Friday, 30 July 2021

Handel's recorder sonatas filmed in his music room in Brook Street

Handel wrote his recorder sonatas in the 1720s at a time when his popularity in London was extremely high. This was domestic music, the recorder was going out of use as an orchestral instrument and being replaced by the transverse flute (which had a stronger, more brilliant tone), but seems to have still been popular with amateurs for whom, we presume, Handel wrote these sonatas. Yet they have plenty of virtuoso moments, in both recorder and harpsichord, and it would be lovely to know more.

Handel & Hendrix in London has shared a lovely video recorded in Handel's own music room as part of the Handel House Concert Series in which Caoimhe De Paor (recorder) and Katarzyna Kowalik (harpsichord) of Royal Baroque perform two of Handel's recorder sonatas. And if you recognise some of the music then don't be surprised, Handel shamelessly recycled some of his operatic music or perhaps, as Caoimhe De Paor suggests in her introduction, the music was intended as a play-it-at-home greatest hits. 

Available on YouTube.

A rose by any other name: Juliet & Romeo

A rose by any other name: Juliet & Romeo - Marginalia
Whether watching Shakespeare's play or the operas by Gounod and Bellini, the story of Romeo and Juliet can feel somewhat frustrating, the one-sided nature of the interaction - active male, passive female. A new interdisciplinary collective Marginalia is taking a fresh look at the story, combining Shakespeare's text with Bellini's melodies in a fusion of theatre and opera for two singers and actor. 

The result, A rose by any other name: Juliet & Romeo is being performed by the company in and around London and will be at St Thomas' Church, Balham on 13 August 2021 with further performances in Putney and Pimlico in October, with Rebecca Hare, Anna-Luise Wagner, and Chloë Allison, directed by Eleanor Burke. 

The founders of Marginalia, Anna-Luise Wagner and Chloë Allison, both combine careers as academics with performing and their new interdisciplinary company is aimed at telling stories that have remained hidden on the margins of history, introducing original ideas to new audiences and shining new light on more familiar material, reenergising well-known repertoire by exploring it from different perspectives.

Full details from the Marginalia website.

Engaging, imaginative and beautifully thought out: four online recitals from Robin Tritschler, Jess Dandy, Julien van Mellaerts, Harriet Burns and Ian Tindale

Ian Tindale and Robin Tritschler (from video filmed by TallWallMedia)
Ian Tindale and Robin Tritschler (from video filmed by Tall Wall Media)

In a dynamic response to his own lost work, pianist Ian Tindale organised a series of online song-recitals, which also enabled him to create new programmes with colleagues that he had not had chance to work with over the past year. The result is an engaging series of four 30-minute recitals, tenor Robin Tritschler in Britten and Schubert, contralto Jess Dandy in Schubert and Mahler, baritone Julien van Mellaerts in an English and French programme, and soprano Harriet Burns in a recital based around Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben, all beautifully filmed by Simon Wall of Tall Wall Media in the lovely music room of a private house.

The online presence is admirably organised, there is a YouTube Playlist, each video has the full programme in the footer (with tracking links), plus a link to the texts and translations. Though with all four singers you hardly need these latter, diction is uniformly superb and communicability excellent, whatever the language the emotion comes over.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Orchestras from the Czech Republic, Armenia, China, Russia and Hungary, and major UK choral ensembles: Cadogan Hall announces its orchestral and choral series for 2021/22

Cadogan Hall
Cadogan Hall
Cadogan Hall has announced the 2021/22 season for both its Zurich International Orchestra Series and Choral at Cadogan, featuring orchestras from the Czech Republic, Armenia, China, Russia and Hungary and four UK choirs, the Tallis Scholars, the Cardinall's Musick, Voces8 and The Sixteen.

The opening concert of the orchestral season gives us a chance to hear a Czech orchestra in an all-Czech programme when Dennis Russell Davies conducts the Brno Philharmonic in Janacek's Taras Bulba, Korngold's Violin Concerto (with Chloe Hanslip) and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9. Korngold, whilst being thought of as Austrian, was in fact born in Brno. One of the interesting things about the season is the way the orchestras often play music by their countrymen. So the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by its chief conductor Sergey Smbatyan, is bringing Khachaturan's Masquerade Suite plus music by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. The China Symphony Orchestra (of Shenzhen), conductor Daye Lin, performs a piece by the contemporary Chinese composer Ye Xiaogang (interestingly his teachers include Alexander Goehr), plus Mahler and Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 with Vadim Repin. 

And there is more Tchaikovsky from the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra (originally the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra), conductor Vladimir Fedoseyev, including Sergei Davydchenko in the Piano Concerto No 1. Whilst the Russian Philharmonic of Novosibirsk is conducted by Thomas Sanderling in Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with Jennifer Pike. Andras Keller conducts Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra in Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, plus music by Beethoven (with Angela Hewitt) and Mozart.

Choral at Cadogan begins with the Tallis Scholars celebrating Josquin 500 including his Missa Hercules dux Ferrariae, whilst the Cardinall's Musick interleave works by two Elizabethan contemporaries, Byrd's Mass for four voices and music by Orlando Gibbons with works by two contemporary composers, Arvo Part and John Tavener. Voces8 brings a programme of music celebrating regeneration, including a new commission by American composer Taylor Scott Davis, music by the Icelandic composer Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson (1938-2013), Jonathan Dove and many more. Christmas will feature the regular visit from The Sixteen with a programme which mixes traditional items with music by Bob Chilcott and Alec Roth. 

There are more Choral at Cadogan concerts to be announced for Spring 2022, but the season will end with the Tallis Scholars' postponed Spem in Allium concert featuring Tallis' 40-part motet as part of an all-Tallis programme.

Full details from the Cadogan Hall website.

American Quintets: Kaleidescope Chamber Collective's debut recording features the 1st recording of a mature Florence Price work alongside Amy Beach and Samuel Barber

American Quintets - Beach, Barber, Price; Kaleidescope Chamber Collective; CHANDOS

American Quintets
- Beach, Barber, Price; Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective; CHANDOS

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 28 July 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Two passionately Romantic American piano quintets, both inspired by the music of Brahms and Dvorak yet each creating its own distinctive voice

Two American women composers, both born in the 19th century (20 years apart), both known by their married names, both living well into the mid-20th century, both prolific and having significant success in their lifetimes. Yet the posthumous history of their music has been very different. The music of Amy Beach (1867-1944) has never really gone away. Much of it was published in her lifetime and key elements of her output including songs and chamber music have kept a toe-hold in the repertoire and we are now exploring her output further (her Symphony No. 2 'Gaelic' is part of the Philharmonia Orchestra's 2021/22 season). The music of Florence Price (1887-1937) not only disappeared from the repertoire after her death but key manuscripts disappeared altogether and it is only after a relatively recent discovery of a cache in an attic that we can start exploring her legacy properly.

