July 31, 2020

Snape Maltings Concert Hall to reopen for live performances with audience from 7 August

Bringing together some of the musicians who would have performed during this year’s Aldeburgh Festival and Snape Proms, in addition to other star performers, Britten Pears Arts will be offering short concerts every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There will be two performances per day (2pm & 7pm), as well as a host of free pop-up outdoor performances throughout the summer.

The first weekend (7 – 9 Aug) will feature pianist Antonio Pappano performing with violinists Vilde Frang and Anthony Marwood, viola player Lawrence Power, cellist Nicolas Alstaedt and tenor Ian Bostridge. This will include the first concert performance of Daylonging, Slacktide for solo viola, by Cassandra Miller, who was due to be a featured composer at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival. The second weekend (14 – 16 Aug) will welcome pianists Christian Blackshaw (14 Aug), Barry Douglas (15 August) and Imogen Cooper (16 Aug). Tickets for the first two weekends go on sale on Saturday 1 August at 10am.

Future performances include the Chineke! Chamber Ensemble (21 Aug); violinist Tasmin Little and pianist Martin Roscoe (22 Aug); a cello and piano recital by Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason (23 Aug); singer and entertainer Joe Stilgoe (28 Aug); Toby Spence (tenor) and John Ryan (horn) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra strings conducted by Edward Gardner (29 Aug) and accordionist Samuele Telari (30 Aug). The ticket on sale date will be announced soon.

The programme beyond August will be revealed next month and will feature a broad range of music, with artists including saxophonist Jess Gillam, pianists Clare Hammond and Julian Joseph, folk musicians Kathryn Tickell and Amy Thatcher, and the Elias Quartet. There will also be opportunities for young musicians to perform, as part of Britten Pears Arts year-round programme of support and development.

To give as many people as possible the opportunity to enjoy the return of live music at Snape Maltings, Britten Pears Arts is offering an innovative ticket approach for its afternoon concerts. Every 2pm performance across the weekends will be ‘Pay What You Can’, so that audiences can hear 45 minutes of high-quality live music at a price they feel they can afford. All evening performances will be priced at £15 per ticket.

Roger Wright, Chief Executive, Britten Pears Arts said, ‘The impact of the pandemic continues to be enormously challenging for the performing arts sector. We have all greatly missed the thrill of live music-making and can’t wait to welcome musicians and audiences back to Snape Maltings Concert Hall. With the current guidelines and with safety as our top priority, we are fortunate that you have to drive, cycle or walk to Snape and, once here, that we have a large amount of space and fresh air, making it relatively straightforward to offer the necessary distance for the public. We hope to see old friends and make new ones through our ‘Pay What You Can’ afternoon performance offer. As one of the first music venues and organisations to pilot a return to indoor concerts, we are aiming to help build confidence again in the presentation of live events and will share our learnings with colleagues in the music sector.’

These concerts are part of a pilot scheme to get live music with live audiences happening again. The safety of Britten Pears Arts’ audience, artists and staff is its top priority, and this may mean that line-ups, capacity and pricing may change at short notice.

Full listings and tickets for the first two weekends online at www.snapemaltings.co.uk Tel: 01728 687110

Posted by claire_s at 1:40 AM

The Grange Festival presents Precipice, an outdoor promenade performance

The musical scenes will include Sir John Tomlinson performing a Hans Sachs monologue from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, whilst soprano Kiandra Howarth and mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones, both prize winners at the Grange Festival International Singing Competition 2019, will present the flower duet from Delibes’ Lakmé. John Andrews conducts members of The Grange Festival Chorus and others in performances of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Francis Poulenc and Lili Boulanger, as well as John Tavener and Caroline Shaw. 

Dance@TheGrange has always been an integral part of the annual festival, and Precipice features works by two leading choreographers. Shobana Jeyasingh will stage Mini Contagion performed by members of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance, whilst South African dancer and choreographer Mthuthuzeli November of Ballet Black has created a new piece for the final scene of Precipice. The full company also includes performance artists and acrobats. 

Precipice has been conceived in precise adherence to current government guidelines for outdoor assembly. 

Michael Chance comments: “The journey which the audience will be asked to take is on many levels: physical, emotional and philosophical. It is a response to the extreme challenges of this very moment in all our lives but is ultimately a demonstration of the power of live music, dance, theatre and art as a source of meaning and hope and redemption.” 

Tickets for Precipice are available from 4 August 2020. 

Posted by claire_s at 1:29 AM

Opera Holland Park returns for a series of outdoor performances this summer

Opera Holland Park (OHP) will present a series of outdoor performances this summer in the space where the theatre normally stands. The company held its first concert since lockdown this weekend. The performance sold out in less than 90 minutes.

Further concerts include an evening of light music and operetta on 7 August, an evening of great operatic arias on 8 August, and a reduced and relaxed performance of The Pirates of Penzance on 2 August for families. Tickets for the remaining concerts go on sale to the public on Wednesday 29 July at 1pm. Priority booking is also available for OHP Members and Supporters.

Opera Holland Park is thrilled to be returning to Holland Park this summer for a limited series of outdoor performances. More information about these performances can be found below.

Heart’s Delight: An evening of light music and operetta, Friday 7 August, 6pm

Last seen at Opera Holland Park conducting Wolf-Ferrari’s romantic comedy, Il segreto di Susanna, John Andrews has devised a journey through some of the most delicious comic operas from the Viennese, Parisian and London stages. Birdcatchers, gendarmes, lovers and policemen dance in and out of music by Mozart, Offenbach, Sullivan, Strauss and Lehár. Featuring Yvonne Howard, John Savournin, Fflur Wyn, Robert Murray and Alison Langer, with an ensemble of strings and woodwind from City of London Sinfonia, the programme is the perfect apéritif for a summer’s evening at Holland Park. For more information visit https://operahollandpark.com/events/hearts-delight/ .

Opera Holland Park In Concert: The Encore, Saturday 8 August, 6pm

Following the company’s homecoming concert on 25 July and to mark what would have been the closing night of the 2020 summer season, OHP is delighted to announce a further evening of great operatic arias on 8 August. This performance will feature singers including Natalya Romaniw, Jennifer France, Alison Langer, Nardus Williams, Ross Ramgobin, Anush Hovhannisyan, Aigul Akhmetshina, Samuel Sakker, Anna Patalong, Emma Stannard and Grant Doyle. Matthew Kofi Waldren returns to conduct an ensemble drawn from resident orchestra, City of London Sinfonia. For more information visit https://operahollandpark.com/events/opera-holland-park-in-concert-the-encore/.

The Pirates’ Return, Sunday 2 August, 4pm

On Sunday 2 August the company’s award-winning education and outreach team, Inspire, will present a reduced and relaxed performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s very model of British comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance, for families. This performance is a revival of a family production put together for Pirates to Penzance, an Inspire project which saw the cast travel from London to Penzance, performing to schools and care homes along the way. Revived by Rosie Purdie, with Stuart Wild as musical director, the homecoming cast includes Maciek O’Shea, Daisy Brown, Peter Martin, Alistair Sutherland, Lotte Betts-Dean, Matthew Kellett, Henry Grant Kerswell, Hannah Boxall and Sophie Dicks. More information: https://operahollandpark.com/events/the-pirates-return/.

All performances will adhere to latest guidance from Public Health England. In accordance with the current guidelines on social distancing and outdoor performances, and in consultation with RBKC, the seating capacity for all performances is strictly limited to 200. Performances are completely open air, and will continue in rain or shine.

Posted by claire_s at 1:17 AM

Fidelio: semi-staged live performance at Garsington

Artistic Director, Douglas Boyd, will conduct members of the Philharmonia Orchestra. The outstanding cast, led by Katherine Broderick as Leonore and Toby Spence as Florestan , will perform Peter Mumford’s multimedia semi-staging of Beethoven’s masterwork, produced by Garsington Opera and last performed to great acclaim at the Philharmonie in Paris in 2016.

Douglas Boyd says: ‘A few years ago, after witnessing Peter Mumford’s wonderful film and projections for Opera North’s Ring cycle performances, I commissioned him to repeat the concept for a concert performance of Fidelio with the Garsington cast and L’Orchestre de chambre de Paris at the Philharmonie in Paris. We are going to bring this beautiful semi-staged concert to the Garsington stage, with members of the Philharmonia Orchestra in a specially arranged, reduced orchestration.

The worldwide plans to celebrate the 250th anniversary Beethoven season were of course decimated because of COVID-19 and I’m thrilled that we can still bring his opera to life in 2020. The themes of oppression and isolation but also of hope and above all the power of love make it the perfect opera for our times. This project is so important to us all - artists and audiences alike - to share the power of music, together again.

“The truly emotional experience of breaking our silence with a streamed concert from Wormsley: UnMute; A Musical Reunion, has inspired us to find an opportunity to perform again at Wormsley in 2020, this time WITH an audience, in the safe environment of our indoor / outdoor hybrid theatre space.’

Nicola Creed, Executive Director, says : ‘We have been so heartened by the wonderful support we have received from the Garsington family this year. For the many people involved over the last few years preparing the 2020 festival, cancellation was a bitter blow but it has been made bearable by the thoughtful messages and incredible generosity we have been shown.

We are thrilled that we are able to bring four semi-staged performances of Fidelio to Wormsley in September. It will be an important artistic endeavour and a gesture of gratitude to all our loyal audience members.’

Garsington Opera is committed to bringing you the highest artistic quality and to ensuring the safety of audience, artists and staff.

Full cast details will be announced shortly.

www.garsingtonopera.org image=http://www.operatoday.com/Garsington%20Logo.jpg
Posted by claire_s at 1:10 AM

First-ever global online vocal festival anounced: singing returns

The festival will be broadcast every Saturday for ten weeks from the 1st August 2020. It has been designed to raise money for artists, venues and promoters to cover their COVID-19 losses, and to reunite the world's many singers, and audiences with much needed live concerts. Broadcast in HD from the beautiful VOCES8 Centre (St Anne and St Agnes Church), in the heart of the City of London, viewers will be able to pay for exclusive access to season or individual concert tickets.

Award-winning artists featured include VOCES8, I Fagiolini, Stile Antico, The Swingles, The Sixteen (from Kings Place), The Gesualdo Six, Apollo5, Chanticleer (from San Francisco) and a special guest appearance by The Academy of Ancient Music. The ensembles will be performing their favourite works, and pieces for which they've become renowned, singing repertoire from the Renaissance to contemporary A Cappella.

The festival is a heart-warming display of vocal ensembles helping each other in a time of crisis. These concerts will be some of the first performances by the ensembles since the start of the lock-down restrictions at the beginning of the year. A portion of all ticket sales will be put towards funding for grassroots music education, and to addressing topics of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in choral music.

Season passes are £80 (£8 per concert, per household). Single concert tickets will be available for £12.50. Concessions have been crafted for students and choirs across the world, as well as special deals for promoters and venues. Artists will share income from season ticket sales, as well as individual concert income. This approach goes beyond free streaming on social media, allowing a revenue channel for promoters, venues and artists (most of whom are freelance).

Taking the lead from current sporting events, the concerts will be broadcast from a closed venue. Singers and crew will be following the strict government guidelines about safety and distancing in the workplace.

The VOCES8 team continues to lead the charge in its forward-thinking, inclusive initiatives in the choral sector. ‘Live from London’ follows the online work the VOCES8 Foundation has been doing over lock-down with its #liveathome series - more than 100 broadcasts of online performances, participation events and interactive sessions. Its reach highlighting the hunger for vocal music around the world.

VOCES8's 15th Anniversary is celebrated by the release of their new album 'After Silence' on the 24th July.

image= http://www.operatoday.com/V8-2019_KaupoKikkas_1.jpg image_description= product=yes product_title=Live From London product_by= product_id=Above: VOCES8

Photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas
Posted by claire_s at 12:55 AM

July 30, 2020

Salzburg Elektra premiere to be streamed

The premiere of anything in this pandemic summer is a special feat. That it is a Krzysztof Warlikowski production of Elektra makes it all the more newsworthy.

It can be found on mezzo.tv/en at 5 PM in Salzburg and Paris. "Arte Concert" at arte.tv/en delays its telecast until 8:30 PM (thus 7:30 PM in London, 2:30 PM in New York, and 11:30 AM in San Francisco).

Conductor Franz Weiser-Möst describes Warlikowski’s Elektra, sung by Ausrine Stundyte, as fragile, child-like and vulnerable, noting that stage director Walikowski’s Elektra has forged delicate relationships to her sister Chrysothemis, sung by Asmik Grigorian, and her brother Orest, sung by Derek Welton. It explores a mythic past that intertwines with a very human present.

Warlikowski’s world is lively and it is positive, Weiser-Möst’s heroine is both musically armored and penetrable, Von Hofmannsthal’s world is fully psycho-analytic within Richard Strauss’ searingly frigid orchestral display. The Felsenreitschule is one of the world’s most dynamic theatrical spaces.

For more information on the Felsenreitschule and its recent Strauss productions please see Two Summer Festivals That Can.

Michael Milenski

Elektra will be recorded by UNITEL in collaboration with ORF and broadcast as follows:
01 August, 5 pm | Live at the Siemens Festival>Nights
01 August, 5 pm | Live at a number of selected cinemas: www.salzburgimkino.de
01 August, 5 pm | Live on Mezzo
01 August, 8:30 pm | Live with a delay on ARTE Concert
10 August, 10:30 pm | ORF 2
14 August, 6 pm | Siemens Festival>Nights
15 August, 8:15 pm | 3sat


product_title=Salzburg Elektra premiere to be streamed
product_by=A commentary by Michael Milenski
product_id=Above: Asmik Grigorian as Chrysothemis, Ausrine Stundyte as Elektra [Photo copyright SF / Bernd Uhlig courtesy of the Salzburg Festival]

Posted by michael_m at 11:03 AM

July 27, 2020

Classical Opera and The Mozartists launch their ‘Pay it Forward’ Appeal

The ‘Pay it Forward’ appeal was conceived to raise advance fees for artists. The fees will be paid to artists now on the understanding that the performances and recordings will be arranged once it is possible to do so. This will provide help for the artists when they most need it, and will also enable the company to plan and finance future projects, especially important in this difficult economic climate.

Further information about the appeal is available here.

Chief Executive Debbie Coates says: “The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the UK’s performing arts organisations, many of which are predominantly made up of freelance artists who have suddenly lost all their work for the best part of a year. Our new ‘Pay it Forward’ appeal is an attempt to provide a much-needed stream of income for our musicians during these particularly difficult times. At a time when most organisations, venues and institutions are struggling for survival, it feels particularly important to reach out and support the world-class individuals whose skill, artistry and commitment are the lifeblood of our cultural infrastructure.”

image=http://www.operatoday.com/CO%20Page.jpg image_description= product=yes product_title= product_by= product_id=Above: Ian Page conducts The Mozartists

Photo credit: Ben Ealovega
Posted by claire_s at 6:27 AM

A virtual ‘Der Lindenbaum’: Streetwise Opera bring the 2020 Ryedale Festival Online to a restful close

Streetwise Opera is both an award-winning performing arts charity for people affected by homelessness, running a programme of regular creative workshops in homeless centres and arts venues in five regions across England, and a critically acclaimed opera company. Those who participate in the company’s workshops create and perform in new productions work alongside exceptional professional artists.

Performing Iain Farrington’s new arrangement of Schubert’s song, 23 Streetwise Opera singers, workshop leaders and support workers sang alongside Roderick Williams and eight professional singers from Genesis Sixteen - a young artists’ scheme established by The Sixteen in 2011 which aims to nurture the next generation of talented choral singers and create a bridge from conservatories and universities into the singing profession - accompanied by the Brodsky Quartet and pianist Christopher Glynn, the Festival’s Artistic Director.


Farrington’s arrangement complements William Müller’s poetic imagery, the richness of the strings’ interjections heightening the colours and textures of the rustling leaves, the chill of the cruel wind’s icy blasts, and the depth of the night’s darkness - images further visually elaborated in director Freya Wynn-Jones short film. The breeze stirs up crisp autumnal leaves to reveal a violin nestled amid the undergrowth. Williams slowly treads a lone path through waist high grasses, like one of Thomas Hardy’s ‘solitary pedestrians’, towards the distant beckoning tree. Silver light flickers through the woodland canopy. A sole leaf flutters onto still water.

The English translation by Jeremy Sams is direct and is complemented by verbal fragments - “You belong”, “Come back to me and rest here” - written on leaves, held aloft. The tempo is expansive, enhancing the dream-like mood and conveying the sense of comfort that Schubert’s wanderer feels as he reclines under the linden tree’s protective branches. But, with the brutal blast which gusts into the traveller’s face and jolts his hat roughly from his head, Williams solo voice pushes forward, the tension only dissolving with the final stanza’s retrospective recollections of the tree’s restful safe haven.

Following this unusual and moving performance of ‘Der Lindenbaum’, the Carducci Quartet completed the recital, performing Phillip Glass’s String Quartet No.3 (Mishima) and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor Op.95 No.11 (Serioso). Their performance was filmed at Castle Howard - a magnificent medley of Baroque flamboyance and Palladian graciousness surrounded by 1000-acres of parkland and woodland, the building of which was begun by the 3rd Earl of Carlisle in 1699 and reached completion over 100 years later. Damaged by fire in 1940, Castle Howard subsequently became best-known to many as ‘Brideshead’ in the 1981 television serial and 2008 film adaptations of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

The rich acoustic of the Long Gallery enriched Glass’s meditative reflections on the life of Yukio Mishima, music which was originally composed for Paul Schrader’s 1985 film, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. Compact in form, its music very condensed, this F Minor Quartet is Beethoven’s shortest string quartet, but it conveys a scope and power that belie its surface dimensions. Beethoven acknowledged the radical nature of this ‘Quartetto serioso’, which he composed in 1810, when he told the composer-conductor Sir George Smart that the Quartet was “written for a small circle of connoisseurs and is never to be performed in public”. This remark, and the apparent interiority of the Quartet, seem to raise interesting questions about the relationship between composer, the performer and the listener - questions which, as performers and audiences alike adapt to new ways of communicating and sharing musical experiences made the Carducci’s performance a fitting and reflective conclusion to the 2020 Ryedale Festival Online.

Claire Seymour

This concert is available to view until Sunday 16th August 2020, along with the other events in the 2020 Ryedale Festival Online.

image= http://www.operatoday.com/Roderick-Williams-3-Groves-Artists.jpg image_description= product=yes product_title=2020 Ryedale Festival Online product_by= product_id=Above: Roderick Williams

Photo courtesy of Groves Artists
Posted by claire_s at 6:14 AM

July 26, 2020

Two more new titles announced for Glyndebourne Open House

Glyndebourne Open House throws open our doors to everyone, everywhere: join us at 5.00pm each Sunday and enjoy world-class opera in your living room for free.

In true Festival style, we hope you’ll use this as an opportunity to make memories - dust off your finery, clink a glass with friends and family and be united with opera lovers from across the globe. We can’t conjure the smell of the Glyndebourne roses or a view of the lake, but we can still create an experience to share.

Coming up on Sunday 26 July is Richard Jones’ production ofFalstaff, followed on 2 August by John Cox’s staging of The Rake’s Progress. These two operas will be available to watch on Glyndebourne's website and YouTube channel.

Visit glyndebourne.com/OpenHouse

Glyndebourne Open House listings

26 July - Falstaff

From 5pm on 26 July and on demand for one week. Watch on the Glyndebourne website or YouTube channel.

Verdi’s Falstaff is a comedy as wise as it is witty - a generous belly-laugh after a career of dark, knotty dramas. Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and particularly its larger-than-life hero Sir John Falstaff, Verdi’s opera collides English subtlety with Italian ebullience to create a perfect comic evening.

Ageing roué Sir John Falstaff decides to try his charms on not one but two of Windsor’s housewives. Amused at the audacity of this unlikely seducer, the women of the town all come together to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget…

Updated to a post-war Windsor of pompous ex-army officers, redoubtable Brownie leaders and lovesick GIs, Richard Jones’ production is less Tudor than mock-Tudor - an updating that brings a zany, sitcom energy to this classic comedy. Vladimir Jurowski conducts a cast led by British bass-baritone Christopher Purves.

2 August - The Rake's Progress

From 5pm on 2 August and on demand for one week. Watch on the Glyndebourne website or YouTube channel.

A Glyndebourne classic, designed by David Hockney. When the mysterious Nick Shadow appears at his door, Tom Rakewell immediately abandons country life and his sweetheart Anne for the temptations of the city. But London’s glittering promise soon corrodes; love, money and even sanity slip further and further from Tom’s grasp. Can true love save him, or will the Devil have the last laugh?

Hogarth’s paintings charting one man’s path from pleasure to ruin are the starting point for one of the most dazzlingly original works of the 20th century, like a Mozart opera that has wandered into a musical hall of mirrors - at once elegant and anarchic. Comedy and tragedy are never far apart in this light-footed work that can break your heart with the broadest of smiles.

John Cox’s production is one of the great Glyndebourne classics, featuring David Hockney’s much-loved designs alongside an exciting cast including Topi Lehtipuu, Matthew Rose and Miah Persson.

G Hockney.jpg

In celebration of Glyndebourne's staging of The Rake’s Progress, which was due to show at this year’s festival, Glyndebourne has launched a range of gifts and homeware showcasing the original David Hockney designs from the 1975 Glyndebourne production. Hockney was inspired by an original recording conducted by Stravinsky himself and created the iconic cross-hatched etchings that were applied to the set designs and costumes. The Glyndebourne x The Rake's Progress by David Hockney Collection is now available for pre-order exclusively via www.GlyndebourneShop.com.

