October 2009 Preview

Highlights of the coming month in the Classical and Opera world

7 October 2009

Rebecca Evans in The Turn of the Screw Better late than never - due to staff illness, we're a bit late with our preview this month, but there's so much of interest to highlight that we've decided to go ahead with it nonetheless.

Already opened is Bizet's Carmen at the Royal Opera House, with by far its most stellar pairing to date: Roberto Alagna is Don Jose to Elina Garanca's Carmen. Bertrand de Billy conducts Francesca Zambello's colourful production. Also at Covent Garden this month is the annual Meet the Young Artists Week, which is now firmly set as a highlight of the classical music calendar, and at at the end of the month the Classical Opera Company brings Thomas Arne's Artaxerxes to the Linbury Studio Theatre for an anniversary outing. Up-and-coming soprano Elizabeth Watts, a prize-winner at the Cardiff Singer of the World a couple of years ago, is the main attraction of the casting.

ENO's impressively successful track record in recent months continues with a return to The Turn of the Screw - which reunites Rebecca Evans and Ann Murray from the original cast with legendary conductor Sir Charles Mackerras - as well as a new production of Puccini's Turandot. Welsh National Opera tours the country with a strong season that includes La traviata and Wozzeck - both of them well-received at the Cardiff opening - and Glyndebourne on Tour is about to take to the road with Falstaff, Cosi fan tutte and Jenufa.

In the musical theatre world, John Barrowman's donning of Albin's dress in La Cage aux Folles is a curiosity not to be missed, while a new production of Annie Get Your Gun at the Young Vic takes the unusual decision to replace the pit band with a four-piano orchestration.

In an extension to our regular coverage, we're also interviewing Diana Damrau about playing Marie in La fille du regiment in San Francisco and Ewa Podles about her career to date, as well as reviews of Mozart's Abduction and Otello in the same city; we'll be interviewing Alan Gilbert about becoming Music Director of the New York Philharmonic as he embarks on a tour of Asia, which we'll also be reviewing; interviews with Elizabeth Watts and Janis Kelly about Covent Garden appearances; and our international reviews include Robert Wilson's Der Dreigrosschenoper in Baden-Baden and The Rake's Progress in Brussels. Watch this space for more exciting developments over the coming weeks!

By Dominic McHugh, Editor

Photo Credit: Rebecca Evans as the Governess in The Turn of the Screw at ENO.


Agnes Kory, Co-Founder

LupuFor me, Rumanian pianist Radu Lupu is one of the greatest musicians alive. Although he won first prize at the 1969 Leeds Piano competition - after winning first prizes at the 1966 Van Cliburn and 1967 Enescu International competitions respectively - sadly, Radu Lupu is an infrequent visitor to the UK. I remember attending his last solo piano recital in London, at least twenty if not more years ago.

So October 2009 is a wonderful month for all those in the UK who wish to enjoy Lupu's unique musicality in the flesh. On 1 and 4 October he will play Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20, K466 with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican. Sir Colin Davis conducts the concert, which also includes Mozart and Nielsen symphonies. Much to my delight, Radu Lupu also gives two solo recitals which include a Janacek piece, Beethoven's Appassionata and Schubert's A major sonata (3 October, Brighton Dome; 9th October, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford). I will be at the Barbican and in the Brighton Dome (and I will envy the Oxford audience from my London abode).   

Photo: Radu Lupu.


Stephen Graham, Concerts Editor

LupuKings Place have really pulled out the stops this month with no less than five festivals or series on their programme. Sonic Explorations (1 - 3) is being jointly curated by Jonathan Harvey and the London Sinfonietta, and will feature music from Harvey himself, Natasha Barrett, Trevor Wishart, and many other young composers. Harvey again features in the Out Hear series of concerts, when on 5 October his 70th birthday will be commemorated with performances of some of his classic works (in addition to an exclusive Q & A with the composer).

The London Chamber Music Society have a fascinating run of concerts at the same venue this month, whilst the Schubert and Beyond festival will explore that composer's music in a wide musical and cultural context. Beyind the Loop, similarly to Sonic Explorations, takes as its jumping off point the more exploratory forms of electronic music currently being made. However this festival, curated by the always-interesting John Metcalfe, shines a light on a more eclectic collection of artists, this time from across the field of art and non-art (if those terms still have any bearing on reality) musics.

Elsewhere, there are three more performances in October of the magnificent new production of Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre (though tickets were almost gone when I checked the other day). Magma, prog legends from Italy, visit the Barbican on 1 October.

Photo: London Sinfonietta.