The difference? Price was was a black woman at a time when being a woman in music was tricky and so being a black woman in music was well nigh impossible. Thankfully we are now making some sort of restitution and Price's music is getting the attention it deserves. Whilst that of Beach is being placed in a more sympathetic context.

A new recording on Chandos, American Quintets, places the 1907 Quintet, Op.67 by Amy Beach (in fact, for most of her life she always referred to herself as Mrs H.H.A. Beach ) alongside the premiere recording of the c1935 Quintet by Florence Price performed by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective (Elenia Urioste & Melissa White, violin, Rosalind Ventris, viola, Laura van der Heijden, cello, Tom Poster, piano) and they are joined by Matthew Rose (bass) for Samuel Barber's 1931 work Dover Beach.

They begin with Beach's Quintet. Beach began as a pianist, she was something of a prodigy and it was piano that she studied but marrying at only 18, her husband did not want her to perform in public and so she concentrated on composition. Though Beach is grouped with the New England school, she was largely self-taught as a composer. She premiered the Quintet in 1907 in Boston, performing it with the Hoffmann Quartet and it would become one of her most performed works. 

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Congratulations: Garsington presents end-of-season awards to four young artists

Garsington Opera awards: Madison Leonard, Cecilia Stinton, Katy Thomson, Ossian Huskinson
The season at Garsington has come to a close and the company has presented awards to four young artists who took part in the season, in recognition of their professional and personal contributions and musical skill.

Two Leonard Ingrams Awards go to America soprano Madison Leonard, who made her Garsington debut as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier this season, and to director Cecilia Stinton, who was assistant director on the revival of Michael Boyd's production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin [see my review of the original 2016 production] and directed the understudies in a full performance for an audience of first timers, as well as working on the complex COVID protocols for the production of Rossini's Le comte Ory.

The Helen Clarke Award goes to soprano Katy Thompson, an Alvarez Young Artist, who was in the chorus for Der Rosenkavalier and gave a triumphant performance as Die Marschallin on 13 June when Miah Persson was indisposed.

The Simon Sandbach Award goes to bass-baritone Ossian Huskinson, an Alvarez Young Artist, who was in the chorus for Eugene Onegin and Le comte Ory, and  role of Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin, and understudied the role of Prince Gremin, which he sang at OperaFirst (Garsington's scheme to introduce school children to opera). [We saw Huskinson as King Rene in Tchaikovsky's Iolanta at the Royal Academy of Music in 2019, see my review].

All awards are financial, for help with professional development, and each is presented in memory of an important figure from Garsington Opera’s history. The Leonard Ingrams Awards are made in memory of Garsington Opera's founder to continue his vision of supporting, encouraging and nurturing the best young artists involved in the creative process of bringing opera to the stage. The Helen Clarke and Simon Sandbach Awards were created in memory of members of the Garsington Opera team and are made in recognition of singers' exceptional talent, musical skill and contribution to Garsington Opera's productions.

Full details from the
Garsington website.

Beautiful Music in Beatiful Places: Lammermuir Festival returns with live audiences

St Mary's Church, Haddington (Photo Stephen C Dickson / Wikipedia)
St Mary's Church, Haddington
one of the venues for the festival
(Photo Stephen C Dickson / Wikipedia)
This year's Lammermuir Festival is returning to live performances (with an audience) and from 7 to 20 September 2021 will be bringing back Beautiful Music in Beautiful Places to East Lothian. There will be 37 concerts in eight venues across fourteen days including four song recitals in association with BBC Radio 3.

American pianist Jeremy Denk is artist in residence with performances including book 1 of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier and Schubert's Trout Quintet with Maria Włoszczowska and members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, plus an eclectic mix of repertoire from Beethoven to Rzewski, Joplin and Coleridge-Taylor. And Denk closes the festival with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in two Mozart piano concertos.

Scottish Opera makes its fourth visit to the festival with a young cast in a lightly staged version of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Wolf's Italian Songbook is being presented in a semi-staging whilst Iain Burnside's dramatic exploration of Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, The View from the Villa is also being staged. There are song recitals from Robert Murray and Alisdair Hogarth, James Atkinson and Sholto Kynoch, Catriona Morison and Malcolm Martineau, and Mary Bevan and Joseph Middleton,  plus Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde in Schoenberg’s chamber version. 

Other visitors include violinist Coco Tomia and pianist Simon Callaghan, accordionist Ryan Corbett, theorbo player Alex McCartney, trumpeter Aaron Akugbo and organist John Kitchen, pianists Clare Hammond and Richard Uttley, the Maxwell and Navarra String Quartets, the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective, Tenebrae, Marian Consort, and The Gesualdo Six. The Dunedin Consort returns for its 12th year, this time with Monteverdi madrigals and the Red Note Ensemble will be performing James Dillon’s Tanz/Haus

Peter Whelan conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a programme of Mozart, Britten and Haydn including Britten's Nocturne with Joshua Ellicott.

Piazzolla explorations: celebrating the composer's centenary with recordings from Lithuania, Switzerland and the USA

Astor Piazzolla playing the bandoneon
Astor Piazzolla playing the bandoneon

This year is Astor Piazzolla's centenary, and centenaries are usually the time for reassessment and rediscovery. Perhaps that will come, I feel that we need modern groups to explore the style and soundworld of the composer's original performances, but at the moment musicians seem to be more interested in where Piazzolla's music can take them and where they can take his music. 

I have been listening to three, very different tributes to the composer coming from Lithuania, Switzerland and the USA. We get two different versions of his bandoneon concerto and Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas, as well as a wide variety of shorter works in versions for harp and piano. Not a definitive collection of Piazzolla, but a sampling of the explorations triggered by the centenary.

