To hear a concert performance of Smetana’s almost-forgotten Dalibor after witnessing a lavish production of Szymanowski’s comparably-ignored Krol Roger the night before, was to wish that these works could have swapped places, because while Szymanowski’s opera is dramatically inert and melodically barren, Smetana’s is a cornucopia of melody, intensely dramatic in every bar.
It’s always a relief to see something new at Covent Garden, and Kasper Holten’s production of Krol Roger by Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is the first in ROH history.
Whatever Stephen Hough plays, he either distils its essence or finds something strikingly new to say about it, and so it was with his Debussy and Chopin programme.
* Local roads were closed, ambulances were on standby. Microphones, suspended between trees, were ready to capture the blast of a Napoleonic cannon borrowed from a military academy. The fifth blast was deemed to be a "take"; the tape was taken back to the studio and dubbed 16 times into a recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. This recording, made in 1954, was the first one to follow the composer's instructions to the letter.
‘I sleep alone/ You have forgotten me/ I stare into midnight/ Neither honey nor bee’: Sappho’s fragmentary poems of love and loss continue to reverberate through the millennia, and are currently doing so with pristine force in a brilliantly-staged song-cycle by the Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas at the Linbury. We have seen the soprano Claire Booth directed by that lighting-magician Netia Jones before, and here they were joined by dancers Laure Bachelot and Rachel Maybank, but never has their creative chemistry worked so effectively.
Mozart’s piano concertos and Bach sonatas will surprise few Proms regulars in this year’s festival programme. Though eyebrows, and possibly hands, may be raised in the Royal Albert Hall over an orchestral celebration of Ibiza club classics.
The head of the beleaguered English National Opera (ENO) has vowed to protect the company’s full-time musicians after Arts Council England suggested they could be dropped to save money.
Daniel Barenboim may have been on the podium, but it was the figure at the piano – with whom as a boy he had briefly shared the same ferocious teacher – who guaranteed that the Festival Hall was filled to bursting, at the start of this year’s Barenboim Project.
Back in 2000, Simon Rattle, then music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, brought out a recording of a rarely performed masterpiece: the opera Król Roger (King Roger) by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). Throwing his weight behind the rehabilitation of this neglected composer, he once remarked: "I cannot talk objectively about Szymanowski, for you cannot expect objectivity or reasonability from someone in love. And reasonability is out of place when this music is concerned."
It took Covent Garden centuries to get round to staging Rossini’s light-hearted homage to Mozart, but when they did – with the directorial team of Moshe Leiser, Patrice Caurier, and Christian Fenouillat – they struck gold: now back in its fourth revival, this Turco is the biggest crowd-pleaser in their repertory.
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