Friday, 23 August 2019

The Engine Room International Sound Art Competition

The Engine Room logo
The Engine Room, Morley College's platform for the exploration, education and promotion of electronic and experimental music and sound art, has announced its third international sound art competition for emerging sound artists. This year’s competition and events are organised in collaboration with IKLECTIK to celebrate their 5th anniversary.

The competition invites the submission of new sound art – including audio and audio-visual pieces, interactive works and performances, installations, sound sculptures and graphic scores - by 15 September 2019. The competition is open to emerging sound artists from around the world, and will be judged by an award-winning panel of experts. Selected works will be eligible for a number of prizes, and will feature in an accompanying exhibition at Iklectik Art Lab from 5-24 October 2019. Accepted media includes audio-only works (for this edition we encourage multi-channel works), audio–visual works, interactive works, sound Installations & sculptures, graphic scores and performances.

The deadline for entries is 15 September 2019 and submissions must be made online at

Intimate & highly engaging: Mari Eriksmoen & Sveinung Bjelland in recital at Oscarshall Palace, Oslo

Mari Eriksmoen and Sveinung Bjelland at Osarshall Palace, Queen Sonja International Music Competition (Photo Sven Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court)
Mari Eriksmoen and Sveinung Bjelland at Osarshall Palace,
Queen Sonja International Music Competition (Photo Sven Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court)
Hugo Wolf, Edvard Grieg, Robert Schumann, Richard Strauss; Mari Eriksmoen, Sveinung Bjelland; Queen Sonja International Music Competition at Oscarshall Palace
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 22 August 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
Hosted by the Queen of Norway, an intimate yet highly engaging and vividly performed recital of German and Norwegian lieder

Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway introducing the recital at Osarshall Palace, Queen Sonja International Music Competition (Photo Sven Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court)
Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway introducing the recital at Osarshall Palace,
Queen Sonja International Music Competition
(Photo Sven Gjeruldsen, The Royal Court)
The Queen Sonja International Music Competition (Dronning Sonja Internasjonale Musikkonkurranse), which runs in Oslo, Norway from 13 to 23 August 2019, is a biennial voice competition. Named for the present Queen of Norway, Queen Sonja takes an active role in the competition and on 22 August 2019, the day before the finale, hosted a concert at Oscarshall Palace, their bijou 19th century neo-Gothic Summer palace. The concert was due to be given by soprano Melissa Petit, but she had to withdraw owing to illness and her place was taken at short notice by soprano Mari Eriksmoen, who was a finalist in the 2007 competition. Accompanied by pianist Sveinung Bjelland, Mari Eriksmoen sang a programme of songs by Hugo Wolf, Edvard Grieg, Robert Schumann and Richard Strauss.

Built in 1852, before Norway achieved independence, by King Oscar I (King of Sweden and King of Norway), Oscarshall features interior decoration by some of the most significant Norwegian artists of the day. The concert took place in the dining room, which with its striking Romantic neo-Gothic decoration. Large for a dining room, but small for a concert hall, it proved to have attractively warm acoustics, with a very immediate sound which showed off Mari Eriksmoen's lovely vibrant lyric voice and her excellent diction.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

A Tale of Two Violas

A Tale of Two Violas - Meridian
A Tale of Two Violas, Bach, Tertis, Borisovsky; Peter Mallinson, Matthias Wiesner, Evgenia Startseva; Meridian
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 21 August 2019 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
An imaginative survey of music written or arranged for viola duo by two of the great viola players of the 20th century

This disc from Meridian, A Tale of Two Violas, features two viola players from the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Peter Mallinson and Matthias Wiesener, in an attractive and unusual programme of viola duets, some unaccompanied and some performed with Evgenia Startseva (piano), Anneke Hodnett (harp), Michael Atkinson (cello) and Nicholas Bayley (double bass).

The disc opens with Iain Farrington's arrangement of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 for two violas and piano. What follows is then a tribute to two of the great viola pioneers of the 20th century, Lionel Tertis and Vadim Borisovsky, featuring music either composed or arranged by them. The programme is brought up to date with At Two by contemporary composer John Hawkins.

War is my Condition.

Stained glass by Brian Clarke
Stained glass by Brian Clarke
War is my Condition is a new interpretation of Monteverdi's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda presented by Ante Terminum Productions, a new company that aims to bring out the dramatic potential of music whether in opera, concert or music installation. Their new version of Monteverdi's operatic scena will feature two dancers in the roles of Tancredi and Clorinda, and in fact much of Monteverdi's narrative is allocated to the narrator figure, and to Monteverdi's original the company is adding further of his madrigals to create a piece lasting around an hour.

To add further interest to this cross-arts project the stained-glass artist Brian Clarke (best known for his monumental pieces and his collaboration on major architectural projects) is loaning three of his stained class screens to be used within the staging. The choreography is by Kat Collings, the artistic director is Peter Thickett and the musical director is Frederick Waxmann.

Monteverdi's work sets an extended passage for Torquato Tasso's epic poem Gerusalemme liberata, and was premiered in Venice in 1624, and eventually published in his Eighth book of Madrigals in 1638. But commentators cannot quite agree how to classify it, is it an extended madrigal (after all the majority of the vocal line is allocated to the narrator), or an operatic scena! But it seems that Monteverdi intended the piece to be acted out by the to characters representing Tancredi and Clorinda, even though the majority of the narrative is given to the narrator.

Monteverdi: War is my Condition - Rehearsal pictures taken by Mathew Prichard (@matprichard) at the English National Ballet School - Ante-Terminum Productions
Monteverdi: War is my Condition - Rehearsal pictures taken by Mathew Prichard (@matprichard) at the English National Ballet School - Ante-Terminum Productions
Ante-Terminum Productions previous performances have included staging Karlheinz Stockhausen's Stimmung in the Barts Pathology Museum [see my article]. The performances of War is my condition take place in the atmospheric Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe, on 28 August and 2 to 5 September 2019.