Piazzolla's Aconcagua: concerto for bandoneon and orchestra performed by Martynas Levickis (accordion), Lithuanian Symphony Orchestra, conductor Modestas Pitrenas, and Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas with Levickis and Mikroorkestra on Accentus (ACC30552)First off is a disc from Lithuania with a live performance of Piazzolla's Aconcagua: concerto for bandoneon and orchestra performed by Martynas Levickis (accordion), Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, conductor Modestas Pitrenas, and a studio recording of Las Cuatro Estaciones Portenas with Levickis and Mikroorkestra on Accentus (ACC30552). 

Piazzolla's concerto was written for his own instrument, the bandoneon, and premiered by the composer in 1979 in Buenos Aires. The title Aconcagua, in reference to the highest mountain in South America, was added by Piazzolla's publisher after his death. The orchestra is distinctive, plenty of percussion yet no wind instruments, and whilst Piazzolla writes in a symphonic three movement form, fast-slow-fast, the details are all his own brand of tango.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Liverpool welcomes new chief conductor Domingo Hindoyan for his first season

Domingo Hindoyan rehearsing, 20 June 2021 (Photo Brian Roberts)
Domingo Hindoyan rehearsing, 20 June 2021 (Photo Brian Roberts)

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra has a new chief conductor. After leading the orchestra for 15 years, Vasily Petrenko has stepped down and become conductor laureate with Domingo Hindoyan as the new chief conductor whose first season, 2021/22 has just been announced. 

Hindoyan launches the season with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 and follows this with an intriguing mixture of waltzes by Strauss (Richard!) and Ravel plus dance-music from Falla and Granados. Throughout the season Hindoyan's concerts mix blockbusters, the unusual and a Latin-American strand inspired by his native Venezuala. He is joined by fellow Venezuelan musicians’ trumpeter Pacho Flores and Venezuelan cuatro (small guitar) player Leónidas Rondón for music including the European premiere of a new concerto for trumpet by Paquito D’Rivera and a work by Flores himself.

Alongside Brahms (with local boy, pianist Stephen Hough), Bruckner, Mahler, Schumann, Mozart, Sibelius, Nielsen, Ravel and Rachmaninov, there will also be Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle with soloists Jennifer Johnston and Károly Szemerédy, and the UK premiere of Edmund FinnisActs of Waves. Hindoyan's wife is the soprano Sonya Yoncheva, and she joins her husband for Giuseppe Martucci's song cycle La Canzone dei Ricordi (The Song of Remembrance).

Other visitors include principal guest conductor Andrew Manze, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason as young artist in residence and baritone Roderick Williams as artist in residence. Female guest conductors include Marta Gardolińska, Alexandra Dunn, Elena Schwarz, Rebecca Tong, Sarah Hicks, Ellie Slorach, Jeannette Sorrell, Nil Vendetti and Gemma New. 

Amongst the 15 world premieres in the season there are eight new works by female composers including music by Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Katherine Balch, Grace-Evangeline Mason, and Tansy Davies plus Amy Beach's Symphony No 2 ‘Gaelic’. 

And of course there is much, much more. Full details at the orchestra's website.

WNO's Arralleirio | Rearrange

Welsh National Opera (WNO) is releasing a new series of online films. Arralleirio | Rearrange features older, well-known operatic arias reinterpreted by four directors, Rebbecca Hemmings, Daisy Evans, Mathilde Lopez and Abdul Shayek, to highlight how themes echoed in the stories are still relevant today.

For the first, Tu Se Morta, tenor Tom Randle perform's Orfeo's aria on Eurydice's death from Monteverdi's opera L'Orfeo, yet given an alarmingly contemporary spin by director Mathilde Lopez which highlights how Monteverdi's music matters so much still. 


The films are being released on WNO's YouTube channel.

Celebrating Josquin 500 with viols, voices and more

The Francesco Linarol tenor viol (c 1540)

This year is the 500th anniversary of Josquin's death and the sheer breadth of his music is being celebrated widely. The Linarol Consort of Renaissance viols is having festival of its own in August and September where they are joining with friends to celebrate the composer's music both live and online.

First off, the Linarol Consort and soprano Héloïse Bernard will be exploring Josquin's chansons and instrumental music in Baisiez Moi in Folkestone (14/8/2021, online from 28/8/2021). Then the Consort and the men of the Binchois Consort perform Pie memorie in Leominster (20/8/21, online from 27/8/2021)  where they imagine Josquin’s friends, colleagues and admirers coming together to pay their funeral respects with viols and voices in songs and motets of lamentation, ending with Jean Richafort’s profoundly moving Requiem in memoriam Josquin Desprez. Then lutenist Jacob Heringman will be performing Inviolata, his exploration of lute transcriptions of Josquin's music in Leominster (16/9/2021, online 28/9/2021).

There is also one purely online concert, on 1 October 2021, when the American ensemble Nota Bene Viol Consort present Like a Virgin!, an exploration of Flemish polyphony through a woman’s eye.

The Linarol Consort takes its name from the maker of the original viol on which the instruments they play are modeled: all are copies of one surviving viol by the Venetian maker Francesco Linarol (c1520-1577), who was active throughout the 16th century and currently displayed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
 

Full details from the Linarol Consort's Josquin 500 website.

Janacek's 'The Diary of One Who Disappeared' alongside his Moravian songs and Dvorak's 'Gypsy Songs' from Nicky Spence, Fleur Barron, Dylan Perez and friends at Opera Holland Park

Janacek collecting folk-songs on 19 August 1906 in Strání
Janacek collecting folk-songs on 19 August 1906 in Strání

Janacek The Diary of one Who Disappeared, Dvorak Gypsy Songs; Fleur Barron, Nicky Spence, Charlotte Badham, Charlotte Bowden, Isabelle Peters, Dylan Perez; Opera Holland Park

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 25 July 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Forget the torrential rain, this vividly engaging evening of Czech song radiated warmth, energy and sheer joy

On Sunday 25 July 2021, Opera Holland Park hosted the first of a series of three song recitals, Opera in Song curated by baritone Julien Van Mellaerts [who was the Count in Opera Holland Park's recent production of Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, see my review] and pianist Dylan Perez. On Sunday, Dylan Perez was joined by tenor Nicky Spence, mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron, mezzo-soprano Charlotte Badham, soprano Charlotte Bowden and soprano Isabelle Peters for a selection of Janacek's Moravian folk poetry in songs, Dvorak's Gypsy Songs,Op.55 and Janacek's The Diary of One Who Disappeared.

