Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Highlights and festival firsts: Aldeburgh Festival 2020 - four artists in residence, a first opera, the War Requiem at Snape and more

Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker, whose songs are celebrated at the festival by artist-in-residence Julia Bullock
The 2020 Aldeburgh Festival features four artists in residence (two composers and two singers), the world premiere of a new opera, and a couple of festival firsts!

For the first time in over 50 years, the festival will open away from Snape and Aldeburgh, the opening concert is at St Edmundsbury Cathedral to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the founding of Bury St Edmunds Abbey and the concert features music by two of the artists in residence, Cassandra Miller and Mark-Anthony Turnage, plus a work by Tom Coult whose opera Violet is premiered at the festival and the posthumous premiere of a work by Sir John Tavener.

In another festival first, Britten's 1962 War Requiem will be performed at Snape Maltings with Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and soloists including artist-in-residence Allan Clayton.

Paul Verlaine & Artur Rimbaud
Paul Verlaine, Artur Rimbaud: the latter's Les Illuminations
were written whilst the two were in London
The festival has four artists in residence, soprano Julia Bullock, tenor Allan Clayton, composer Cassandra Miller and composer Mark-Anthony Turnage. Julia Bullock will be giving the UK premiere of Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine an exploration of the songs of one of my heroines, the chanteuse Josephine Baker, and during her residency she will also explore the music of John Cage and Lukas Foss, as well as singing Britten's Les Illuminations with the BBC Symphony Orchestra [interesting historical pronunciation note: Rimbaud wrote his poems Les Illuminations in London with Verlaine and there is good evidence to believe that the two intended the word to be pronounced with an Engish diphthong, ie. Illumin-AY-tions]. Allan Clayton's residency intertwines with that of Mark-Anthony Turnage as Clayton will be giving the premiere of Turnage's new song cycle, as well as singing English song and exploring the work of Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986), a South-African/British composer whose work was championed by Peter Pears.

Canadian composer Cassandra Miller will be showcasing her new piece Tracery a multi- speaker, split-screen 60-minute installation made with soprano Juliet Fraser as a way to create an intimate space for deep listening, and there will also be a chance to hear her work performed by Fraser and the Bozzini Quartet, as well as the UK premiere of A Large House by Ilan Volkov and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage will be celebrating his 60th birthday at the festival. He first encountered the festival when, as a young 20-year-old composer he won the Britten Prize. As well as his song-cycle for Allan Clayton, the festival features Frieze with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Owl Songs and Slide Stride from the Nash Ensemble, and Quartet No.4 'Winter’s Edge' with the Piatti Quartet.

Tom Coult's new opera Violet, with a libretto by playwright Alice Birch, was developed at Snape Maltings as part of the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme. Directed by Rebecca Frecknall, the work is co-commissioned by the festival, Music Theatre Wales and Theater Magdeburg. Tom studied at the University of Manchester with Camden Reeves and Philip Grange and at King’s College, London with George Benjamin. He is currently Visiting Fellow Commoner in the Creative Arts at Trinity College Cambridge.Violet is his first opera.

The full Aldeburgh Festival programme will be announced on 18 December 2020, full details from the Snape Maltings website.

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