Full details from the Ante-Terminum Productions' website.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Bayreuth’s Tristan und Isolde was grand and convincing in every conceivable way harbouring a sting in its tail

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enric Nawrath)
Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enric Nawrath)
Richard Wagner Tristan und Isolde; Petra Lang, Stefan Vinke, Georg Zeppenfeld, Greer Grimsley, Christa Mayer, dir: Katharina Wagner, cond: Christian Thielemann
Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 5 July 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
The cast included a formidable trio of Wagner heavyweights: Stefan Vinke, Petra Lang and Georg Zeppenfeld

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enric Nawrath)
Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enric Nawrath)
Arguably, one of the greatest works ever written to pure erotic love echoing the legendary days of King Arthur, this thoughtful and enlightening production of Tristan und Isolde directed by Katharina Wagner first came to the stage in 2015 therefore, sadly, this is its last outing on the Green Hill.

Katharina Wagner's production of Tristan und Isolde at the 2019 Bayreuth Festival (seen 16 August 2019), featured Stefan Vinke as Tristan, Petra Lang as Isolde, Georg Zeppenfeld as King Mark, Greer Grimsley as Kurwenal and Christa Mayer as Brangäne, with Christian Thielemann conducting.

A highly-impressive first act - not just musically speaking but visually speaking, too - focused on Tristan and Isolde frantically searching for each other against all the odds with Kurwenal and Brangäne struggling to keep them apart. When they eventually meet it proved a powerful and emotive scene. The lovers just stared longingly and lovingly at each other in total silence while the love potion that Brangäne prepared for Isolde is immediately discarded by her as the couple’s love was already vacuumed sealed.

What makes this act so highly impressive, engaging and so full of mystery is greatly helped by Frank Philipp Schlößmann and Matthias Lippert’s brilliantly-designed set comprising a three-dimensional labyrinth of stairs evaporating into thin air influenced, no doubt, by the work of Giovanni Piranesi or MC Escher but it was Piranesi’s engraving - Il ponte levatoio: Le Carceri d’Invenzione (The drawbridge: the Imaginary Prison) - cited in the programme.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Electronic music pioneer Roger Doyle honoured by the Irish government

Roger Doyle
The Irish composer Roger Doyle received the honour of Saoi, the highest award open to an Irish artist. Doyle was presented with the symbol of the office of Saoi, the gold Torc by Irish President, Michael D. Higgins on 16 August 2019. The honour is bestowed by Aosdána, the state-supported association of Irish artists. Former award-winners include Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel and Louis Le Brocquy.

Roger Doyle is known for his pioneering work in electronic music. His electronic opera Heresy premiered in Dublin in 2016, and was recorded on the Heresy label [see my review], whilst his 2015 work Time Machine combines electro-acoustic score written and performed by Doyle with answer-phone messages [see my review].

A provocative production in so many ways, Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s Parsifal was sensitively directed and performed by a brilliant cast

Wagner: Parsifal - Ryan McKinny - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Parsifal - Ryan McKinny - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner Parsifal: Günther Groissböck, Ryan McKinny, Elena Pankratova, Andreas Schager, Wilhelm Schwinghammer, Derek Welton, dir: Uwe Eric Laufenberg, cond: Semyon Bychkov; Bayreuth Festival, Germany
Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 5 July 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
Gérard Naziri’s stardust ride through the Galaxy to the Land of the Grail proved a remarkable and visually-exciting video sequence

Wagner: Parsifal - Elena Pankratova, Andreas Schager - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Parsifal
Elena Pankratova, Andreas Schager
Bayreuth Festival 2019 (photo Enrico Nawrath)
Specifically written for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, Wagner described Parsifal as ‘ein Bühnenweihfestspiel’ (A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage) not an opera thereby underlying the work’s deeply-religious overtones. The philosophical ideas of the libretto, however, fuses Christianity and Buddhism but the trappings of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th-century poem - focusing on the Arthurian hero Parzival and his long quest for the Holy Grail - are essentially Christian based.

The 2019 revival of Uwe Eric Laufenberg's production of Wagner's Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival (seen 15 August 2019) featured Ryan McKinny as Amfortas, Wilhelm Schwinghammer as Titurel, Günther Groissböck as Gurnemanz, Andreas Schager as Parsifal, Derek Welton as Klingsor and Elena Pankratova as Kundry, conducted by Semyon Bychkov.

In this compelling and rewarding production by German director, Uwe Eric Laufenberg, he sensitively portrayed the religious aspect of the work especially at the end of Act I where one witnesses the Christ-like figure of Amfortas (magnificently portrayed by the gifted American bass-baritone, Ryan McKinny) wearing a crown of thorns covered only by a loin-cloth re-enacting the Crucifixion with members of the Brotherhood - now seen as a community of Christian monks - gathered closely round him receiving Holy Communion partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Working in partnership with dramaturg Richard Lorber, Mr Laufenberg also rethought the traditional scenario of the work by dumping the setting of Montsalvat - the revered castle of the knights of the Holy Grail in medieval Spain - and switching it to Islamic State’s Middle Eastern-held territory of northern Iraq.

