March 2009 Preview

Highlights of the coming month in the Classical and Opera worlds

1 March 2009

Elina Garanca and Anna NetrebkoWith the Edinburgh Festival, Royal Opera, BBC Proms and English National Opera all due to announce their forthcoming plans over the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see how badly the economic crisis is really affecting the arts, especially in light of The Metropolitan Opera's well-publicised pruning of their season's more expensive productions and wages. It's to be hoped that none of the UK's institutions have to cope with these kinds of challenges; in times of social stress, we need the arts more than ever. Still, the announcement that Victor Hochhauser is bringing the Mariinsky Theatre's production of the Ring Cycle to Covent Garden in July seems like an optimistic sign. We'll continue to preview the new seasons as they're announced, so keep checking back for news updates.

The Royal Opera gets off to a strong start this month with a revival of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi starring the same dream pairing as on Deutsche Grammophon's new recording: Elina Garanca and Anna Netrebko. Sir Mark Elder conducts this superb opera, which promises to be the highlight of the month, though the new production of Dido and Aeneas and Acis and Galatea with Danielle de Niese and Sarah Connolly also has much to recommend it.

Over at ENO, a revival of Jenufa with Amanda Roocroft reprising her award-winning portrayal of the title role deserves attention, ahead of the company's move back to the Young Vic in April to perform a new interpretation of Dido and Aeneas entitled 'After Dido'. In the meantime, Doctor Atomic and La boheme continue to play in repertory.

Bel canto fans will want to experience Opera Rara's forthcoming concert performance of Rossini's Ermione on 28 March, or perhaps catch the Met's live cinema broadcast of La Sonnambula on 21 March.

English Touring Opera start their new season in March with an attractive touring schedule of The Magic Flute and Katya Kabanova (12 and 13 March), while other operatic highlights include the LSO's concert performance of Act III of Parsifal on 12 March, the Royal Academy's rare Haydn production from 2 March and Martinu's Julietta with the BBCSO on 27 March.

On the lighter side, a new musical about the staging of a production of Pride and Prejudice, entitled Austentatious, opens at the Landor Theatre in the first week of March, while the return of West Side Story to the New Wimbledon Theatre on 9 March is something to savour. No less attractive are Maria Friedman's Sondheim concert at Cadogan Hall on 20 March and Lost Musicals' concert staging of Cole Porter's The New Yorkers at Sadler's Wells on 29 March.

By Dominic McHugh, Editor

Hugo Shirley, Deputy Editor

Anja HarterosEsa-Pekka Salonen's grand 'City of Dreams: Vienna 1900-1935' series has just got under way and March will see a couple more fascinating concerts exploring this phenomenally rich period in music's history a highlight being a rare performance of Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony (12 March) featuring Solveig Kringelborn and Juha Uusitalo, coupled with Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht. Mitsuko Uchida and Christian Tetzlaff are then soloists in a performance of Berg's Chamber Concerto for piano, violin and thirteen wind instruments – a work they've just recorded to great acclaim with Boulez – with the substantial coupling of Mahler's Ninth Symphony (22 March; both concerts with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall). Welsh National Opera's outstanding Salome, starring a sensational Erika Sunnegårdh, sets off on tour taking in Wales, the Midlands and the south of England; well worth catching. Recitals by Maurizio Pollini are always special events and he is only getting better with age and he brings his special brand of aristocratic pianism to two favourite Beethoven sonatas (the 'Tempest' and 'Appassionata'), Schumann's great C major Fantasie and Chopin at the Royal Festival Hall on 4 March. Another interesting concert comes right at the end of the month when Anja Harteros – who made a hugely impressive Royal Opera debut in last Summer's Simon Boccanegra – will be joining Mariss Jansons and his Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Strauss's Four Last Songs. Harteros's performance might well be a highlight in a programme that starts, rather unusually, with Beethoven's 'Eroica' and concludes with Ravel's Daphnis Suite No.2 (RFH, 29 March). 

Stephen Graham, Contemporary Music Editor

Mitsuko UchidaAlthough March isn't as busy in terms of concerts of contemporary concerts as February was (and April will be), there's still plenty to look forward to. The Beyond the Wall festival of Chinese music at the Barbican and LSO St. Luke's starts on 21 March with what should be a fascinating performance from the BBCSO under Tan Dun, of that composer's The Map, a new concerto for cello, video and orchestra. This concert will be preceded by a performance from Zhangjiajie Folk Daliuzi Group in the foyer.

King's Place continues its fascinating run of This is Tuesday concerts, this month including visits from Anton Lukoszevieze, Philipp Wachsmann, and Rhodir Davies, amongst many others. Café Oto in North London will host a residency from Otomo Yoshihide which will feature the great man himself in collaboration with Sachiko M, and perhaps the greatest musician currently active in the world, John Butcher. Doctor Atomic continues its run into March at the Coliseum, and Mitsuko Uchida will perform a compelling-looking program of Berg and Mahler with the Philharmonia led by Esa-Pekka Salonen in the RFH on 22 March.

