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Ruxandra Donose + Roger Vignoles / Rosenblatt Recitals / Wigmore Hall – 6 October 2014

9 Oct

Donose RosenblattSecond time unlucky for the Rosenblatt recitals as the second one of the new season also had an indisposed singer programmed, so instead of Carmen Giannattasio we had Ruxandra Donose performing, fresh from her triumphant return to the Royal Opera as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos and her recent Carmen in Calixto Bieto’s celebrated production at English National Opera.
She explained at the start of the recital that she put together arias and songs she loves despite of any strange leaps in mood. Clearly a deft decision being asked to fill in for another artist at such a short notice and also a great chance to show her taste in repertoire and to display her versatility.


Her two Carmen arias (second as encore) were predictably beautifully executed with impressive ease and sparkle. Hinting at a naughtiness inside but never becoming base and cheap. What was immediately noticeable was her easy going stage manner and personable character. All too frequently singers look so ill at ease on the concert platform without being able to hide behind make up and costume.
Her Offenbach aria was coquettish, sassy she had great fun playing with the text. The letter aria from Werther was a solid attempt at transmitting the sense of sadness and the world closing in. Her dark hued voice used with artistry to convey the mood. 

The three songs by Fauré were a good display of her ability to restrain her exuberance and not smother the material under artifice. So effective she was in evoking the dreamy mood that her Eboli was like a thunderbolt. Her rendition of this old warhorse was captivating, her dark chest voice reflecting the troubled state of mind of the heroine. Despite a certain shortness of breath at the finale she pulled off an impressive end to the first half.

After the interval the programme took a more romantic turn with Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix which was seductive and with a hint of calculation behind the pleasantry. Her use of her dynamic range to colour the aria and its different moods was very effective. A sign of how committed her signing was throughout the evening.

Donose Rosenblatt list

The sets of songs by Enescu and Bretan were beautiful and unfussy. The second set in Romanian was particularly notable for the sheer joy and abandon she invested each one of them. I always relish an artist inserting songs in their native language in a recital as it removes any residual language barrier and allows for direct a communication. Particularly the wistful last two songs were a great display of sensitivity and piano singing. The final Rossini aria showed her agility and her adept coloratura technique. What we maybe lost in not being as quick firing as some was a more rounded sound that caressed the ear at every turn. Humanising what can seem like empty fireworks in the hands of other singers.

The accompaniment by Roger Vignoles was as sprightly and joyful as Donose’s stage presence. Particularly impressive at such short notice and with presumably limited rehearsal time

As you can tell I really enjoyed her performance I was rather excited to see her after her excellent Composer at Covent Garden and she did not disappoint. Her unwavering intensity paired with her musicality were wonderful to see.

Some tweets from the evening

Rosenblatt Recitals 15th season, an overview

4 Sep

Rosenblatt Recitals 15th SeasonIf you have been reading my blog for sometime or follow me on Twitter (there are such masochists out there, I’m told) you will know how much I like attending as many recitals of the Rosenblatt series as possible. For a privately organised, and increasingly high profile, series it is extraordinary that it has reached its fifteenth year. A testament to the dedication of the organisers and now even with a record label to release the recordings. With the relocation a couple of years ago to the Wigmore Hall, they are going from strength to strength and in a venue that is ideal for singers giving, frequently, their first London recitals.

Here’s the run down of all recitalists in the coming season, the prices are very reasonable with a top price of £30, they would make a good starting point for anyone interested in opera and song and haven’t dipped their toe in live performances.

The opening recital by Stephen Costello marks his solo return to this recital series after his UK debut with the Rosenblatts in 2006. He did sing for them in 2008 when he was paired with his wife Ailyn Pérez.

23 September

Stephen Costello + Danielle Orlando

As Stephen Costello was indisposed Javier Camarena has stepped in, for what will be a rather exciting occasion as it marks his UK debut.

