No secret as to what the biggest draw of the 2013 Proms would be - Wagner, almost the complete works. Daniel Barenboim, Proms favourite and great Wagner conductor, will lead the Staatskappelle Berlin through the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen. The one to really go for will be Die Walküre on 22/7 and Götterdämmerung on 28/7 because of the casts. Bryn Terfel, Nina Stemme, Eric Halfvarson, Simon O'Neill, Anja Kempe, Ekaterina Gruberova. Ian Storey, Mikhail Petrenko, Waltraud Meier (Waltraute) and many others. If this Ring isn't enough, there's Tristan und Isolde on 27/7 with Peter Seiffert, Kwangchul Youn, and Violetta Urmana. Semyon Bychov conducts the BBCSO, BBC Singers and chorus. There's a Tannhäuser, too, on 4/8 and of course Das Rheingold and Seigfried good and worth hearing, though not quite in this special league. Mark Ellder conducts the Hallé in Parsifal on 25/8 (Prom 47) with Lars Cleveman, Katarina Dalayman, Robert Holl and Iain Paterson.
Equally significant will be two very special Proms, Prom 4 on 14/7 (Bastille Day) and Prom 12 on 20/7. At the first, Stravinsky Le Sacre du Printemps will be framed by by ballet music from operas by Lully, Rameau, Délibes, and Massenet. This will be a significant Prom because the conductor François-Xavier Roth is a specialist in this repertoire, and brings with him the ensemble Les Siècles. For some reason, it's fashionable these days to discount the central importance of dance in French music. But the special connection goes back to the baroque, and helps define the character of French form. As Diaghilev was a well aware, Paris was where reputations were made.
The second special Prom will be "Viva Verdi!", where Antonio Pappano conducts his other band, The Academy of St Cecilia in Rome in a programme of Verdi which focuses on the composers non-operatic works, including the Four Sacred Pieces and the orchestral version of Verdi's String quartet. Next season, The Royal Opera House will be doing Verdi's Les vêpres siciliennes. This will be much more than "just another Verdi opera". This is the version with the glorious Four Seasons ballet. This will be a spectacular, because it's a joint venture between ROH, the Royal Ballet and the Danish Ballet, with which ROH Artistic Director Kasper Holten has connections. This Prom has significance beyond itself. On 5/9 (Prom 72) Joseph Calleja sings Verdi arias with the Orchestra sinfonica di Milano Guiseppe Verdi, who'll also be playing extracts of Verdi's orchestral music with Tchaikovsky's Manfred : an interesting juxtaposition.
In comparison The First Night of the Proms seems almost an anti climax, though of course it isn't. It's just overwhelmed by what comes afterwards. At Prom 1, Sakari Oramo will conduct Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony, a new work by Julian Anderson and two contrasting variations on Paganini (Rachmaninoff and Lutoslawski). Plenty of top level Proms ahead, major repertoire and major performers.
Szymaowski's Symphony No 3 "Song of the Night" on 18/7 with Thomas Søndergård, the fourth performance of the piece in just over a year. John Eliot Gardiner brings together Bach's Easter and Ascension Oratoria on 9th August (closer to the Catholic Feast of the Assumption) featuring the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists. Andrew Davis conducts Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage with a very strong cast. More Tippett on 20/8, with Ian Bostridge singing Britten's Les Illuminations.
Glyndebourne's Britten Billy Budd comes to the Proms on 27/8 (Prom 60) with Jacques Imbrailo who is the most outstanding Billy ever, so transcendently perfect in the role that he eclipses Vere (Mark Padmore) and Claggart (Brindley Sherratt). Towards the end of the season, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra does an all Bach programme conducted by Lorin Maazel. Perhaps the Last Night of the Proms will not be eclipsed this year. In any case the Last Night programme looks livelier than usual. Joyce DiDonato headlines. What a great party this will be with nthe Overture from Der Meistersinger, Verdi's "Va, Pensiero" and Harold Arlen's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" a song that was meant for the Last Night if ever there was.
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