Posted by claire_s at 7:08 AM

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

What better way for soprano Rowan Pierce and pianist, Christopher Glynn - who is also the artistic director of the Ryedale Festival - to begin their 2020 Ryedale Festival Online recital, than with Purcell’s consoling assurance? And, the duo offered us just that - 45 minutes of beguiling music, recorded in All Saint’s Church, Helmsley.

In this opening song, from Purcell’s Oedipus, Pierce’s lovely bright soprano seemed to soar on a breeze of optimism above the steady but buoyant tread of the piano’s ground bass. A slight quickening in the central episode, with its images of a defeated Alecto - the snakes dropping from her head, and the whip falling from her hands - heightened by Pierce’s careful enunciation, was followed by the slightest relaxation into the da capo repeat: a small nuance, but a powerful emotive effect. She employed a more intimate tone in ‘O Solitude’, which also walked with a fairly brisk step, helping Pierce to create a cohesive structure from the long, evolving phrases. It did mean, though, that some of Purcell’s decorative twists and turns lacked a certain spaciousness - and some of the vocal curls encompass some tricky spirals! Occasionally, the soprano added her own tasteful ornament, enhancing the introspective mood as the phrases unfolded like innermost thoughts and reflections. Glynn’s continuo elaborations were varied in texture - sometimes sparse with brief melodic inflections, elsewhere fuller flowing chords - and became increasingly flamboyant, at times less than idiomatic perhaps, but always complementing the growing intensity of the vocal line.

Romantic lieder followed. Schubert’s ‘Im Haine’ had a delightful spring in its step - a woodland walk during which woes were assuaged by warm sunbeams, murmuring breezes, and whispering scents. I can never hear Schumann’s ‘Du bist wie eine Blume’ too many times: Pierce’s soprano acquired a velvety plushness and smoothness here, which was complemented by Glynn’s low cushioning chords. This is a brief lied, but Heine’s poem holds within its beautiful simplicity rich and varied feelings - from sweetness to sadness, from the certainty of love to the fear of loss - and Pierce and Glynn made each emotion speak from the music’s own heart. Mendelssohn’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’ rippled with easy fluency, Pierce’s soprano flowing pure and free, on the ‘wings of song’.

Christopher Glynn Gerard Collett.jpgChristopher Glynn. Photo credit: Gerard Collett.

The broader canvas of Richard Strauss’s ‘Ich wollt’ ein Sträusslein binden’ allowed Pierce to extend the range of vocal colours while her clear, light soprano seemed equally tailor-made for the moments of both melodic restlessness and tranquil poise. The accompaniment was airy, and the duo shaped an eloquent, vital narrative of wishes frustrated and hopes forlorn. Goethe tells a similar tale of unfulfilled promise and faded flowers that do not bedeck the beloved’s breast in Grieg’s ‘Zur Rosenzeit’ (which Pierce sang in German). Glynn’s gently pulsing syncopations established the momentum of the Allegretto tempo, as if propelled by the inner heaving of the poet-speaker’s heart, while Grieg’s modifying serioso was captured by the sustained focus and intense precision of the intervallic vocal melody, an intensity deepened by Glynn’s thoughtful heightening of the inter-phrase commentaries.

Three traditional songs permitted a little relaxation of the Romantic urgency and yearning, introducing a milder note of wistfulness. The gentle warmth and the shining clarity of ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ was an absolute joy, while in her unaccompanied rendition of ‘How blest are shepherds’, (which appears in Purcell’s King Arthur), Pierce focused less on the rhythm of the pastoral dance and more on the story-telling, articulating the text with utmost care, decorating the melody with the naturalness of a folk singer and flexibly teasing the rhythms at times to convey subtle changes and nuances - a slight diminuendo, rallentando and pause affectingly enhanced the pathos of the reflection, “And when we die ‘tis in each other’s arms”.

Turning to songs from their native land, Pierce and Glynn began their English sequence with John Ireland’s ‘If there were dreams to sell’. The dream that the protagonist of Thomas Lovell Beddoes’ poem wishes to buy is a “cottage Ione and still, with bow’rs night, shadowy, my woes to still”: Pierce conveyed this yearning with gleaming directness and sweet sincerity, the longing deepened by Glynn’s sensitive emphasis of harmonic nuances. Alan Murray’s ballad, ‘I’ll walk beside you’, introduced a not unwelcome touch of sentimentality, while Quilter’s ‘Love’s Philosophy’ glittered with youthful exuberance and confidence.

At this time, when life as we have known it can seem lost in eons past, perhaps irrecoverable, Flanders and Swann’s ‘The Slow Train’ was an apt choice, lamenting as it does the passing of another age and way of life, one brought about by Beeching’s closures of railway stations and branch lines in the 1960s. To Glynn’s trundling locomotion, Pierce catalogued the list of places to which the slow train would no longer be travelling with clear-voiced resignation and regret. Introducing this song and the final item in this recital, Strauss’s ‘Morgen’, as she expressed her hope that the listening audience would “hold in your hearts the idea of live music, and sharing a space, sharing the emotions in real time, right next to each other”, Pierce had the glint of a tear in her eye. By the time she had sung Strauss’s paean to ‘tomorrow’ when the sun will shine again and the lovers will “gaze in each other's eyes in love’s soft splendour glowing”, I had many tumbling from my own. For a while, music had indeed spun its beguiling spell.

This recital is available to view until Sunday 16th August 2020. The full 2000 Ryedale Festival Online programme can be viewed at https://ryedalefestival.com/ryestream/ until the same date.

Claire Seymour

Music for a While : Rowan Pierce (soprano) Christopher Glynn (piano)

Purcell - ‘Music for a While’, ‘O Solitude’; Schubert - ‘Im Haine’; Schumann - ‘Du bist wie eine Blume’; Mendelssohn - ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’; Strauss - ‘Ich wollt' ein Sträusslein binden’; Grieg - ‘Zur Rosenzeit’; Trad. Three folk songs; Ireland - ‘If there were dreams to sell’; Murray - ‘I’ll walk beside you’; Quilter - ‘Love’s Philosophy’; Swann - ‘The Slow Train’; Strauss - ‘Morgen!’

Recorded at All Saints’ Church, Helmsley; Friday 24th July 2020.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Rowan%20Pierce%20Jen%20Hart.jpg image_description= product=yes product_title=Music for a While: Rowan Pierce (soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano) - 2020 Ryedale Festival Online product_by=A review by Claire Seymour product_id=Above: Rowan Pierce

Photo credit: Jen Hart
Posted by claire_s at 6:35 AM

July 25, 2020

The Two Summer Festivals That Can

We have hardly been bereft of opera during the pandemic's closures of the world’s opera houses, their finest productions having been made available to us on our home screens. It goes without saying that no small screen recording, no matter how fine, can match the levels of operatic poetry achieved in live performances in real theaters.

Though a theater need not be an opera house, as both Salzburg and Pesaro have discovered.

The Salzburg Festival’s 1500 seat Felsenreitschule is the most poetic of the festival’s three venues (the other two are standard proscenium theaters — the Von Karajan designed 2200 seat Grossesfestspielhaus and the 1500 seat Haus für Mozart). The Felsenreitschule (rock-riding-school) was famously a place where long ago spectators sat in galleries carved into the rock mountain, Mönchsberg — Salzburg’s grandiose geological centerpiece, to look down upon horse shows below.

Felsensreitschule.png The Felsenreitschule in 1920

We now sit facing these three tiered galleries, the sheerly hewn cliff (carved into stones for the town’s cathedral) a monumental backdrop. There is no question that we are in a theater since a theater is what we see. A complex metaphor is established — theater is life, theater is art, Salzburg is theater, etc. A huge platform placed before the cliff is where the Salzburg Festival now presents its most rarified programming and its most advanced productions.

The Felsenreitschule became a part of the Salzburg Festival in 1926, its sixth year, when legendary director Max Reinhardt staged Goldoni’s commedia dell’arte Il servitore di due padroni (in German) on a small platform on the hard ground before the cliff, the audience seated on wooden bleachers facing the cliff. Over the years more comfortable seating was added for spectators, and very soon far greater scenic installations occurred, notably, they say, Max Reinhardt’s huge Faust (play) in 1933.

Reinhardt Faust.pngThe massive set installation for Goethe's Faust (1933)

In 1948 Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice was the first opera mounted before these cliff galleries, from 1978 to 1986 Jean Pierre Ponnelle’s production of Die Zauberflöte was trotted out each summer. In the early 1990’s the Felsenreitschule rose to a pronounced theatrical seriousness when famed Berlin stage director Peter Stein took on a series of Shakespeare plays, reinforced by a reputedly splendid Coriolanus by British director Deborah Warner.

The latest renovation of its staging area was undertaken in 2010/11. The staging space remains immense, and now its technical resources are of utmost sophistication, plus its pit holds a post-Romantic Vienna Philharmonic with ample places for small, far-away orchestral elaboration.

Riding school current.pngThe Felsenreitschule in its current form

The Felsenreitschule’s offerings have become musically and theatrically heroic, like its repertory.

Opening on August 1 at the Felsenreitschule for six performances is Richard Strauss’ Elektra staged by Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski. His is a huge, colorful and witty world, above all else chaotic, and in which its revealed human comedy redeems itself finally in a sort of divine beauty. This Elektra follows last year’s Salome staged by Italian director Romeo Castellucci who works in rarefied
intellectual terms rendered normally in black and white, and complex if not inscrutable metaphors — John the Baptist’s head was that of a black stallion (never to forget that this Elektra stage was a former paddock).

Here is my review of Mr. Warlikowski's 2017 The Bassarids at Salzburg's Felsenreitschule.

My review of Mr. Castellucci's 2017 Salome at the Felsenreitschule.

Elektra will be sung by Lithuanian soprano Aušrine Stundyte who created a dazzling, pornophonic Lady Macbeth in Shostakovich’s sordid tale of desire in Lyon, and an insatiable Renata in Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel at the Aix Festival, another tale of sordid desire. Elektra is the inevitable climax of this unusual artist’s exploration of the repertory’s most morbid heroines.

Chrysothemis will be sung by Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian who was the Castellucci Salome the past two summers in Salzburg’s former riding school. Mlle. Grigorian fully assumed the form of an adolescent Salome, and remained imperturbably motionless as a mighty cut stone slowly, very slowly descended upon her while the Vienna Philharmonic executed her famed dance.

The Warlikowski Elektra will be a part of the Salzburg Festival’s 2021 program, so you need not miss it in its full operatic glory. If you cannot get tickets next summer it surely will soon become available digitally, as is the Castellucci Salome already, and many other offerings of the Salzburg Festival from past years as well.

This summer is the Salzburg Festival’s 100th anniversary, its usual seven staged operas reduced to only two, Elektra and six performances of a last minute pandemically conceived and assembled Cosi fan tutte in the Grossesfestspielhaus opening August 2. Quite elaborated in-theater social distancing protocol will be strictly observed, the usual flamboyant fanfare and festivities of the festival’s lively theater square forsaken in this extraordinary year.

On the other hand Pesaro’s festive Piazza del Popolo is the site for two semi-staged performances (Aug 12 and 15) of Il viaggio a Reims, Rossini’s final opera in the Italian language (1825). It is the annual showpiece of the Rossini Opera Festival’s Accademia Rossiniana (young artists program) as it requires 14 solo voices. Though the academy is cancelled this year, graduates from the past two years return to show their stuff.

Piazza del popolo.pngPiazzo del popolo, Pesaro, 1920

As well the 2020 Rossini Opera Festival (ROF) is offering six outdoor concert events in the piazza — recitals with orchestra by its current stars (Juan Diego Flores, Olga Peretyato, Jessica Pratt, Nicola Alaimo, Karine Deshayes, among others). Strict social distancing will be observed at all these ticketed events.

The Pesaro festival possesses the historic, 850 seat Teatro Rossini. This year the Italian style theater (horseshoe shape — see lead photo) hosts Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio, a one act comic farce that was the young Rossini’s first performed opera (1810)! The co-production with the Royal Opera House Muscat [the capital of Oman] is staged by Laurence Dale, an artistic consultant to Opera Africa among more important credits. The in-theater distancing protocol is interesting — two spectators in each box with all seats removed from the orchestra section (parterre, platea) where the orchestra will be placed. La cambiale di matrimonio opens the 2020 festival on August 8, ROF will stream the first of its five performances from its website rossinioperafestival.it!

Of interest is the 16 minute curtain raiser for this brief farce. It is Rossini’s cantata Giovanna d’Arco (1832) [Rossini’s last opera was composed in 1829], four concert arias for mezzo-soprano with piano but here rendered orchestrally. The artist is Marianna Pizzolato who in 2010 took on, last minute, the title role in Rossini’s biggest and best comedy, La cenerentola, in legendary stage director Luca Ronconi’s re-staging of his famed 1998 Pesaro production. La Pizzolato elevated Ronconi’s elegant staging to masterpiece status.

Ronconi's original Cenerentola was in ROF's Palafestival theater! The 2010 re-staging was within the 13,000 seat Adriatic Arena on the outskirts of Pesaro.

Adriatic Arena.pngThe Vitrifrigo Arena, formerly the Adriatic Arena

The ROF (Rossini Opera Festival) lost use of its 1500 seat Palafestival in 2006. This venue was an annual makeover of the Palasport (“pala” from palace), home of the basketball team Scavolini Pesaro! The team’s sponsor, Scavolini Kitchens said it was going to turn the Palasport into a fine theater for the festival. In the meantime ROF moved to the Adriatic Arena along with Scavolini Pesaro. The Scavolini basketball sponsorship ended in 2014 with the death of Mr. Scavolini, the Palafestival remained architectural drawings.

The arena is now known as the Vitrifrigo [industrial refrigeration] Arena. As of 2020 the ROF still awaits its Palafestival — though we are told it will open in 2021.

Meanwhile each summer since 2006 the ROF has simply erected a 1200 seat hall under the arena’s drafty, leaky canopy roof. Over the years the acoustics of this theater within a theater have been refined to become absolutely acceptable. The festival provides a bevy of double decker buses to transport spectators from Pesaro’s seaside hotels to the arena.

A sophisticated scenic apparatus has been erected in the arena each year that has sometimes functioned as a standard proscenium theater stage house, a seeming miracle of engineering. But often it has been an elaborate installation, like for the Ronconi Cenerentola, its real wall disappearing at the dénouement to reveal an infinite vista of chimneys (strewn through the unused back half of the arena).

Here is my review of Mr. Ronconi's 2010 La cenerentola. Scroll down to find it.

Add breathtaking scenic installations (Graham Vick’s 2011 Mosé in Egitto when Mr. Vick's Israeli militia invaded the theater, terrifying spectators, Mr. Vick’s gargantuan 2013 Guillaume Tell, Giancarlo del Monaco’s spellbinding revolving stage for his 2007 Otello, Giorgio Barberio Corsetti’s meshes, reflective surfaces and video for his 2009 Zelmira) to conductors like Roberto Abbado and Michele Mariotti and there resulted performances that attained dizzying artistic heights.

Here is my review of Mr. Vick's 2013 Guillaume Tell at the Adriatic Arena. Scroll down to find it.

Both the Adriatic Arena with the Felsenreitschule in Salzburg have inspired stage directors and designers to infuse daring new perspectives into the art form, and to re-discover and to recover repertory fallen into oblivion. The inevitable retiring of the Adriatic Arena as an opera theater is a staggering blow to our operatic imaginations.

Well, maybe the arena was hugely expensive to inhabit, inconvenient to get to, leaky when it rained, the chairs were uncomfortable, there was no easy handicap access, etc.

The world wide web has allowed us to personally curate our own spring/summer opera festivals. Mine included Mefistofele (2013) from San Francisco Opera, the re-mount of Robert Carsen’s racy 1998 production for Geneva Opera; Fidelio (2020) from Theater an Der Wein with a splendid stage set by American architect Frank Barkow; Verdi’s Messa da Requiem (2019) from the Zurich Opera conducted with deep operatic sensitivity by Fabio Luisi; Boris Godunov (2018) from Paris Opera, the amazing Boris of Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov; La Boheme (2017) from Paris Opera effectively translocated into outer space; Moses and Aaron (2015) from Paris Opera in a monumental, revelatory staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Though my personal festival has been spectacular and rewarding I can't wait to re-enter the theaters around the world to rediscover the excitement of live opera.

Michael Milenski

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Teatro Rossini.png

product_title=Two Happening Summer Festivals
product_by=by Michael Milenski
product_id=Above: Teatro Rossini in Pesaro [All photos courtesy of the Rossini Opera Festival, the Salzburg Festival and public domain]

Posted by michael_m at 1:13 PM

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

With such good fortune ‘on hold’ for the time being, my musical appetite is being kept satisfied and refreshed by both some exciting streamed performances and the wealth of terrific recordings which each day ping into my email in-box or arrive with an enticing thump on the door-mat.

The latest such arrival is Flax and Fire, the debut recital album of tenor Stuart Jackson, on the Orchid label. I was impressed when I first heard Jackson in 2015 - a couple of years after he’d completed his training at the Royal College of Music - when he took the role of the Parthian king, Osroa, in Classical Opera’s production of J.C. Bach's Adriano in Siria. The company had just launched its MOZART 250 project, and Jackson has since been a frequent and admired presence in Classical Opera’s performances (including Don Giovanni and the UK premiere of Niccolò Jommelli’s Il Vologeso in 2016) and recordings (including Mozart’s Il sogno di Scipione in 2017). The silken-voiced tenor has been making an increasing impact on larger stages too: as Iro in the ROH’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse at the Roundhouse, in Handel at Glyndebourne and on tour with the company, in ENO’s 2018 Salome, and at Garsington where he took the role of Vašek in last year’s superb The Bartered Bride.

In the songs presented on Flax and Fire, Jackson is accompanied by pianist Jocelyn Freeman, who is also founder-director and curator of SongEasel , a new initiative established to provide a platform for song in South East London. The focus of the songs is, says Freeman, ‘devotion and passion’, and the repertoire chosen reflects the ‘numerous undercurrents and layers’ within immense affection.

Stuart Jackson Gerard Collett photography.jpgStuart Jackson. Photo credit: Gerard Collett photography.

Songs by Wolf, Liszt and Schumann form the central core of the disc, and the poets set - Mörike, Rückert, Kerner, Halm, Eichendorff - form a mini-compendium of German Romantic poetry. The Wolf sequence begins with the first of three songs from the composer’s Mörike-Lieder. ‘Peregrina I’ allows Jackson to display his wonderfully legato phrasing, gentle tone and precise diction, but it is Freeman who perhaps shows the stronger appreciation of accumulating rhythmic and harmonic tension, ebbing away with pathos and vulnerability in the piano postlude. That said, the tenor’s climactic appeal - “Willst, ich soll kecklich mich und dich entzünden” (Wish me boldly to consume us both in fire” - is arrestingly charged with presentiments of sex and death, both impassioned and dark. A calm descends, initially at least, with the protagonist’s tentative hopes of fulfilment, in ‘An die Geliebte’: floating through the extended phrases Jackson captures the fragility of the dream, but then, with the sonnet’s volta, his spirits and melodic flight fall, unrest and distress conveyed by the piano’s disturbing rumblings. Freeman draws wonderful aural images, first of the beloved’s gentle, angelic breathing, then of the stars which sing their song of light.

‘Verschwiegene Liebe’ is the third of Wolf’s Eichendorff-Lieder. Freeman’s delicate whisper summons the tenor’s aspiring dreams, and Jackson rises bravely and beautifully to the whispered peak, “Die Nacht ist verschwiegen,/ Gedanken sind frei.” (The night is silent, thoughts are free.) The repeat of this phrase at the close of the second stanza is wonderfully intimate: paradoxically ecstatic and serene. Returning to Mörike, ‘Nimmersatte Liebe’ closes the group. In the song’s outer sections, Jackson and Freeman establish a lovely momentum as the vocal phrases expand and withdraw naturally. Jackson fluently integrates quite extreme and sudden dynamic changes and injections of intensity within a prevailing idiom which balances urgency and pleasure, as the protagonist delights in insatiable love. The syncopated antagonisms of the central episode feel, however, somewhat too antagonistic: the complex rhythms and fluctuating pulse should indeed feel discomforting, but absolute ensemble precision is required for the insistent gnawing ‘tug’ of the dialectic to achieve its full effect.

Wolf’s confidential miniatures are followed by Liszt’s dramatic, operatic and expansive, Tre sonetti di Petrarca, composed after a sojourn in Italy during 1838-39 when the composer and Marie D’Agoult read Dante and Petrarch together. The latter poet’s glimpse of a woman named Laura, in the church of Sainte-Claire d’Avignon on Good Friday in 1327 initiated a poetic quest of 366 rime sparse in search of the elusive beloved of his vision. Liszt’s ‘Pace non trovo’ surely encompasses every emotion experienced on that journey, and Jackson and Freeman make us feel each and every of the poet’s oxymoronic extremes. Jackson seems to find the Italian language a more natural fit, and he relishes the operatic scope and unceasing changefulness of the song, climbing to sustained summits - what a resounding, sure Db! - with compelling conviction and panache. Freeman is unwaveringly eloquent in her interpretation of the piano’s turbulent dramas and songful reflections.

‘Benedetto sia ’l giorno’ is aptly fervent, rippling with a barely suppressed intensity which is released by the piano’s quivering harmonic progressions, prompting powerful vocal blossoming. Jackson’s truly tenor rings with ardour, and his control of the stratospheric climaxes and their descent is impressive. Only one tiny breath, for the final ‘-te’ of ‘Benedette’, when the protagonist blesses the many voices that have echoed when he has called Laura’s name, mars an otherwise pristine delivery - and that can be forgiven, such is Jackson’s commitment to the preceding full-blooded, open-hearted crescendo. The duo capture the visionary otherworldliness of ‘I’ vidi in terra angelici costumi’; Freeman’s shaping of the astonishing harmonic ‘swivel’ before the invocatory appeal, “Amor! Sennol valor, pietate, e doglia” (Love! wisdom! valour, pity and grief), is brilliantly judged, and Jackson sustains the reverential mystery of the song most affectingly.