Liam Cagney, Contemporary Music Editor

Reich London's Kings Place from 1 to 4 October sees the Sonic Explorations festival taking place. This festival focuses on electronic and electroacoustic music, with the London Sinfonietta also in attendance for some concerts. With an array of interesting workshops, concerts and interviews happening – including an interview with Jonathan Harvey, two concerts of twentieth century electronic classics, and talks being given on one of the hubs of electronic music research, IRCAM Paris – it promises a full to the brim schedule of thought-provoking fun. 

Later in the month, on 31 October, Steve Reich is in town to lead a performance of his music at the Royal Festival Hall, given by New York's Bang on a Can ensemble along with Synergy Vocals. Highlight of the programme is undoubtedly the perhaps best large-scale piece of American minimalism, Music for Eighteen Musicians – a work that truly deserves to be heard in a live context. If you go along you won't be disappointed. More low-key and less mainstream minimalist pulses come in the form of a visit from Phill Niblock on 10 and 11 October, performing at the Serpentine Gallery and Café Oto respectively. Niblock specialises in hypnotic electronic drones, and is something of a legend in the field of experimental music. 

Finally in terms of contemporary chamber music there is a first performance of the complete cycle of Peter Maxwell Davies' Naxos string quartets at the Purcell Room of London's South Bank Centre over the weekend of 9–11 October. The man himself will be making a rare public appearance to talk about the works, which will be performed by an array of quartets.

Photo: Steve Reich.


Marina Romani, North American Editor

DamrauThis October, opera lovers in the Bay Area are particularly lucky: several acclaimed productions are on the schedule of the San Francisco Opera; and the Symphony too offers many occasions for great music.

Starting with the Opera, La fille du regiment is definitely one of the most interesting productions of the whole season, especially for the presence of two opera superstars, namely Juan Diego Flórez and Diana Damrau. They will be Marie and Tonio in Laurence Pelly's famous production of Donizetti's masterpiece. Together with them, Bruno Praticò and Meredith Arwady will be on stage to interpret the roles of Sulpice and the Marquise of Berkenfeld. Andriy Yurkevych will conduct. La fille du regiment is on for seven performances until 31 October.

At the SF Symphony, Yefim Bronfman playing Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 (among other works) under David Robertson is definitely not to miss, after the acclaimed performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Charles Dutoit. He will be playing in San Francisco from 7 to 10 October.

The Bay Area also offers infinite opportunities to attend great performances free of charge. University of California, Berkeley is one of the places to go. A quick look at Calendar of Events will give you an idea of the richness of the programme. Among the October highlights there are the Ernest Bloch Anniversary events: a series of concerts, lectures and competitions are held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the Swiss-American composer, who always had a special relationship with University of California. The 10 October Anniversary Concert programme is particularly interesting. It includes Bloch's Second Piano Quintet and his Piano Sonata. Performers will be pianist Betty Woo, cellist Irene Sharp, and alumna and students of the Department of Music.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music also offer a great choice of concerts free of charge or affordable prices. The Faculty Artist Series seems especially intriguing. It features international performers from around the world who are associated to the SF Conservatory. On 25 October Don Ehrlich (viola), Jonathan Ring (horn) and Marc Shapiro on the piano will perform Rochberg Viola Sonata and works by C.P.E. Bach, among others; and on the following day, Paul Hersh will perform Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes and Haydn Variations.

Photo: Diana Damrau.


Mike Reynolds

DamrauOctober is the now traditional month for a long weekend of Britten performances at the Snape Maltings complex, and this year there is the enticing prospect of fully-staged opera in the new Britten Studio – three performances of The Turn of the Screw. Soloists come from the Britten-Pears Young Artists Programme, the Britten-Pears Orchestra is conducted by Garry Walker and the director is Neil Bartlett, who directed a memorable Rake's Progress to inaugurate the 2006 Aldeburgh Festival. Unsurprisingly (the Britten Studio is less than half the size of the Maltings itself) all performances (22, 24 and 25 October) are sold out!  But on 23 October the Navarra Quartet play quartets by Ades, Haydn and Britten in the same space, in what looks to be a programme of fascinating contrasts. 

From the intimacy of the Britten Studio to the vastness of the Coliseum in London for ENO's new production of Turandot on 8 October. The line-up is an exciting one: fresh from his triumph with Enron, director Rupert Goold is tackling Puccini's swansong opera as an exploration of "sexuality and mortality" while German soprano Kirsten Blanck and Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones take on the big-sing roles of Turandot and Calaf.  Having followed her progress for the last six years or so however, I am particularly interested to see the role and ENO-debut of Amanda Echalaz as Liu. The conductor is ENO's music director, Ed Gardner.   

Photo: Amanda Echalaz.



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