|Ian Page and Classical Opera|
Ian's instinct is to present the opera as it was originally performed
Ian and Classical Opera will be performing all of Mozart's operas over the years as part of the festival, and all of the concert arias. He also hopes to perform most of the symphonies. Running in parallel to this is Classical Opera's project to record all of Mozart's operas. These are not being recorded in chronological order, partly because in order to tempt people some of the better known operas have to be included early on (La Clemenza di Tito will be recorded quite soon). But in 2018, Mozart's La Finta Semplice comes up in the festival and this has not been recorded by Classical Opera yet so in all probability performance and recording will be linked. But Ian sees this as a tricky issue, because it also makes sense to have their recording out in time for the performance.
Regarding the edition which they record, Ian's instinct is to present the opera as it was originally performed and add any extra music in appendices; this is what was done with Mitridate Re di Ponto where the extra material was particularly substantial (see my review). So for Don Giovanni they will perform and record the Prague version. This means that the Zerlina Leporello duet, written for Vienna, will be relegated to an appendix but unfortunately so will Mi Tradi and Dalla sua pace. With Idomeneo they will record the version Mozart seems to have intended in Munich, before the cuts applied simply because of its length. Ian does not think they will record the Vienna version (which uses a tenor Idamante rather than a mezzo-soprano), but the festival will enable them to perform both operas in the respective years 1781 (in 2031) and 1786 (in 2036), thus giving people the opportunity to compare and contrast.
He was extremely surprised at how little time was given to the recitative
|Ian Page and Classical Opera|
When they recorded Il Re Pastore (see my review), Ian had a rehearsal with John Mark Ainsley which was focussed entirely on the recitative. In fact they spent two hours on the first recitative, and Ian found it fantastic to work in that amount of detail. But it paid off, and enabled them to set the path for the rest of the opera, opening up possibilities so that the rest of the recitative just unfolded and the rehearsal probably saved a great deal of time in subsequently during the recording.
Our discussion then has a fascinating byway as we speculate on what Mozart might have done had he lived, and Ian produces the striking information that at the time of his death Mozart was thinking of writing an opera based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. A piece which Ian speculates might have been in a similar style to Die Zauberflote.
Widening the spectrum in both directions
But Ian feels that it is important that Mozart 250 does not become everything that Classical Opera does, and they are widening the spectrum in both directions, exploring Handel and Beethoven. Their recent concert with Allan Clayton celebrating Handel's tenor John Beard (see my review) has produced a record which has recently been completed.
And they have performed Beethoven's First Symphony. Ian thinks that some composers lend themselves to the contextualising approach which they bring to their concerts. Ian would be interested in creating programmes round each of Beethoven's symphonies, looking at the pieces that influenced Beethoven and the sketches that he left. Another work is Beethoven's Leonore, the first version of what would become Fidelio. During Beethoven's lifetime some of the concerts where he premiered his symphonies were mammoth events, something we would have difficulty with now but which sheds enormous light onto the way Beethoven and his contemporaries thought about the music.
'Let's have fun, and see what happens'
For Ian, the knowledge of how things were done in the past is often simply a starting point. He finds it wonderful to have the knowledge that 'this is how they did things', and to then take this as a starting point 'let's have fun, and see what happens'. He cites as an example the handling of appogiaturas. These were ignored completely in the 1960's. Ian starts of by trying to do what they did in the 18th century, but his approach is pragmatic rather than slavish (he talks about having fun again). The performers live with it for a bit and then see what is working; far more often than not, they end up finding that the composers were spot on.
Becoming Neo-Classical Opera and putting Stravinsky's The Rakes Progress into context
The way the company has evolved, it is has always been an opera company, and Ian feels that it bothers some people when they perform symphonic concerts. The company's remit has always three things, 1) being repertoire led and performing unperformed operas by Mozart and others, 2) mentoring and supporting young singers, 3) taking the audience on a journey via the contextualising of the works in the programme. When the group was founded it was the repertoire that was most important, but now Ian feels that the priorities have been inverted and it is taking an audience on a journey which is the most important with repertoire almost secondary. And Ian speculates on the possibility, for one season, becoming Neo-Classical Opera and putting Stravinsky's The Rakes Progress into context; an intriguing thought indeed.
The first part of this interview is also available on this blog.
Ian Page and Classical Opera - forthcoming performances
Jommelli - Il Vologeso, 28 April 2016, Cadogan Hall
Ann Hallenberg, Che puro ciel - 23 May 2016,
Mozart - Don Giovanni, 17 June 2016, Cadogan Hall
Haydn - La Canterina, 19 September 2016, Wigmore Hall
Mozart - Il re pastore
Mozart - Mitridate, re di Ponto
Mozart - Apollo e Hycinthus
The A-Z of Mozart Opera
Mozart - Die Schuldigkeit des erstens Gebots
Blessed Spirit - A Gluck retrospective
Elsewhere on this blog:
- Classical to neo-classical: Mahan Esfahani & Avi Avital - concert review
- Strapless: New Christopher Wheeldon ballet with Mark-Anthony Turnage score - ballet review
- Notable first: ENO first Norma - opera review
- Pinks and Blues: Debut disc from pianist Christina McMaster - CD review
- Eclectic cross-arts: Bastard Assignments in Brixton - concert review
- Music and poetry: Rosa Feola & Iain Burnside in Respighi, Martucci, Ponchielli, Liszt - CD review
- Eclectic mix: Andrew Keeping's Classic guitar - CD review
- Visceral & involving: Bach's St. John Passion - concert review
- Telling a story through programming: My encounter with Ian Page of Classical Opera - interview
- Le choeur chant du coeur: Tenebrae & Nigel Short in French choral music - concert review
- Clarity, tone and words: Ben Johnson in English song - CD review