fine for bijou miniatures, but some of the performances here are important enough, and popular enough, to merit the performance spaces they deserve.
First off :
The Wasp Factory
, based on Iain Banks's cult novel, with a libretto by David Pountney. It describes "the disturbing acts of a psychopathic teenager ..... as part of a self-invented warrior cult, he uses a home made apparatus called the Wasp Factory to determine whom he will kill next and how.". Composer and director is Ben Frost. This is a co-production with Bregenz, Hebbel-am-Ufer, The Holland Festival and the Cork Midsummer Festival, which sounds promising.
Then a really big double bill: Mark-Anthony Turnage's
and Salvatorre Sciarrino's
The Killing Flower (Luci mie traditrici)
which tells the story of Carlo Gesualdo, artist and murderer. Sciarrino is one off the biggest names in contemporary music, His music is beautifully poised and magical. Don't let the subject matter deter you any more than the subject matter of George Benjamin's
Written on Skin.
). Sciarrino is a sensitive and very well informed composer, so it's quite possible the work will be filled with references to Gesualdo's music, interpreted through a modern perspective. Read more about Sciarrino
. That's him in the photo above. Cool dude!
Another reason Sciarrino's
The Killing Flower
should not be missed is that it's being produced by Music Theatre Wales, the innovative company that specializes in interesting new music, like Philip Glass's
Into the Penal Colony
) which Glass liked so much that he's written a new opera specially for them, also based on Kafka.
is in the pipeline for 2015. We're truly lucky that they have an arrangement with ROH. The only other place they're doing this double bill is at the Buxton Festival.
The Killing Flower
is being paired with Mark-Anthony Turnage's
, not in the original production but a relatively new Music Theatre Wales exclusive from 2011. This is the opera that made Turnage's name when he was an angry young man. Read more about it
Music Theatre Wales is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a good touring programme. More about that
For the Christmas/New Year season, a family opera from Julian Philips, whose
The Yellow Sofa
is a big hit at Glyndebourne Touring Opera. Philips used to be a fixture at the Wigmore Hall, a genuinely erudite and perceptive man, of whom there are far too few. His music is good, too, accessible and stimulating. When he writes for kids he doesn't write "down" at all. This is how you capture the imagination of future audiences : give them good work and all else follows
How the Whale Became
, to a libretto by Edward Kemp, is based on Ted Hughes's
The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales.
In February, a curiosity, Tippett's
paired with Britten's
. Tippett and Britten aren't natural bedfellows, and one might say this combines the best of Tippett and worst of Britten. Anyone familiar with both operas will gasp at the logistics, particularly in a place like the Linbury. There's something so strange about this that a friend suggested that each might be done on different nights, which makes sense, but why do both? I won't speculate as uninformed guesswork is the enemy of good sense. The English Touring Opera toured with
(on its own) last year.
sounds like a big departure from his usual style. It was devised as a companion piece to Gounod's
which will be on at the Main House in April 2014, so it might be a humorous experiment rather than a through-composed new opera. Working with electronic sound artist Matthew Herbert,
is about a composer frustrated by convention, who is seduced by Mefistofeles in the form of a super computer. "Soon he is using his music to manipulate and physically control the world with thrilling but deadly consequences". Probably witty and this time not above the heads of the London press.
ROH is collaborating with the Aldeburgh Music Festival and Opera North for another double bill, featuring as yet un-named operas by Elspeth Brooker and Francisco Coll. This will be Brooke's biggest ever break. Coll is a protégé of Thomas Adès who calls him "strikingly individual". But the libretto is by Meredith Oakes, so the Adès connection may weigh heavily.
will have its UK premiere at the Linbury in June 2014. This is a major work, premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2011 and then at Teatro alla Scala, Milan. It was produced by La Fura dels Baus no less. This will, however, be a completely new production co-produced with the London Sinfonietta and Opéra de Rouen, directed by ROH Associate Director John Fulljames. That alone guarantees it will be good.
is loosely based on a play itself based on Choderlos de Laclos'
Les Liaisons dangereuses
, which isn't a novel so much as a series of letters through which the tightly plotted strategems are revealed. I think it would suit Francesconi, whose chamber music is exqusitely detailed and tightly constructed, The Arditti Quartet champion his work: he's very good indeed. Surprisingly, Tony Pappano is another fan, which ups his street cred no end. Although the opera is as compact as the story, this will be one of the most important new music events in years: the Linbury just doesn't have the capacity to give this opera the space its audience needs. Why this isn't at Snape or QEH or even Spitalfields, I don't know. It needs only two singers but "a vast symphony orchestra and chorus" plus recorded samples over live music.