A bomb-scarred church provided the setting for Act I (for the mosque featured in Act II a decorative blue-tile wall sufficed) while its sanctuary lamp, used in Christian and Jewish centres of worship, remained intact. Here the monks go about their day-to-day business of serving the needs of the weak and homeless brought about by the ravages of war with families of mixed faiths sleeping on makeshift canvas beds and kept under tight surveillance by a small group of armed soldiers.
Wagner: Parsifal - Derek Welton - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Parsifal - Derek Welton - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (photo Enrico Nawrath)

Monday, 19 August 2019

Prom 35: ‘Pictured within’ – Birthday variations for M.C.B. (Martyn Brabbins' 60th birthday)

Martyn Brabbins with nine of the composers contributing to his Proms’ birthday celebration piece (photo: Chris Christodoulou)
Martyn Brabbins with nine of the 14 composers who contributed to his BBC Proms’ 60th birthday celebration piece
(photo: Chris Christodoulou)
Pictured within – Birthday variations for M.C.B.; BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins; BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
Guest Review by Jill Barlow on 13 August 2019 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
John Pickard, composer of new finale: 'This is a new beginning'

The world premiere of Pictured within – Birthday variations for M.C.B., a new Enigma Variations commissioned by the BBC took place at Prom 35 at the Royal Albert Hall on 13 August 2019, when Martyn Brabbins conducted the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in a concert which also included RVW's Serenade to Music and Brahms' Song of Destiny. The new piece, celebrating Brabbins' 60th birthday, reflects the overall shape of Elgar's ever-popular Enigma Variations, using a new theme by an anonymous composer followed by a new set of 14 variations by chosen living composers - Dai Fujikura, David Sawer, Sally Beamish, Colin Matthews, Iris ter Schiphorst, Brett Dean, Wim Henderickx, Richard Blackford, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Dame Judith Weir, Gavin Bryars, Kalevi Aho, Sir Anthony Payne, John Pickard.

Martyn Brabbins decided to celebrate his current 60th Birthday with the world premiere of a new set of Enigma Variations written especially for him by 14 varied composers who were associated with his career. He chose an anonymous composer to write a new theme tune to guide the work along and as reviewer Barry Creasy wrote this week for Music OMH, words to the effect that despite disparate styles:- ‘the new variations hung together extremely well’.

This is what we look for of course in a premiere especially at the ever popular BBC Proms, something that meaningfully engages the mind, imagination and above all the ear. I was particularly drawn to try to get to review this ambitious new work, since by coincidence in August 2017 when having just attended to review, the premiere of to my mind a less successful work, and just about to depart from the Albert Hall Foyer – I reported :- ‘I was about to venture forth into the (blustery) night but was caught in my tracks by the enigmatic sounds of Elgar’s Nimrod issuing forth from the concert hall, played as I’ve never heard it played before, slow and with a hushed opening, absolutely beautiful. Now I don’t usually go much for Elgar, often a touch too pompous by half, but what a composer and what definition of movements – that’s a refreshing thought-----’.

Rameau's first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, a rare appearance in London at the Grimeborn Festival

Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie - Ensemble OrQuesta, Grimeborn Festival 2019 (Photo Andrea Grieger)
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie - Marcio da Silva - Ensemble OrQuesta, Grimeborn Festival 2019 (Photo Andreas Grieger)
Rameau Hippolyte et Aricie; Marcio da Silva, Alexandra Bork, Kieran White, Juliet Petrus, dir: Marcio da Silva, cond: Kieran Staub; Ensemble OrQuesta at the Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 17 August 2019 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
A welcome opportunity to see Rameau's first opera in a dramatically punchy, small-scale production

Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie - Ensemble OrQuesta, Grimeborn Festival 2019 (Photo Andrea Grieger)
Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie - Juliet Petrus, Kieran White
Ensemble OrQuesta, Grimeborn Festival 2019
(Photo Andreas Grieger)
Having performed Lully's Armide and Cavalli's Serse at the 2017 and 2018 festivals, respectively, Marcio da Silva's Ensemble OrQuesta returned to the 2019 Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre with Rameau's first tragedie en musique Hippolyte et Aricie. Directed by Marcio da Silva and designed by Christian Hey, the production featured Kieran White as Hippolyte, Juliet Petrus as Aricie, Alexandra Bork as Phèdre, Marcio da Silva as Thésée, Helen May as Diane, Katherine McRae as L'Amour, Oğuzhan Engin as Mercure, John Holland-Avery as Pluton and Oscar Smith as Tisiphone. Kieran Staub conducted the instrumental ensemble.

Originally written in 1733, Hippolyte et Aricie was performed in Rameau's 1757 revision, which removed the prologue and re-instated some of the more controversial passages which had been cut from the original version. Marcio da Silva's edition of the score trimmed it somewhat, giving us around two hours of music. The dance element was reduced (movement was provided by the singers themselves) and we missed Thésée's crucial Act 5 scene where he expresses remorse.

The opera's librettist, Abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin, was an experienced opera hand and he created a highly effective tragédie en musique but in doing so diluted the focus of Racine's Phèdre, so that Phèdre's husband Thésée plays a major role in the opera. He gets a whole act to himself when he descends to the Underworld to rescue his friend. And in need of a happy ending (always a must in tragédie en musique), Pellegrin built up the relationship between Hippolyte and Aricie making it the thread on which the opera hangs, and by having Diane save Hippolyte at the end and restore him to Aricie. The result can be frustratingly diverse, with characters appearing and disappearing.