Javier Camarena + Enrico Cacciari


6 October

Carmen Giannattasio + Jonathan Papp


6 November

Belén Elvira + Jorge de León + Juan Antonio Lavarez Parejo


3 December

Aida Garifullina + Iain Burnisde


10 February

Saimir Pirgu + Simon Lepper


4 March

Simone Piazzola + Vincenzo Scalera


8 April

Ben Johnson + James Bailleu


19 May

Jessica Pratt + Vincenzo Scalera


8 June

Marcello Giordani + Macri Simone

 

For detailed information check the dedicated page on the Rosenblatt Recitals website

You can read all my previous blog posts on Rosenblatt recitalists if you so fancy:

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/nino-surguladze-gianluca-marciano/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/celso-albelo-rosenblatt-recital/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/enigma-or-blankness/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/sylvia-schwartz/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-caruso-complex/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/brute-force/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/ailyn-perez/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/artur-rucinski-18-january-2012/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/ciciban-meets-suor-angelica/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/elizabeth-llewellyn-some-impressions/

 

 

 

 

Ailyn Pérez in Muswell Hill – 22 February 2013

22 Feb

Ailyn Perez in Muswell HillOne of those out there treats, having a singer of the calibre of Ailyn Pérez in a music shop in North London suburbia. Les Aldrich in Muswell Hill was the scene of the first pop up gig since its acquisition by Ian Rosenblatt (of the solicitors and Rosenblatt Recitals fame). All it took was a small platform, an electronic piano played by Gary Matthewman and a few chairs borrowed from the bookshop next doors. The selection of songs was clearly off the cuff, which added to the fun aspect of this gig. We were treated to a handful of Broadway show tunes full of bubbly ebullience and spark. Her creamy tone and bouncy presence making them irresistible.

The two crowning glories were Gershwin’s Summertime, full of longing and that certain amount of statuesque poise that Leontyne Price brought to the music in her various recitals and the famous studio recording of Porgy and Bess. The other was her lusciously sensual rendition of Consuelo Velázquez’s Bésame Mucho delivered in the mellifluent manner only a Spanish speaker can bring. Her great ability to communicate the music she sings is undeniable and the impact is remarkably similar in a vast opera house or a tiny music shop.

On top of all the wonderful singing she was also cajoled into trying to play La Donna e Mobile on a ukulele (as seen on the photo above) by some of us present in the audience. She is working on it so stay tuned for a future rendition! If you see her in recital in the coming few months don’t be too surprised if she picks up a ukulele for the encore 😉 Or just pop and see Turandot at the Royal Opera House to witness her stunning assumption of Liù.

PS That signed CD sleeve will be causing some chuckles for months to come.

Nino Surguladze + Gianluca Marcianò / Rosenblatt Recitals / Wigmore Hall – 10 February 2014

11 Feb

Surguladze Marciano Feb 2014It is sometimes an unpredictable ride when attending a recital. What seemed like a straightforward programme of opera arias in the first half and lieder in the second became a very mixed up affair last night.

What made the biggest impression was Surguladze’s unfussy and confident platform manner. Not the one for too many ridiculous mannerisms or unnecessary overacting. Her presentation was simple and wide open eyed. Unfortunately what let her down was not getting used to the intimate acoustic of the Wigmore Hall. She spent a large part of the first half singing far too loudly and in the process compromising her technique, diction and colouring. The opening Mozart aria was rendered irritating with the excessive vibrato and the forced volume. Thankfully things started to settle mid way and led to two beautiful final arias. It was disappointing that her French was cloudy and a memory lapse mid aria did disturb what was otherwise a gorgeously sung Delila with all the sultry charms, chest voice and warm tone to die for. Her Acerba voluttà was exactly the kind of singing that excites me, full bloodied, open and dramatically involved. What was all too obvious was what a wonderful actress she must be in a fully staged opera.

The second half brought both a music stand on stage and a much more quiet delivery and appropriate interpretation. Her Schubert songs were lovingly delivered but not in the class we are used to at this particular Hall, with Alice Coote being the resident lieder deity. They need a quiet dignity and internalised emotion than only years of stage experience can bring. Given time she could be a compelling lieder interpreter in the future.

The most surprisingly satisfying songs were the three Brahms numbers where she brought glowing girlishness and attentive subtlety that presented her warm voice in the best possible light. Her Georgian encore was also a great showpiece for her glowing dark timbre and flowing legato.