The Schumann selection begins with one of the composer’s later songs, ‘Mein schöner Stern!’, a setting of a poem from Rückert’s Liebesfrühling which was included in Schumann’s Minnespiel Op.101 of 1849. Jackson delivers a masterclass in how to evoke consoling joy and controlled rapture, supported by Freeman’s sensitive complementing of the vocal line and tender bed of repeating quavers. Schumann indicates that the rhapsodic conflict between the ecstasy and pain of love expressed by the poet speaker in ‘Widmung’, the opening song of Myrthen Op.25 (1840) is to be sung ‘innig lebhaft’ - intimate and lively. Jackson sings with exemplary phrasing and beautiful tone, though he struggles a little when the melody dips low, but the tempo here feels to me far too pedestrian to capture the pleasures and animation inspired by this essential Romantic contradiction.

‘Stirb’, Lieb’ und Freud’ (from Zwölf Gedichte von Justinus Kerner Op.35 (1840)) also feels a little too measured, the piano’s steady crotchets a rather deliberate step rather than a fluid stream. One result is that there is little room for relaxation and diminishment in the closing three trimeter lines of each stanza, such as might represent the change in the poetic form and the crystallisation of the poetic sentiment - an image, a plea, a lamentation. Instead - and although the sole dynamic marking that Schumann employs throughout the song is piano, with some delicate, nuanced ebbs and flows - Jackson chooses these stanza-closing epiphanies as the moment to inject some heft and incisiveness, particularly when the titular phrase, “Stirb’, Leib’ und Freund!”, allows for some plosive vigour. The final lines receive the same forceful treatment, though the image is a fragile one - a heart, unnoticed, unrequited, breaks: “Mein Herz zerbricht,/ Stirb’, Leib’ und Licht!” Geisternähe (from Lieder und Gesänge Op.77 No.3 (1850) is a more satisfying evocation of Friedrich Halm’s heartfelt adoration, as Jackson easefully conveys the blooming from affectionate intimacies to gratifying happiness and comfort, in barely two minutes.

The Romantic lieder are framed by English song. Jackson is fulsome of voice in ‘Man is for the woman made’, Britten’s realisation of Purcell’s song, which opens the disc in spirited fashion. Freeman’s decorous piano interjections initially seem to have a wry smile on their face but become increasingly flamboyant and boisterous. A gift from Prince Ludwig of Hesse, in 1959, of Goethe’s complete works - after the composer had dedicated his Sechs Hölderlin-Fragmente Op.61 to the Prince, on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday in the preceding year - may have inspired Britten to set the German poet’s ‘Um Mitternacht’, though an almost compulsive to revisit verbal and musical images and realisations of ‘sleep’, ‘dreams’ and ‘the night’ may have also played its part. Freeman powerfully captures the frightening infiniteness of the darkness and Jackson communicates the reverence, mystery and metaphysical magnificence of the heavenly and cosmological expanse, negotiating the challenging twists of the vocal line through its murky harmonic waters with skill and control.

Britten’s first Canticle, ‘My Beloved is Mine’, gives the disc its title and is, for me, its highlight: “For I was flax and he was flames of fire.” The text is derived from the Song of Solomon, and Jackson delivers both the sensitive blissfulness and full-throated declamatory exultations with equal perspicacity and assurance. The final two stanzas, driven by Freeman’s propulsive piano breaths, are a sincere celebration and glorification of sexual passion, the fading repetitions of the final image - an “everlasting sign,/ That I my best-beloved’s am; that he is mine” - an intimation of eternal love and satisfaction.

William Denis Browne’s ‘To Gratiana dancing and singing’, which sets words by Richard Lovelace and was composed in February 1913 for the tenor Steuart Wilson, is a glorious ‘epilogue’ - free, spacious, relaxed and utterly consoling in its devotion and belief.

Claire Seymour image=http://www.operatoday.com/Flax%20and%20Flame%20ORC%20100139%20.jpg image_description=ORC 100139 product=yes product_title=Flax and Fire: Songs of Devotion product_by= Stuart Jackson (tenor), Jocelyn Freeman (piano) product_id=Orchid Classics ORC 100139 [60:12] price=$16.99 product_url=https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B089HVFD29/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B089HVFD29&linkCode=as2&tag=operatoday-20&linkId=1cbe6132d5a2b2a695362f21bc558065

Posted by claire_s at 9:41 AM

July 22, 2020

English National Opera announces new Harewood Artists for Summer 2020

The new members of ENO’s programme for exceptionally talented singers are Alexandra Oomens (soprano), Benson Wilson (baritone) and William Thomas (bass).

The ENO Harewood Artist programme gives talented singers the opportunity to perform career-building roles with a major opera company whilst receiving specialist coaching, guidance and support over a 2 to 3 year period.

In addition, Harewood Artists can receive dramatic, movement, performance psychology and language coaching, as well as opportunities to learn from distinguished artists and leading figures from the operatic world. The programme is led by members of ENO’s Casting and Music Departments who oversee each singer’s development and ensure that they each benefit from a tailored programme of training and support.

Benson and William’s first roles as Harewood Artists will be Schaunard and Colline in ENO Drive & Live’s La bohème, a new drive-in opera experience, 19-27 September at Alexandra Palace.

ENO Head of Casting Michelle Williams says: ‘We’re delighted to welcome three new Harewood Artists to ENO. The programme is fundamental to our ongoing commitment to supporting the development of talent in the opera industry, and we look forward to helping our brilliant new artists grow.’

Former Harewood Artists include Sophie & Mary Bevan, Elizabeth Llewellyn, Iain Paterson, Nicky Spence, Sarah Tynan and Leigh Melrose.

Soprano Alexandra Oomens comments: ‘Now more than ever, having the opportunity to perform means so much and I am thrilled to finally announce this next step in my career. The lack of music making over the past few months has been incredibly hard on so many, and I feel very fortunate to be joining the Harewood Artist Programme and following in the footsteps of many of opera’s leading figures.’

Baritone Benson Wilson says: ‘In times like these, where music will be crucial to the healing of the world, I am honoured to be joining the family at ENO as a Harewood Artist. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from internationally-renowned coaches and artists, with the support of one of the most prestigious companies in the world.’

Bass William Thomas adds: ‘I am so excited to join the ENO Harewood programme. They have already provided so much support throughout the Covid-19 crisis and I cannot wait to sing roles at the London Coliseum. ENO was my first experience of opera; as a 17 year old I did my work experience here watching rehearsals of Butterfly, Billy Budd and Dr. Dee and it’s such a thrill to be continuing my post-music college career in the heart of the West End.’

Alexandra Oomens

Australian soprano Alexandra Oomens is a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Music Opera Programme. Alexandra is an alumna of the prestigious Georg Solti Accademia. Alexandra studied at the Conservatorium of Music Sydney, where she attained a Bachelor of Music with Honours. Moving to London, Alexandra completed a Masters of Music at the Royal Academy of Music, and was awarded a Dip RAM for an outstanding final recital. She went on to complete an Advanced Diploma of Opera, and was awarded a Royal Academy Foundation Award.

During her time at the Royal Academy Alexandra performed such roles as The Vixen (Cunning Little Vixen), Semele (Semele), La Princess/La Chauve-Souris (L’Enfant et les sortilèges), Laurette (Le Docteur Miracle), Tina (Flight), Cupidon (Orphée aux enfers), and Damigella ( L’incoronazione di Poppea). Alexandra is extremely grateful for the generosity of the Carr-Gregory Trust Scholarship, and John Baker Opera Award during her time in RAO.

Alexandra most recently performed as Barbarina with Opera North in their production of The Marriage of Figaro. Other operatic productions include, Clonter opera; Zerlina (Don Giovanni), London Handel Festival; Clizia (Teseo), Pinchgut Opera; Isabelle (L’Amant Jaloux), Childerico (Faramondo), Lisel (The Chimneysweep), Alina (Giasone) and 2nd Woman ( Dido & Aeneas).

Alexandra has performed as a soloist with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Eroica Ensemble, and the Orchestra of the Antipodes. In recital she has performed in such works as Bach’s ‘Easter Oratorio’, and Telemann’s ‘Die Donner Ode’, ‘Exsultate Jubilate K. 165’, ‘Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen BWV 51’, Coffee Cantata BWV 211’, Bach’s ‘B Minor Mass’, and Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’.

Benson Wilson

New Zealand-born Sāmoan baritone Benson Wilson is the winner of the prestigious 64th Kathleen Ferrier Award. That same year he was awarded the Most Outstanding Overseas Performer of the Royal Overseas League Competition, the Worshipful Company of Musicians Award, and was the 2018 winner of the Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Foundation Award and the People’s Choice Award.

This season Benson makes his debut for Opera Queensland in the title role of Le nozze di Figaro. On the concert platform he begins the season with a recital tour of New Zealand including for Auckland Chamber Concert Hall, Hawkes Bay Opera House and Auckland Opera Studio, and later gives UK recitals for Oxford Lieder and Kings Lynn Festivals with pianists Sholto Kynoch and Lucy Colquhoun.

Previous operatic roles include Marullo (Rigoletto) for Glyndebourne on Tour, John Shears (Paul Bunyan) for ENO, Mirza Der Gesang (Der Zauberinse) at the Salzburger Festspiele as a 2019 Salzburg Young Singer, cover John Sorel (The Consul) for Welsh National Opera, Guglielmo (Cosi fan tutte) and Count Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro) for Bloomsbury Opera, Schabernack (Le Grand Macabre) with London Symphony Orchestra, Schaunard (La bohème) for Festival Opera Napier, and Guglielmo ( Cosi fan tutte), Demetrius (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Assan (The Consul) as a scholar on the Guildhall School of Music & Drama Opera Course.

Benson regularly appears in concert in repertoire including Handel ‘Messiah’, Mozart ‘Requiem’, Fauré ‘Requiem’, Duruflé ‘Requiem’ and Brahms ‘Ein Deutches Requiem’, and in 2016 he joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra for a Total Immersion Concert featuring works by Richard Rodney Bennett.

Prior to relocating to the UK, he won New Zealand’s premier singing competition, the Lexus Song Quest, and graduated with a BMus from the University of Auckland. Benson is a former young artist of the Georg Solti Accademia di Bel Canto, the Samling Young Artist Programme, the International Vocal Arts Institute, and New Zealand Opera School.

William Thomas

British bass William Thomas is winner of a number of major prizes, which include the Kathleen Ferrier Award and John Christie Award in 2018, and the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition in 2019. William is a Drake Calleja Scholar and Help Musicians UK Maidment award holder, and is a recent graduate of the Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he studied with John Evans.

William made his Vienna State Opera debut in 2019 as Snug in a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that was directed by Irina Brook and conducted by Simone Young. Other opera engagements have included the role of Nicholas in the UK premiere of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for the Glyndebourne Festival, where he was as a Jerwood Young Artist in 2018, his Garsington Opera debut as Shepherd in Pelléas et Mélisande in 2017.

Recently in concert, William performed Bartok’s ‘Cantata Profana’ in his debut with the London Symphony Orchestra under François-Xavier Roth, and the Beethoven ‘Symphony No. 9’ with the Orchestre national de Lyon conducted by Alan Gilbert. He appeared in the Irish National Opera Gala at the National Concert Hall Dublin, where he appeared last season in Handel’s ‘Messiah’ with the RTE Concert Orchestra and for Dvorak’s ‘Requiem’ with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. Other concert work also includes Beethoven ‘Symphony No. 9’ in Paris and Versaille with Les Siècles. Upcoming concert work includes a European tour of Bach's ‘St John Passion’ with the Monteverdi Choir under Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

Increasingly in demand as an interpreter of song, William has made several appearances at London’s Wigmore Hall, where he appeared most recently as part of Graham Johnson’s ‘Songmakers’ Almanac’ series. Elsewhere in recital, he returns to the Leeds Lieder Festival alongside Graham Johnson and appears at the Barber Institute with Joseph Middleton.

Posted by claire_s at 3:03 PM

"Opportunity will come from crisis": Polly Graham, Artistic Director of Longborough Opera, in conversation

“It’s counter-intuitive,” she explains. “I found myself saying, until very late in the day, ‘No, we’ll find a way to keep going.’” But, then, as the public health emergency escalated, “Of course, we had to respond to that, and do the responsible thing.”

It was particularly hard for Polly to “say goodbye” to this year’s Festival as in 2019, her first year as Artistic Director , 75% of the Festival programme had been put in place before she took up her position. 2020 was the first year that she was responsible for putting in place the majority of the programme, which was to include her own directorial debut at Longborough, presenting Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses, with Tom Randle in the title role. She was and is clearly very concerned about what she describes as “the desperate situation that the freelancers with whom we work found themselves in”, and she speaks of her delight that she was able to invite the members of Longborough’s audience base to donate, enabling the Festival to provide clarity for artists, via the freelancers’ support fund.

“We are very aware of, and grateful for, the loyalty of our audiences, and of course we always seek to nurture that. But, I think too that it’s obvious that they appreciate how essential our freelancers are. They understand the economics of the theatre and the realities of how freelancers work. In making a direct appeal, we’ve been able to communicate openly about the situation.”

I ask Polly what the generosity of audience-member donors has enabled her to achieve. “50% of tickets were turned into donations, and two-thirds of this sum has been used to directly support our artists and practitioners, by paying them 33% of the fee that they would have received for their work this season. The rest has been used to develop new creative work for these artists over the coming weeks.” (Polly reveals that she can’t say more at present, but that further announcements about these creative plans will follow shortly!)

Despite the sadness, disappointment and distress, there have been some positives too, though. Longborough Festival Opera comprises a very small team with big ambitions, Polly explains, and historically it has been enormously difficult to find time to stop - “the motor keeps running, even with just four productions a year”. The closure enforced by Covid-19 has meant that they have had to pause, and this has provided a rare space for reflection and re-evaluation. The result is some exciting new work coming up, and opportunities to ‘open up’ Longborough’s repertoire.

LFO cr Matthew Williams-Ellis (16) (1).jpgLongborough Festival Opera. Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis.

Of course, such opportunities have to be balanced against the seriousness of the ongoing situation, and the national crisis in performance arts industries and communities. “We mount four productions each year at Longborough, and thanks to that fairly finite programme and the scale of our audience-members’ response, we’ve been able to manage the situation. But, large companies which present many more productions over eleven months of the year face an even harder challenge.”

I ask Polly what she thinks can be done - and more specifically what the UK government should do. “There are many others, more eloquent than me, who have made a persuasive case. The problem is the negligence and ignorance about two things which are the essence of a society: education and the arts. It’s very depressing.”

Polly recalls a question that came up during a conversation with the charity Independent Opera: ‘What would you do if you were a young singer now?’ “It’s a great question”, she says. “At Longborough, every we give young singers an opportunity to perform through our Emerging Artists Productions. There is a danger now that a whole cohort will miss that chance, as next year it might be someone else who gets the opportunity.”

So, what would she do if she were a young singer now? “Go to Austria!” Polly laughs, drolly. “It’s terrifying when one thinks of the lack of government support and the arts communities, at the mercy of external forces in times like these, must be proactive to try to move things forward, to establish support schemes. After all, if people can gather in close proximity on the Tube or in the pub, why not - wearing masks, all face forwards, with appropriate safety measures in place - in a concert hall? The arts are absolutely fundamental to community well-being.”

I point out that it took the Covid-19 crisis to make me fully appreciate the extent to which the UK’s model for funding the arts make the creative industries’ very existence so precarious. On the continent, especially in Germany, it is not uncommon for opera companies and venues to receive 80% of their income in direct government subsidy, meaning that reopening with a small, socially distanced audience is a practical short-term solution, in contrast to the UK where the reverse economic model, or something even more parsimonious, is the norm and reopening a distant dream at present. Polly observes that, in addition to this, those companies that receive Arts Council England funding (Longborough Festival Opera does not) have been encouraged over recent decades to become even more self-reliant, by developing entrepreneurial and community ventures. As a result, “their quotas have diminished still further, and now they are being punished for their creative and economic initiative. It’s a perverse situation.”

I wonder if the ‘big voices’ within classical music have done enough to make themselves heard with sufficient vociferousness and passion? It seems as if artist leaders in the field of theatre, for example, have been more forceful in making the extremity of the disaster which faces their industry publicly known; other than Sir Mark Elder and Sir Simon Rattle ’s warning about the dire situation facing the UK’s orchestras, published in The Guardian in early June, I haven’t been aware of an co-ordinated campaigns to increase public awareness, garner support and force action. Should the classical music industry be shouting louder and banging fists on the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s door?

Inside Longborough PG.jpgPolly Graham. Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis.

Polly reminds me that others have spoken out. An open letter to the Guardian signed by singers and choral leaders including Dame Sarah Connolly, Bob Chilcott and John Rutter warned of the threat to choral traditions, reminding us that “Singing in a choir is not only about communality, social cohesion and harmony; for many it is an essential source of emotional wellbeing and positive mental health.” And, many freelancers have spoken out about the hardships they are experiencing and the frightening void ahead. Polly confirms that dialogue between opera companies is ongoing. Moreover, a national appeal and petition by #OneVoiceCampaign has been initiated.

And, shortly after my conversation with Polly, Boris Johnson pledged £1.5 billion to keeps the arts afloat during the on-going coronavirus crisis. This is of course enormously welcome, although the details about how and to whom the funds will be allocated have still to emerge: it’s just as important, if not more so, to protect and support freelancers, community and amateur arts, and arts education as it is to save the nation’s leading cultural institutions from collapse.

As Polly says, the government must properly support the arts industries in order for artists to return to work and find ways of continuing to make work and create live experiences which are an essential part of our collective, shared imagination. And, for Longborough, it’s important that the Festival keeps the conversation with its audiences alive and continues to keep doing things - hence an imminent announcement about plans for the remainder of the summer. “This dialogue with our audience is the essence of why we are here at all.”

It would be easy to end our conversation dwelling on current forecasts of doom but there will surely be brighter times ahead. Longborough Festival Opera has just announced its 2021 programme (4 June - 3 August 2021) which will ‘rescue’ three of the four productions planned for the ill-fated 2020 season - Wagner’s Die Walküre, Monteverdi’sThe Return of Ulysses and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen. Director Cal McCrystal’s schedule prevents the staging of the fourth 2020 production, The Elixir of Love, next summer, but Polly is thrilled that Mozart’s Così fan tutte will replace Donizetti’s comic opera, in a re-scored version for The Barefoot Band conducted by Lesley Anne Sammons. As for her own directorial debut, she adds, “I’m delighted to be collaborating with conductor Robert Howarth on The Return of Ulysses - Monteverdi’s beautiful, compassionate drama of homecoming. Though one of the earliest operas it feels startlingly modern. This will be performed on period instruments, but the production will reflect the drama through a contemporary lens.” For a taste of things to come, Polly has directed a short animated film by illustrator Amber Cooper-Davies, inspired by the opera: https://lfo.org.uk/news/the-return-of-ulysses-a-short-animated-film

For the remainder of the Ring cycle, Longborough will perform Götterdämmerung in 2022, and celebrate the theatre’s 25th anniversary in 2023 with the full cycle of Der Ring des Nibelungen as originally intended. 2023 will contain a new production of Siegfried.

Opportunity will come from crisis, Polly believes. “We have an opportunity now to really interrogate why we are here and what we should be. In some ways, I’m even more excited.”

Claire Seymour

How to Buy Tickets

Tickets will go on public sale in March 2021, with priority booking available to members of Longborough Festival Opera . Further information can be found at https://lfo.org.uk/

The Longborough Podcast

In June 2020, Longborough Festival Opera launched a new podcast, featuring today’s brightest stars for a series of conversations about the world of opera.

The Longborough Podcast offers listeners the opportunity to hear directly from the artists and figures at the forefront of the industry. Each episode explores a particular composer, work or role, welcoming friends from the world of opera and the arts - including singers, players, directors, conductors and more - for some thought-provoking discussions.

The podcast is available free of charge at lfo.org.uk/podcast and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Acast and Stitcher.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/PG%20cr%20Matthew%20Williams-Ellis%20title.jpg image_description= product=yes product_title= product_by=A interview by Claire Seymour product_id=Above: Polly Graham

Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
Posted by claire_s at 2:42 PM

July 21, 2020

The ReGeneration Festival 2020

In an exceptional manifestation of hope and renewal, the 4th edition of The New Generation Festival will be transformed into The ReGeneration Festival, co-presented with the Uffizi Galleries and in association with theCity of Florence at the landmark Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens, from 26 August to 29 August 2020.

Introducing a budding cast of tomorrow's stars in a staged production of the Cinderella story in Rossini's magical La Cenerentola , the ReGeneration Festival will host opera, jazz with Anush Hovhannisyan, and concerts at the Palazzo Pitti in collaboration with Musica con le Ali and in the charming ornamental gardens of Palazzo Corsini al Prato.

It is fitting that the city of the Renaissance should now set the stage for another to be reborn. Extraordinary times call for an extraordinary artistic response. The ReGeneration Festival will demonstrate the restorative power of the arts in the face of a global pandemic.

The unprecedented four-day programme of concerts and productions will be offered to audiences entirely for free and will be broadcast both online and on-air.