Agnes Kory, Co-Founder

Amanda RoocroftI have been teaching music for great many decades, so I am looking forward to the forthcoming production of Haydn's La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded) that takes place at the Royal Academy of Music on Monday 2, Wednesday 4, Friday 6 and Monday 9 March at 7pm. As Trevor Pinnock conducts, I won't be the only person there who is no longer 25 or so.

Much to my annoyance at the time, I missed ENO's production of Jenufa in 2006. So I am really looking forward to the revival of the production, with performances starting on 12 March. Thanks to Sir Charles Mackerras, Janacek had some wonderful outing over the decades at the ENO. This is quite a legacy to live up to but I am optimistic.

Liam Cagney

Michaël LevinasThe Maison de Radio France in Paris hosts the premiere on 6 March of a new work by Michaël Levinas for orchestra and live electronics, entitled Évanoui, which will be performed by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France conducted by Pascal Rophé. This is the opening concert of the Présences festival in the city, which has run elsewhere in France since October and on the way taken in premieres of works by Jonny Greenwood and Phillipe Leroux, among others. The concert on the sixth will be an homage to Ligeti, with a selection of the Hungarian composer's piano Études being performed by Levinas himself, and the premiere of a new double viola concerto by emerging talent Bruno Mantovani.

Ensemble Intercontemporain have a busy month ahead in the French capital and elsewhere. On 15 March they give a soloists concert entitled Répéter/Varier at the Cité de la musique, featuring chamber works by Hurel, Reich, Grisey and others. The programme sees minimalist works paired with works informed by similar principles but to a quite different end, and so should throw up some interesting aural juxtapositions. On 24 March the Ensemble give a second Répéter/Varier concert, this time of works by Boulez and Carter. This concert will see them revisit some of the programming of their recent London concerts, with Carter's Clarinet Concerto paired with Boulez's Sur Incises and its less-often heard original version, Incises for solo piano.

Maurizio Pollini takes to the piano at the Salle Pleyel on 31 March for a concert together with mezza-soprano Petra Lang and the Ensemble Intercontemporain of music by the second Viennese school. Pollini visits the Royal Festival Hall in London earlier in the month with a solo programme of Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin. And as if that wasn't enough, he also performs a week later at the Salle Pleyel in Paris with a programme of Stockhausen, Schöenberg and Brahms on 7 March, when he will be joined by Klangforum Vienna conducted by Peter Eötvös. This array of concerts should provide a good overview, then, of the Italian pianist's commanding talent and rich repertoire.

Claudine Nightingale, Early Music Specialist

Avenue QMarch is going to be a busy month for one of the most unique and ground-breaking Early Music groups around at the moment. Red Priest are bringing their swashbuckling new programme of music, entitled Pirates of the Baroque, on tour at nine venues throughout the UK, finishing in London on 31st March (Cadogan Hall). March also sees the launch of their new album of the same title, which is the first release on their new record label, Red Priest Recordings.

Another Early Music treat coming up this month is an evening of Vivaldi and Locatelli at the Barbican featuring the melodious countertenor vocals of Andreas Scholl. Performing with the Basel Chamber Orchestra, this should be a performance worth catching. (7.30, 29 March, Barbican Hall).

In this important anniversary year, the London Handel Festival gets into full swing in March with a plethora of performances in various locations across the city. A key feature includes the widely renowned Handel Singing Competition – open to the public so well worth a look (first round 23-25 March, Craxton Studios, semi-final 26 March, St. George's Church, Hanover Square).

Last but not least, if you haven't yet managed to see Avenue Q – the musical that has taken both Broadway and the West End by storm, then you've only got the month of March to do so. After three years on the West End stage, the musical, raunchy and hilarious yet heart-warming, is giving its last performance on 31 March (Noel Coward Theatre) – so make sure you don't miss out!

Marina Romani

Valery GergievIt's again a concert at Kings Place that I'm looking forward to in March. This time is a performance by the Badke Quartet, an ensemble of four fine and young musicians (Heather Badke, Emma Parker, Eniko Magyar and Jonathan Byers). I first heard them last summer during a music lecture at Gresham College, London, and their interpretation of Mendelssohn's Quartet in A Minor was one of the most moving I've heard until now. On Sunday 8 March, they will perform within the London Chamber Music Series at Kings Place, and their programme includes pieces by Haydn, Mozart and Schumann.

Motivated by a renewed personal interest for Wagner, another highlight for me this month is the concert performance of Parsifal (Act III) at the Barbican Hall on Thursday 12 March, under the baton of Valery Gergiev. Together with Wagner's masterpiece it will possible to listen to Tout un monde lointaine, an important work that cellist Mstislav Rostropovich commissioned Henri Dutilleux and that this latter composed in 1970. The outstanding line-up for this concert features Tim Hugh as cello soloist, Sergey Semishkur as Parsifal, René Pape as Gurnemanz and Evgeny Nikitin as Amfortas. The London Symphony Orchestra and men's Chorus will perform together with the soloists in what promises to be a memorable concert.

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