She was accompanied rather beautifully by Gianluca Marcianò taking the night off from conducting an orchestra and playing for his leading lady. He showed to be a natural accompanist displaying  textural variety and rapport. Having seen him conduct beautifully Bellini and Verdi last year I had high expectations and was not disappointed in the slightest. Makes me wish more conductors would accompany singers on the concert platform. As he brought a different sensibility than most professional accompanists which added to a pleasurable evening.

Once more a very enjoyable evening if a bit more mixed in results but this is the drama and excitement of live performance with many variables that can alter its course.

Surguladze Marciano Feb 2014 List

Some tweets from the evening

Munich via Paris and Vienna / Fantasio / Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment + Mark Elder / RFH – 15 December 2013

17 Dec

OAE Fantasio

This was an important occasion to rediscover Jacques Offenbach’s much troubled Fantasio. Being the UK premiere of the reconstructed Parisian version of the score which was not that straightforward a task, worth reading the piece by Jean-Christophe Keck to get an idea of the complexities of putting this new critical edition together. The work had an indifferent reception when performed in 1872 and judging after having heard it live I can relate to the reactions of the Parisians. Offenbach is as always a master of creating moods and atmosphere, especially when the darkness of  the palace’s gardens in Act Two or the grieving crowd in a city square is called for but in Fantasio the amalgam of witty spoken dialogue and standalone ariosos and ballades can appear disjointed if in the wrong hands. The OAE and a very perky Mark Elder on the podium managed to bring the work to life  and the sheer dedication, enthusiasm and comic timing of the top rank cast made it an extremely funny evening. We even have to thank the French censorship office for saving the only extant copy of the spoken dialogue!

The soundworld of the piece is mainly a nocturnal romantic one and Offenbach’s skill at orchestrating delicious harmonies to carve vivid characters and situations is well and present. His skill at writing for voices made obvious in the numerous duets and the judicious use of the chorus, which frequently reacted to the main protagonists as the comical backdrop. Most deliciously at the finale of the Third Act when they are convinced by Fantasio that war is pointless and that wine, home and family is more important as pursuits. The quintet of Act Two exposing the motives of the characters and the piquant duet of Prince and Marinoni adds a typical flash of camp humour to the proceedings.

Sarah Connolly as the eponymous hero strutted her stuff across the stage en travesti in a maroon velvet smoking jacket, white dandyish shirt and high leather boots. His property has been impounded due to debts and arriving to court and falling in love with the about to be married princess. The court jester has just died and he gets the idea to impersonate him in order to be admitted to the Palace without being detected. He then approaches the dead jester’s taylor, here sang by Mark Elder looking every inch the harassed tailor when quizzed by Fantasio on the size of the hump he should adopt. It is not frequently when one wishes the conductor held a cameo in a production but this was absolutely spot on and made the whole auditorium laugh with abandon. Connolly donned a more decorated red jacket to infiltrate the court. Her ballad in Act One was as unassuming as it was dreamy. Her interpretation never showy or forced. And we have to be thankful for the near last minute casting of Brenda Rae as the replacement Princess who blended vocally with Connolly in marvellous and gorgeous ways, leaving very little doubt on how love stricken they both were.

The Princess of Brenda Rae was a character with all the arrogance of her privileged upbringing but also a woman living in a golden cage of responsibility that she cannot shake off. This tortured side of hers made it for a much more interesting dynamic with Fantasio, who in essence manages to free her from her empty marriage and shows her the joy of love. Very much in the mould used many times by Richard Strauss in his later career operas. Rae brought a glistening top and a very firm core to her voice, accompanied by a remarkably natural trill. Her ballad in Act One explaining her sadness for the loss of the much loved jester and her impending marriage was so rendition so sweet and soulful that we were as enamoured with her as much as Fantasio that overhears her and the abundant applause made it all too clear.

The persistent chorus of the three students that permeates all three acts is the mechanism that Offenbach uses to bring the audience in the story and to throw about cheap gags to lighten the atmosphere further. The three singers behaved as the drunken, ironic louts one would expect and infused the performance with a  lot of fun.