Linbury 2013-2014 ends on a fun note with HK Gruber's
Gloria - a pigtail.
Anyone who knows HK Gruber will know how eclectic his inventions can be, mixing genres with wit and dark humour.
is the story of "a
pig princess looking for love who is dazzled and wooed by a prince who turns out to be a butcher but at the last moment is saved from the chop by Rudi The Wild Boar
". Shades of Gesualdo thru Austrian comic book? The director will be Frederic Wake-Walker, the production by The Opera Group, Fulljames' original company. Again, their work is so good that this will be a season highlight.
2 months ago
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Thrilling Royal Opera House 2013-2014 seas...
"Plenty of meat, and juicy bits" says Kaspar Holten about the new Royal Opera season 2013-2014. Seven new productions on the main stage, Five new commissions, and 2 UK premieres in the Linbury Studio Theatre. Three Strauss operas,
with Joyce DiDonato, in the production from Barcelona, TWO operas with Karita Mattila (Marie and Ariadne), TWO Jonas Kaufmann appearances (Des Grieux and in recital). Luca Pisaroni makes his ROH debut as Figaro, Bryan Hymel returns as Henri in
Les vêpres siciliennes
, Mariuz Kweicien sings Don Giovanni, Joseph Calleja, Anna Netrebko and Bryn Terfel star in Gounod
, Placido Domingo conducts
....... so much else.
This season's so exciting that it will take time to digest. As Holten indicated, if you care, you aim to do the best you can. In this world nothing is perfect, but if your heart is in the right place, you have integrity. That's the kind of commitment I admire. With Holten and Pappano, we won't get boring or dull. I'll write about the more specialized Linbury Studio Theatre programmes later because they're good. But here are the main house highlights.
Verdi : Les v
(17 Oct -11 Nov 2013) Top class singing - Bryan Hymel, Marina Poplavskaya, Erwin Schrott, and Michael Volle. This should be very different, but stimulating.Dance fans will compete to see this because it's not the usual
I vespri siciliani
but the original French version with the half-hour ballet. Royal ballet dancers will be joined by dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet. "It will be spectacular" said Holten, and Pappano beamed in agreement. It's what he does well. It won't be a cheap production, but quite extravagant. The director will be Stefan Herheim which will be even more intriguing. Herheim is controversial, but extremely well respected.(see my review of
here) The anti-brigade will be up in arms, but that's their loss. Herheim is well regarded as a Wagner director, (Parsifal, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser etc so consider what's next :
Wagner : Parsifal
(30 Nov - 15 Dec 2013). This will be directed by Stephen Langridge with the same team as behind his Birtwistle
, reviewed here. What's he going to make of the pseudo Christian iconography? René Pape sings Gurnemanz as he did in the recent Met
Religion or Religiosity?
, and has indeed done the role so many times he probably owns it. Simon O'Neill sings Parsifal and Angela Denoke sings Kundry.
Strauss : Die Frau ohne Schatten
(14 March - 2 April 2014). This will be the production from Milan, directed by Claus Guth. Much the same cast as in Milan - John Botha, Elena Pankratova, Emily McGee and Michaela Schuster. The other Strauss operas this season are
(Christine Goerke in the Charles Edwards production, read more
) and Ariadne auf Naxos (
une, July 2014). It will be interesting to compare this
Ariadne auf Naxos
, directed by Christof Loy with the Glyndebourne
Ariadne auf Naxos
(Katharina Thoma). ROH has Karita Mattila, Glyndebourne has Soile Isokoski.
Poulenc : Les Dialogues des Carmélites
( 9 May- 7 June 2014) Simon Rattle conducts an excellent cast : Magdalena Kožená, Annas Prohaska, Emma Bell, Deborah Polaski and Sophie Koch. Robert Carsen directs.
Puccini : Manon Lescaut
(17 June - 7 July 2014) Following the Massenet
revival in January, this is a new production, with an all-star cast: Jonas Kaufmann, Kristine Opolais, and Christopher Maltman. Antonio Pappano conductrs. Jonathan Kent is the director.