Marcio da Silva's version was powerful and dramatically punchy. The orchestral forces were similarly reduced with an instrumental ensemble based on a string quintet, arch-lute/guitar and harpsichord, all perched precariously on the theatre's balcony. Conductor Kieran Staub was also up there, which meant he communicated with the singers only via monitor. This was, I think, a mistake and ensemble suffered in the larger scale moments.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Central to Yuval Sharon’s production of Lohengrin is its dramaturgical concept based on Wagner’s critiques on science and technology

Wagner: Lohengrin - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Lohengrin - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner Lohengrin; Piotr Beczała, Annette Dasch, Tomasz Konieczny, Elena Pankratova, Egils Silins, Georg Zeppenfeld, dir: Yuval Sharon, cond: Christian Thielemann; Bayreuth Festival, Germany
Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 14 August 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
An electrically-charged production that sparked the imagination and ignited the audience to a thunderous curtain-call

This masterful production of Wagner’s Lohengrin by Yuval Sharon - born in Chicago in 1979 to Israeli parents and Bayreuth’s first American director - first saw the light of day at the 2018 Bayreuth Festival [see Tony's review]. An electrically-charged and imaginative production, Mr Sharon’s concept mirrors Wagner’s strong views and concerns about the consequences of scientific advancement and how new technologies such as electricity - and even the steam-engine - could upset the balance between the natural world and the steady world of progress.

The 2019 revival of Yuval Sharon's production of Wagner's Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival (seen 14 August 2019) featured Piotr Beczała as Lohengrin, Annette Dasch as Elsa, Tomasz Konieczny as Telramund, Elena Pankratova as Ortrud, and Georg Zeppenfeld as Heinrich der Vogler. Christian Thielemann conducted.

A recipient of the Götz Friedrich Prize for Best Opera Direction for his production of John Adams’ Dr Atomic at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Mr Sharon teamed up with a couple of creative geniuses: the celebrated husband-and-wife team of Neo Rauch (set designer) and Rosa Loy (costume designer) who delivered a visual feast of an amazing and intricate set shrouded in blue (a colour favoured by Wagner) plus an electric power generating plant that could have jumped straight out of Fritz Lang’s 1927 expressionist film, Metropolis.

Born in Leipzig in the 1960s, Rauch - whose work focuses on a bold subject-matter probably reflecting the influence that Socialist Realism had on him as a young man - gathered his thoughts together and inspiration for the sets from actually listening to the score of Lohengrin while working in his studio.

Based on a well-loved German legend the actual story of Lohengrin relates to other traditional and fairy-like stories that belong to the ‘Knight of the Swan’ tradition, a medieval tale about a mysterious rescuer who comes in a swan-drawn boat in defence of a damsel in distress, his only condition being that he must never be asked his name. Therefore, the fairy-tale elements in Lohengrin are strong with the Good represented by Lohengrin and Elsa of Brabant and the Bad by Ortrud and Frederick of Telramund.

I felt a nod was given to the fairy-tale element by Mr Sharon inasmuch as the central characters were adorned with diaphanous wings (made of thin semi-transparent gossamer cloth) but here they represented flying insects - and like all insects, attracted to the light. There was a lot of electricity and light in this production to bug them.

The original scenario of Lohengrin - centred upon the Flemish city of Antwerp on the banks of the river Scheldt in the 10th century - was cleverly reinterpreted by Mr Sharon. For instance, the city’s Gothic-built cathedral became a cathedral of modern technology: in this case an electric power generating plant set in the midst of a vast mountainous waterfall landscape. However, traditionally-designed Flemish dress clothed the peasantry while ruff collars (as worn by 17th-century Flemish aristocrats) adorned the nobility apropos an Anthony van Dyck painting.

Wagner: Lohengrin - Elena Pankratova - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Lohengrin - Elena Pankratova - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enrico Nawrath)

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Carry On meets Dads Army in this ebullient lark: Rossini's Comte Ory at the Grimeborn Festival

Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini Le Comte Ory; Naomi Kilby, Robert Jenkins, Alicia Gurney, Benjamin Newhouse Smith, Lindsay Bramley; Opera Alegria at the Grimeborn Festival
Reviewed by anthony Evans on 13 August 2019 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Full of verve, spunk and shameless innuendo, an exuberant account of Rossini's late comedy

Opera Alegria returned once more to the Arcola Theatre for this year’s Grimeborn Festival. This was their fourth visit to Grimeborn and following a series of double bills, in previous years, Tuesday 13 August 2019 was the first night of Rossini’s comic opera Count Ory in a new English translation by Musical Director Lindsay Bramley, with Naomi Kilby, Robert Jenkins, and Alicia Gurney directed by Benjamin Newhouse Smith.

Written in 1828 Le Comte Ory is a bit of a mash up. Some of the music comes from Il viaggio a Reims, whilst the French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson was adapted from a comedy they had written some 11 years previously. Sadly, it doesn’t get an outing very often. Its full of the most irresistible orchestral writing and vocal pyrotechnics. “An excellent piece of folly”
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)
Rossini: Count Ory - Opera Alegria at Grimeborn 2019 (Photo Zak Kilby)

A bel canto career: whilst in London for the London Bel Canto Festival, tenor Bruce Ford talks about the bel canto style and his remarkable career

Bruce Ford as Rossini's Otello
Bruce Ford as Rossini's Otello
The tenor Bruce Ford became known for his bel canto roles, performing notable operas by Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini as well as recording a remarkable sequence of early 19th century Italian operas for Opera Rara. Bruce was in London this month for the London Bel Canto Festival, where he gave a public masterclass and was working with singers from the London Bel Canto Festival's academy, singers from which will be performing Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda at St George's Hanover Square (22 & 24 August 2019). Bruce's career as a tenor covered much of my own opera listening and it was through his recordings and performances that I discovered and learned to enjoy bel canto operas. So, I was delighted that whilst Bruce was in London, I was lucky to be able to meet up with him to talk about bel canto singing, his career, the importance of his relationship with Opera Rara and his work with the young singers.

Bruce is working with the young singers of the festival academy on the vocal pedagogy that goes with the bel canto style. For bel canto, Bruce points out that you need to have the right style of technique to sing the music. He adds that whilst bel canto is known as beautiful singing, what is left out is that the style is more vocal calisthenics, showing off what the voice can do, so that singing in the true bel canto style can involve incredibly difficult melismas, high and low notes, to show off the virtuosity of the human voice. Bel canto is the ultimate presentation of athleticism and virtuosity in the human voice.

