September 2009 Preview

Highlights of the coming month in the Classical and Opera world

8 September 2009

Jonas Kaufmann The Royal Opera's new season got underway last night, and in spite of the credit crunch there's an impressive line-up for most of the rest of the year.

This month alone sees a revival of Don Carlo with Jonas Kaufmann stepping into Rolando Villazon's shoes, and a new production of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde conducted by Antonio Pappano - boldly stepping into the shoes of his predecessor Bernard Haitink, who enjoyed enormous success with this piece during his regime.

October brings Roberto Alagna in Carmen and Thomas Allen in Gianni Schicchi, and the highlights of the rest of the season include Tchaikovsky's rarely-heard The Tsarina's Slippers, a new production of The Gambler, Villazon and Netrebko in Manon and new staging of Aida. Still, the main focus is on Placido Domingo's debut in the title role of Simon Boccanegra - can the great man cap his career with success in a baritone role?

Over at ENO, things are no less exciting. A new production of Ligeti's Le grand macabre is followed closely by a revival of Verdi's Rigoletto. Filling the shoes of the hunchback in Jonathan Miller's classic maffia-period staging is the superb English baritone Anthony Michaels-Moore. I'm also thrilled by the return of the McVicar production of The Turn of the Screw: the combination of Rebecca Evans and Ann Murray is unmissable, but the revival is made even more so because it's to be conducted by Charles Mackerras, who participated in the original production with Britten himself.

Other highlights of the coming weeks include John Eliot Gardiner leading Handel's Israel in Egypt at Cadogan Hall on 11 September; John Barrowman joining the cast of La Cage aux folles at the Playhouse Theatre; Angela Gheorghiu appearing at the Royal Festival Hall with James Valenti; Jane Horrocks leading a new production of Annie Get Your Gun at the Young Vic; and Bampton Classical Opera's return to St John's Smith Square on 17 September with a Haydn rarity, Le pescatrici.

By Dominic McHugh, Editor



Stephen Graham, Concerts Editor

Southbank CentreSome unusual musical attractions take place in London this month. Pestival, a weekend-long series of events concentrated in the Southbank Centre (September 3 - 6), celebrates 'insects in art, and the art of being an insect'. How might such a celebration be co-ordinated? Well, in what looks like a fascinating collage of music, ideas, comedy, workshops, installations, and experiments, the organisers hope to animate the relationship between humans and insects through things like the Termite Pavilion (a walk-in structure reflecting a termite mound), the peripatetic Beecab, and through insect-inspired performances and works from figures as diverse as Garth Marengi, Robyn Hitchcock, and Chris Watson. Looks like fun.

Kings Place have a head-spinningly impressive line-up for their eponymous festival, which is concurrent with Pestival. Amongst many names, David Toop, the London Sinfonietta, Christian Marclay, Leon Michener, Colin Matthews, Iain Burnside, and Kathryn Tickell stand out, but the breadth of the programme doesn't dispose itself to easy summary. The sound artist John Wynne has an installation for pianola, 300 speakers, and vacuum cleaner opening at the Beaconsfield Gallery on September 9. The No Fun festival travels to Sweden this month. All these are just few amongst the many exciting things happening in September.

Photo: The Southbank Centre.


Liam Cagney, Contemporary Music Editor

SinfoniettaKings Place in London begins its season with the Out Hear series. This month the series features concerts, on 14 and 21 September respectively, by the London Improvisers Orchestra, celebrating its tenth anniversary, and by the Chordos string quartet of rarely-heard contemporary Lithuanian music, which promise to be provocative (the latter also featuring work by Fluxus leader George Maciunas). The Composer's Ensemble concert on 28 September is the highlight of the series this month, with works by Donatoni, Sciarrino and Gerald Barry. 

The highlight in the capital this month is the awaited return of Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre, which kicks off ENO's 2009-10 season with a wallop, bang and whimper on 17 September. Pioneering Catalan production company La Fura del Baus hit the city for the show, promising to fill the Coliseum with a coruscating spectacle. This production of the revised version of the opera is due to run for six nights up until 6 October. 