Long before he wrote operas, Janacek collected folk songs and he would collect Moravian folk music extensively in the 1890s, eventually distilling this down to 53 songs in Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs published in 1908. They are certainly not as well-known as they should be and this was a welcome opportunity to hear eight of them performed by Charlotte Badham, Charlotte Bowden and Isabelle Peters. Piano and singers were placed in front of the theatre's thrust stage with the audience round them, thus giving the most intimate performance possible in this theatre. And despite the torrential rain beating down on the canopy, this was an evening of joyous and engaging music making with all performers radiating great warmth.

Dylan Perez, Nicky Spence, Isabelle Peters, Charlotte Bowden, Charlotte Badham, Fleur Barron - Opera Holland Park (Photo James Clutton/Opera Holland Park)
Dylan Perez, Nicky Spence, Isabelle Peters, Charlotte Bowden, Charlotte Badham, Fleur Barron - Opera Holland Park (Photo James Clutton/Opera Holland Park)

Monday, 26 July 2021

Invocation: London Schools Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 70th birthday with new trumpet concerto from Eleanor Alberga

Eleanor Alberga (Photo Benjamin Ealovega)
Eleanor Alberga (Photo Benjamin Ealovega)

The London Schools Symphony Orchestra will be celebrating its 70th anniversary later this year with a concert at the Barbican Centre on 20 September 2021 which will include the world premiere of Eleanor Alberga’s new trumpet concerto, based on Caribbean and Latin American folk legends. Peter Ash will conduct the orchestra in a programme which includes Debussy’s Prelude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Stravinsky’s Petrushka alongside Alberga's new concerto Invocation performed by trumpeter Pacho Flores. 

The orchestra has built a close relationship with Alberga, recently celebrating her 70th birthday with a staged performance of her orchestral showpiece Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Invocation was originally planned with dance choreography by Colombian dancer Fernando Montaño, one of the stars of the Royal Ballet, but sadly the orchestra’s summer tour of Colombia had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Full details from the Barbican website.


A light touch, yet full of character: Mascagni's L'amico Fritz proves an engaging discovery at Opera Holland Park

Mascagni: L'amico Fritz - Opera Holland Park, 2021 (Photo Ali Wright)
Mascagni: L'amico Fritz - Opera Holland Park, 2021 (Photo Ali Wright)

Mascagni L'amico Fritz; Katie Bird, Matteo Lippi, Paul Carey Jones, dir: Julia Burbach, City of London Sinfonia, cond: Beatrice Venezi; Opera Holland Park

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 24 July 2021 Star rating: 5.0 (
★★★★)
Mascagni's lyrical comedy in a rare London outing which enables us to enjoy the work's engaging character

Mascagni's opera L'amico Fritz was almost as famous and popular as his Cavalleria Rusticana during the composer's lifetime, but since his death in 1945 the opera's hold on the repertoire has waned, its appearances often restricted to famous tenors wanting to sing the 'Cherry Duet', the best-known moment from the opera. Opera Holland Park has kept faith with the piece (possibly the only major London company to have performed the work) and having produced it before (around 10 years ago and 20 years ago), they returned to it this year.

Julia Burbach directed Mascagni's L'amico Fritz at Opera Holland Park with Beatrice Venezi conducting the City of London Sinfonia and we saw the production on Saturday 24 July 2021 (the first time I'd seen the work staged) with Matteo Lippi as Fritz, Katie Bird as Suzel, Paul Carey Jones as David, Kezia Bienek as Beppe plus Themba Mvula, Mike Bradley and Rose Stachniewska. Designs were by Alyson Cummins with the black and white opening act very much channelling 1950s Italian film, perhaps Fellini [see my interview with Julia Burbach where we chat about L'amico Fritz and her upcoming production of Wagner's Die Walküre]

Mascagni turned to L'amico Fritz after Cavalleria Rusticana, deliberately looking for a different type of subject (something he would do throughout his career, each of his operas is very different to the previous). Cavalleria Rusticana and L'amico Fritz have a lot in common, both are based on stories which became plays, both are stories set amongst workers in the countryside. The music for each opera is largely a lyrical, arioso-like dialogue with any set pieces being diagetic - characters singing songs, hymns etc. But whereas Giovanni Verga's story for Cavalleria Rusticana channelled Zola-esque neo-realism and violence, the story by Emile Erckmann and Louis-Alexandre Chatrian had a more gentle feel (and you think of Gounod's Mireille based on another such story). Though the opera simplified things somewhat, in the story it is clear that whilst David is a Rabbi (Alsace had a significant proportion of France's Jewish population) and is friendly with Fritz because David has taught Yiddish to Fritz, Suzel is a Protestant, an Anabaptist in fact.

Mascagni: L'amico Fritz - Katie Bird, Matteo Lippi - Opera Holland Park, 2021 (Photo Ali Wright)
Mascagni: L'amico Fritz - Katie Bird, Matteo Lippi - Opera Holland Park, 2021 (Photo Ali Wright)

Mascagni called the opera a commedia lirica and the pastoral idyll is very much in the tradition of the pastoral comedies which were common in the 18th and earlier 19th century repertory, yet which have rather fallen out of favour during the 20th and 21st centuries. The tension in L'amico Fritz comes purely from whether and how Fritz and Suzel will get together, there is little more angst than that.

To focus on the journey, on the people and their stories: Julia Burbach directs Wagner's Die Walküre for the Grimeborn Festival

Wagner: Die Walküre - Opéra National de Bordeaux (Photo Eric Bouloumie)
Wagner: Die Walküre - Evgeny Nikitin (Wotan) - Opéra National de Bordeaux (Photo Eric Bouloumie)


Opera director Julia Burbach has been spending quite a bit of time with Wagner recently, specifically his Ring Cycle. In 2019 she directed the Grimeborn Festival's production of Das Rheingold [see my review], the first in what was hoped/planned to be eventually a full cycle based around Jonathan Dove and Graham Vick's reduced version of The Ring originally made for Birmingham Opera Company. And in 2019, Julia also directed Die Walküre for Opéra National de Bordeaux in a production that was planned to transfer to Icelandic Opera in 2020 but which has now been re-scheduled for 2022. And now, having just directed Mascagni's L'amico Fritz for Opera Holland Park [see my review], Julia directs Die Walküre for the Grimeborn Festival at the Hackney Empire conducted by Peter Selwyn on 4, 6 and 7 August 2021.