Strict COVID-19 protocols will keep artists and audiences safe throughout the rehearsal period and festival. The New Generation Festival will stage a unique celebration of creativity that conforms to the requirements of social distancing and follows rigorous health and safety protocols, including temperature checks and obligatory masks. The festival will also encourage spectators to wear original social-distancing outfits and bygone crinoline dresses as magnificent sartorial adoptions of safety measures that marry form and function in the tradition of the great Renaissance carnivals.

Performed on 26 and 29 August 2020 at the Palazzo Pitti, Rossini's enchanting retelling of the Cinderella fairy-tale features rising stars Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Svetlina Stoyanova as Angelina (Cenerentola) and Canadian tenor Josh Lovell as her Prince, Don Ramiro.

Both singers are young members of the Vienna State Opera ensemble, and Stoyanova is the 2017 winner of the Neue Stimmen competition. Lovell previously appeared at the 2018 Festival in Don Giovanni, with his Don Ottavio described in The Independent as "dream casting […] with an expressive purity of tone which we all too seldom hear" , winning the Grand Prize at the 's-Hertogenbosch International Vocal Competition the same year.

The production will be directed byJean-Romain Vesperini and conducted by Sándor Károlyi. Video mapping designed by Etienne Guiol and lighting by Christophe Chaupin will transport audiences to the Royal Court of the French King Louis XIV, with the costumes of Anna Maria Heinreich also drawing on the Renaissance theme.

The young cast is completed with Gurgen Baveyan (Dandini), Daniel Mirosław (Don Magnifico), Blaise Malaba (Alidoro), Marvic Monreal (Tisbe) and Giorgia Paci (Clorinda). All singers are current members or recent graduates of notable programmes worldwide including the Royal Opera House's Jette Parker Scheme (Blaise Malaba) and Opernstudio Frankfurt (Gurgen Baveyan). The international cast performing at the outset of their careers are drawn from seven countries around the world.

The roaring twenties come to Florence with iconic moments of Broadway and Hollywood in The Three Divas on 28 August 2020, featuring singer Veronica Swift (a double winner in the Jazztimes 2019 Readers' Poll), Anush Hovhannisyan, Shenel Johns, Sam Jewison, Yasushi Nakamura, Dominick Farinacci and Dan Tepfer, in an event co-produced with Piers Playfair, founder of the Catskill Jazz Factory.

Each evening will end in late-night musical entertainment and revelry, in the Boboli Gardens and in the festival's usual home, the centuries-old Palazzo Corsini al Prato across the river.

Dr Eike D. Schmidt , Director of the Uffizi Galleries, said:
"After the enormous success of the collaborations between the Uffizi Galleries with the Maggio Musicale, with the Musica con le Ali association – which offers two festivals every year in the Sala Bianca – and now also with the Florence Conservatoire which for some weeks has been staging concerts for visitors to the Palazzo Pitti every Saturday morning, now the relationship that the Uffizi Galleries has with music is intensifying and strengthening even more. This is thanks to The ReGeneration Festival: a great event that will enchant the Boboli Gardens during the week in which, among other things, we will have the anniversary of the coronation of Cosimo I as Grand Duke of Tuscany (27 August 1569)."

The New Generation Festival provides an international platform for young musical talent, with the aim of breaking down barriers between generations: the age of the Festival's 2019 audience ranged from 8 to 91 and over 50% of the opera audience was under 35. The 2019 Festival sold out to a diverse and international audience that represented over 25 countries.

The New Generation Festival was created by co-founders Maximilian Fane (Artistic Director), Roger Granville (Creative Director), and Frankie Parham (Executive Producer) alongside star soprano Anush Hovhannisyan, Head of Artistic Relations. The Festival is created with the support of Princess Giorgiana Corsini and other members of the Corsini family.

Mascarade Opera Studio

In September 2020, New Generation Festival will offer year-round opportunity to budding opera singers as the Festival launches an international Mascarade Opera Studio in Florence, providing a carefully designed high-ability nine-month training programme for eight singers and two répétiteurs.

The studio will provide extensive performance skills training by expert coaches, vocal consultants, performance specialists and internationally acclaimed masterclass teachers, including legendary Italian soprano Mariella Devia as Honorary President and world-renowned English baritone Sir Thomas Allen as Honorary Patron. The studio will be directed by Dr Ralph Strehle and the artistic advisory board includes Claudia Assmann, Christoph Boehmke, Susan Bullock, Jessica Cottis, Roger Granville, Anush Hovhannisyan, Sam McShane, Jonathan Papp, Frankie Parham, Jonathan Santagada and Carmen Santoro. In accordance with its founding ethos, Mascarade Opera Studio envisages to be a place where knowledge and practices are exchanged freely.

The Mascarade Opera Studio Artists 2020 are:

  • Sopranos Alexandria Wreggelsworth (USA), Marianna Hovhannisyan (Armenia)
  • Mezzo-sopranos Gabrielė Kupšytė (Lithuania), Lauren Young (Scotland), Xenia Tziouvaras (USA)
  • Tenor Ángel Vargas (Puerto Rico)
  • Baritone Thandolwenkosi Zwane (Eswatini, Swaziland), Paweł Trojak (Poland)
  • Répétiteurs Henry Websdale (UK), Kristina Yorgova (Bulgaria)


    image=http://www.operatoday.com/The%20ReGeneration%20Festival%202020.png image_description= product=yes product_title=The ReGeneration Festival, Wednesday 26 August - Saturday 29 August 2020, Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace, Florence product_by=
    Posted by claire_s at 12:55 PM

July 18, 2020

A family-friendly Friday Premiere - ROH and the Roundhouse presents ZooNation's The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

British hip-hop influenced dance company ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company made its Royal Opera House debut in 2014 in the Linbury Theatre with The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, produced by The Royal Ballet. Restaged in 2016 for the unique space of the Roundhouse, this high-energy, fast-paced production features a host of body-popping and break-dancing characters, with live music composed by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde. ZooNation used its energetic and accessible style to reinvent Lewis Carroll’s original story in an imaginative, 21st-century way, exploring perceptions of mental illness and what counts as ‘normal’.

Drawing inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party follows young psychotherapist Ernest who has a PhD in normalization but has his work cut out for him. At his new job in the Institute for Extremely Normal Behaviour, his patients all seem to be a long way from being ‘normal’. There’s Alice, who doesn’t know what size her body should be. The White Rabbit’s OCD means he’s always late. And the Queen of Hearts seems to have a serious problem controlling her anger. But as Ernest gets to know his Wonderland ward, he begins to ask himself: what’s so great about being ‘normal’? Slowly and surely Ernest embraces his own differences and learns with his new friends to celebrate the things that make us who we are.

We look forward to the next in our series of free online broadcasts via YouTube and Facebook, starting this evening (Friday 17 July at 7pm BST) with The Royal Opera’s Faust. David McVicar’s production tells the story of the aged philosopher Faust who makes a bargain with the devil Méphistophélès: in return for youth and the love of Marguerite, Faust will surrender his soul to the devil. The 2019 recording stars Michael Fabiano as Faust, Erwin Schrott as Méphistophélès and Irina Lungu as Marguerite. The Royal Opera Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House are conducted by Dan Ettinger.

Next week, on Friday 24 July at 7pm BST, we will broadcast The Royal Ballet’s landmark production of the classic fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty. With choreography by Marius Petipa, additional choreography by Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon and a masterful score by Tchaikovsky, the 2020 recording stars Fumi Kaneko as Princess Aurora, Federico Bonelli as Prince Florimund, Kristen McNally as Carabosse and Gina Storm-Jensen as the Lilac Fairy. Simon Hewett conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

Royal Opera House content continues to be available as part of our ongoing partnership with the BBC. Currently available on demand on BBC Sounds are The Royal Opera’s perfo1rmances of Szymanowski's King Roger (2015), Dvořák’s Rusalka (2012), Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin (2013), Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (2014), Strauss’s Elektra (2013) and Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (2016).

On BBC iPlayer , BBC Four is currently screening Royal Opera House: The Reopening in which Anita Rani, Katie Derham and Antonio Pappano introduce highlights from the three Live from Covent Garden concerts. The 90-minute programme includes the world premiere of Wayne McGregor’s Morgen performed by Francesca Hayward and Cesar Corrales, Vadim Muntagirov’s p erformance of Frederick Ashton’s 'Dance of the Blessed Spirits', the central pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto performed by Fumi Kaneko and Reece Clarke and a pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour performed by Mayara Magri and Matthew Ball. Also featured are performances of classic opera arias and songs by Gerald Finley, Louise Alder, Toby Spence, David Butt Philip, Sarah Connolly and the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists, alongside musicians from the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

From 26 July the ROH and The Luna Drive In Cinema will be broadcasting four ROH favourites at iconic drive-in cinema locations around the country. Broadcasts of La bohème and La Traviata, as well as The Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will be screened in stunning outdoor locations including Blenheim Palace, Warwick Castle, Allianz Park, Knebworth House, Tatton Park and Harewood House.

For details of all ROH broadcasts, creative activities and unique content, follow #OurHouseToYourHouse.

We are honoured to dedicate the online premiere of The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to the to the memory of Teneisha Bonner, a true force of the dance world.

product_id=Above:The Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Dancers of ZooNation

©2016 ROH. Photo by Alice Pennefather.

Posted by claire_s at 4:21 PM

Verdi’s Falstaff and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress - new titles announced for Glyndebourne Open House

Glyndebourne Open House throws open our doors to everyone, everywhere: join us at 5.00pm each Sunday and enjoy world-class opera in your living room for free.

In true Festival style, we hope you’ll use this as an opportunity to make memories - dust off your finery, clink a glass with friends and family and be united with opera lovers from across the globe. We can’t conjure the smell of the Glyndebourne roses or a view of the lake, but we can still create an experience to share.

Coming up on Sunday 26 July is Richard Jones’ production ofFalstaff, followed on 2 August by John Cox’s staging of The Rake’s Progress. These two operas will be available to watch on Glyndebourne's website and YouTube channel.

Visit glyndebourne.com/OpenHouse

26 July - Falstaff

From 5pm on 26 July and on demand for one week. Watch on the Glyndebourne website or YouTube channel.

Verdi’s Falstaff is a comedy as wise as it is witty - a generous belly-laugh after a career of dark, knotty dramas. Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and particularly its larger-than-life hero Sir John Falstaff, Verdi’s opera collides English subtlety with Italian ebullience to create a perfect comic evening.

Ageing roué Sir John Falstaff decides to try his charms on not one but two of Windsor’s housewives. Amused at the audacity of this unlikely seducer, the women of the town all come together to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget…

Updated to a post-war Windsor of pompous ex-army officers, redoubtable Brownie leaders and lovesick GIs, Richard Jones’ production is less Tudor than mock-Tudor - an updating that brings a zany, sitcom energy to this classic comedy. Vladimir Jurowski conducts a cast led by British bass-baritone Christopher Purves.

2 August - The Rake's Progress

From 5pm on 2 August and on demand for one week. Watch on the Glyndebourne website or YouTube channel.

A Glyndebourne classic, designed by David Hockney. When the mysterious Nick Shadow appears at his door, Tom Rakewell immediately abandons country life and his sweetheart Anne for the temptations of the city. But London’s glittering promise soon corrodes; love, money and even sanity slip further and further from Tom’s grasp. Can true love save him, or will the Devil have the last laugh?

Hogarth’s paintings charting one man’s path from pleasure to ruin are the starting point for one of the most dazzlingly original works of the 20th century, like a Mozart opera that has wandered into a musical hall of mirrors - at once elegant and anarchic. Comedy and tragedy are never far apart in this light-footed work that can break your heart with the broadest of smiles.

John Cox’s production is one of the great Glyndebourne classics, featuring David Hockney’s much-loved designs alongside an exciting cast including Topi Lehtipuu, Matthew Rose and Miah Persson.

In celebration of Glyndebourne's staging of The Rake’s Progress, which was due to show at this year’s festival, Glyndebourne has launched a range of gifts and homeware showcasing the original David Hockney designs from the 1975 Glyndebourne production. Hockney was inspired by an original recording conducted by Stravinsky himself and created the iconic cross-hatched etchings that were applied to the set designs and costumes. The Glyndebourne x The Rake's Progress by David Hockney Collection is now available for pre-order exclusively via www.GlyndebourneShop.com

Posted by claire_s at 4:12 PM

A Feast in the Time of Plague: Britain's first new opera commission since lockdown, at Grange Park Opera

With a libretto by opera-giant Sir David Pountney and music by Alex Woolf, A Feast in the Time of Plague is the only new opera to have been commissioned during lockdown. It will be filmed, and later streamed free to be accessible online for everyone around the world.

This will be the first opera in the UK to be performed inside a theatre, and with an audience, since lockdown.

Wasfi Kani, Founder/ CEO of Grange Park Opera, says : “We’ve decided to take a leap to perform this live in front of an audience. This new opera has 12 performers around a very, very long table - groaning with luscious delicacies. We are taking the utmost precautions. The five levels of the Theatre in the Woods normally seats more than 700 people. It means that the 250 audience members will each have a volume of air of 31 cubic metres - considerably more than a half-full plane to Greece upon which 100 passengers have a mere 2.34 cubic metres. In my view it’s time we all got moving again, and I don’t mean flying to Greece.”

· A new opera based on Alexander Pushkin’s 1830 fragment of the same title

· Pountney completed the libretto in early June; composer, Alex Woolf, completed his score in 6 weeks

· The UK’s first opera performance in a theatre will have an invited audience of 250 inside the Theatre in the Woods.

· The performers and crew will be tested for antibodies Medical Detection Dogs have been asked to provide dogs to help detect any trace of viruses

· The audience will be seated in household groups and in private boxes

· They will be invited to bring teddy bears to place in surrounding seats

Pountney explains how his libretto developed whilst in lockdown in Wales: “ I responded to Pushkin’s little fragment by creating 12 - because of the Last Supper - very varied characters ­who arrive voluntarily and most of whom depart involuntarily - i.e. they die. In between they capture the defiance and solidarity that we have all experienced during these strange times. The virus exposes truths about all of us in surprising ways. A Feast in the Time of Plague captures this - as well as the essential lesson that we must carry on laughing.”

Gramophone magazine as “a major presence in starry company.”

A superb cast of virtuoso performers includes superstar baritone Sir Simon Keenlyside, Welsh tenor Wynne Evans - famous for his TV campaign for insurance website, Go Compare - and Wagnerian soprano Susan Bullock, who has appeared many times at Covent Garden. She plays Claire the clairvoyant who predicts the plague:

I read in my old papyrus // That the dread Corona Virus // Would rage until 2021.
I told Tommy when he reaches // The Normandy beaches, // Poor boy, your race will soon be run.
I saw the end of the Titanic // All the tragedy and panic // Before she even set out to sea.
I knew that Dodi and Diana // Would die in such a manner - // Yes, that was all revealed to me.”

Bullock champions the idea of public performances: “It’s time that we performers are allowed to get back into the theatre. We need to find a way to make this work - and quickly. We are all aware of what we must do in order to keep colleagues and audiences as safe as possible”.

All the musicians, singers and technicians are being paid for this historic first step for theatre in 2020.

For more information about A Feast in the Time of Plague, plus past and forthcoming performances visit www.grangeparkopera.co.uk, or follow @grangeparkopera on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram YouTube).

Posted by claire_s at 2:09 PM

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

On August 18th 1660, diarist Samuel Pepys recorded his thoughts about ‘one Kinaston [sic], a boy’ who ‘acted the Duke’s sister [in The Loyall Subject] but made the loveliest lady that ever I saw in my life’. Edward Kynaston was, Pepys later observed, ‘the prettiest woman in the whole house’.

Edward Kynaston (c.1640-1712) was one of the last ‘boy players’ of the Restoration theatre. As an actor who performed women’s roles, in a highly mannered style, he attained the pinnacle of theatrical success at the Duke’s Theatre, London. Kynaston’s star fell when, to please his mistress - sometime orange-seller and aspiring actress, Nell Gwynn - Charles II issued a royal decree in 1661, permitting women to perform on the theatrical stage: “No He shall ere again on an English stage play She.”

Kynaston is the eponymous protagonist of Carlisle Floyd’s opera Prince of Players, first staged at the Houston Grand Opera in March 2016. The Florentine Opera Company and Milwaukee Symphony have now released the world premiere recording, on the Reference Recordings label.

Since his first opera, Susannah, was staged by New York City Opera in 1956, Floyd has been seen by many as the ‘father of American opera’, and the success of his operas - lyrical in idiom, focused on American settings and contexts, principally from the 19th and 20 th centuries - has encouraged younger composers such as Jake Heggie and Mark Adamo to engage with the genre. Eleven successful operas later, Floyd professed to have laid his composer’s pen to rest following Cold Sassy Tree (2000), devoting himself to caring for his wife, who died in 2010. Prince of Players is therefore something of a late and unexpected bloom of creativity.

Floyd’s interest in Kynaston’s artistic and personal ‘crisis’ was prompted by Richard Eyre’s film Stage Beauty (2004), which was itself based upon Jeffrey Hatcher’s play, Compleat Female Stage Beauty (1999). The opera begins and ends with Shakespeare. In the Prologue to Act 1, in a theatre newly re-opened by the reinstituted monarch, Kynaston enacts, in stylised fashion, Desdemona’s death at the hands of Othello, the latter played by the Duke Theatre’s actor-manager, Thomas Betterton. In the final scene of Act 2, Kynaston is himself the jealous murderer, the role of the Moor’s innocent wife being taken by Kynaston’s former dresser, Margaret (‘Peg’) Hughes. Kynaston’s path from artifice to naturalism, from carefree success to a catastrophic fall, is charted by royal receptions, managerial bust-ups, unemployment, drag queen notoriety, a beating at the hands of thugs employed by the ridiculed fop Sir Charles Sedley, admissions of childhood abuse, sexual re-orientation, and declarations of love. It’s a steep ‘learning curve’.

The Prologue to Act 1 presents an ominous timpani pedal and astringent woodwind wriggles, evoking not just Shakespeare’s envious green-eyed monster but also the underlying disquiet which threatens Kynaston’s identity, professional security and personal happiness. Floyd’s idiom is perhaps less prevailingly lyrical than in his previous operas, with more declamatory and quasi-speech vocalisation. The diction of cast and chorus is uniformly excellent - and the Soundmirror engineers have done a terrific job. There are frequent and lengthy instrumental interpolations within and between scenes, and at times the pedal points get a little tiresome. There are also snatches of neo-Baroque counterpoint, song, dance and fanfare, not quite carried off with the invention and subtlety with which Britten revisited the Elizabethan past in Gloriana.

As the eponymous Prince of Players, Keith Phares sings with vibrancy and impact. In the final scene of Act 1, when Kynaston appeals to the King not to allow women to perform on the stage, he injects an urgent tension into his warm baritone. But, Floyd’s Sondheim-esque outpouring when the desperate actor pleads his case - “I was an orphan and a chimney sweep, put out on the streets before I was eight … I worked and I worked for four long years until at last I was on the stage where i still perform today. This is my life and the lives of others like me. I beg you, entreat you, not to take our lives away.” - is not entirely convincing. Ditto the Copland-esque folksiness which accompanies Kynaston’s declaration of love and loyalty, sealed with a kiss, when his lover, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, declines to take him as his guest to dine with King Charles. And, Nell Gwynn’s ‘spirited folk ballad filled with roulades’ seems similarly out of place as an ‘audition piece’ before the King, though Rena Harms sings with freshness and vitality, her tone bright and excitable, with a thrilling gloss that seems to point straight towards the theatre.

In Act 2, Phares adopts a new identity, as ‘Lusty Louise’ - “that cock- sure madam, that ballsy bawd, that Paragon of beauty and all things refined” - and fires off an impressive falsetto when impersonating the disappointed bride who laments, “No balls at all, no balls at all! I’ve married a man with no balls at all!”

We gain most insight into Kynaston’s dilemma in Act 1 Scene 3 when, on the stage of the Duke’s Theatre, stripped of makeup, gown and wig, he stands beside Desdemona’s bed in his underpants, and undergoes ‘an elaborate ritual of the hands which silently expresses a full range of emotions from the most exalted joy to the most wracking grief, all mirrored in his face at the same time’. The orientalism of the flute solo evokes both strangeness and beauty, the oboe and clarinet then add a certain wistfulness, while unrest ensues in the dissonant harmonic twists.

Chad Shelton bellows with fittingly pompous sonorousness as the self-righteous and self-absorbed monarch. Alexander Dobson (Thomas Betterton), Frank Kelley (Sir Charles Sedley) and Vale Rideout (Villiers, Duke of Buckingham) vocally capture their characters with perception and skill. The Florentine Opera Chorus are in assertive voice from their first vibrant cries, “Bring back the lady, bring back Desdemona!”

But, it’s Kate Royal, as Peg Hughes who outshines all. Initially earnest and sympathetic, when disparaging the “chattering ninnies with magpie minds” (Miss Frayne and Lady Meresvale, sung by Nicole Heinen and Briana Moynihan respectively) who usher Kynaston into the night following his theatrical triumph as Desdemona, Royal finds touching lyrical sincerity when singing of Peg’s dreams and her love: “One day, perhaps one day my love will find its voice!” Her declaration, “More than anything in all the world, I want to be a player. To perform the roles that you perform, and on this very stage”, shimmers with truthful feeling, all the more powerful because of the theatrical unreality in which it is embedded.

The opera’s musical highpoint comes following Kynaston’s beating by Sedley’s thugs. Here, Floyd’s sensitive writing for bass clarinet, flute and cor anglais is beautifully interpreted by the players of the Milwaukee Symphony, conducted by William Boggs - and Floyd finds a musical sincerity that is sometimes lacking.