The festival period runs into autumn on the continent with a few contemporary music festivals of note taking place. Prime among these is Musica in Strasbourg (18 September – 3 October), which has probably the best line-up possible of any contemporary music festival in terms of sheer variety of composers and quality of ensembles in attendance, with a particular focus this year on Italian composers, such as Luca Francesconi. If you're in that neck of the woods you're well advised to check it out. An intriguing programme is that of the Sacrum Profanum festival in Krakow, Poland (13 – 19 September). Ensemble Intercontemporain, ASKO Ensemble, Ensemble Modern, Klangforum Vienna and the London Sinfonietta all lend their talents to concerts dedicated to the biggest names in British contemporary composition: Harvey, Anderson, Ferneyhough, Benjamin, Birtwistle and more. Bookending these are concerts at either end of the week by experimental electronic artists Chris Cunningham, Aphex Twin and Hecker. You can't really go wrong with a week like that.

Photo: London Sinfonietta.


Marina Romani, News Editor

HvorostovskiAfter my move to Berkeley, California, I'll be reporting from San Francisco and the Bay Area, with an eye on the charming and incredibly rich musical world of the East Coast.

The musical offering of the New York area is, needless to say, overwhelming. The season at the Met has not begun yet; but, even before the official start, the schedule is a busy one. One of the highlights takes place on 15 September, when the Metropolitan Opera Guild will honour Music Director James Levine in the Met Legend series. Extraordinary artists will be on stage to talk about the work of the Maestro of the Met. Among the talents that will celebrate his work will be Karita Mattila, Renata Scotto, Dolora Zajick and Raymond Gniewek. Levine will join his friends, colleagues and music lovers to comment on rare video clips and on his career.

Going to the opera in New York could not be cheaper, thanks to the free Open House scheme. On 17 September, the Met will launch its fourth season of the Open House: for this occasion, thousands of people will be able to attend (free of charge) the final dress rehearsals of Luc Bondy's new staging of Tosca, starring Karita Mattila and conducted by James Levine.

America's other great opera house, the San Francisco Opera, has got an exciting season too. First opera to be performed is a superb Trovatore featuring Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Count of Luna. Hvorostovsky is one of the most acclaimed of this role – his latest appearance at the Royal Opera House in Elijah Moshinsky's production the was widely praised. This time, it is David McVicar's production that will be presented at San Francisco from 11 September. Together with the Siberian baritone, other great artists will perform: soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will be Leonora, and Stephanie Blythe and Malgorzata Walewska will share the role of Azucena. This Trovatore is a special one as it also marks the debut of Nicola Luisotti as the Music Director of the house.

September is a particularly rich month for the SFOpera. On 13 September Il trittico will be on stage. The protagonists of Puccini's three one-act operas (Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi) will be Paolo Gavanelli, Ewa Podles and Patricia Racette. Patrick Summers will conduct, and the production will be directed by James Robinson.

Another production will bring on the San Francisco stage some of the best opera talents. 23 September will be the first night for The abduction from the Seraglio. Interpreters of Mozart's exotic comic opera will be Mary Dunleavy as Constanze, Anna Christy as Blonde and Peter Rose as Osmin.

Photo: Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Credits: Pasha Antonov.


Mike Reynolds

Sir Mark ElderSeptember always feels to me like a 'betwixt and between' month, with the summer opera festivals all over, the Proms nearing their end and the autumn concert and opera schedule about to launch but not quite in full flow. But there are several interesting propositions in store. On 7 and 14 September the ROH gets under way once again with the (now traditional) practice of two concert performances of non-standard operatic repertoire. This year it is the turn of Donizetti and his Linda di Chamounix, last seen at Covent Garden in 1887, and this time in the capable hands of Mark Elder.   But the main excitement in that house for me will be the 29 September premiere of Christof Loy's production of Tristan und Isolde, with Ben Heppner and Nina Stemme under the baton of music director Antonio Pappano. Having just seen Glyndebourne's Tristan revival, I can't wait! 

At the starter end of the operatic scale, British Youth Opera is showcasing its current crop of alumni with a Rossini double bill – Il Signor Bruschino and La scala di seta – and with The Rake's Progress, at the Peacock Theatre on 4, 8, 12 and 5, 9, 11 September respectively. And at Snape Maltings, the string quartet is in the spotlight, with masterclasses for international quartets enrolled in the Britten-Pears programme running from 8 to 16 September, culminating in a recital programme on 17 September given by the Benyounes, Galitzin, Nagata and Sorelle quartets.         

Photo: Sir Mark Elder.



Have your say: discuss this article in our Forum.