When I ask about his students' knowledge of bel canto, Bruce comments that the ones who are interested will educate themselves, and that is the way it is with anything. Such students are interested in their voices and are well rehearsed. For Bruce, bel canto is simply a specialism, a style used for music between 1810 and 1850 but after this opera under Verdi became something different.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Large scale, striking & engaging: Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in an historic quarry in Austria

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte - Oper im Steinbruch (Photo Andreas Tischler)
Mozart: Die Zauberflöte - Oper im Steinbruch (Photo Andreas Tischler)
Mozart Die Zauberflöte; Kateryna Kasper, Michael Porter, Luke Stoker, Danae Kontora, Uwe Schenke Primus, dir: Carolin Pienkos & Cornelius Obonya, cond: Karsten Januschke; Oper im Steinbruch, Austria
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 15 August 2019 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Impressive both in scale and artistic quality, Mozart's opera performed in an historic quarry in Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000-year-old quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

The quarry is huge, the historic part dates back to the Roman period and houses a 4,780 seater theatre and a 2,500 seater one, and the more modern part still provides stone for St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Access is through a handsome modern building on the edge, followed by a long walk down an elegant ramp which gives superb views and makes you realise that this is no ordinary experience. The site had admirable catering facilities, so visitors vary from those who arrive to picnic, through those sitting at the beer garden like tables for refreshment to those being entertained with wine and canapes in the Lounge. All in all, a complete experience.

Carolin Pienkos and Cornelius Obonya's production of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte opened on 10 July 2019, and we caught the performance on 15 August, towards the very end of the run. Sarastro was the Australian baritone Luke Stoker, the Queen of the Night was Danae Kontora, who studied in Munich, Pamina was Kateryna Kasper, who is a member of the ensemble at Frankfurt, Tamino was the American tenor Michael Porter (making his Oper im Steinbruch debut) and Papageno was Uwe Schenke Primus. Stage design was by Raimund Bauer with costumes by Gianluca Falaschi. Karsten Januschke conducted the Orchester der Budapester Philharmonischen Gesellschaft and the Philharmonia Chor Wien.

The stage is huge (seven times that of the Vienna State Opera), but nothing is permanent (no concrete allowed in the historic quarry) so there is no stage machinery. Instead Bauer's massive set created a series of effective and striking acting areas enlivened by Friedrich Rom's lighting. At the centre was the 'cloud portal' a huge styrofoam structure of balls with a central 'eye' and staircase, through which Tamino and many other characters made their entries. This was also Sarastro's domain, and video projected onto it created different atmospheric effects, from Tamino's serpent, to the heavens themselves. Stage right was a huge black globe which housed a darker domain and on top of which the Queen of the Night made her Act Two appearance. Stage left was a stone portal above which was a huge nest from which Papageno was engaged in stealing birds eggs when we first meet him. Far above all this, on the edge of the quarry itself was a series of bird structures taking the 'set' out to the very edge.

A quarry is not a 'dead space' in which to perform opera, there are all sorts of sound reflections from the stone, yet Volker Werner's sound design was some of the best I have come across. No, it was not realistic, but then this was not a typical theatre opera. Instead, we had vivid and immediate sound, with a good sense of direction so you knew who was singing and the off-stage orchestra (with the conductor controlling things via a huge video of himself at the back of the auditorium) was well blended in. Unlike some other outdoor (or semi-outdoor) opera experiences I have had, here I forgot about the amplification and sound design and simply enjoyed the production.

For there was indeed much to enjoy. Most of the roles are double and triple cast, but there was no sense of coming across the second or third cast at the end of a run. Musically, this was a performance most opera houses would have been proud to present.  In one respect, I did not see what audiences would see most evenings. To echo the fact that the opera's librettist, Emmanuel Schikaneder (an actor), was the first Papageno the German actor Max Simonischek was cast in the role. I attended one of the performances at which he did not sing and so saw a trained opera singer.

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte - Oper im Steinbruch, Austria (Photo Raimund Bauer Bühenbild Media Apparat)
Mozart: Die Zauberflöte - Oper im Steinbruch, Austria (Photo Raimund Bauer Bühenbild Media Apparat)
Pienkos and Obonya had adjusted and modernised the libretto somewhat. As far as I could tell making it more accessible and less arcane, but also altering the balance of relationships so that Pamina was somewhat less passive. Act One ended with her attempting to follow the men into the temple and being stopped, whilst Act Two seemed more about Sarastro's intention to put both Tamino and Pamina to trial. And at the end, the Queen of the Night and her Ladies were not banished or destroyed, but accepted back and the Queen and Sarastro gestured to each other showing a measure of peace and acceptance. During the second act, the words from the United Nations declaration were projected upon the cloud portal. So whilst modernised, this still had a philosophical bent.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Psappha 2019/20 new season, nine world premieres and a return home.

Halle St Peters
Halle St Peters
The Manchester-based ensemble Psappha will be celebrating its 2019/20 season by moving back into its home, the new renovated Halle St Peters in November 2019. The ensemble's season includes nine world premieres including a new work by their patron, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and commissions from George Stevenson and Alissa Firsova. The ensemble's emerging composer development programme Composing for ... with this year's selected composers writing for sitar player Jasdeep Singh Degum, accordionist Milos Mihajlovic, and the cello and piano of Psappha core members Jennifer Langridge and Benjamin Powell.