 

Richard Wagner: Die Walküre - rehearsals for Grimeborn Festival's production at Hackney Empire, 2021 (Photo Alex Brenner)
Richard Wagner: Die Walküre - rehearsals for Grimeborn Festival's production at Hackney Empire, 2021 (Photo Alex Brenner)

Of course, Julia's familiarity with Wagner's operas goes back beyond this. As a staff director at Covent Garden she worked on Keith Warner's staging of The Ring, and she was the revival director for Christoph Loy's production of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, so she was familiar with operas which last over three hours, and she talks about how fabulous it is to have a monologue which lasts 40 minutes. And being German, she can read the texts which also helps.

Bordeaux Opera already had Die Walküre in the calendar but was without a director when a contact from Covent Garden who was now working at Bordeaux suggested the opera to her. She likes the piece and felt she could embrace it, partly because she was interested in bringing out themes in the opera which she had not seen in productions where she was an audience member.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Janacek's forest could easily be on a London estate around the corner from the theatre: The Cunning Little Vixen at Opera Holland Park

Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - Jennifer France - Opera Holland Park, 2021 (Photo Ali Wright)
Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - Jennifer France - Opera Holland Park, 2021 (Photo Ali Wright)

Janacek The Cunning Little Vixen; Jennifer France, Grant Doyle, Julia Sporsen, dir: Stephen Barlow, City of London Sinfonia, cond: Jessica Cottis; Opera Holland Park

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 23 July 2021 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
An imaginative yet stripped down production in which Janacek's music is allowed to work its magic

Opera Holland Park's new production of Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen continued the company's exploration of Janacek's operas, and we caught up with the production on Friday 23 July 2021. Jessica Cottis conducted the City of London Sinfonia in Jonathan Dove's orchestral reduction, and Stephen Barlow's production featured Jennifer France as the Vixen, Grant Doyle as the Forester, Julia Sporsen as the Fox plus Ann Taylor (Forester's Wife, Owl), Charne Rochford (Schoolmaster, Mosquito), John Savournin (Priest, Badger), and Ashley Riches (Poacher).

There are a number of ways to approach Janacek's opera and its world. The composer based it on a comic strip and created a vivid and numinous sense of the natural world, yet interleaved this with the rather sad stories of the humans involved, the two coming together in the magical finale. Complicating this is the way Janacek anthropomorphises the animals, which leads us to ask what is the world of the forest?

This is a question each director has to ask, whether we go full cutesy with a high degree of pictorial naturalism or completely gritty with the forest replaced by a realistic modern world (such as Silent Opera's Vixen set on the streets of London). Most productions choose to hover between the two and Stephen Barlow's imaginatively stripped back production (with designs by Andrew D Edwards) managed to give us plenty of food for thought. The traditional doublings were used, so that the human and animal world was interweavoven and Barlow introduced an extra doubling, with Jennifer France (who plays the Vixen) playing the silent role of Terynka, the local flame-haired beauty who seduces all the men of the village. She ends up marrying the Poacher (Ashley Riches) who shoots the Vixen. And in this production we actually saw Terynka with her new fox-fur stole, rather than just having it described, thus bringing the chain full circle.

Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - Opera Holland Park, 2021 (Photo Ali Wright)
Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen - Estella Charlesworth in the foreground with Grant Doyle, Jennifer France, Jessica Cottis, City of London Sinfonia - Opera Holland Park, 2021 (Photo Ali Wright)

Animals wore masks or head-dresses, yet with clothes which referenced both human and animal world. There were hardly any props, and what there were were simple and modern, a plastic rubbish recycling bin, some bags from Pret a Manger (!) and the seating for the Inn. And that was it. For the opening scene, the creatures of the forest played by the children's chorus all wore coloured masks and matching clothes, and ran around with colourful wind-socks. The results evoked both the forest but also a street of playing children. By taking advantage of the stripped back nature of the production, Barlow and Edwards were able to create a sort of complex double projection, this was the forest but it was also a London council estate.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

The piece conveys the idea that women should be listened to: composer Gráinne Mulvey & soprano Elizabeth Hilliard chat about their latest collaboration Great Women

Elizabeth Hilliard performing Gráinne Mulvey's Great Women in St Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle for the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival
Elizabeth Hilliard performing Gráinne Mulvey's Great Women in St Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle for the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival

Great Women
for voice and electronics is a new work by Irish composer Gráinne Mulvey recently released on Divine Art's metier label performed by soprano Elizabeth Hilliard. The work was commissioned by the Dublin International Chamber Music Festival (formerly Great Music in Irish Houses) to mark its 50th anniversary and the work's first performance was given in June this year at Dublin Castle (filmed without an audience). Great Women is the ninth of Gráinne Mulvey's works that Elizabeth Hilliard has performed (five of which are for voice and electronics). Its subject is a celebration of strong, remarkable Irish women who helped shape the political landscape in the 20th century, and I recently caught up with both Gráinne and Elizabeth to find out more.

Gráinne Mulvey
Gráinne Mulvey
The commission came just after the centenary of women's suffrage and Gráinne wanted to both celebrate women activists and to celebrate Ireland's two female presidents (Mary Robinson, inaugurated in 1990 and Mary McAleese, inaugurated in 1997). She started by looking at texts by two leading activists Countess Markievicz (1868-1927) and Rosie Hackett (1893-1976), intending to bookend the piece with extracts from the two presidential inauguration speeches as well, the idea being that the earlier activists and the two female presidents would be calling to one another.

Countess Markievicz made many speeches, but one quote of hers has become well known 'We have got to get rid of the last vestige of the harem.' For the first part of the piece, Gráinne uses a lot of sibilants and phonetics to break up the text, suggesting Markievicz's struggle and bubbling of ideas until things finally come together, and then she introduces other texts. Gráinne has tried to reflect the different aspects of Markievicz's life, the bleak dreariness of her time in prison after the 1916 Easter Rising when she questioned the political meaning of it all or the more angry moments. Rosie Hackett is represented by her simple witness statement, 'I was alone in the shop the day it was raided', as she was minding the shop just before the Easter Rising.

Friday, 23 July 2021

La Bohème in Belfast: Northern Ireland Opera makes return to live performance with Cameron Menzies' first production as artistic director

Carlisle Memorial Church, Belfast (Photo Belfast Buildings Trust)
Carlisle Memorial Church, Belfast (Photo Belfast Buildings Trust)

Northern Ireland Opera is making a return to performances with live audiences with a new production of Puccini's La Bohème which also marks marks Cameron Menzies’ first production in front of live audiences since he joined the company as artistic director midway through the pandemic in February this year.