In his liner book article, ‘Carlisle Floyd and American Opera’, J. Mark Barker suggests that ‘Though set in 17th-century England, the opera’s highly charged drama deals with issues that confront us in 21st-century America - among them, the intricacies of sexual orientation and gender identity, and the resulting societal consequences.’ I’m not so sure that Prince of Players does ‘deal’ with such issues. The ‘fault’ probably lies with Hatcher’s play, but in its suggestion that Kynaston’s ability to perform male roles is dependent on a conversion to heterosexuality, the libretto seems oddly out of kilter with contemporary mores. Initially, Peg ‘acts’ a woman in imitation of Kynaston. When he draws from her a more realistic performance, he finds that he’s ‘a man’ after all. His ‘identity’ as a woman - in the theatre and in the bed of Villiers - is shattered. At the close his whole life seems to have been a ‘work of artfulness’, not ‘art’: his rigorous professional training and his relationship with Villiers are both presented as deception and self-deception. As a psychological ‘journey’ it feels rather reactionary, even regressive.

In an interview in Opera News in March 2016, Floyd explained that Eyre’s film had excited his musical imagination: “… when I saw the film, I thought, ‘Wow-this has the basic ingredient I think a libretto really has to have,’ which is an atmosphere of crisis. The conflict is built in, through the actions of Charles II and how that affects Kynaston, a young man who has had a brilliant career. The only thing I changed was that the film had more humor than I wanted in it.”

That ‘humour’ seems crucial to me. For there is a distinct lack of irony in Floyd’s opera, such as is present - to judge from the published critical reviews - in Hatcher’s Restoration-burlesque and, from my own recollection, in Eyre’s subsequent cinematic adaptation. In that Opera News interview, the composer described the way the relationship between Kynaston and Hughes “inevitably becomes something sexual … at least briefly, but enough that her countering his view of acting, and her denunciation of his way of overplaying the frailty of women, shakes him up and changes him. He discovers his anger in that scene, and that taps into his innate maleness. He realizes that if he’s going to play male roles, he’s going to play them as a very dominant male.” In Eyre’s film, backstage after the curtain calls Kynaston remarks, “I finally got the death scene right.” So, is Floyd suggesting that as a ‘woman’ it is Kynaston’s role to be die, and as a ‘man’, to do the murdering? I don’t think that’s the intent, but it’s hard to evade the insinuation. And, it contradicts Kynaston’s own angry assertion, when the King remarks on his prowess - “You’re not a performer for nothing, sir: you almost persuaded me!”: “That was not a performance, sir: that was my life!”

Hatcher’s title is taken from John Downes’s 1708 Roscius Anglicanus; Or an Historical Review of the Stage from 1660 to 1706 , in which he remarked that Kynaston, ‘he being then very Young, made a Compleat Female Stage Beauty, performing his Parts so well … that it has since been Disputable among the Judicious, whether any Woman that succeeded him so Sensibly touch’d the Audience as he’. What was praised as an art seems to become something artificial and a cause of shame and disgrace, in need of ‘correction’?

That said, gender and performance are at the heart of the art form that we call opera. If in the 21st century we are having conversations about gender and identity, then - from castrati to en travesti, from Cherubino to Cantonese opera, from Baba the Turk to Octavian - opera has relished gender fluidity since the art form was born. Floyd’s Prince of Players is an interesting contribution to the debate.

Opera America calculate that Susannah is one of the ten most frequently produced North American operas since 1991 (alongside an eclectic range of works including Porgy and Bess, My Fair Lady, Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, Candide, Heggie’s Dead Man Walking and Little Women by Mark Adamo). Yet, performances of Floyd’s operas in the UK are fairly rare, so this recording is particularly welcome, with its pressing, short scenes, engaging idiom, fascinating characters and context. One hopes that it’s not too long - viruses and financial crises permitting - before we get an opportunity to see a live performance on this side of the pond.

Floyd’s pleasure at having Prince of Players recorded in his lifetime is evident in the album notes, where he writes, ‘having this outstanding performance recorded for the world to hear … my 93 year old heart is filled with joy and oh, so much gratitude!’

Claire Seymour

Carlisle Floyd: Prince of Players

Edward Kynaston - Keith Phares, Margaret Hughes - Kate Royal, Thomas Betterton - Alexander Dobson, King Charles II - Chad Shelton, Sir Charles Sedley, Frank Kelley - Villiers, Duke of Buckingham - Vale Rideout, Miss Frayne - Nicole Heinen, Nell Gywnn - Rena Harms, Lady Meresvale - Briana Moynihan, Mistress Revels - Sandra Piques, Eddy Hyde - Nathaniel Hill, Female Emilia - Jessica Schwefel, Male Emilia - Nicholas Huff, Stage hand - John A. Stumpff , Florentine Opera Chorus (Scott S. Stewart, chorusmaster) Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, William Boggs (conductor)

image=http://www.operatoday.com/FR-736%20Cover.jpg image_description=FR-736 product=yes product_title=Prince of Players - an opera in two acts, by Carlisle Floyd product_by=The Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Symphony, William Boggs (conductor) product_id=Reference Recordings, FR-736, 2 CDs [01:35:35] price=$19.99 product_url=https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0851L9SHZ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0851L9SHZ&linkCode=as2&tag=operatoday-20&linkId=eb1c150d49f1cc4ccf4e3beb7ebf2748
Posted by claire_s at 1:34 PM

July 17, 2020

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Posted by Gary at 4:51 PM

Bizet’s Carmen Uncovered


Bizet’s Carmen in Context exposes the myths and stereotypes that so often surround this much loved opera by exploring its first staging and the particularly Spanish contexts in which the opera was conceived, written, and staged.

What were the forces that brought Carmen to the Operatic stage? There were certainly many: for example, the liberation of Spain from the Napoleonic rule in 1813; the subsequent emigration of Spanish artists and musicians to form an active community in Paris; the mid-century mushrooming of interest in visiting Spain facilitated by the establishment of railways. The first part of this book explores the reasons behind the French mania for Spain, and the second demonstrates how the travels and writings of Prosper Mérimée, particularly in his novella Carmen, but also in his earlier writings sent back to Paris from his first visit to Spain in the 1830s, were incorporated into the opera. What were the stories he incorporated into the fateful tale of the soldier who murders his gypsy lover? And how important was the Spanish background to this tragic tale?

This book explores how the stereotypes of Andalusian-gypsy spectacle, banditry and the fiestas of the bullfight-contributed to the eventual success of Bizet’s opera. How did Bizet and his librettists, Meilhac and Halévy-and the scenographic team-capture the spirit of Spain so strongly as to seduce opera-goers around the world? And how did it hybridise real Spanish music and French Opera with the essential ‘moments’ of Spanish life so important to Mérimée and his librettists? The original staging of the opera is used to examine both ‘places’ and characters, in particular of realities and mythologies about gypsies in the nineteenth century. It concludes with the first ways in which the opera reached the stage, both in terms of its scenography and how it was sung, played and acted.
Copiously illustrated with materials emanating from before the first production, the book reveals some of the realities of the Spain which went into this ground-breaking opera, to this day continually re-invented with new angles, new settings and new interpretations.

Posted by Gary at 4:50 PM

July 13, 2020

Rimsky-Korsakov – Mozart and Salieri


Salieri, bass

Mozart, tenor


Scene One

Salieri describes his struggle “through unremitting, concentrated effort” to achieve a high position in art, upon which Fame smiled.

And did I envy then my colleague’s works,
Their triumphs in that wondrous art? No, never!
When Piccini charmed the Paris mob,
When I first heard the opening of Gluck’s
Great Iphigenia, could any man
Have called the proud Salieri envious . . .
No, none! But now — it’s I who say it — now
I’m envious. I feel the most profound,
Tormenting envy. God in Heaven! Where
Is justice, when the sacred gift, undying
Genius, is granted not for labour,
Not for burning love, self-sacrifice,
Devotion, prayer — but illuminates
A madman’s head, an idle waster? Mozart!

Salieri invites Mozart to supper where he will poison him.

What is the point, if Mozart should live on,
And rise to even more exalted heights?
Will he then elevate our art? No, no —
When once he disappears, it will decline
Again, since he will leave no heirs. . .

Scene Two

Mozart and Salieri dine at a private room in an inn. Mozart appears depressed. He explains that his Requiem is troubling him, a work commissioned by a strange man in black. Mozart even imagines his presence at their table. Salieri quotes Beaumarchais:

’Friend Salieri, listen — if a dark
Mood should descend on you, then just uncork
A bottle of champagne, or else re-read
My Figaro

Mozart observes that Salieri and Beaumarchais were good friends. He then asks, “But is it true that . . . Beaumarchais once poisoned someone?”

I mean, the man’s a genius,
As are you and I. And surely genius
And villainy are incompatible?

Salieri pours the poison into Mozart’s glass. They toast and Mozart drinks. Mozart goes to the piano and begins to play. He sees Salieri weeping. Salieri encourages him to play on. But Mozart feels unwell and leaves. Salieri bids au revoir.

You’ll sleep for long
Enough now, Mozart! What if he is right,
Though, and I’m not a genius? Genius
And villainy are incompatible?
Not true — just think of Michelangelo;
Or is that just a fable by the stupid,
Mindless mob? And wasn’t the designer
Of the Vatican a vile assassin?

[All quotations from Alexander Pushkin, Boris Godunov — The Little Tragedies, trans. Stephen Mulrine (London: Oberon Books, 2002)]

image_description=Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov by Valentin Serov, 1898 [Source: Wikipedia]

first_audio_name=Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Mozart and Salieri, Op. 48

product_title=Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Mozart and Salieri, Op. 48
product_by=Mark Reizen, Ivan Kozlovsky, All-Union Radio Chorus and Orchestra, Samuil Samosud, cond.
product_id=Above: Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov by Valentin Serov, 1898 [Source: Wikipedia]

Posted by Gary at 3:38 PM

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Larchet studied at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, where he was guided and influenced by Michele Esposito (1855-1929) - the Italian-born Director, who introduced him to European musical traditions and contemporary developments, particularly those in Germany. After advanced studies at Trinity College Dublin (he received his MusB in 1915 and completed his MusD in 1917), he joined the staff of the RIAM in 1920, and succeeded Esposito as Senior Professor of Composition, Harmony and Counterpoint, a role he held until 1955. As a teacher, Larchet was influential in developing a school of Irish composers, many of whom went on to become important figures in Irish composition. He supplemented his part-time position at the RIAM, with a professorship at University College Dublin (1921-58), and was also Director of Music at the Abbey Theatre from 1907 to 1934, during which time he composed much incidental music including for W.B. Yeats’s plays. The National University of Ireland awarded him an honorary DMus in 1953, and in 1958 he received the order of Commendatore from the Italian government. Larchet’s 1954 arrangement of the Irish national anthem remains the official version.

Today, however, at least in England, we hear little of Larchet’s music or of his crusading musical activities. So, I’m curious to learn why Irish pianist Niall Kinsella became so fascinated by this figure from the historical and musical past, and so drawn to his music that he set out upon a mission to track down and record Larchet’s entire oeuvre of ‘art songs’, a venture that will come to fruition in August when the resulting CD is released on the Champs Hill label.

Niall Kinsella (c) Andrej Grilc.jpgNiall Kinsella. Photo credit: Andrej Grilc.

It was during his student years at UCD, Niall tells me, that he first came across Larchet’s music. His name was familiar, not least because of the College’s biennial Larchet Memorial Lecture Series (the first John F. Larchet Memorial Lecture was delivered by Joseph Kerman in 1995, as the keynote address at the Maynooth International Musicological Conference). A student friend was singing one of Larchet’s songs, ‘A Stoirin Ban’, and Niall accompanied her: he was struck by the beauty and originality of the song, as well as the folksong-influenced idiom: “People in every country are touched by their native folksong, by the melodies, and it was this that made such an impression on me.” On this recording, mezzo-soprano Raphaela Mangan’s crystalline lyricism certainly captures the song’s melodic strength and poignant tenderness.

Raphaela Mangan mezzo soprano.jpgRaphaela Mangan (mezzo-soprano).

Slowly Niall began investigating and tracking down Larchet’s art songs in English. Time passed, but the wish to record the fifteen songs that he had accumulated gradually increased, particularly as his own career as a pianist and lieder accompanist, working with different singers, had developed and the time to record his first CD seemed ripe. In 2016 he returned to this project and contacted Raphaela Mangan, with whom he had collaborated since 2012, and baritone Gavan Ring. Two live performances of Larchet’s songs followed, the second of which at NCH Dublin, formed part of Kinsella’s Irish Songmakers series. The first concert had by chance been recorded, and Niall sent the recording to Champs Hill Records, in the hope that a label which was not afraid to champion newly emerging musicians and little-known repertoire might be interested in the project. “They were warm and enthusiastic from the start,” Niall explains, “and with the incredible generosity of Mary and David Bowerman we were able to go ahead.”

So, 15 years after he first encountered Larchet’s music, and after much research and planning, in 2018 the recording took place, but it was not until 2020 that Niall actually heard the songs from ‘beginning to end’. “I’d heard the songs during the editing process, but the actual CD arrived during lockdown. As for all musicians, this was a period when there was little happening, and it was such a lift to receive the CD.” It has been such a journey, one which came to involve Larchet’s family - his two daughters Máire and Sheila, and his grand-daughter Anne - who had attended the performances in 2017 and 2018. “It made the project so personal,” reflects Niall. “I was living in Vienna at the time [studying at the University for Music and Performing Arts] and I’d been practising Larchet’s songs and writing a ‘script’ for the concert which would introduce the audience to Larchet’s life and work. I realised that, while he was quite a ‘distant’ figure for me, Larchet was Máire and Sheila’s father, and I felt quite a weird connection with the composer, even though he had died 20 years before I was born. After the concert and during the preparation of the CD, I met with his two daughters and Anne, who talked to me about Larchet’s life and the musical culture at that time. Máire and Sheila knew the songs really well! They were part of their life, and they were able to sing them and quote the texts.”

Niall Kinsell, Maire Larchet, Sheila Larchet, Raphaela Mangan, Gavan Ring.jpgNiall Kinsell, Maire Larchet, Sheila Larchet, Raphaela Mangan and Gavan Ring.

Subsequently, Niall had a further ‘special moment’. He managed to locate two additional songs that had been lost or out of print for over 100 years - and that had not been included in the two concerts or on the CD. Sadly, by this time, Máire had passed away, aged 97. Niall approached Sheila and asked her if she knew anything about two songs that received a passing mention on Wikipedia (not always the most reliable of sources!); she thought it was probably a mistake, but Niall, curious by nature, contacted a Larchet scholar in November 2019 who suggested that, although it was probably a misattribution, he might check with the British Library, the reported home of the only manuscripts. The two songs were duly located, and so it was back to the studio to record two more tracks. Niall kept his find a secret from Sheila. At 97 years old, she was ‘cocooning’ during lockdown, and he was delighted to be able to send her copies of both the CD and of the scores of the two extra songs. One can only imagine how moving it must have been for her to have her past made present, and to discover something ‘new’ about her personal history.

Here, Gavan Ring’s firm and rich baritone captures every drop of the Romantic ardour of ‘Love’s Question’ while Kinsella ensures that the flowing momentum evokes the singer’s compelling passion, which drives the song to a stirring conclusion. ‘Love, and a Garden’ restores a quieter more, restful mood, and Mangan eases through the well-shaped melody with grace and varied colour, supported by the gentle breathing of the piano accompaniment.

Kinsella Mangan and Ring John F Larchet Remembered 19 Jan 2018 John Field Room National Concert Hall.jpgNiall Kinsella, Raphaela Mangan and Gavan Ring, ‘John F. Larchet Remembered’, 19th January 2018, John Field Room, National Concert Hall.

I ask Niall how he evaluates Larchet’s role in Irish musical history, as a composer, educator and as a driving force in both the institutions which supported the creation of new repertoire and the communities amongst which it was received. Of primary importance, Niall believes, is the fact that Larchet made it possible for Irish musicians to study in their native country, whereas previously they had had to travel abroad, often to London to have lessons with Vaughan Williams or Stanford. Among his pupils were Michael Bowles (1909-98), Walter Beckett (1914-96), Joan Trimble (1915-2000), and Havelock Nelson (1917-1996). Although Larchet was a little self-deprecating about his role in establishing a ‘school’ of Irish composers, he was indeed pivotal, many of his students themselves going on to become teachers, Frederick May (1911-85), Brian Boydell (1917-2000) and Seóirse Bodley (1933 - ) among them. “Their personal styles are different to Larchet’s, but there is a ‘whisper’ of folk-music in their music.”

Moreover, as an administrator Larchet was instrumental to the development of Irish music. “He virtually set up the Music Department at UCD” and he served as principal examiner for the Irish Department of Education and for the local centre examinations of the RIAM, “travelling around Ireland as an examiner for the National Music Examination Board. His influence was felt far beyond Dublin, and across the whole country.” This reminds me of the career of Sir Arthur Somervell, who alongside his compositional activities had a long career as a Civil Servant, succeeding Stainer as Inspector of Music to the Board of Education in 1900, and being promoted to Principal Inspector in 1920, and who was responsible for establishing music as a serious and widely studied school subject. Niall agrees - and another similarity is the two men’s predilection for the genre of song, and their skills as ‘miniaturists’, though Larchet frequently repurposed his songs - and violin pieces - as chamber works. The Complete Songs and Airs also includes the premiere recording of Larchet’s two sets of ‘Irish Airs for Violin and Piano’, performed by Mia Cooper. Loving cradle songs and touching laments contrast with vibrant hornpipes and roistering reels, but Larchet’s effortless lyricism is always present and powerful.

Another aspect of Larchet’s career that intrigues me is the extent to which he was interested in, or committed to, contemporary musical developments, especially in Germany and on the continent. “I think that there are some composers who essentially look back, such as Brahms, and those who are pushing the musical envelope and stretching musical forms and language to the limits, such as Richard Strauss,” suggests Niall. I think that Larchet was one of those who looked back. He was immensely influenced by Wagner; it was hearing his music - especially Tannhäuser - that made him want to be a musician. And also by Elgar; knowing that, I began to hear many parallels in his music.”

Gavan Ring (c) Frances Marshall.jpg Gavan Ring. Photo credit: Frances Marshall.

Early in his career, Larchet wrote an article, or credo, ‘A Plea for Music’: ‘A dispassionate analysis of the present position of music in Dublin is rather discouraging. It possesses no concert hall, good or bad, and no permanent orchestra which could be called a symphony orchestra. Except for occasional visits from some of the English orchestras, there has been no performance of any importance or educative value in Dublin for ten years. This means that most of the people have no knowledge of Strauss, Brahms, and the great volume of modern orchestral music. Few are acquainted with any important works of later date than Wagner’s ’Ring of the Nibelungen’. Little interest is taken in chamber music or choral music; a large percentage of music lovers in Dublin have never heard a string quartet. Solo instrumental recitals, or classical song recitals, are few and far between, and are only attended by a small circle of enthusiasts, or by those personally interested in the artist. In such circumstances, it is inevitable that Dublin should contribute nothing to the support or progress of music.’

“Larchet’s idiom might sometimes seem ‘twee’ to our modern ears, but we need to judge it by the standards of his time and context. These are art songs, which are influenced by folk traditions and idioms. His early songs, composed between 1906-10, were designed to appeal to a cosmopolitan audience. They were published by London-based publishing houses, and one senses that Larchet was writing for a particular English market. Subsequently, songs such as ‘The Cormorant’ (1947) are more progressive but still make use of modes and folk elements. It’s as if Larchet had one foot in the past and one foot in the present.” ‘The Cormorant’, sung here with focused intensity by Gavan Ring, does indeed strike me as one of the most impressive of Larchet’s songs, quasi-theatrical in impact, complex in structure, its idiom more flexible, and restless, in responding to Emily Lawless’s poetry, creating immediacy and drawing the listener into the song’s drama.

I wonder if Larchet’s perceived conservatism is one factor in his relative ‘obscurity’? Niall agrees: “Irish art songs are rarely taken up in the way that English art songs are. There are also practical constraints - many are out of print, published by Irish companies that are long gone.” I reflect that at the Wigmore Hall, for example, one rarely hears a non-Irish singer performing this repertoire, and even then, only as an encore. “Yes, I don’t know if it’s shyness, or embarrassment, but it’s rare even in Ireland for these art songs to be included in the core of a programme.”

Irish Songmakers Series.jpg

In a sense, Larchet is a complexity of paradoxes and contradictions. He set both English poetry - including poems by Yeats and Shelley ( ‘The Philosophy of Love’ is included on the CD) - and Gaelic traditional texts. He chose to compose art songs, when political and religious circumstances did not encourage their performance or positive reception, given the dual counterforces of Celtic nationalism and financial adversity. Mark Fitzgerald has written pertinently about the development of contemporary music in Ireland, noting that it was ‘not just of Ireland’s peripheral position in relation to the centres of modernism in music, but also of a chronic lack of investment in the extensive capital needed to foster the development of music during the period of colonial governance in Ireland’ [1] . ‘The parlous finances of the country in the early years of the Free State were not favourable for investment in the arts, and the fact that there were no secure foundations for a musical infrastructure meant that music was at a considerable disadvantage in the new state.’ Fitzgerald notes that ‘there was no permanent full-size professional orchestra in Ireland during this period’ and recounts an amusing anecdote: “while a number of short-lived ventures (such as the Dublin Orchestral Society, founded by Michele Esposito in 1899) provided sporadic access to pieces from the core repertoire, the standard of performance was probably quite low. Hamilton Harty laconically noted of the Dublin Orchestral Society: “At Dublin I was admitted into the local orchestra as a violist, a very inferior violist, but the orchestra itself was not superlative”, while John Larchet recalled that many of the wind instruments were constructed at an older concert pitch which was approximately a semi-tone too high and that Esposito created an “astonishingly good ensemble from the most unpromising material”.’ Sheila Larchet remembers such problems arising when her father attempted to amalgamate a light orchestra and army band, and discovered that they were tuned to different pitches!

