sat 15/06/2024

Classical music/Opera direct to home 15 - opening up at different rates | reviews, news & interviews

Classical music/Opera direct to home 15 - opening up at different rates

Classical music/Opera direct to home 15 - opening up at different rates

The Royal Opera cautiously re-engages, while Sweden and Norway continue apace

Opening scene from Wagner's 'Das Rheingold' from BudapestRajna Kincse

It's taken time, but at last we have two major musical figures speaking up for cultural institutions in dire straits. Following a crucial, detailed article by Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian, Simon Rattle and Mark Elder have finally taken up the cudgels as their colleagues in the theatre world have been doing for weeks.

What remains devastatingly clear is that with government subsidy of cultural institutions running at 20 per cent rather than the 70 or 80 on the continent, the kind of socially-distanced events which are being so well managed in Germany, Sweden, Norway and Czechia - others are following suit - will not be possible. Orchestras may collapse; the Royal Opera, dependent on 90 per cent ticket sales per performance, is tottering. Nevertheless, Covent Garden will be back tomorrow, though so far with very restricted numbers.

The Royal Opera House reborn in livestream Louise AlderThe first programme is small-scale but perfectly-formed, a select "Best of British" showcase. It's also good to see our opera-and-dance flagship concentrating on top native performers, not a conspicuous trait in recent years: read theartsdesk's interview with Elizabeth Llewellyn. Lyric soprano Louise Alder (pictured above by Stephen Cummiskey in rehearsal for Rossi's Orpheus in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), one of the fearless critics cited by Llewellyn, kicks off with Britten's vivid early settings of Auden, On This Island, while tenor Toby Spence sings some of Butterworth's responses to Housman's A Shropshire Lad and bass-baritone Gerald Finley's focus is on Turnage and Finzi. The interloper is Strauss's song "Morgen", sung by Alder to choreography by Wayne McGregor. No pianist is so far credited - could it be the house's inspirational music director Antonio Pappano? Future concerts will augment the forces with Schoenberg's chamber arrangement of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, soloists Sarah Connolly and David Butt Philip. Those will cost you a small amount; tomorrow night's event is free for all.

Fully-staged Mozart Don Giovanni in Stockholm Peter MatteiDespite the COVID-19 programme not going too well in Sweden, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is blazing a trail for a return to operatic performance featuring more than one or two singers. Its Don Giovanni tomorrow night will be directed by tenor Andrew Staples and features one of the best interpreters of Mozart's libertine in the world, Peter Mattei (pictured above by Dario Acosta), with Mari Ericsmoen, Malin Byström and Johanna Wallroth as his intended or past victims. Daniel Harding conducts. The live performance clashes with the Royal Opera streaming, but it's available online for 30 days after. Don't miss a fascinating programme with 83 days left to view: Harding conducting the four movements of Sibelius's mostly bleak Fourth Symphony interspersed with Mahler, Purcell and Bach sung by the peerless Ann Hallenberg and poems by the great poet Tomas Tranströmer read by Krister Henriksson, the Swedish TV Wallander.I heard him in passages from Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata between movements from Janáček's First Quartet on the same theme in Gothenburg, and he was compelling.

Ring retrospectives from Budapest Irene Theorin in GotterdammerungProbably better than Bayreuth in recent years, Adam Fisher's Wagner in the world's best acoustics, those of the glorious Müpa concert hall in Budapest, has been cause for countless Wagnerians' summer pilgrimages. It won't be happening this year, but there are instead four screenings of top performances from previous cycles, The world's best singers wear concert dress, but act it all out above the orchestra, and in front of video projections of startling originality (pictured above:Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung). Starting with Das Rheingold on 18 June, the sequence also includes performances of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Der fliegende Holländer and Tannhäuser (on the last day, 27 June).


Celebrating Grieg's birthday in Bergen Bergen TakkThe Bergen International Festival's magnificent daily offerings may have run their live course - most can still be seen online - but the city's great orchestra, flourishing under Edward Gardner, is offering a world-class concert on 15 June, giving thanks to Norway's official reopening (leading image pictured above). Leif Ove Andsnes is the soloist in the Piano Concerto - who better? - while the rest of the programme may not be so familiar: the stirring Homage March from Sigurd Jorsalfar, and some of the Lyric Pieces in orchestral versions by Ørjan Matre.There's also a fascinating programme of instrumental and choral music of a religious or quasi-religious nature on Thursday 18 June, culminating in a performance of Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis - requiring a scale we can't yet emulate in the UK.

Bang on a Can Marathon Terry RileyThe groundbreaking New York-based happening will give us six hours of live music on Sunday, starting at 3pm EST, with musicians from around the USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Switzerland, Scotland, Italy, Ireland and Lithuania. The beanfeast will include ten world premieres of newly commissioned works. Its grand finale is to feature 85-year-old minimalist master Terry Riley (pictured above) playing live from home. Tune in for all, or come and go as you please. The event is free but 10 per cent of voluntary ticket purchase will help the Equal Justice Initiative in support of their “commitment to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting the basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.”

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