The gorgeously deep bass of Brindley Sherratt was a delicious match for the gravitas of the King and his acceptance of the chant by his subjects on his appearance in Act One one of the sly comic moments of the evening.

The Prince of Russell Braun was the sly and calculating type but with an all too clear sense of how he will never be loved for who he really is. His performance was vivid and comically attuned especially in his interactions with his aide Marinoni.

The courtiers were also acted with passion and dedication by Victoria Simmonds and Robert Murray. The fiendishly camp and fioritura heavy part of Marinoni was a great achievement and a suitable contrast to the stolid nature of the part of the Prince of Mantua with whom he gets in a complicated impersonation game that makes both of them the laughing stock of this farce. Flamel on the other hand is the stoic support to the confused and tormented Princess.

The wonderful performance by all on stage made for a very funny evening that truly did honour the intentions of the composer and the recording will hopefully allow a new generation discover this beautiful and at times inspired work. A really funny staging would probably give it a chance at joining the operatic repertoire a century and a half after its troubled inception. This great cast and orchestra offered an insight into the innovative and ambitious nature of Offenbach’s score. The recording is released by Opera Rara in September 2014, watch out for it and take the chance to discover this neglected work.

OAE Fantasio list

Some tweets from the evening

The pre performance talk by Mark Elder

Baroque Nymph / Anna Prohaska + Richard Egarr + Academy of Ancient Music / Milton Court – 21 November 2013

22 Nov

Anna Prohaska and AAMMy first experience of Anna Prohaska live was a revelation. She has a reputation forged on her precocity (at 17 making her professional debut) and quirky videos filmed in hospitals and train platforms. The impression one gets from the promotional materials would be of seeing the Björk of classical performance and I would tend to agree. She presented a stage presence of great maturity for an artist who is only 30 years old. Her voice is such an exciting mix of sensuality and piercing intensity being instantly enchanting. Her elfin looks underline her interpretations with a full body connection to the text. The music she sang was from the late 17th and mid 18th centuries and yet her presentation was as connected and immediate as if she was interpreting a piece written just for her and having had the benefit of a long chat with the composer. A great example of when historically informed performance (not always a fan) doesn’t have to be characterless and academic.

The orchestra’s vibrant playing of the very merry and weather-beaten Locke incidental music was a great way to open the concert. In the simplest moments of the 3rd Purcell song caressing the text and breathing a sensual warmth to every phrase.

The suite of dances and arias from The Fairy Queen were absolutely evocative of the magic of Purcell’s grand Entertainment. The evident comradeship among the players was too evident and a month long tour of Australia must have made the bond stronger. The particular delicacy of The Plaint and See, See, Even the night herself is here capitalised on Prohaska’s silken delivery backed by an emotional investment and bright projection. It was both deeply sensual and individual…all too frequently the eloquence and simple beauty gets marred by disinterested performers that seem to add very little of themselves to the material. Our leading lady with some great viola playing by Jane Rogers wove her magic in the most quiet and intimate way imaginable.

The second half started with the harpsichord tuner leaving his phone on the instrument and Richard Egarr urgently returning it backstage…which made for a fun and giggly start.

The Arne overture was a reference to the first recording of the orchestra forty years ago and we were zipped through the many mood swings and tempi in record time, to be delivered in the capable hands of the young Handel and his fiery Italianate arias from Rinaldo and Amadigi di Gaula. Prohaska surely used the bright top of her voice to great effect. Those two arias made evident that her voice may not have a rather large size but she makes up in agility and fire. The way she transmitted vulnerability in her Ah! Spietato was breathtaking, not a contrived version of pain, much loved by transatlantic divas,  but a genuine sorrow that filled the air with gorgeous sound and emotion. A superlative example of when period instruments allow for such simplicity and immediate, emotional, responses.

The sinfonia from Saul was like a mini symphony wedged into the an oratorio in the usual Handel way. An ear pinning orgiastic concoction of seductive flute patterns overlaid with sweeping strings and punctuated by sharp attacks on the harpsichord.