Did Larchet ‘spread himself too thin’? He was music adviser to the Irish army after 1923 and influential in the development of the Army School of Music; founding president and musical director of the Dublin Grand Opera Society (1941), which superseded the Dublin Operatic Society; and vice-president of Trinity College of Music, London. “He had a foot in so many camps,” says Niall, “and a passion for all these different areas - theatre, opera, education. He was an advocate for musical excellence in Ireland. If he had not done all these things, would there be more music? We’ll never know. He was the man on the ground, and he had passion and vision. His daughters remember how he loved to work - he had a desire and a hunger.”

At a time when many were reactionary and anti-British sentiment was comment, Larchet was of a liberal mindset. A Catholic, he had been admitted to Trinity College Dublin, a rare occurrence. “He was open-minded. He didn’t buy into ‘them and us’.” What Niall really admires about Larchet’s songs is that they “take in everything, and speak beyond themselves.”

John F. Larchet: Complete Songs and Airs will be released on the Champs Hill label on 28th August 2020.

Claire Seymour

John F. Larchet: Complete Songs And Airs

Raphaela Mangan (mezzo soprano), Gavan Ring (baritone), Mia Cooper (violin), Verity Simmons (cello), Niall Kinsella (piano)

‘The Philosophy of Love’, ‘In Sweet Humility’*, ‘Love’s Question’*, ‘Love, and a Garden’*, ‘Padraic the Fiddiler’ (arr. voice and violin), An Ardglass Boat Song’, Irish Airs for Violin and Piano (I)*, A Stoirin Ban’, ‘The Bard of Armagh’*, ‘The Song of the Faery Child’*, ‘Diarmuid’s Lament’* (voice and cello), ‘The Thief of the World’*, Irish Airs for Violin and Piano (II)*, ‘The Stranger’, ‘The Wee Boy in Bed’, ‘The Cormorant’*, ‘Wee Hughie’, ‘The Small Black Rose’* (Bonus Track: Padraic the Fiddiler’ (mezzo-soprano))
* world premiere recording

[1] Mark Fitzgerald (2018). ‘A belated arrival: the delayed acceptance of musical modernity in Irish composition’, Irish Studies Review, 26:3, 347-360.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Larchet%20title%20image.jpg image_description=Champs Hill Records: CHRCD151 product=yes product_title=John F. Larchet: Complete Songs And Airs product_by=Raphaela Mangan (mezzo soprano), Gavan Ring (baritone), Mia Cooper (violin), Verity Simmons (cello), Niall Kinsella (piano) product_id=Champs Hill Records: CHRCD151 [CD] price=$9.49 product_url=https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BZTMW5X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B08BZTMW5X&linkCode=as2&tag=operatoday-20&linkId=beda11b79c8546f23312d45d17129946
Posted by claire_s at 6:21 AM

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

A soundbite summary of Carlo Pepoli’s libretti of Bellini’s 1835 melodramatic historical romance, I puritani, perhaps? No. The starting point of Arthur Sullivan’s 1892 romantic comedy-cum-historical drama, Haddon Hall, a CD of which I was delighted to receive from conductor John Andrews at the start of lockdown: if I couldn’t enjoy country house opera festivals this summer, then some stately home opera would be a welcome replacement.

“Ye stately homes of England,
So simple yet so grand;
Long may ye stand and flourish,
Types of our English land.”

So sing the Chorus, from behind closed curtains, at the start of Haddon Hall. Some musical partnerships seem as inextricably bound together in English culture as fish and chips, and strawberries and cream: Flanders and Swann, Britten and Pears, Rodgers and Hammerstein … how about a Gilbert-lite Sullivan, then?

Disagreements between the two halves of the successful librettist-composer union around the time of The Gondoliers (1889); Sullivan’s desire to ditch the tested-and-tried and to compose an English ‘grand opera’; D’Oyly Carte’s financial problems at the newly opened Royal English Opera House: much contrived to throw Sullivan’s new ventures off-kilter. But, the composer’s desire for a lavish domestic life and D’Oyly Carte’s determination to revive a thriving business led the two men back to light opera and the Savoy Theatre. A new collaborator was required, however. Enter one Sydney Grundy, a successful playwright willing to turn his hand to serving Sullivan’s requirements.

Grundy’s Haddon Hall libretto was based upon the real-life elopement of Dorothy Vernon, daughter of the Royalist Sir George, with the son of the Protestant Earl of Rutland, in the 1560s. Grundy shifted the action forward 100 years, to take advantage of the religious conflicts of the Civil War period, which intensify the familial loyalties and tensions. So, Dorothy rejects the hand of her cousin, Rupert the Roundhead (her father hopes the marriage will deflect the legal claim Rupert has made upon Haddon Hall) in favour of Sir John Manners; she elopes, is pursued, returns, and - thanks to the restitution of Charles II to the English throne - is accepted with her new husband into the family fold.

It hardly sounds drama enough to sustain a two-hour opera; and, though the libretto is divided into three parts according to the theatrical laws of exposition, conflict and resolution (Act I ‘The Lovers’, Act II ‘The Elopement’, Act III ‘The Return’), many deemed - following the premiere of Haddon Hall on 24th September 1892 - that, indeed, it was not. The characters are flat, often inconsistent, and caricatures abound. The Daily Telegraph critic observed on 26th September 1892: ‘The great weakness of the libretto is ... the dramatic insignificance of the main characters who do nothing to make us care for them.’ The Musical News condemned Grundy for having ‘gone out of his way to violate the canons of good taste, by the introduction of needless extraneous characters’. And, the reviewer in Notes dismissed the historical displacement, judging it made ‘for the sake of satirising, not the Puritans themselves, but certain modern Sectaries who have no real relationship with the Puritans, [it] is a double error of judgement’.

Not all were so negative, though: Haddon Hall did have a run of 200 performances, not far off the totals achieved by Ruddigore andPrincess Ida. And, many reviews were complimentary, Notes favourably comparing the post-elopement aria, ‘Queen of the Garden’, and duet, ‘Bride of my youth, Wife of my age’, to Gounod’s duet for Baucis and Philémon! George Bernard Shaw relished the opportunity to take some snide swipes at Gilbert, attributing (in his column, Music in London, 28th September 1892) the opera’s success to ‘the critical insight of Mr Grundy’. And, despite his innate prejudices, Shaw was on a convincing footing in judging that Haddon Hall confirmed that in Sullivan’s handling of ‘the sort of descriptive ballad which touches on the dramatic his gift is as genuine as that of Schubert or Loewe’. Haddon Hall, Shaw observed, contained ‘episode after episode’ of such ballads, ‘tenderly handled down to the minutest detail of their skilful and finished workmanship’.

HH in Graphic.jpgHaddon Hall, Illustration for The Graphic, 1st October 1892 (engraving), English School (19th century), Illustrated Papers Collection/ Bridgeman Images.

This recording suggests that Shaw wasn’t wrong: despite the weak dramatic development and the lack of any real conflict, the ‘ballads’ of Haddon Hall make a loud appeal. Taken out of the theatre, the opera makes a persuasive case for Sullivan’s music. Characters that are ill-defined dramatically often have a strong musical identity and set-piece ensembles may not move the action forward but can form lively vocal ‘tableaux’.

As Dorothy’s companion Dorcas, Angela Simkin gets things brightly underway, interrupting the BBC Singers’ hearty rendition of the pastoral ensemble (‘Today it is festival time’) which anticipates Dorothy’s arrival at Haddon Hall at the start of the opera, with the wry tale of the dormouse and the snail (‘’Twas a dear little dormouse’) - a figurative account of Dorothy’s distaste for the metaphorically describes the young woman’s reluctance to marry her father’s choice, the baying, bragging Rupert. Sarah Tynan is a self-assured, vibrant Dorothy: if the feisty lass’s smile gleams as appealingly as Tynan’s soprano in Dorothy’s Act 1 aria, ‘Red of the rosebud’, then no wonder Manners is smitten. Andrews urges the BBC Concert Orchestra onwards, the colours swelling and blooming, to convey Dorothy’s passion-driven decision to defy her father. The idiom may be familiar, but it’s no less satisfying.

It’s not just the solo songs that beguile, Sullivan enlivens the duets and ensembles too. The fraught trio ‘Nay, father dear’, in which she forcefully rejects her father’s wishes, is followed by a lovely duet for Dorothy and the sympathetic Lady Vernon, ‘Mother, dearest mother’, in which Fiona Kimm’s mezzo-soprano is a comforting, richly layered complement to Tynan’s youthful woe. The arrival of her beloved, however, is probably of greater consolation to the love-struck Dorothy, and Ed Lyon is an ardent John Manners, his tenor strong, true and lithe - as befits any knight-in-shining-armour worthy of that name. (Sullivan made some revisions to Haddon Hall, some of which reduced Manners’ role; this recording sequences both versions.) Andrews keeps the pulsing strings hushed in ‘The Earth is Fair’, allowing the woodwind countermelodies and the cellos’ surges to make their mark. In this aria, as throughout the opening Act, which essentially serves to introduce the cast of characters, the tempo flows convincingly, just as the various numbers segue seamlessly.

Sullivan, naturally, doesn’t eschew musical caricature and Grundy provides him with some ‘classic types’. Before he is disillusioned by the news of his daughter’s elopement, Sir George sings a paean to England and its glorious past, ‘In days of yore’, and bass-baritone Henry Waddington conjures up a terrific image of deluded pomposity - his rolled ‘r’s ring truly with self-righteousness! - complemented by nationalistic choral interjections and ironic staccato accompaniment complete with sly flute commentaries and droll mini-crescendos. The varied forces and details are brilliantly assembled by Andrews.

Even more absurd is the arrival of Oswald (tenor Adrian Thompson), Manners’ servant disguised as a travelling salesman and fulfilling a mission to deliver his master’s letter to Dorothy. A blare from the brass whips up the excited Haddon folk (‘Ribbons to sell’) and Thompson slickly runs through the sales patter (‘Come simples and gentles’). Even Dulcamara didn’t get this sort of welcome, the villagers joining in with some vivacious, though anachronistic, bursts of foreign ‘anthems’ to accompany Oswald’s catalogue of continental goodies for sale. The bridegroom-to-be makes his appearance at the end of Act 1, accompanied by an unlikely troupe of Puritan buddies - Sing-Song Simeon, Nicodemus Knock-Knee, Barnabas Bellows-to-Mend and Kill-joy Candlemas - though the somewhat formulaic ‘I’ve heard it said’ suggests that Rupert is not so beguiled by the religious cause as he might be. The villagers are not impressed, and in ‘When I was but a little lad’ baritone Ben McAteer captures Rupert’s over-earnest self-absorption as he tries to win them over. All are ‘outshone’ in the ludicrous stakes by McCrankie, Rupert’s fanatical Puritan Scot who hails from ‘the Island of Rum’. ‘My name is McCrankie’ spouts baritone Donald Maxwell with dour stringency at the start of Act 2, to the drone of the ‘pipes’ and the hint of a highland reel.

Illustrated news HH.jpg Haddon Hall, Illustration for The Illustrated London News, 1st October 1892, ‘The Flight of Dorothy Vernon’ (engraving), English School (19th Century), Illustrated Papers Collection/Bridgeman Images.

Sullivan’s fluency with pastoral idioms is frequently in evidence, not least the Act 1 madrigal for chorus and soloists, ‘When the budding bloom of May’, which Andrews once again keeps swinging buoyantly along as if fuelled by the villagers’ joyful confidence: ‘All creation seems to say,/ “Earth was made for man’s delight!”’ But, there are some surprises too, not least the long finale to Act 2 which begins midway through the elopement, with Dorcas and Oswald lamenting that “The west wind howls”, and closes with the hoodwinked parents’ discovery of their errant daughter’s disobedience. The formal and harmonic structures are complex and there’s a strange juxtaposition of fast-moving development and the stasis with which it concludes. As Sir George urges the pursuers “To horse - to horse!”, the Chorus reassure Lady Vernon that the mis-doers will indeed “blunder” and that nothing with change: “Time, the Avenger,/ Time, the Controller,/ Time, that unravels the tangle of life,/ Guard thee from danger,/ Prove thy consoler,/ And make thee again happy mother and wife!” The BBC Singers (chorus master, Matthew Morley) bloom from unison beginnings to a wonderfully rich canvas of vocal harmony.

Of course, time will not stand still, but the villagers are not entirely wrong. Eight years passes - one wonders how that would be conveyed in the theatre - and Act 3 finds the Vernons being kicked out of Haddon Hall by the hypocritical Rupert. Sullivan’s invention keeps spinning in this final Act, with a lovely aria for Kimm as Lady Vernon bids farewell to her friends, ‘Queen of the Garden’, and a still better duet for the evictees, ‘Bride of my youth’, in which Kimm and Waddington put past conflicts behind them and look forward optimistically to peace and companionship in their dotage. In the end, it’s the restoration of the monarchy that re-establishes familial harmony, leads the villagers to rebel against the Puritan restrictions which makes their lives so dull, prompts the return of Dorothy and John, and brings about the reinstatement of Sir George as Lord of Haddon Hall. “To thine own heart be true!” cry all at the close. It’s stirring stuff!

It was the convention to begin an evening at the Savoy Theatre with a ‘curtain raiser’, and Christopher O’Brien’s scholarly edition of two such ‘lever de rideau’, Captain Billy and Mr Jericho ( Musica Britannica Volume 99, Stainer & Bell, 2015) has furnished Andrews, his singers and musicians with some choice examples of the genre with which to complement Haddon Hall.

The two short works share a librettist, Harry Greenbank. Captain Billy, composed by François Cellier, D’Oyly Carte’s Musical Director from 1879 to 1913, was a curtain raiser toThe Nautch Girl (a comic opera composed by Edward Solomon) on 23rd September 1891, and relates the tale of the eponymous former pirate’s return to his family after ten years at sea, plying his disreputable ‘trade’. There’s a terrific quartet for Captain Billy’s ‘widow’ (Fiona Kimm), her daughter Polly (Eleanor Denis) with whom their lodger Christopher Jolly (Ed Lyon) is smitten, and the landlord of The Blue Dragon Samuel Chunk (Henry Waddington), which culminates in a graceful, foot-tapping hornpipe led by a vibrant trumpet. The voices blend thrillingly, but are interrupted by the arrival of Ben McAteer’s Captain Billy who despite celebrating his arrival with a smug swagger (‘A pirate bold am I’), is disconcerted to learn from Chunk that the nephew whom he disinherited 20 years earlier - abandoning him in the desert with clothes labelled ‘Christopher Jolly’ - is at that very moment examining the parish registers to uncover the mystery of his birth.

The similarly tuneful Mr Jericho was composed by Cellier’s assistant at the Savoy and the Royal English Opera House, Ernest Ford, who had studied with Sullivan at the Royal Academy of Music, and with Lalo in Paris. The premiere on 18th March 1893 raised the curtain for Haddon Hall, with a tale of the bankrupt aristocrat, Michael de Vere, and his omnibus-driver son, Horace, both resident in Kensal Green, and the fulfilment of Horace’s romantic dreams through the manoeuvrings of one Mr Jericho (celebrated manufacturer of Jericho’s Jams). As the eponymous businessman, McAteer’s gleeful glorification of his company’s celebrated condiments is exuberantly colourful, while Eleanor Denis’s poised Winifred (daughter of Lady Bushey) and Lyon’s good-natured Horace share a sweet serenade of mutual admiration, supported by warm strings and touching oboe, as their hearts go “pit-a-pat”. Imitation Sullivan these two curtain-raisers might be, but they are certainly not second-rate substitutes.

Sitting comfortably at home, listening to a recording of Sullivan’s Haddon Hall, one does not lament the absence of Gilbertian irony such as one might do in the opera house. If Haddon Hall is static, dramatically and symbolically so - freezing historic English grandeur in operatic aspic perhaps - it is not, thanks to Sullivan’s score, lacking in sensitivity or interest.

Grundy’s libretto makes clear that “the clock of time has been put forward a century, and other liberties have been taken with history”, and this ‘out of time’ quality was noted by the Sunday Times reviewer, on 25 th September 1892: ‘An English story with a fine healthy English tone, set to music essentially English in idea, form, and character, Haddon Hall … is one of those happy combinations of national qualities that can never appeal in vain to popular audiences. It breathes at every point the true racial spirit.’ In similar vein, the Musical News praised Sullivan’s ‘skilful assumption … of the artforms so greatly perfected by our composers of former days’, for we see in ‘English music of the best kind certain qualities analogous to the best traits of our national character - simple earnestness, straightforward naturalness, and prompt, but unexaggerated expression’.

Such sentiments are either twee, embarrassing, or to be condemned today, depending on one’s personal view. But, I can’t help feeling that a certain ‘timelessness’ - as well as a little triviality and frivolousness - is not unwelcome in times when all seems beset by bewildering change and upheaval.

Claire Seymour

Sir Arthur Sullivan: Haddon Hall (1892)

John Manners - Ed Lyon (tenor), Sir George Vernon - Henry Waddington (bass-baritone), Oswald - Adrian Thompson (tenor), Rupert Vernon - Ben McAteer (baritone), McCrankie - Donald Maxwell (baritone), Dorothy Vernon - Sarah Tynan (soprano), Lady Vernon - Fiona Kimm (mezzo-soprano) Dorcas - Angela Simkin (mezzo-soprano), BBC Concert Orchestra, John Andrews (conductor), BBC Singers (concert master, Matthew Morley)

Ernest Ford - Mr Jericho (1893)

Michael de Vere - Henry Waddington, Horace Alexander de Vere - Ed Lyon, Mr Jericho - Ben McAteer, Lady Bushey - Fiona Kimm, Winifred - Eleanor Dennis (soprano), BBC Concert Orchestra, John Andrews (conductor)

Francois Cellier - Captain Billy (1891)

Captain Billy - Ben McAteer, Christopher Jolly - Ed Lyon, Samuel Chunk - Henry Waddington, Widow Jackson - Fiona Kimm, Polly - Eleanor Dennis, BBC Concert Orchestra, John Andrews (conductor)

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Haddon%20Hall%20title%20image.jpg image_description= DUTTON EPOCH product=yes product_title=Sir Arthur Sullivan: Haddon Hall, Ernest Ford: Mr Jericho, François Cellier: Captain Billy product_by=BBC Concert Orchestra, John Andrews (conductor); BBC Singers (Haddon Hall), Matthew Morley (chorus master) product_id=DUTTON EPOCH 2CDLX7372 [2SACDs] price=$30.99 product_url=https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085TLCWMZ/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B085TLCWMZ&linkCode=as2&tag=operatoday-20&linkId=d138dee7e3eb2e257acade4da71bde1f
Posted by claire_s at 5:17 AM

July 12, 2020

Kirsten Flagstad Born This Day 125 Years Ago

Kirsten Malfrid Flagstad (12 July 1895 – 7 December 1962) was a Norwegian opera singer and a highly regarded Wagnerian soprano. She ranks among the greatest singers of the 20th century, and many opera critics called hers "the voice of the century." Desmond Shawe-Taylor wrote of her in the New Grove Dictionary of Opera: "No one within living memory surpassed her in sheer beauty and consistency of line and tone."

[Source: Wikipedia]

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Flagstad.png image_description=Kirsten Flagstad audio=yes first_audio_name=Tristan und Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod
Kirsten Flagstad with Wilhelm Furtwängler and the Philharmonia Orchestra (1952) first_audio_link=https://youtu.be/SQO7QIgNvA0 product=yes product_title=Kirsten Flagstad Born This Day 125 Years Ago product_by= product_id=Above: Kirsten Flagstad
Posted by Gary at 9:35 AM

July 9, 2020

New titles announced for Glyndebourne Open House

Glyndebourne Open House throws open our doors to everyone, everywhere: join us at 5.00pm each Sunday and enjoy world-class opera in your living room for free.

In true Festival style, we hope you’ll use this as an opportunity to make memories - dust off your finery, clink a glass with friends and family and be united with opera lovers from across the globe. We can’t conjure the smell of the Glyndebourne roses or a view of the lake, but we can still create an experience to share.

Coming up this Sunday 12th July is Michael Grandage’s production of Billy Budd, followed on 19th July by Annabel Arden’s staging of The Barber of Seville. These two operas will be available to watch on Glyndebourne's website and YouTube channel.

Visit glyndebourne.com/OpenHouse

Glyndebourne Open House listings


From 5pm on 12 July and on demand for one week. Watch on the Glyndebourne website or YouTube channel.

Inspired by Herman Melville’s novella, Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd is a heart-breaking psychological study of good and evil and the many human shades of grey that lie between. Harnessing the power of a large orchestra and all-male chorus, the opera creates a vast and powerful voice for the sailors of the HMS Indomitable.

At the heart of this claustrophobic community is Billy Budd, a new recruit whose innocence, goodness and beauty attract the unwelcome attention of Master-at-arms Claggart. Conflicted and tormented by the emotions the boy stirs in him, Claggart vows to destroy him. False accusations lead to violence, tragedy and ultimately death.

Britten’s score blends lyricism and moments of startling beauty with evocative sea-shanties and sweeping orchestral textures to create one of his most moving operas.

Glyndebourne’s first ever production is directed by veteran British theatre director Michael Grandage, who makes his operatic debut with this award-winning production starring Jacques Imbrailo in the title role. Mark Elder conducts.


From 5pm on 19 July and on demand for one week. Watch on the Glyndebourne website or YouTube channel.