Beyond the music itself, the ensemble is working with Prof. Douglas Jarman (author of The music of Alban Berg) to create films to be screened before each concert to bring out the context, relevance and history of selected pieces in the programme. And to complement Anna Thorvaldsdottir's Into the Light Air, an ordained member of the Triratna Buddhist Order will lead a mindfulness meditation.

The season opens on 26 September 2019 at St Michael's Ancoats with a programme including Berg's Lyric Suite,  and music by Nina Danon, Charlotte Bray, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade and George Stevenson. The first concert at Halle St Peter's is on 28 November, with a programme of Webern, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Athanasia Kontou, Alissa Firsova, Elizabeth Lutyens and Webern's chamber arrangement of Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1.
Full details from the Psappha website.

Surprisingly, Tannhäuser has received only a handful of productions at the Bayreuth Festival and this new production by Tobias Kratzer chalks up its ninth outing

Wagner: Tannhäuser - Bayreuth Festival (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Tannhäuser - Bayreuth Festival (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner Tannhäuser; Lise Davidsen, Elena Zhidkova, Stephen Gould, Markus Eiche, dir: Tobias Kratzer, cond: Christian Thielemann; Bayreuth Festival
Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 13 August 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
The cognoscenti of the Green Hill adored Tannhäuser and equally adored Norwegian-born soprano, Lise Davidsen, who set the Green Hill alight in the pivotal role of Elisabeth while making her Bayreuth Festival début

Wagner: Tannhäuser - Bayreuth Festival (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Tannhäuser
Bayreuth Festival (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
As in past years, the great and the good turned out for the opening of the Bayreuth Festival with Chancellor Angela Merkel heading up the celeb list accompanied by her husband, Joachim Sauer, who very rarely make a public appearance but Bayreuth’s so special. Indeed, so special, that the opening performance of this year’s new production, Tannhäuser, directed by German director, Tobias Kratzer, a Bayreuth first-timer, was broadcast live on national television and also beamed live to around 100 cinemas in German-speaking countries, an idea inaugurated by Katharina Wagner when she took over the artistic reins of Bayreuth 11 years ago.

Tobias Kratzer's new production of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser at the Bayreuth Festival (seen 13 August 2019) featured Stephen Gould as Tannhäuser, Markus Eiche as Wolfram, Lise Davidsen as Elisabeth and Elena Zhidkova as Venus, conducted by Christian Thielemann.
By the way, this production of Tannhäuser (which received its première in Dresden on 19th October 1845) is only the ninth to be staged at the Bayreuth Festival and, surprisingly, no other work in the Bayreuth canon has received such fewer productions.

Following in the footsteps of Sebastian Baumgarten’s controversial production of Tannhäuser which received a chorus of disapproval from traditionally-minded Wagnerites, Mr Kratzer’s offering seemed just as biting but has found more acceptability among the cognoscenti of the Green Hill with a few boos here and there. But that’s to be expected at Bayreuth.

Primarily based on the Pilgrims’ Chorus and partly on the contrasting music of the orgies in the court of Venus, the overture - summarising the theme of the whole story focusing on the struggle between sacred and profane love and redemption through love, a theme running through many of Wagner’s later works - was brilliantly played with Christian Thielemann (replacing at short notice Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev) driving the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra (hand-picked from some of the finest musicians to be found in Germany) to a stirring conclusion.

Employed by so many theatre directors nowadays, video technology was at the heart of Mr Kratzer’s thinking as much as it was Frank Castorf's (in Bayreuth's bicentennial Ring). For example, the medieval Wartburg castle in Act I was fleetingly represented by an aerial video sequence conjured up by Manuel Braun whose work, incidentally, will be seen in London next year in a new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Royal Opera House in March directed by the ‘man-of-the-moment’, it seems, Tobias Kratzer, whose Leonora happens to be Lise Davidsen (Elisabeth in Tannhäuser) while Florestan will be sung by Jonas Kaufmann.

Waiting for Godot meets Lulu for the post-truth generation - Alistair White's Wear

Alistair White - Wear
The young composer Alistair White is having a busy moment, his opera ROBE recently premiered at Tête à Tête [see my review], and now his 2018 opera Wear returns for its first fully staged production on 23 and 24 August 2019 at the Opera in the City Festival at the Bridewell Theatre.

Like ROBE, Wear is futuristic, set in a society where use of the time machine has unwoven the fabric of reality. Whilst the piece is fantasy, White (who also wrote the libretto) feels that it has relevance to today, 'Sure, its fantasy, but you’ve seen the news - the world is actually ending. It is vital we find ways to defy, to resist this, to reclaim our ability to change things for the better. I think it all starts with perception: how we remember the past, and visualise the future.'

The focus of Wear fashion, its setting is the final show of a fashion designer and as space-time unravels around the designer and a friend are 'thrown into a collage of passion, recollection and dream - until all that is left are the objects they created'.

The opera is described as Waiting for Godot meets Lulu for the post-truth generation.

The production promises to be immersive, with designed garments both on mannequins and on performers, as well as original textiles as set dressing. The production's designer, Derek Lawlor has worked for both the Royal Ballet and London Fashion Week, and the production will be celebrating 10 years of his work with a post-show event on 24 August.

Directed by Gemma Williams and Alistair White, the production features Kelly Poukens, Patricia Auchterlonie, Susan Parkes with Ben Smith on piano.

Full details from the Opera in the City website.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Review of The Gardeners in Opera magazine

Review of The Gardeners in the September issue of Opera
Claire Seymour's review of Joanna Wyld and my opera The Gardeners, which premiered at Conway Hall on 18 June 2019, is in the September issue of Opera Magazine.