The rendition of Farewell and Let the bright Seraphim were a glorious end to the evening with some immaculate coloratura passages. The trumpet playing by David Blackadder was attention grabbing but also a great match for the jollity emanating from the opposite end of the stage and Prohaska’s delightful swaying presence. We were also treated to the most spectacular encore of Dido’s lament for Dido and Aeneas. Every phrase had its logical place as it brought the character to life, eery remember me uttered with perfect simplicity and deep urge. A glorious end to a tremendous evening and a singer that will have to follow much closer from now on!

Also worth mentioning how wonderful Milton Court is, with a resonant warm acoustic and clean design. Well worth returning to listen to smaller ensembles, making future visits to the Barbican complex much more interesting. And their bar was also very well priced…if you need a drink while there.

Anna Prohaska and AAM list

Some tweets from the evening

Gergiev gets a London welcome

1 Nov

A London Welcome Maestro GergievLast night was the first concert of Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra of their Berlioz cycle at the Barbican. In keeping with his recent appearances elsewhere Gergiev was greeted by protest in line with his refusal to make any statement in the past few months. About the dire situation in Russia for homosexual citizens or to use the exact phrasing of their law, individuals that spread  ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors’. This has led to a reported increase in homophobic bullying and violence.
Peter Tatchell reportedly walked on stage last night and denounced VG as a supporter of President Putin before he was removed by security.

As much as I admire Tatchell’s record as a human rights campaigner I tend to disagree with any protest that disrupts the run of a concert. But his brand of direct action interventions is part of how he gets press attention to the causes he supports.

Tonight is the second concert of the series and I will be in the audience. Inspired by the protest at the Met Opera last month during the Onegin première, I will be wearing (not a NYC ribbon) a rainbow bow tie as a well-mannered protest to maestro Gergiev’s insistence to remain silent on this important matter. In light of his high-ranking position within the Mariinsky and his direct political involvement with Putin in Russia, he definitely has and should have a publicly expressed opinion. But he chose to follow the age old damage limitation tactic of staying silent until the storm passes.

It is up to us in the audience to signify that his behaviour is both poor and cowardly. If you are in the audience tonight and have something rainbow coloured bring it along. I have no appetite to disrupt the performance but also want to make a point, no matter how small or subtle. Of course another option for members of the audience would be to withhold applause.

Worth reading: David Nice’s piece on Gergiev on the Artsdesk website

Update

Valery Gergiev has made an official statement on Wed 06 November.

Unfortunately it reads like something dragged out of the 1970s with a vibe of ‘My best friends are gay’. But at least it is a small bit of progress.

Shimmering Strauss / Capriccio / Royal Opera House – 21 July 2013

29 Jul

CapriccioIt has been a week and it is maybe too late to write a long and detailed account but I could not pass the opportunity to write about a truly wonderful evening with one of the greatest Strauss singers of our times. Renée Fleming all too infrequently graces the stage of the Royal Opera House and those two concert performances of Capriccio were the hot ticket of the season. Judging from the people around us quite a few of them were there to tell their friends about it than to watch and be immersed in Strauss’s last opera. Particularly the gentleman next  to me spend most of the two and a half hours staring at his watch , tossing and turning and biting his nails. Something that thankfully happens rarely.

Capriccio like a few of his operas has a long climb over dense recitativi that may seem taxing but I see them as a minor trial for the glorious final pay off. His melodic gift and the way he put together 18th century French motifs with his usual glowing orchestration is such a genuinely sensual experience that cannot be replicated be listening to any recording. The Royal Opera House orchestra was on great form and under Andrew Davis they delivered a mellifluous account of the score, short maybe on a touch of largesse but it was enveloping and luxurious. Due to the dialectic nature of the work not having the staging wasn’t too damaging as it allowed full concentration to the words and music. And that being the main philosophical issue concerning the stage action it cannot possibly be a bad thing.

The cast with the exception of Fleming, Skovhus, Banks and Plaza were using scores but most managed to convey the essence of their character. Particularly the little petulant put downs between Andrew Staples and Christian Gerhaher were delicious and brought out the controlled hilarity of the libretto. Fleming and Skovhus were in a level of their own, bouncing off each other and having a complete command of the stage and projecting strong personalities throughout. Particularly Fleming in her silver Vivienne Westwood dress was exuding finesse and enough upper class deportment to convince, while having a knowing glint in the eye.