Performed in front of a socially distanced audience for four evening, 18-25 September 2021, the production take place at the Carlisle Memorial Church, a high Victorian neo-Gothic church in Belfast which is now a community arts centre. The building, situated at the heart of the troubles in an area of high political tension, holds a long history of community and a psychological neutrality, a symbolic importance as a “home” marker for people from many backgrounds.

With a background in opera, theatre, music theatre, cabaret and film-making, it will be intriguing to see what Menzies' new production makes of Puccini's operatic classic. 

Further details, including casting, to be released shortly see the Northern Ireland Opera website for details.

Seven Ages: Mark Padmore, Roderick Williams, Julius Drake, Victoria Newlyn at Temple Music

Titian: Three Ages of Man (image from Titian.org)
Titian: Three Ages of Man (image from Titian.org)

Seven Ages
- Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Poulenc, RVW, Bridge, Clarke, Butterworth, Gurney, Ives, Barber, Copland, Purcell; Mark Padmore, Roderick Williams, Victoria Newlyn, Julius Drake; Temple Music at Middle Temple Hall

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 21 July 2021 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
The seven ages of man bring Temple Music's season to a magical close with a wide-ranging recital

The final concert in Temple Music's season on Wednesday 21 July 2021 represented at return to Middle Temple Hall with a live audience for a recital themed on the Seven Ages of Man by tenor Mark Padmore, baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Julius Drake with reader Victoria Newlyn. The programme made no explicit reference to our current situation, yet the way the music and readings reflected on the human experience from Shakespeare's mewling and puking infant right through that haunting image of 'Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything', made you reflect. The programme played without breaks for applause, allowing the sequence of words and music to unfold with some intriguing inclusions and thoughtful juxtapositions, with composers ranging from Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, to Fauré and Poulenc, to RVW, Bridge, Butterworth, and Britten, to Ives, Barber and Copland, ending with Purcell's Evening Hymn.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Chamber-sized version of Mahler's epic Das Lied von der Erde launches a new ensemble supporting freelance performers

Gustav Mahler photographed in 1907 by Moritz Nähr the year before he began Das Lied von der Erde
Gustav Mahler photographed in 1907 by Moritz Nähr
the year before he began Das Lied von der Erde
Arnold Schoenberg's  Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen in German), which he founded in Vienna in 1918, sought to provide a forum in which modern musical compositions could be carefully prepared and rehearsed, and properly performed under conditions protected from the dictates of fashion and pressures of commerce. Over three years the society presented a diverse range of music and Schoenberg had plans for Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Mahler was a composer that he revered and he started a version of the work for soloists, string and wind quintets, keyboards and percussion but never finished it. The German composer Rainer Riehn (1941-2015) completed this version in 1980. 

Later this month, there is a chance to hear this more intimate version of Mahler's epic masterpiece at the debut concert of The Fifth Door Ensemble, at Opera Holland Park on 17 August 2021. The soloists are mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson and tenor Charne Rochford with an instrumental ensemble of 14 players conducted by Thomas Blunt.

The performers are all freelance, and this points to one of the ensemble's raisons d'etre, to provide opportunities for freelance performers at this difficult time. Named for the moment in Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle when on opening the Fifth Door, there is a glorious, elementary C major chord, in contrast to what has come before, like a shaft of light illuminating the darkness, the ensemble was founded by tenor Charne Rochford, who said "The Fifth Door Ensemble is an organisation that will stimulate live performances of major works on a small scale, offering the public opportunities to watch outstanding freelancers at work, whilst giving performance opportunities to freelancers, hardest hit by the pandemic."

Also dating from the same period is  Hans Eisler, Karl Rankl and Erwin Stein chamber arrangement of Bruckner's Symphony No 7 which was unperformed owing to the Society's closure in 1921, perhaps The Fifth Door Ensemble should think about this for their next concert!

Full details from the Opera Holland Park website.

The Call: six young artists showcased in the first recital disc from Momentum

The Call - Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Faure, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion WIlliams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov; Martha Jones, Laurence Kilsby, Angharad Lyddon, Madison Nonoa, Alex Otterburn, Dominic Sedgwick, Malcolm Martineau; Stone Records

The Call
- Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion WIlliams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov; Martha Jones, Laurence Kilsby, Angharad Lyddon, Madison Nonoa, Alex Otterburn, Dominic Sedgwick, Malcolm Martineau; Stone Records

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 21 July 2021 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
The first disc from the initiative supporting younger artists showcases the song talents of six singers in lieder, French chanson, and English song with excursions to Wales and Russia

Barbara Hannigan's Momentum: Our Future, Now has been very active in the last 18 months encouraging support for young artists via the active creation of performances opportunities. Now the first recording arising from the initiative has come out.

The Call on Stone Records features six Momentum artists, Madison Nonoa (soprano), Martha Jones (mezzo-soprano), Angharad Lyddon (mezzo-soprano), Laurence Kilsby (tenor), Alex Otterburn (baritone) and Dominic Sedgwick (baritone) along with Malcolm Martineau (piano) in songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Debussy, Hahn, Poulenc, Meirion Williams, Howells, RVW, Britten, Gurney and Rachmaninov, recorded at Snape Maltings with the support of Britten Pears Arts.

It should be emphasised that the term Young Artists is to some extent unfair. All early-career performers, between them they have considerable experience yet in the present climate, with limited opportunities available, are in danger of being squeezed out. And this is just what Momentum seeks to remedy. 

A number of them have popped up on our radar recently, Angharad Lyddon and Alex Otterburn were in The Grange Festival's production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream [see my review], Laurence Kilsby was in the Opera North/Leeds Playhouse production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music [see my review]. We saw Dominic Sedgwick performing Bach with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment last year [see my review], as well as catching him both as a Jette Parker Young Artist at Covent Garden and right back to his impressive account of the title role in Britten's Owen Wingrave for British Youth Opera in 2016. And Martha Jones was in English Touring Opera's production of Bach's St John Passion last year [see my review].