Selected highlights from the review:
  • Overall, though, there is a formality, of a ritual and spiritual kind, tht his opera observes consistently and with considerable impact. The Angry Young Man’s final words are of reassurance and hope - ‘I will tell them, brothers. They will listen.’
  • Hugill's music has a moving serenity.
  • Peter Brathwaite’s Old Gardener was compelling, sung with emotive tone and claar diction.
  • the bass baritone Julian Debreuil had real presence, using his strength and colour effectively.
  • Counter-tenor Magid El-Bushra ... was dramatically and vocally transfigured.
  • Flora McIntosh’s Grandmother made a strong mark and she used her lower range very dramatically; her duet with Goergia Mae Bishop's mother introduced some welcome irony and humour.
  • The instrumental ensemble - comprising violin, viola, cello, clarinet and harp - played sensitively, directed by William Vann with scrupulous attention to detail
The Gardeners  returns on Monday 9 September 2019 with a further performance at the Garden Museum with the same cast directed by William Vann. Tickets, price £25, are available from Tickettailor and include a glass of wine served before the opera in the museum's lovely garden.

Prom 34: Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Lutoslawski from Daniel Barenboim, Martha Argerich and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Prom 34 - West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Prom 34 - West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Schubert Symphony No. 8 'Unfinished', Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, Lutoslawski Concerto for Orchestra; Martha Argerich, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim; BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 August 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra joined with piano legend Martha Argerich for an evening of serious music making

Monday's BBC Prom, 12 August 2019, was one of the hot tickets of the season. A very full Royal Albert Hall witnessed Daniel Barenboim conducting his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in a programme of Schubert's Symphony No. 8 'Unfinished', Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra, with the distinguished Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich as the soloist.

This year is the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's 20th anniversary, the ensemble was founded in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said and has at its centre the idea of coexistence and intercultural dialogue with the core of the orchestra being formed by young musicians from Israel and Palestine. The orchestra has demonstrated an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East, showing that while music alone cannot resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to one another.

Schubert's Symphony No. 8 was performed by slightly reduced orchestral forces, with Barenboim using just under 70 players in total. Overall the young players exhibited a remarkable sense of responsiveness and control. Barenboim seemed to have strong ideas about the music, and the orchestra really created his soundworld.

Prom 34 - Martha Argerich, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Prom 34 - Martha Argerich, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
The famous slow introduction of was quiet and intent, arising out of nothing.

I’m following in father’s footsteps, I’m following dear old dad

Wolfgang Wagner
Wolfgang Wagner
This year marks the 100th anniversary of former Bayreuth director, Wolfgang Wagner(1919-2010), son of Siegfried Wagner and Richard Wagner’s grandson, who directed the Bayreuth Festival alongside his elder brother Wieland from 1951 until the latter’s death in 1966 and then assumed total control until he retired in 2008. He prophetically exclaimed: ‘There’s only one star in Bayreuth and his name is Richard Wagner.’ That profound statement still holds true today.

Therefore, to mark Wolfgang’s centenary (whose anniversary actually falls on 30th August) a commemorative opening concert took place on the eve of this year’s Bayreuth Festival in which conductor, Christian Thielemann, remarked on how he had to thoroughly relearn conducting techniques to fit the requirements of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus about which Wolfgang Wagner knew every detail. Appropriately, the area in front of the Festspielhaus is now named after Wolfgang.

A fabulous concert by all accounts, the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra was joined by such Wagner heavyweights as Günter Groissböck, Stephen Gould and Waltraud Meier, the latter giving a moving rendition of the ‘Liebestod’ from Tristan und Isolde. And to add to the centenary celebrations, an exhibition entitled ‘The Principal’ - chronicling Wolfgang Wagner’s professional life as artistic director, stage designer and director - is running at the Richard Wagner Museum (Villa Wahnfried) to Sunday 3rd November.

Naturally, the anniversary concert was hosted by Wolfgang’s daughter, Katharina - great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner and, indeed, great-great granddaughter of Franz Liszt - who now, of course, gloriously follows in her father’s footsteps.

Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festival

Wagner: Die Meistersinger - Johannes Martin Kränzle, Michale Volle, Günther Groissböck - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Die Meistersinger - Johannes Martin Kränzle, Michale Volle, Günther Groissböck
Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; Daniel Behle, Günther Groissböck, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Camilla Nylund, Klaus Florian Vogt, Michael Volle, dir: Barrie Kosky, cond: Philippe Jordan; Bayreuth Festival, Germany
Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 10 August 2019 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
Bayreuth Festival’s production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg offered a strong message on anti-Semitism

You soon get a feeling for the style of Barrie Kosky’s innovative and entertaining production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, first seen at Bayreuth in 2017 [see Tony's review of the 2018 revival of this production]. For one thing, he dumps the traditional setting of St Catherine’s Church in Act I for Villa Wahnfried where we meet Wagner and his wife Cosima entertaining bosom friends in a ‘read-through’ of Meistersinger in which the Jewish-born conductor, Hermann Levi, is portrayed and greatly humiliated as Sixtus Beckmesser, the role so magnificently sung and so well acted by Johannes Martin Kränzle.

The date of this well-heeled gathering (13th August 1875) was projected in large lettering on a gauze-covered curtain whilst the names of Wagner’s beloved dogs (Molly and Marke) were also flashed up and, oddly enough, the temperature of the day - 23C. Bayreuth’s usually hot often in more ways than one!

Barrie Kosky's production of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was again at the Bayreuth Festival this year (seen 10 August 2019). Philippe Jordan conducted with Klaus Florian Vogt as Walther, Camilla Nylund as Eva, Michael Volle as Hans Sachs, Daniel Behle as David and Johannes Martin Kränzle as Beckmesser.

