Welcome to August on Planet Hugill, a month which has seen us visiting Santa Fe (New Mexico), Iceland and Tallinn (Estonia), and managing to incorporate operas and concerts in each visit, of which more below.
Santa Fe Opera
The operas of Richard Strauss have always held a special place at Santa Fe and we saw Tim Albery's striking new production of Capriccio, whilst former husband and wife, Stephen Costello and Ailyn Pérez made a passionate pairing in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette in a production which channelled Gone with the Wind. We were lucky enough to be able to see the new production of Samuel Barber's Vanessa, an opera we had never seen staged before, and here given in a handsome Hollywood Noir production by James Robinson with Leonard Slatkin conducting.
Birgitta Festival in Tallinn
The Birgitta Festival takes place each Summer in the ruins of the Pirita Convent in Tallinn, Estonia. I was lucky enough to attend this year and amongst the visiting companies I heard the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet of Belarus in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, and the festival's own production, Joel Lauwers' Requiem... and life before, based on Mozart's Requiem.
Closer to home, at Grimeborn we caught a funny and very vivid production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and Jack Cherry and Louis Mander's new operetta The Dowager's Oyster, a sort of cross between Agatha Christie and Sandy Wilson's Valmouth (speaking of which, isn't that wonderful piece about due for a revival).
I am pleased to say that the video my own opera, The Genesis of Frankenstein, which was premiered by the Helios Collective in October 2016, directed by Ella Marchment, musical director Noah Mosley, has finally made it onto Vimeo.
We heard baritone Ricardo Panela in Duparc, Dvorak, and Piazzolla alongside composers from his native Portugal at St James's Church, Piccadilly, and Boxwood and Brass transcend the technical challenges in German harmoniemusik at the church of St Matthew in the Fields.
Whilst on holiday in Iceland we managed to catch a couple of concerts at Harpa, the new concert hall in Reykjavik.
A cook book might seem an unlikely candidate to feature in this newsletter, but Cookery a la Carte is a very special book full of anecdotes, pictures and recipes from members of the D'Oyly Carte opera.
Interviews and articles
I talked to the soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn about her voice and recent roles in advance of her debut as Tosca in Magdeburg, and whilst in Santa Fe I was lucky enough to be able to interview Harry Bicket, who is chief conductor at Santa Fe.
Feature articles included, Lost in Translation, some thoughts on opera in translation, Why not an afternoon at the opera? looking at the delight of opera matinees, and Towards a more historically informed view of performances of Norma.
CD's we have listened to▪ 17th century aristocratic music making: Carolyn Sampson and friends in Come all ye songsters
▪ Mendelssohnian charm: first complete recordings of Sullivan's Macbeth and The Tempest
▪ A very Anglican fervour: Rachmaninov's Vespers from John Scott and the choir of St Thomas's Church, New York
▪ Quirky combination: Haydn and Ligeti from Shai Wosner
▪ Signs, games, messages: violinist Simon Smith in Kurtag & Bartok
▪ WAM: Music for clarinet by Michael Finnissy
▪ A pilgrimage to Santiago: Gabriel Jackson's To the Field of Stars
▪ Innovative and profoundly moving: James MacMillan's Since it was the day of preparation
On the air, and lecturing
Whilst we were away two of my pieces made it onto the airwaves, in performances from Christopher Watson, the Chameleon Arts Orchestra and Paul Brough.
On Friday 23 September I will be giving the pre-concert talk at St John's Smith Square, when the pianist Kimiko Ishizaka plays Bach's The Art of Fugue, with her own new completion.
Our header image this month is Stephen Costello (Roméo) and Ailyn Pérez (Juliette) in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at Santa Fe Opera, (c) Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera, 2016.