The disc begins with Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, before moving on to French song and then, with a brief but striking excursion to Wales we end up in England with Russia as a sort of coda. It makes for a satisfying programme and the singers are sufficiently varied, so that we have an engaging variety of approaches.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Autumn season at Temple Music: intimate Mahler, Alehouse Sessions, Historical Fiction and more

Temple Music
Temple Music concert in Middle Temple Hall
Temple Music Foundation has announced its Autumn 2021 season of concerts in Temple Church and Middle Temple Hall, with 'fingers tightly crossed' that 'full capacity concerts, interval socialising and musicians congratulating each other with an embrace at the end of another stunning performance' will be possible.

From September to December there are eight, highly varied concerts. Soprano Grace Davidson and saxophonist Christian Forshaw start things off with Historical Fiction from their album of Baroque arrangements. American pianist Jeffery Siegel brings one of his Keyboard Conversations concerts, events which mix performance with Siegel's introductions and a lively Q&A, whilst Harry Christophers and The Sixteen return with Tudor sacred music. Pianist Julius Drake is joined by mezzo-soprano Alice Coote and tenor Stuart Jackson for Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, a rare chance to hear the symphonic song-cycle in more intimate form. 

Temple Youth choir performs Romantic choral music, then Tom Guthrie joins Barokksolistene for one of their amazing Alehouse Sessions [see my interview with Tom where we chat about these events]. Temple Singers (the adult choir at Temple Church) are joined by alumni from Genesis Sixteen for a programme of large-scale unaccompanied choral music including Tallis' Spem in alium. Thomas Allery, director of the Temple Singers, brings his Ensemble Hesperi for a programme of 18th century music by composers who lived within sight of Temple! [see my 2019 interview with members of Ensemble Hesperi]. And the season ends with the annual performance of Handel's Messiah.

Full details from the Temple Music website.

Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival returns for its second edition

Benjamin Grosvenor at the 2020 Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival (Photo Ting-Ru Lai/BBIMF)
Benjamin Grosvenor at the 2020 Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival
(Photo Ting-Ru Lai/BBIMF)

Created during lockdown last year by Benjamin Grosvenor, Hyeyoon Park and Raja Halder, the Bromley & Beckenham International Music Festival returns this year from 17 to 19 September 2021 for its second edition. The iaugural festival in September 2020 provided four, highly successful, socially distanced concerts which created something positive and long-lasting for the local community as well as raising money for a local hospice. 

For 2021, there are four concerts at Bromley Parish Church featuring artistic directors Benjamin Grosvenor (piano), Hyeyoon Park (violin), and festival director Raja Halder (violin) plus guests Timothy Ridout (viola), Bartholemew LaFollette (cello), Laura van der Heijden (cello) in an intriguing range of music from Dvorak for two violins and viola, Rachmaninov's piano trio written in memory of Tchaikovsky, and Britten reflecting on a Dowland song, plus a Schubert trio, the Schumann Piano Quartet and Brahms' Piano Quintet. Oud virtuoso Joseph Tawadros will be joining festival artists for a programme of his own music.

The festival is offering free tickets for the under-12s and £5 tickets for under-21s. Full details from the festival website.

Encounters: York Early Music Festival with Tudor motets, Elizabethan viol music, baroque cantatas and the madrigal re-imagined

Encounters, this year's York Early Music Festival at the National Centre for Early Music

Encounters
, this year's York Early Music Festival at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) took place both live and online. The festival's ten online events are available on NCEM's website until 13 August 2021, and I have been dipping into some of the delights on offer with The Gesualdo Six in English Motets, the Rose Consort of Viols in Elizabethan Encounters, Matthew Brook (bass-baritone) and Peter Seymour (harpsichord) in Amore traditore: Cantatas for bass and harpsichord, and The Monteverdi String Band and Hannah Ely (soprano) in The Madrigal Reimagined.

The Gesualdo Six have been spending lockdown learning new repertoire and for their programme English Motets they returned to the English repertoire from Tudor composers, music that they all grew up singing. The 200 years covered by the programme was a turbulent time, with composers such as Tallis and Byrd writing for both Catholic and Protestant monarchs with Tallis' works for the Edwardian Church virtually coming to define the new musico-religious style. 

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Des Jours Meilleurs

French accordionist and composer Jacques Pellarin wrote Des Jours Meilleurs as an accordion solo during lockdown in 2020. He subsequently approached pianist Helen Walker about her arranging the work for cello and piano. The result is charming and engaging, and has been released as a single by Nicola Farnon (cello) and Helen Walker (piano).

Music in the Round announces new concert series in Sheffield with Ensemble 360 and guests

Music in the Round's Ensemble 360 at the Crucible, Sheffield
Music in the Round's Ensemble 360 at the Crucible, Sheffield

Before the world changed in 2020, I had plans to combine a visit to Opera North with my first trip to hear Music in the Round's Ensemble 360 at its home in Sheffield's Crucible Theatre as part of the Sheffield Chamber Music Festival. It wasn't to be.

But, after over a year away from live audiences, Music in the Round has announced a new concert series in Sheffield. Violist Ruth Gibson and pianist Tim Horton, of Ensemble 360, launch the new series on Friday 6 August, with performances at 1pm and 7pm in the city’s Upper Chapel, where concerts will remain socially-distanced. 

Then on 13 August, there is a chance to hear pianist Libby Burgess in Bach's '48' the Well-Tempered Clavier. Burgess is performing the 48 movements in each of the 48 ceremonial counties of England during 2021, so her performances in Sheffield represent the South Yorkshire stage of her marathon run of concerts. 

The 48 concerts are part of a fundraising initiative by Libby Burgess, raising money for four musical charities, inspired by Bach’s comment that the Well-Tempered Clavier was written “for the benefit and use of the musical youth eager to learn, as well as for the special pastime of those already skilful in this study”. The four charities are: Help Musicians, Youth Music, Future Talent and Live Music Now. More details at the Bach 48 Project website.

Further ahead, Music in the Round's concert series includes Beethoven’s string quartets performed by Ensemble 360, and the Leonore Piano Trio starting their new cycle of concerts focusing on Romantic piano trios. In November, baritone Roderick Williams performs songs based on Thomas Hardy poems, and guitarist Craig Ogden teams up with classical accordionist Miloš Milivojević. Other performers include pianist Tim Horton in preludes by Chopin and Debussy, jazz pianist Julian Joseph, and Ensemble 360 returns with Bartók’s First Violin Sonata and Ligeti’s Horn Trio.

Full details from Music in the Round's website.