Mozart : Don Giovanni
(1 - 24 February 2014). Mariusz Kweicin makes this a must, but look at the rest of the cast - Véronique Gens, Malin Bystrom, Alex Esposito, Elizabeth Watts. What makes this interesting, though, is that Kaspar Holten is directing. His film
) was a film based on Don Giovanni. This time he's directing Mozart's
. Quizzed about his
at the ROH, Holten said that it was his 64th directorial production. Although many critics panned it, including me, (
read more here
), many in the audience liked it. I can vouch for that, seated as I was surrounded by people who loved it. I'm glad I saw it because it was stimulating. I believe we should go to an opera to hear someone else's perspective. Whether we agree or not, what we learn from the experience is far more important than being judgemental.
photo : Peter Suranyi
2 months ago
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Edinburgh International Festival 2013
Edinburgh International Festival 2013 details are out now. The season starts on 9th August with Prokofiev's
, with mezzo Yulia Matochkina and the Edinburgh Festival Chorius. Royal Scottish National Orchestra are wonderful in Russian repertoire, so this will be worth hearing. Valery Gergiev conducts and Daniil Trifonov plays
Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3.
The next night will be just as dramatic, though very different. Edgard Varèse
, with Berio
Ilan Volkov conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with Synergy Vocals. Highly recommended. More Varèse later in an eclectic event by Ensemble MusicFabrik mixing Varèse with Frank Zappa with John Cage.
Then, Opéra Lyons brings a semi-staged Beethoven
to Edinburgh, conducted by Kazushi Ono, with a good cast including Erika Sunnegårdh and Nikolai Schukoff.
will be the highlight but consider a very different new
based on Berg but reinterpreted by Olga Neuwirth. It's directed by John Fulljames, and is a joint venture between The Opera Group and Scottish Opera, Bregenzer Festspiele and Young? Vic in association with the London Sinfonietta. Automatically this lifts it out of the ordinary. It's significant enough that there is no way it's not going to be heard later in London. Frankfurt Opera is presenting a double bill of
Dido and Aeneas.
Bartók and Purcell together? Frankfurt could pull this off, especially as it's directed by Barrie Kosky.
From Munich, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra with Mariss Jansons do two concerts, Beethoven Piano Concerto no 4 with Mitsuko Uchida, and Mahler's
Symphony no 2.
Daniele Gatti conducts Mahler's
on 30/8 with the Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam.
Definitely a must: René Jacobs conducting the superb Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Haydn Symphony no 104 "London" and Beethoven The Creatures of Prometheus on 25/8. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in Strauss, Haydn and Beethoven (Eroica).
Mitsuko Uchida is also doing a solo programme of Bach, Schoenberg and Schumann on 13/9. Nicolai Lugansky, Andreas Haeflinger, Olga Jegunova and Pierre-Laurent Aimard to come as well. Christophe Rousset is giving two harpsichord recitals, and also leading Les Talens Lyriques in a very interesting Couperin programme. Lugansky returns to play
with Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra.
Lots more, including Robin Ticciati, The Arditti Quartet, Gerhaher, Werner Güra, Dorothea Röschmann, Ian Bostridge, Véronique Gens and Bernarda Fink, Philip Glass, the Jacquin Trio, The Hebrides Ensemble, The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and more. Visit the
Edinburgh International Festival site HERE.
photo: Thanks to Stuart Craie from Edinburgh
2 months ago
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Opera elitist ? What "Big Question"?
Is opera elitist? That was the "Big Question" posed by a joint Telegraph and ROH event online yesterday. Perhaps the really big question should have been "What's the point?" As television goes it was embarrassingly amateur. As debate, it wasn't. Perhaps this is a symptom of the Anglo-Saxon need to dumb things down to the lowest possible level. Thank goodness for Mark-Anthony Turnage, who said "If this was Germany, we wouldn't be having this debate". Elitism is a construct which says more about those who use it as epithet than about the subject itself. So what if "the masses" think opera is elitist ? Opera doesn't become elitist because some people think it ought to be. And what's so wrong about elitism, anyway? What's wrong with artists trying to be the best they can possibly be? Do we want a culture based on mediocrity, simply because mediocrity isn't "elitist"?
Out came the usual clichés about ticket prices and suitable clothing, which have been defused long ago. Football and pop concert tickets can be more expensive than box seats at ROH. As for evening dress, some people actually like glamming up for a sense of occasion,. Social attitudes are projected onto opera which have nothing to do with it as art form. Opera has become a battleground in class war. In Anglo-Saxon society, it is misused as a status symbol. "I spend, therefore I have taste". And it's not just people who don't do opera. On any opera discussion group there'll be those bragging about how much they own/have travelled/have read etc. but precious little about what they've actually gained from the experience. In some cases it's bluff.
The whole issue of elitism can be defused by one simple solution. Listen. Listen to what's happening in the music, respond to the drama, enjoy and learn from whatever you experience. It does not matter how much you know or don't know, or what your status is, as long as you engage. As long as you're paying attention it doesn't matter what someone else is wearing, when to applaud, etc etc. It's not elitism we should be worrying about but snobbery. Unfortunately, it's human nature to be insecure, and to scam.
2 months ago
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