The beautiful Rosina is kept all but prisoner by her guardian Dr Bartolo, who secretly hopes to marry his wealthy ward. But when Count Almaviva falls in love with Rosina from afar he enlists the help of cunning barber Figaro to help him outwit Bartolo. A comic battle of wills ensues, but will love or greed be triumphant?

Verdi thought it the greatest operatic comedy - a perfect marriage of wit, energy and exhilarating musical invention. Rossini’s score fizzes with virtuosic brilliance, combining bravura solo arias, set to some of the composer’s best-loved melodies, with breath-taking, intricate ensembles.

Embracing the opera’s Commedia dell’arte origins, Annabel Arden’s lively production is suffused with Spanish colour and warmth, with just a hint of the surreal. Enrique Mazzola conducts an all-star cast including Danielle de Niese, Alessandro Corbelli and Björn Bürger.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Rossini%20GOH.jpg image_description= product=yes product_title=The Barber of Seville at Glyndebourne product_by= product_id=Above: Janis Kelly as Berta, Taylor Stayton as Count Almaviva, Danielle de Niese as Rosina, Taylor Stayton as Figaro

Photo credit: Bill Cooper/Glyndebourne
Posted by claire_s at 5:34 AM

July 7, 2020

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

In this Beethoven anniversary year, it is good that there are ventures which probe more deeply into the composer and his music. The year started with reconstructions, in full performances concerts throughout Europe, of the concert of 22nd December 1808, in honour of the composer, in Vienna which included the Fifth and Sixth symphonies, concluding with the Choral Fantasy providing a grand finale, Beethoven himself playing the piano part. Perhaps it says something about the stamina of modern audiences that some could not understand the ambitious scale of the programme. The Choral Fantasy is in many ways the embryo of Symphony no 9, now an anthem of hope and unity, all over the world.

Although the Choral Fantasy was not successful at the 1808 concert for many reasons, it is hardly a neglected work. The Adagio begins with a substantial section for solo piano, for this is very much a piece for piano, supplemented by orchestra and voices. The familiar “Ode to Joy” motif is introduced first by the piano, then elaborated by different sections in the orchestra. A concerto, in effect, the piano very much part of the evolution of the whole. Not for nothing is the Choral Fantasy in the repertoire of many fine keyboardists. Kristian Bezuidenhout on fortepiano is complemented by the Freiburger Barockorchester, whose period sensibilities enhance finer textures and a “personality” in the approach which feels more intimate and direct, very much in keeping with the idea of individuals interacting as individuals, gradually building up towards communal expression. Just as in the Choral Symphony, the choir and vocal soloists in the Choral Fantasy enter only in the final Allegro, which has been purposefully reached because of what has gone before.

The character of these performances makes this new recording a strong recommendation even in a market saturated with Beethoven Ninths. The vivacity and vigour of the Freiburger Barockorchester works extremely well with this symphony, given its fundamental message. “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” was a radical concept in the context of its time, when authoritarian regimes were giving way to new ideas, which included the freedom of the individual, and the right to tolerate self-determination. It is significant that Beethoven replaced the text used in the Choral Fantasy (by Christoph Kuffner) celebrating the harmony of Nature where “Nacht und Stürme werden Licht” with the even more explicit Friedrich von Schiller Ode to Joy.

Beethoven’s Symphony no 9 perfectly captures the revolutionary spirit of the Romantic era, and of the ideals Beethoven held so deeply. What would Beethoven, Schiller and their contemporaries think of modern societies where such values seem to be in retreat? While this symphony is expressive with the full blast of a large modern orchestra and massed voices, the Freiburger Barockorchester, with their appreciation of the more intimate sound world of Beethoven’s time, also bring out the human scale and personal warmth in this symphony. The power of this piece lies in the way Beethoven uses individuals to create a greater creative whole. The Freiburger Barockorchester have also recorded a superb Beethoven Leonore (the 1805 version of Fidelio) with René Jacobs, livelier and more spirited than John Eliot Gardiner, emphasising the originality of Beethoven’s writing for the two female roles, who are much more developed than in the 1814 version. It is essential listening. The Freiburger Barockorchester have also recently released a new recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos no 2 and 5 (the Emperor) also with Kristian Bezuindenhout and Pablo Heras-Casado.

The superb playing of the Freiburger Barockorchester is enhanced by Heras-Casado’s direct, vivid style, and by the quality of the soloists, Christiane Karg, Sophie Harmsen, Werner Güra and Florian Boesch. Their voices are exceptionally well-balanced, and operate in consort with each other, which is also part of underlying meaning. Not a weak link here, as is sometimes the case with lesser performances. The choir is the Zürcher Sing-Akademie, also extremely rewarding. 

Anne Ozorio

image=http://www.operatoday.com/902431.32.png image_description= product=yes product_title=Beethoven: Symphony no 9 (Choral), Op.125; Choral Fantasy, Op.80, piano, choir and orchestra product_by=Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano). Christiane Karg (soprano); Sophie Harmsen (mezzo-soprano); Werner Güra (tenor); Florian Boesch (bass). Zürcher Sing-Akademie. Freiburger Barockorchester, Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor. product_id=Harmonia Mundi HMM902431.32 [2CDs] price=$19.98 product_url=https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B086PVQLNP/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B086PVQLNP&linkCode=as2&tag=operatoday-20&linkId=9e50b5814e0752c0dd1186b2b0fc9bf5
Posted by iconoclast at 4:06 PM

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

All the sounds of an English summer can be heard at Garsington Opera’s Wormsley home. An ideal, or idealised, vision of the season, perhaps; after all, umbrellas, midges, wasps and “rain stopped play” are just as likely to cloud the blue skies and rural ventures. But, with a public health emergency knocking the bails flying from the wickets of the creative industries’ spring 2020 season, for a short while back in March it seemed that wistful reminiscences and wishful dreaming might be all that was in store for culture-lovers and festival-goers during summer 2020.

Thankfully, theatre-makers, festival curators and individual performers have proved resourceful and innovative, whatever the challenges they face and as dark clouds gather on the cultural horizon. Garsington Opera have continued the conversation with their audiences, and Garsington Opera at Home has extended that audience, through free-to-view screenings of favourite past productions - full-length operas and ‘Isolated Arias’ - and new musical performances; Music for the Eyes - a new documentary series, looking at opera alongside visual art and literature to draw new connections between genres; and, 20-minute Motivation Monday singing and moving ‘workouts’.

Garsington Opera’s UNMUTE: A Musical Reunion , a live concert streamed from Wormsley on Sunday 5th July was a perfect combination of nostalgia and optimism. Six singers, Garsington’s Artistic Director Dougie Boyd, members of the Philharmonia Orchestra and actor Samuel West reminded listeners of what we are all missing this summer, and at the same time provided uplifting hope for and anticipation of next year’s summer opera season - and the renewal of the UK’s cultural life more generally.

Where else to begin but with Mozart? Garsington’s 2017 highly acclaimed production of Le nozze di Figaro - itself a ‘recreation’ of John Cox’s esteemed 2005 production which was the last performed at Garsington Manor, in 2010, before the company’s move to Wormsley - has been made freely available to watch via Opera Vision until 25th September. 2017’s Figaro, Joshua Bloom, may not have reunited with his former fellow cast members, but he was joined by a stellar cast of young and experienced voices, Soraya Mafi (Susanna), Roderick Williams (Count), Brindley Sherratt (Bartolo), Nardus Williams (Marcellina) and Sam Furness (Curzio). And, they made a dynamic and balanced sextet in Act 3’s ‘Riconosci in questo amplesso’, in which Figaro, in Wildean fashion, discovers unexpectedly that he has a mother after all, and a father, and delights at his unexpected reunion with his progenitors.

The six singers were raised on a gentle curve behind eleven musicians from the Philharmonia Orchestra spaciously spread across the bare Pavilion stage. Dougie Boyd got musical proceedings underway with characteristic immediacy and clarity, instantly transporting us into the heart of the unravelling knots of comic confusion. Bloom (who had been scheduled to sing Rocco in Garsington’s ill-fated 2020 Fidelio) sounded even more richly sonorous than I remember from 2017; Mafi segued with brilliant musical and dramatic slickness through Susanna’s rapidly fluctuating emotions, from excited confidence, to blazing fury, to relieved elation; Nardus Williams’ soprano glowed with the glossy shine of a mother’s joy at rediscovering her long-lost offspring; Sherratt’s Bartolo was plumped up with smugness; while Roderick Williams’ Count and Sam Furness’s Curzio glowered with frustration and impotence.

Scenes of the garden beyond the glass-walled Pavilion reminded us that the listeners were ‘elsewhere’ but that didn’t prevent the singers also transporting themselves to ‘another world’ - one of 18th-century intrigue and tender ironies. One thing was clear: you might take the audience out of the opera house, but you can’t take the performer out of the opera singer.

Strolling beneath the flower-bedecked trellis arches of Wormsley’s tranquil gardens, Samuel West reminded us of Mozart’s ambition, as voiced by Peter Shaffer in his play Amadeus, to write an opera finale lasting half an hour, in which “a quartet becomes a quintet becomes a sextet. On and on, wider and wider, all sounds multiplying and rising together - and then together making something entirely new.”

Naturally, back inside the Pavilion more Figaro followed. First, Mafi’s Susanna and Williams’ Countess plotted and penned an invitation to the Count that would be his undoing (‘Sull’aria’), the intriguers sounding both thrilled at the anticipated outcomes of their deception and as transported by their rapturously intertwining voices as listeners at home. The reduced instrumental forces gave additional prominence to the lovely woodwind playing of the Philharmonia members, the oboe and bassoon elegantly joining the outbursts of delight.

Next, aerial shots of the gardens invited us to imagine the nocturnal bowers amid which Susanna, disguised as the Countess, sets out to trick Figaro who, recognising her, effects his own double-deception, while the Count’s pompous self-righteousness prevents him from seeing what is going on before his eyes. Despite the lack of theatrical context or accoutrements, Mafi, Bloom and Roderick Williams (‘Pace pace mio dolce tesoro’) conveyed the complexities of the dramatic cat’s cradle and both the strains and delights of the shenanigans, before Mafi’s light, spring-fresh rendition of Susanna’s enraptured anticipation of love’s fulfilment (‘Deh vieni’) drew sympathetic duetting from the Philharmonia woodwind and spread a beam of magic through our imagined garden.

Back to the topiary-hedged garden paths, to hear West read from an unaddressed love letter written by Ludwig van Beethoven, dated 6 th July 1806 - 214 years to the date of the writing of this review, and a fitting introducing to ‘Mir ist so wunderbar’, the Act 1 quartet from Fidelio in which love craved for, hoped for and anticipated unites Leonore (Nardus Williams), Marzelline (Mafi), Rocco (Bloom) and Jaquino (Furness)

The small string forces presented an almost impossibly gentle and heavenly introduction, and the heart-pulse of the double bass deepened its throb with the entry of the voices, the women sweet and pure, Bloom evincing a lovely warm maturity, and Furness’s Jaquino strong and ardent. Boyd sculpted the counterpoint and textures with pinpoint clarity, expertly shaping the intensifying emotions.

Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin brough richer Romantic urgency. Roderick Williams demonstrated characteristic dramatic and musical insight in ‘Kogda by zhizn’’, the recitative conveying his appreciation of the troubled Onegin’s precariousness and uncertainty, complemented by clarinet delicacies. A lovely cello solo led in an aria of focused lyrical articulateness. I have occasionally commented that Williams’ baritone is a little ‘light’, but here he balanced elegance with surges of rich fullness. And, in all the arias from Onegin, I appreciated, for the first time, just how frequently Tchaikovsky employs the clarinet’s silkiness, and registral and timbral expanse, to complement the emotional landscape of his characters. Boyd’s flexible handling of tempo conveyed both self-reflection and insistent resolve.

In ‘Kuda, Kuda’ - in which Lensky reflects on his love for Olga as he awaits the duel with his former friend, now rival, Onegin - Sam Furness drifted dreamily in Romantic self-absorption then, enrichening his vocal colours and summoning a lovely firm tone, pushed forward with conviction. What a wonderful contrast between the floating head-voice with which Furness asked, “Will you ever shed a tear over my grave and think, ‘He loved me’?”, and the powerful surge of sound from Lensky’s soul, “Olga I loved you: to you I devoted the sad dawn of my stormy life.”

The final ‘musical word’ came from Brindley Sherratt who relished every ounce of joy in ‘Lyubvi vse vozrasty’, in which Prince Gremlin touches Onegin’s heart and conscience with his account of an old man’s joy at finding unexpected love. “Love is a blessing at any age” shimmered tenderly like a petal tremulous with the weight of raindrops, evoking a sense of overflowing wonder. Such openness and vulnerability contrasted with moments of firm authority, of the sort that makes Sherratt such a brilliant Sarastro and Claggart.

West left us with a final quotation from Amadeus. When Shaffer’s Salieri insists that God has chosen him to be his voice on earth, as is evident in Salieri’s exquisite music, Mozart offers his own understanding of his ‘role’: to make a sound entirely new. “I bet that’s how God hears music. Millions of sounds ascending at once and mixing in His ear to become an unending music, unimaginable to us.” West might have continued, for Mozart explains: “That’s our job … we composers. To combine the inner minds of him and him and her and her - the thoughts of chamber maids and court composers - and turn the audience into God.”

The String Sextet which opens Richard Strauss’s Capriccio - which Boyd conducted at Garsington in 2018 - suggested that Shaffer’s fictional Mozart was correct. The music is never silent: though it is sometimes unheard, it is always within us.

Claire Seymour

UNMUTE: A Musical Reunion will be available here, with no registration required, for six months.

Garsington Opera’s 2021 season celebrates its 10th anniversary at Wormsley.

UNMUTE: A Musical Reunion

Soraya Mafi (soprano), Nardus Williams (soprano), Sam Furness (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Joshua Bloom (bass), Brindley Sherratt (bass), Samuel West (actor), Douglas Boyd (conductor), Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/G%20Opera%20at%20Home.png image_description= product=yes product_title=UNMUTE: A Musical Renuion - Soraya Mafi (soprano), Nardus Williams (soprano), Sam Furness (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Joshua Bloom (bass), Brindley Sherratt (bass), Samuel West (actor), Douglas Boyd (conductor), Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra (live broadcast, Sunday 5th July 2020) product_by=A review by Claire Seymour product_id=Above: Garsington Opera at Wormsley
Posted by claire_s at 2:02 AM

July 4, 2020

Les Talens Lyriques announces 2020-21 season with first modern performances of Salieri's Armida

Further recordings from the ensemble include a DVD of Stefano Landi's La Morte d'Orfeo from the Dutch National Opera's 2018 production, and a solo disc of Armand-Louis Couperin's harpsichord works from Christophe Rousset.

From the comfort of your own home, a venture with mobile application NomadPlay transforms Les Talens Lyriques into your own sophisticated instrumental backing track, with some of Handel's most famous arias available as Baroque karaoke.

Christophe Rousset said:

"I am proud to present our new season of heroines: complex, rich and dynamic in their identities, moving in their expression, eloquent, sensual; they are bearers of a discourse rich in metamorphoses such as has always appealed to me. Truth, humanity and authenticity are values that have always guided my ensemble, Les Talens Lyriques."

250 years after its first performance at Vienna's Burgtheater in 1771, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques revive Salieri's Armida with the first modern performances of the composer's first breakthrough success. The concert production returns to Vienna (Theater an der Wien, 19 February 2021) following performances at the Paris Philharmonie (2 February 2021) and in Caen (30 January 2021). Armida will be recorded by Les Talens Lyriques and released on disc in December 2020.

Based on a libretto by Marco Coltellini, Armida was inspired by Torquato Tasso's epic Gerusalemme liberata, and had been the subject of operas by Lully, Traetta and Handel among others. Salieri's three-act dramma per musica is located exclusively in the enchanted garden where Armida holds the bewitched warrior Rinaldo prisoner. Lenneke Ruiten takes the title role, with Florie Valiquette as Rinaldo.

Exploiting the melodic richness of Italian opera within the dramatic framework of French tragédie lyrique, Armida was much praised by critics and was one of the few Italian operas to be published in Germany in the 18th century. Despite the tarnished views of Antonio Salieri perpetuated in popular culture, the composer was a pivotal figure in the development of late 18th-century opera, writing nearly forty such works in three languages, and his work inspired opera composers from Mozart to a young Berlioz.

Christophe Rousset has acted as a ‘musical archaeologist’ since his acclaimed soundtrack to the film Farinelli, and has long championed Salieri's work in an effort to restore the misunderstood composer's works to their rightful place. In 2005, Rousset released a landmark first recording of La grotta di Trofonio, and Les Talens Lyriques recently completed their critically-acclaimed series of Salieri's three blood-thirsty French operas: Les Danaïdes (2017), Les Horaces (2018), and Tarare (2019).

The goddess Venus is the object of adoration in two ballets from the French Court in the late 1600s by Jean-Baptiste Lully and his disciple Pascal Collasse, paired in concert together as La Naissance de Vénus by Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques in Paris (Cité de la Musique, 12 January 2021) and at Vienna's Festival Resonanzen (Wiener Konzerthaus, 16 January 2021).

Lully's celebratory Ballet royal de la naissance de Vénus was danced by nobles, including Louis XIV, at the French Court in 1665. Written by Benserade in homage to Henrietta of England, the two-part ballet recounts the creation of Venus before establishing and praising the power and authority that she extends through the universe.

Pascal Collasse's setting of thirty years later, in which rivalries between the suitors of Venus almost start a war on Olympus, acknowledges its considerable debts to Lully in the preface. Collasse's career was dominated by his association with the older composer, whose influence worked both to the benefit and to the detriment of the younger man. The two works are performed with a joint cast including Deborah Cachet, Bénedicte Tauran and Ambroisine Bré.

In June 2021, Les Talens Lyriques return to Germany to perform Mozart's Idomeneo, a grand celebration for the centenary of the Mozartfest Würzburg. The performances (11-12 June 2021) will take place at the 18th-century Würzburg Residenz, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Baroque palace. Mozart's operatic dilemma is performed in concert with a starry cast including Julian Prégardien as the titular King of Crete, Judith van Wanroij as the Trojan princess Ilia, and Myrtò Papatanasiu as Elettra.

Across the 20-21 season, a growing emphasis on the composer sees Les Talens Lyriques release Mozart's Betulia liberata on disc and explore Mozart's Symphonies no. 39 & 41 at Linz's Brucknerhaus (21 February). The three symphonies, composed in rapid succession in the summer of 1788, are paired with Michael Haydn's Symphony no. 39, also written in the same year. At the Opéra Royal de Wallonie, Liège, Christophe Rousset is the guest conductor in Jean Liermier's production of Mozart's Così fan tutte (14-22 May 2021), following previous appearances at the house with Le Nozze di Figaro (2018) and Die Entführung aus dem Serail (2013).

Les Talens Lyriques travel to London's Wigmore Hall at the turn of the year in a special New Year's Eve concert pairing two of Bach's Harpsichord Concertos with Vivaldi's famous Quattro Stagioni, joined by violinist Gilone Gaubert. The 31 December 2020 concert is the first of three appearances at the London venue, which sees the group return on 28 February with Couperin's Les Nations. A musical adventure across Europe, the composer's fourth collection of instrumental chamber works is formed of four ordres which reflected the four great political powers of Couperin's world: the French, Spanish, Holy Roman Empire and the Savoy dynasty of Piedmont.

Following the release of their five-star recording of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, Les Talens Lyriques are rejoined by soloists Sandrine Piau and Christopher Lowrey as they perform the Stabat Mater on tour in the approach to Easter 2021 in Genoa (22 March), Bologna (23 March), and Heidelberg (28 March), ending their tour in London at the Wigmore Hall during Easter weekend, Saturday 3 April 2021. The Neapolitan school is one of Christophe Rousset's first musical loves, and the Pergolesi Stabat Mater is a work that has long been in Les Talens Lyriques' repertoire.

The programme, which frames Pergolesi's final work with unpublished motets by two great exponents of the Neapolitan school, Nicola Porpora and Leonardo Leo, was named BBC Music Magazine's Choral & Song Choice (June 2020) and BBC Radio 3 Record Review's Record of the Week (11 April 2020) following its release on Alpha in March 2020.

Les Talens Lyriques continue their association with the newly reopened Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, performing Bach's St. John Passion from 10-13 May in the dramatic staging by Calixto Bieito. The production brings a choir of local residents together in the heart of the narrative, with soloists including Joshua Ellicott as the Evangelist.

Les Talens Lyriques are uniquely directed in this staging by viola da gamba player and frequent collaborator, Philippe Pierlot. Ensemble founder Christophe Rousset and Pierlot join together to present Bach in recital ahead of the production, performing Bach's three Sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord at BOZAR in Brussels on 25 February.

Leading mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg joins Les Talens Lyriques in Paris (29 September) and Dortmund (1 October) in an all-Purcell programme, Music for a while, centred around his song collection Orpheus Britannicus. The programme also includes the composer's Suite no. 2 in G minor and Suite no. 7 in D minor.

On 10 December 2020, Les Talens Lyriques are joined by Australian soprano and frequent collaborator Siobhan Stagg for Amour Amor, for music by Lully, Scarlatti, Handel, Leclair and Montéclair in Rouen's Chapelle Corneille.

The programme of cantatas centres around the strong female figures Ariadne, Lucretia and Armida, finishing with Handel's restless Notte placida e cheta (Calm and Placid Night), and its unconventional fugal ending. In Michel Pignolet de Montéclair's heart-rending cantata La Morte di Lucretia, the central figure is a sagacious, political woman fully aware of the consequences of her act. Scarlatti's vivid L'Arianna cantata turns the abandoned love of Ariadne into a powerful tempest of grief and betrayal for her faithless lover Theseus, while Lully's heroine Armide battles fiercely with love and vengeance within herself.