Young contemporary composers to late Haydn: London Oriana Choir at Opera Holland Park

London  Oriana Choir & City of London Sinfonia at Opera Holland Park
London  Oriana Choir & City of London Sinfonia at Opera Holland Park

Redford, Daley, Curry, Mack, Disley-Simpson, David, Haydn; Sian Dicker, Hannah Bennett, Guy Withers, Alex Jones, London Oriana Choir, City of London Sinfonia, Dominic Ellis-Peckham; Opera Holland Park

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 19 July 2021
A welcome chance to hear large-scale choral music again in an imaginative programme which mixed works from the choir's five15 commissioning programme with Haydn's great mass in the time of distress

This year, a sort of fringe festival has grown up around the main festival at Opera Holland Park. James Clutton, the company's director, has been taking advantage of the nights when the theatre is dark to offer the space to other performers, providing performance opportunities at a time when badly needed. So, British Youth Opera will be performing its season there, there is a song recital series next week, Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde coming up, Waterperry Opera's family friendly Peter and the Wolf, Knowing Britten: A celebration of the life of Steuart Bedford, and last night (19 July 2021) London Oriana Choir.

On Monday 19 July 2021, London Oriana Choir, musical director Dominic Ellis-Peckham (who is also chorus master at Opera Holland Park) were joined at Opera Holland Park by the City of London Sinfonia and four of Opera Holland Park's Young Artists, Sian Dicker, Hannah Bennett, Guy Withers, Alex Jones for a programme of music by Stanford, Vittoria Aleotti, Heinrich Schütz, JAC Redford, Eleanor Daley, Jessica Curry, Tara Mack, Anna Disley Simpson, and John David ending with a performance of Haydn's Mass in D minor.

The first half was an eclectic mix of unaccompanied music with a focus very much on the choir's five15 project whereby for five years they appoint a female composer in residence who writes three works for them, alongside a commitment to increase the amount of music by women composers in the choir's programmes. 

Monday, 19 July 2021

Antony Hermus, principal guest conductor at Opera North, named as new chief conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra

Antony Hermus
Antony Hermus
The Dutch conductor Antony Hermus, who is Opera North's new(ish) principal guest conductor, has been named as the new chief conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra. Hermus takes over the baton for the 2022/23 season and will be in place for at least four seasons, conducting 8 concerts in 2022-23 rising to 18 in 2023-24.

But in September 2021 he joins the orchestra for Ibert's Concertino da camera with the Belgian saxophonist Simon Diricq and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, in a symphonic compilation by Henk de Vlieger.

And in October 2021 he returns to Leeds where he conducts Opera North in a double bill of Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti and West Side Story Symphonic Dances.

Full details from the Belgian National Orchestra's website.

We can dream: Bayreuth Baroque Festival 2021

Bayreuth Baroque Festival
One of the reasons that Richard Wagner built his festival theatre in Bayreuth was because he had been recommended the town because it was the home of Germany's largest theatre, the Margravial Opera House built by Frederick the Great's sister Wilhelmine in 1748, with an interior designed by the Italian theatre-design family of Bibiena, father and son. Performances had effectively ceased after Wilhelmine's death in 1758, which is why the theatre is so well preserved. Wagner barely used the theatre, it was not suited to his purposes, but restored in 2018 the theatre forms a superb backdrop for Baroque opera. 

The Bayreuth Baroque Opera Festival was founded in 2020, under artistic director Max Emanuel Cencic, and the festival is returning this year for a second edition from 1-12 September 2021. There will be another chance to see Cencic's production of Nicola Porpora's opera Carlo il Calvo with Franco Fagioli, Max Emanuel Cencic and Julia Lezhneva, conducted by George Petrou in a production directed by Cencic which debuted last year. The opera debuted in 1738 in Rome, which meant that as women were not allowed on stage by order of the Pope, all the female roles were originally taken by castrati.

There will also be a concert performance of Porpora's Polifemo, written in 1735 for London for Handel's rivals, the Opera of the Nobility with star castrato Farinelli playing Aci. The Bayreuth performance features as Yuriy Mynenko as Aci, Max Emanual Cencic as Ulisse, Pavel Kudinov as Polifemo and Julia Lezhneva as Galatea, conducted by George Petrou.

Other events include Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabeus with Benjamin Hulett, Pavel Kudinov and Lucy Crowe and B'Rock conducted by Bart Nessens, plus recitals from Simone Kermes, Jakub Jozef Orlinski, Franco Fagioli, Dorothee Oberlinger and Magdalena del Gobbo.

Full details from the festival website.

Real intimacy: Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady in a concert staging at The Grange Festival

The Grange Festival : My Fair Lady

Lerner and Loewe My Fair Lady; Ellie Laugharne, Steven Pacey, Peter Polycarpou, dir: Guy Unsworth, cond: Alfronso Casado Trigo, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra; The Grange Festival

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 19 July 2021 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
A concert staging of Lerner and Loewe's 'perfect musical' which combined high musical values with engaging imagination in presentation

Lerner and Lowe's My Fair Lady is a strange musical, there are few proper dance numbers, the big song and dance pieces being quite limited, and for all the American creators desires to open Bernard Shaw's play up somewhat, the ghost of Pygmalion (written in 1912 and receiving its UK premiere in 1914 with Mrs Patrick Campbell and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree) hangs over the entire enterprise. The result gives the piece a slightly more acerbic quality than many American musicals, to its great benefit. The sense that for all that it is a Broadway Musical, there is still something of the chamber piece with its series of intimate dialogues in drawing rooms, means that presenting My Fair Lady as a concert staging works rather better than many other 1950s American musicals, and has the big advantage that we do not have to suffer the amazing dancing Cockneys.

The Grange Festival presented Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady in a concert staging directed by Guy Unsworth with Alfonso Casado Trigo conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gloriously live on stage and playing the orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett and Philip J Lang (if any musical needs to have a full orchestra it is surely this one). Ellie Laugharne played Eliza with Steven Pacey as Henry Higgins, Peter Polycarpou as Doolittle, Susie Blake as Mrs Higgins / Mrs Pearce / Cockney Woman, Richard Suart as Colonel Pickering and Nadim Naaman as Freddy Eynsford-Hill.

The orchestra spread out at the rear of the stage, with cast and chorus sitting in front. Cast members were in concert dress but were off the book, and there was an acting area at the front over the pit. The book was slightly edited (no ball scene, some characters missing) but we got a very full version musically. The cast was a mixture of the operatic (Laugharne and Suart) and those from spoken and musical theatre. 

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