The pivotal role of Walther von Stolzing (seen as Young Wagner) fell to Klaus Florian Vogt, a big ‘favourite’ of the Green Hill and his entrance into Wahnfried’s elegantly-furnished, book-lined drawing-room came by way of a precarious route tumbling from Wagner’s Steinway Grand directly into the arms of Cosima (seen as Eva) powerfully sung by Finnish soprano Camilla Nylund while Günther Groissböck as Veit Pogner (Eva’s father, later appearing as Franz Liszt) showed his muscle equating to his wealthy position.

The Master Singers arrive by the same circuitous route (plus a few Wagner look-alikes, too) with their chains of office denoting their trade dangling heavily from their necks. Robed in traditional processional gowns - inspired, perhaps, by the Nuremberg Renaissance printmaker, Albrecht Dürer - they could easily have passed off as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men from the pantomime, Dick Whittington.

But Mr Kosky’s production was far from ‘pantomime’ and, as always, he keeps plenty of tricks up his sleeve offering a dramatic and stylish ending to Act I inasmuch as Wahnfried was seen slowly retracting to reveal a replica of Room 600 of Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice used by the International Military Tribunal for the War Trials of 1945-46 with a lonely GI on duty, a timely reminder of things to come.

In the original production the same set was cleverly adapted for Act II but here the courtroom floor was free of furniture and completely grassed over finding Wagner and Cosima tucked up one corner enjoying an al fresco lunch. Kosky’s new thinking now depicts Room 600 completely bare apart from a big heap of goods and chattels from Wahnfried bunged up one corner which, I guess, would not look out of place as an ‘installation’ in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

Wagner: Die Meistersinger - Johannes Martin Kränzle, Klaus Florian Vogt, Camilla Nylund - Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner: Die Meistersinger - Johannes Martin Kränzle, Klaus Florian Vogt, Camilla Nylund
Bayreuth Festival 2019 (Photo Enrico Nawrath)

Monday, 12 August 2019

Celebrating 10 years of taking opera across Scotland: Opera Bohemia's The Merry Widow

Opera Bohemia - The Merry Widow
Franz Lehar's operetta The Merry Widow has now been performed professionally in Scotland for over 10 years so Opera Bohemia's forthcoming 18 venue tour across Scotland from 15 August to 14 September will be most welcome. In fact the tour is something of a celebration as Opera Bohemia is 10 years old this year and the company is celebrating with its biggest tour ever, presenting The Merry Widow in venues from Thurso to Galashiels including the islands of Arran and Skye.

The new production will be directed by John Wilkie who made his directorial debut with Opera Bohemia in 2010, and features some of Scotland's finest young singers with the leads played by Edinburgh-born soprano Catriona Clark and Fife-born baritone Douglas Nairne, alongside former Scottish Opera Young Artists, Marie Claire Breen and Andrew McTaggart. The musical director of Opera Bohemia will conducted a special arrangement for chamber orchestra for some performances, with others accompanied by piano (Andrew Brown) and solo violin (Dániel Mészöly).

One of Opera Bohemia's main aims is to introduce opera to first-time opera goers, and alongside opera performances the company offers opera workshops to schools and this year the sessions will include over 600 children in 18 schools.

Artistic Directors of Opera Bohemia Douglas Nairne and Alistair Digges founded the company to bring live opera around Scotland and to give opportunities to young professional singers and musicians.

Full details from the Opera Bohemia website.

Helen Habershon - Found in Winter

Helen Habershon - Found in Winter
Helen Habershon Found in Winter; Helen Habershon, John Anderson, Andrew Fuller, John Lenehan, London Primavera Orchestra, Anthony Halstead; Divine Art
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 July 2019 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
The evocative and approachable musical world of clarinettist / composer Helen Habershon

Composer and clarinettist Helen Habershon came to composing quite late and rather by accident. Having broken both her wrists she was unable to play the clarinet for a few months, but was allowed to play the piano and started writing music. She released her first album in 2009, both it and her second album were Album of the Month on Classic FM. She has now released her third album, Found in Winter on Divine Art, which contains a selection of orchestral and instrumental works performed by Habershon herself, John Anderson (oboe), Andrew Fuller (cello), John Lenehan (piano) and the London Primavera Orchestra, conductor Anthony Halstead.

The album's title seems to be intended as generically evocative rather than particularly descriptive, and whilst there are Winter themed pieces on the programme such as the engaging opener Winter Arrives, there are also pieces which Habershon describes as reflecting 'the winter of mankind', notably Requiem - Anna Akhmatova and the Pushkin-inspired The Bronze Horseman. But over all the album seems more a collection of recent pieces than one exploring a particular theme.

Prom 26: Mozart's Requiem, Brahms and Wagner from BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Prom 26 - Nathalie Stutzmann, BBC National Orchestra of Wales  - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Prom 26 - Nathalie Stutzmann, BBC National Orchestra of Wales  - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Brahms Tragic Overture, Wagner Prelude & Liebestod; Mozart Requiem; Fatma Said, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla, David Shipley, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales, Nathalie Stutzman; BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 7 August 2019 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Large-scale Mozart in a programme exploring love and loss

The programme for Prom 26 on Wednesday 7 August 2019 explored the themes of love and loss. The tempestuous Tragic Overture - Brahms’s 'reversed Sonata', Wagner’s orchestral version of the Prelude and Liebestod 'the zenith of musical art' followed in the second half by 'the nation's favourite Mozart' Requiem in D minor.

This concert of high drama saw a charismatic Nathalie Stutzmann conduct the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Fatma Said, making her proms debut, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla and David Shipley were the soloists with the BBC National Chorus of Wales.

Prom 26 - Fatma Said, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla, David Shipley, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)
Mozart: Requiem - Fatma Said, Kathryn Rudge, Sunnyboy Dladla, David Shipley,
BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales - BBC Proms (Photo BBC / Chris Christodoulou)

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