A busy schedule of new recordings sees Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques release four new recordings over their 2020/21 season. Salieri's Armida is released in December 2020 on Aparté, following the release in September 2020 of Mozart's Betulia liberata, also on Aparté. Mozart's only oratorio traces the influence of the older composer Salieri on his younger colleague and was written when Mozart was only fifteen. The highly virtuosic arias feature Sandrine Piau, Teresa Iervolino, Amanda Forsythe, Pablo Bemsch and Nahuel di Pierro.

In a DVD of the 2018 Dutch National Opera production, released on Naxos on 12 June 2020, Les Talens Lyriques unveil the exquisite music of Stefano Landi's La morte d'Orfeo. Landi's narrative, directed by Pierre Audi, begins where Monteverdi's L'Orfeo ends, with the character torn apart and finally reincarnated as a star in the sky.

"Les Talens Lyriques […] conjured up universes of sound from the pit. They seem an extension of Rousset's thought processes; more, it is safe to say that I have never encountered such technical perfection from authentic instruments before, whether in articulation, accuracy of attack or in tuning."

In a solo disc released on Aparté in September 2020, Christophe Rousset turns to the harpsichord music of Armand-Louis Couperin. A member of the Couperin dynasty, Armand-Louis was renowned for his improvisations on the Te Deum and his reputation as a masterful organist in the churches of Paris. His wife's family were harpsichord manufacturers and his writing calls for experimental instrumental features allowing dynamics, rarely found in instruments today.

Recent recordings from Les Talens Lyriques have garnered immense success, with a recent nomination at the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2020 and the Belgian critics' Caecilia Prize 2019 for Gounod's Faust (Palazzetto Bru Zane, September 2019). Lully's Isis (Aparté, December 2020) was nominated as Editor's Choice in Gramophone Magazine (January 2020) and as Opera Choice in BBC Music Magazine (February 2020).

Posted by claire_s at 5:50 PM

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

She turns, fixes the audience with a steely stare then whips off her coat to reveal fishnets and PVC basque, and, as the audience chuckles, she clicks four brisk beats and a whiplash strike brings in the orchestra behind her, to accompany her launch into the peaking, plunging, faltering soprano solo of György Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre, a concert setting of his operatic scene (from Le grand macabre) for an unhinged, soprano chief-of-police and orchestra. Just singing this work is challenge enough for most, let alone conducting it at the same time.

The opening moments of Taking Risks, a double-disc documentary/performance offering an insider’s look at Barbara Hannigan’s first opera production as a conductor - The Rake’s Progress, in December 2018 with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra - certainly justify the DVD’s title. Directed by Maria Stodtmeier, Taking Risks is the second documentary DVD that Accentus Music has released with Barbara Hannigan, following the award-winning release of I’m a creative animal in 2015. This film follows Hannigan through auditions, casting, workshops and rehearsals, to first night.

“As a singer I probably have ten more good years left, and I’m doing more and more conducting, and I’m making this strange, funny path as a singer-conductor and eventually I’ll just be a conductor,” Hannigan begins. “So, now, yeah, my first opera, and I do think, ‘What was a thinking?’ On the other hand, I think that I got it. I can’t wait, I’m super-excited and I’m very scared.”

The Rake’s Progress was the first opera that Hannigan sang, at the age of 19: “It’s in my blood - but that doesn’t mean that anyone who sang an opera years ago can conduct it.” Never one to take a short cut when she could tackle a marathon, there was no chance that Hannigan would select a cast of experienced professionals all of whom had sung their roles before - which would have meant “I don’t need to worry about them, only my own responsibilities as a conductor” - when she could choose to work with young singers at the start of their careers, only one of whom had performed their role before. She was looking for “like-minded” musicians, but these were people whom Hannigan did not know; as she says, she was “taking a huge risk”.

So, Equilibrium Young Artists was born. And one thing that is clear is that the process of giving her younger colleagues exciting opportunities and mentoring them as they overcame their own challenges and fears, was as important to Hannigan as the actual performance. 350 applications, from 39 countries, were whittled down to 125 who were invited to audition live. The auditions became mini-mentoring sessions, and she hoped that “everyone walked away with a personal connection”.

Certainly, she was generous with her time, advice and kindness. We see her discussing her feelings about being a female conductor: she wondered why she kept be asking questions about this, but realised that she had to answer the questions since they were not really about “women and conducting”, but “women and leadership”, a social issue. She puts candidates at ease by joking that she must have chosen the right opera because after 300 or 400 applications she’s not yet sick of The Rake’s Progress!

takingrisks1.jpgBarbara Hannigan during auditions at the École Normale de Musique de Paris.

Auditions begin in the École Normale de Musique de Paris and, via Stockholm and Zurich, conclude in Greenwich, London in the historic grandeur of the Royal Naval College, now home to Trinity Laban Conservatoire. We see both a sequence of hopeful young singers come and go, and Hannigan herself, working on her score on an airplane, in hotel rooms, her plans disrupted by train cancellations which leaving her sitting on the floor of a crowded train carriage trying to study The Rake’s Progress, and arriving tired and stressed at her destination. At the end of a casting day, she is tearful with tiredness.

Hannigan explains that it’s not technical ‘perfection’ that she’s looking for, it’s “something else”: how they look, move, talk to the pianist, work in the group. Several singers have caught her eye and interest from the start of the process including Greek soprano Aphrodite Patoulidou: she has a certain “seriousness” and Hannigan is willing her on during her audition, “don’t disappoint me”. She doesn’t.

We see the successful singers receiving a call from Hannigan, offering them a role: dodgy telephone and wifi connections, incredulous responses and absolute joy … in one case a singer’s inability to provide a correct ’phone number prompts a rueful reflection on whether this means he shouldn’t get the job. Fortunately for the said singer, Hannigan follows her instincts and finds a way to contact him. It’s a good lesson to learn about professionalism.

As she works on this project, Hannigan’s own singing career continues to make personal, musical and practical demands. She finds herself at Dutch National Opera singing in a production of George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence. She explains that she couldn’t imagine herself singing beyond the age of 40, and talks honestly and openly about the fast-paced intensity of an international singer’s life, and about her own performance anxiety and how she has learned to manage it.

Rehearsals involve workshops with diverse professionals: Jackie Reardon, a performance coach; conductor/composer/pianist Reinbert de Leeuw, a special mentor for Hannigan; Natalie Dessay and Daniel Harding. It’s interesting that something that Hannigan mentioned right at the start of the auditioning process, when asked about her own career, is reprised by Dessay and Harding: the loneliness that professional musicians at the top of their profession experience.

The final rehearsals in Gothenburg with the orchestra - breaking with convention, Hannigan requests that the singers are present and involved from the start - are obviously tremendously exciting for all involved, and the premiere sparkles with musical commitment, intensity and that first-night ‘dust’ that magical moments sprinkle.

In May 2019, Hannigan toured Europe with a new bunch of Equilibrium Young Artists but this inaugural venture must have been something very special. The risks were worth taking.

Claire Seymour

image=http://www.operatoday.com/ACC20420_front-cover-400x545-1.jpg image_description=Taking Risks, Accentus Music product=yes product_title=Taking Risks: A documentary by Maria Stodtmeier product_by=Barbara Hannigan (conductor), Willam Morgan (Tom Rakewell), Aphrodite Patoulidou (Anne Truelove), John Taylor Ward (Nick Shadow), Kate Howden (Baba the Turk), Erik Rosenius (Father Truelove), Ziad Nehme (Sellem), Gothenburg Orchestra and Vocal Ensemble, Linus Fellbom (Stage Director & Lighting Designer), Anna Ardelius (Costume Designer) product_id=Accentus Music ACC20420 [DVD] price=$34.99 product_url=https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083LQPK5Z/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B083LQPK5Z&linkCode=as2&tag=operatoday-20&linkId=1136d9f6d1b16001acb79e5d657cf818
Posted by claire_s at 5:29 PM

July 3, 2020

BBC Proms Announce 2020 Programme

  • BBC Radio 3 opens this summer’s ‘Fantasy Proms’ with a programme of great Proms moments including Iain Farrington’s world premiere for the BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra putting Beethoven’s symphonies in a spin
  • Nicola Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Simon Rattle, Anoushka Shankar and Mitsuko Uchida, amongst artists performing live from the Royal Albert Hall
  • Live performances from the RAH to begin with a momentous opening night conducted by BBC Symphony Orchestra Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo
  • A unique Last Night to unite the world led by Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska with South African soprano Golda Schultz
  • BBC Four selects six momentous Proms from across the archive from the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and Chineke! Orchestra
  • Katie Derham, Tom Service, Suzy Klein, Danielle de Niese and Josie d’Arby lead the line-up of TV presenters
  • An ambitious, challenging and celebratory multi-platform season

In the year that the Proms turns 125 years old, the 2020 season brings the spirit of the Proms to music-lovers at home. BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four broadcasts treasures from the past 30 years of the Proms across six weeks, before two weeks of incredible live performances at the Royal Albert Hall.

In challenging times, the BBC Proms aims to shine a beacon of hope with its mix of seminal moments from Proms history alongside live performances from the Royal Albert Hall. The season will bring a summer of music to celebrate a wealth of talent, genres and styles, creating a line-up which brings together legendary performers from the past through its unrivalled archive, with a diverse line-up of the biggest stars of the present and future.

The Proms Opening Weekend

BBC Radio 3 kicks off this special season with the debut performance by the BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra, comprising over 350 musicians from the BBC Orchestras and Choirs. Joining Beethoven Unleashed - a year-long, BBC-wide marathon marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, the Grand Virtual Orchestra will perform a completely original arrangement of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, created by Iain Farrington. On Sunday 19 July the premiere of the film accompanying the piece will air on BBC Four. Farrington describes the work as “taking Beethoven's music and putting it in a musical washing machine to see which colours run”.

Following Farrington’s curtain-raiser, the First Night continues [on Radio 3] with highlights from three Proms across the past 25 years. The BBC Symphony Orchestra features both in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (with soloist Igor Levit, under Edward Gardner) from 2017’s First Night, and in the world premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Panic which won instant notoriety at the Last Night of the 100th-anniversary Proms season (1995). The evening closes with celebrated Italian conductor Claudio Abbado’s final Proms performance (2007), leading the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and mezzo-soprano Anna Larsson in Mahler’s Third Symphony.

The Opening Weekend continues on BBC Four on Sunday 19 July, when audiences will have the opportunity to watch electrifying conductorMirga Gražinytė-Tyla lead the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in a programme of Beethoven, Stravinsky and Gerald Barry with violinist Leila Josefowicz and tenor Allan Clayton (2017).

Delving into the rich Proms archive

In the 125th-anniversary year of the Proms, audiences have the chance to reflect back on some of the outstanding performances and biggest moments in Proms history with a fantasy season celebrating the greats of the past and providing a snapshot of the ever-changing classical music scene of our times.

BBC Four, fronted by Katie Derham, will broadcast BBC Proms Classics, a range of blockbuster archive concerts each Sunday throughout the festival, presenting the breath-taking scale of orchestral power showcased on the Royal Albert Hall stage. The TV offering reflects innovative highlights such as the 2017 debut of Chineke! Orchestra, Europe’s first majority BME orchestra and the now-legendary 2007 Proms debut of theSimón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. BBC Four will also air the ground-breaking 2012 John Wilson Orchestra Prom that celebrated ‘The Broadway Sound’ sending the orchestra to new heights.

Rattle BBC Proms.jpgSir Simon Rattle © BBC/Chris Christodoulou.

Across the season, Radio 3 has curated a vast array of show-stopping archive performances covering four decades of unforgettable musical stories. Across six weeks there will be a wealth of big-name orchestras and conductors, including: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Leonard Bernstein; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Riccardo Chailly; Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Mariss Jansons; Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Bernard Haitink; Boston Symphony Orchestra / Andris Nelsons; Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Simon Rattle; and soloists: Martha Argerich, Alfred Brendel, Dame Sarah Connolly, Renée Fleming, Maria Friedman, Dimitri Hvorostovsky, Janine Jansen, Evgeny Kissin, Jessye Norman, Murray Perahia, and Andreas Scholl.

As always, the season celebrates the many faces of classical music, with repertoire ranging from Beethoven toAnna Meredith, Varèse toMozart, Sally Beamish to Britten, Bach to Thomas Adès. It also presents the many talents that have made waves in an ever-changing scene. Amongst the treasure trove of performances on offer, Radio 3 will broadcast the 2015 Proms debut of composer and keyboard wizard Nils Frahm with ambient duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen; and the 2014 appearance of Jules Buckley conducting the Metropole Orkest with special-guest singers and composing sensations Laura Mvula and Esperanza Spalding.

The Afternoon Concert series on BBC Radio 3 will also feature some of the greatest Proms of the past 25 years given by the BBC Orchestras and Choirs.

This year also sees the first ever TV broadcast of the hugely popular Radio 1 Ibiza Prom from 2015, featuring Pete Tong, Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra, who transformed dance classics into orchestral masterpieces with the help of John Newman and Ella Eyre (BBC Four, Friday 28 August).

On BBC Radio 3, presenter Georgia Mann will host a new Sunday-evening programme that looks ahead to each week’s array of archive Proms. She’ll be joined by a selection of guests to preview the vintage performances, to recall behind-the-scenes stories of the concerts and to recommend highlights to look out for.

Radio 3 will also be broadcasting some of the most stimulating pre-Prom public events that have been held over the past decade, with great interviews and conversation from leading musicians, artists, actors and writers.

Live performances from the Royal Albert Hall

In the final two weeks of the Proms, from Friday 28 August, there will be a series of live performances from the Royal Albert Hall from some of the greatest musicians of our time alongside emerging talent. In what promises to be an emotional return to the Royal Albert Hall, the Proms presents a range of performances fulfilling our founding to mission to present ‘the best of classical music for the widest possible audience’

As the beating heart of the Proms, each of the BBC Orchestras will perform as part of the live element of the festival, and in long-standing Proms tradition, the BBC Symphony Orchestra will open and close the series, beginning with an opening night conducted by Chief Conductor,Sakari Oramo and culminating in a Last Night of the Proms to bring the nation together. Led by the BBC SO’s Principal Guest Conductor, Dalia Stasevska, the 2020 Last Night of the Proms features soprano Golda Schultz, in what promises to be a unique and poignant occasion.

Golda Schultz Chris Christodoulou.jpgGolda Schultz © BBC/Chris Christodoulou.

Celebrating a wide range of musicians and music the line-up includes pianist Mitsuko Uchida with theLondon Symphony Orchestra andSir Simon Rattle, violinists Nicola Benedetti and Alina Ibragimova with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment underJonathan Cohen, a recital from cello sensationSheku Kanneh-Mason and his pianist sisterIsata Kanneh-Mason, Aurora Orchestra led byNicholas Collon, performances from pianistStephen Hough, singersSophie Bevan, Allan Clayton andRobert Murray and sitar virtuosoAnoushka Shankar with electronic artistGold Panda and the Britten Sinfonia under Jules Buckley.

New Music is central to the Proms and a number of composers will be commissioned to write works that respond to the current world-wide situation caused by Covid-19. Composers includeThomas Adès writing a new piece for the LSO Prom and Andrea Tarrodi for the Last Night of the Proms. Alongside these works Richard Ayres explores Beethoven’s journey into deafness, as well as his own hearing loss, with a very personal new work performed by Aurora Orchestra.

The presenting team for the live TV performances includesKatie Derham, along withTom Service, Suzy Klein, Danielle de Niese and Josie d’Arby.

Whilst it’s unlikely there will be an audience at the Royal Albert Hall, the live performances will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Four and iPlayer.

The full schedule of artists and programmes will be announced nearer the time of the performances to allow for utmost flexibility in responding to the safety guidelines at the time.

A Digital Summer

Audiences are always at the heart of the Proms, but this year is truly the People’s Proms. By utilising the many BBC platforms, this summer will provide equally meaningful journeys for the most loyal of Proms audiences and for those discovering the delights on offer for the very first time.

Everyday throughout the season, Radio 3’s Breakfast will invite audiences to share their favourite Proms memories to be reflected on air each morning. In a time of isolation for so many of us, the BBC Proms aims to unite the nation with music. We’ll be ‘cracking open’ the Proms Time Capsule, remembering some of the best moments of the past 125 years and inviting everyone to join the conversation on social media - hearing from audiences about their favourite Proms memories. Audiences will be able to enjoy shared moments through watching and listening parties hosted by BBC Proms on social-media platforms.

Whilst Proms are normally available on BBC catch-up services for 30 days after broadcast, this year the season will remain online on both BBC Sounds and BBC iPlayer for 30 days after the Last Night on the 12 September. BBC Sounds will also release themed and mood-led Proms mixes which will be updated throughout the season.

There will be a special collection of past Proms on BBC iPlayer for audiences to enjoy, as well as performances live from the Royal Albert Hall streamed directly to iPlayer.

Proms at Home for Families

After the success of this year’s highly popular BBC Ten Pieces at Home initiative, this season families will be able to experience Proms at Home. Families will be able to take part in special free activities built around selected Prom broadcasts, and are encouraged to upload their creative results to be featured on the Proms website. The activities have been created in partnership with organisations around the UK that work to change lives and bring music and the arts to children and young adults, including The Irene Taylor Trust, Heart n Soul, Handprint, Mousetrap and Literacy Pirates.

As part of a wider offering for young people, the deadline for the BBC Young Composer competition for 12- to 18-year olds has also been extended until 20 July and young composers can take part in our 30 Second Challenge until 31 August. Winners of the BBC Young Composer competition, which encourages students of all technical abilities, backgrounds and musical influences to get creative and submit an original composition, will participate in a tailored development programme, and will work with a mentor composer on a project with the BBC Concert Orchestra which will be performed and broadcast as part of the 2021 BBC Proms.

David Pickard, Director BBC Proms, said:
“The 2020 Proms will be a season unlike any other in its 125-year history. Music can be a powerful friend in difficult times and Sir Henry Wood’s mission - to bring the best of classical music to the widest possible audience, ‘making its beneficent effect universal’- is more important now than it has ever been. Over the eight-week season we are proud to celebrate the BBC’s 93-year guardianship of the festival as well as its continued support for live music. The riches to be found in the archive of the past four decades - including legendary concerts with some of the greatest names in classical music - bear witness to the international standing of the Proms, while two weeks of live performances in the Royal Albert Hall will celebrate the beating heart of music today.”

Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 and Classical Music Controller, said:
“The 2020 Proms are a timeless mix of conductors, artists and great performances from across many eras as well as two weeks of memorable new performances. As an audience member, at these Proms, whether vintage or new, you know you will have the best seats in the house for experiencing them on air and online. Savour the atmosphere of the past and the newly forged - and I hope electric - atmosphere of the present, with the one constant being the magnificent Albert Hall and the great music that happens and has happened there. Throw yourself into this year’s Proms - without limits - and see where great music can take you.“

Jan Younghusband, Head of Music TV Commissioning, said:
“It has never been more important for us to deliver great classical performance for our audiences and also support musicians to work in these incredibly difficult times. Working within the confines of what we can do, we really hope the Proms on TV this year will deliver from the archive some of the iconic orchestral concerts of recent years. And the live concerts in August at the Royal Albert Hall will, we hope, be a positive start to being able to do more in the future.”

For full listings of the archival Proms being broadcast this season, please visit www.bbc.co.uk/proms


Posted by claire_s at 3:02 AM

July 2, 2020

Garsington Opera announces 2021 season

The safety of our artists, staff and audience is paramount, alongside a commitment to the highest artistic standards. Further details, including performance dates, will be announced in due course - but do get in touch immediately with any queries.

Der Rosenkavalier (new production)
R. Strauss
Conductor: Jordan de Souza
Director: Bruno Ravella
Philharmonia Orchestra

Eugene Onegin (revival)
P. Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Douglas Boyd
Director: Michael Boyd
Philharmonia Orchestra

Le comte Ory (new production)
G. Rossini
Conductor: Valentina Peleggi
Director: Cal McCrystal
Philharmonia Orchestra

Amadigi (new production)
G. F. Handel
Conductor: Christian Curnyn
Director: Netia Jones
The English Concert

Garsington Opera
General enquiries 01865 361636

Posted by claire_s at 11:02 AM

UNMUTE: A Musical Reunion - Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Sunday 5 July, 6pm
Free to view on YouTube, Facebook and Garsington Opera’s website

The concert's theme is 'Reunion': after such a long separation from fellow artists and our audience, we hope this will be a joyful opportunity to reunite and enjoy live music from Garsington Opera once more.

The concert will be free to watch via the Garsington Opera website, Facebook and YouTube channel with no registration required, and will be available to view again for 6 months.

Riconosci in questo amplesso

Marcellina - Nardus Williams
Figaro - Joshua Bloom
Bartolo - Brindley Sherratt
Curzio - Sam Furness
Count - Roderick Williams
Susanna - Soraya Mafi

Countess - Nardus Williams
Susanna - Soraya Mafi

Pace pace il mio Tesoro
Susanna - Soraya Mafi
Figaro - Joshua Bloom
Count - Roderick Williams

Deh vieni
Susanna - Soraya Mafi

FIDELIO - Beethoven
Mir ist so wunderbar

Marzelline - Soraya Mafi
Leonore - Nardus Williams
Rocco - Joshua Bloom
Jaquino - Sam Furness

EUGENE ONEGIN - Tchaikovsky
Kogda by zhizn'

Onegin - Roderick Williams

Kuda, Kuda
Lensky - Sam Furness

Lyubvi vse vozrasty
Gremin - Brindley Sherratt

String Sextet
Philharmonia Orchestra


Posted by claire_s at 10:49 AM