Her sublime final monologue was a huge climactic pay off and it was definitely worth the two-hour wait. The uncertainty filled conclusion was rendered in glowing sotto voce with unmistakable depth of feeling. Every gesture a small way in to her inner thoughts, understated and yet impossible for one to take their eyes off her. The star quality of the main heroine in a Strauss opera is for me as part of the experience as the work itself. Without the inner glow and stage experience it can render the work a parody and Strauss’s calculated built ups into dull plateaus. Her final choice between music or text or one of her either suitors Olivier or Flamand and her final indecision was beautifully acted as she picked up the music and the words in separate pieces of paper and tossed the words and longingly looked at the music before she left it on the chair and finished off the scene. We were none the wiser but at heart we hoped that Flamand and her love of his setting for the sonnet won her over.

There were a couple of weak links in the cast but all could be brushed aside at the sight and sound of Fleming who won hearts and minds and the eruption of applause made no secret how much we appreciated all she offered.

The stage was rigged for recording so I do wonder if this performance will be released any time in the future. There is already a recording and DVD with her signing the role so not idea if there is a market for another one. But time will tell.

The Curtain Call

Some Tweets

Capriccio list

Jung Soo Yun + Joseph Middleton / Richard Tauber Prize Recital / Wigmore Hall – 15 July 2013

21 Jul

Yun WigmoreWhat I wasn’t expecting when I attended this Richard Tauber Prize recital was that it would be the final recital in the history of the competition and after 30 recipients since 1951 it will be rolled into the Wigmore Hall  International Song Competitions from 2013. The new Prize will be awarded for the best interpretation of Schubert lieder and it will not carry a Wigmore Hall recital as part of it anymore. A slightly sad but also a good chance to look through the list of the singers that received it over the years, some went on to great careers and some sank without a trace.

Jung Soo Yun fresh out of Opera Holland Park’s Pearl Fishers gave a charming and at times arresting performance. Not a singer to exude ego or unshakable, bombastic over-confidence, but more of an at ease generosity.

His Schubert songs went past in a flash and his voice did not make for a classic combination of material and texture. Sometimes these songs can turn a little be too polite and knowingly elegant and my personal taste veers on wanting a more gritty, more assertive sound.

His Strauss songs, especially Die Nacht showed his impressive ability to shape and colour phrases into an evocative mix of picture making prowess and animated evocation. His open eyed eagerness when singing Nichts had that fresh quality only a younger singer can bring, a feel of young love and melancholy. For Die Georgine he successfully managed to pull back some ardency to allow the lyrical flow to emerge and display a more demure personality in his singing.

The songs by Tosti were a late addition to the programme from what was previously advertised and I can declare him my least favourite art song composer. So was not particularly looking forward to those three songs. But they were proven a great vehicle to display his punchy squillo in Non t’amo più projecting with clarity and ringing sonorities, raising the material above its banal footing. For Ideale depending on his affable stage presence he also impressed with some very italianate rolled Rs in the pivotal line Torna, caro ideal, torna un instante adding a delicious sharpness to it.

It is always enjoyable when a singer picks songs from their own culture and language to sing in recitals and the two Korean songs were so much fun and extroverted that gave a triumphant closing to the song part of the recital before giving way to the two arias. Especially the Sailor’s Song elicited a lot of laughs of admiration and recognition by the numerous Koreans in the audience.

The two arias were by far the most evocative and interpretative complete items.  His Faust was elegant and beautifully projected accompanied by great finesse. The attention to the gentle phrasing and the open throated, secure production was a joy to listen to. His Kuda kuda was restrained and filled with dignity and passion. The reflective mood making for a great end to a recital. He may not have the fetching appearance of Pavol Breslik in the recent ROH Onegin but he definitely can deliver the complex lustful shady world of this aria to good advantage.

Joseph Middleton’s accompaniment was unshowy and communicative without sounding routine. Never trying to overshadow but a team player offering support and propulsion.

His encore Dein ist mein ganzes herz was dedicated to Tauber and sung with great beauty and bounce and the second one was The Lord’s Prayer in Korean, which you can listen to in the curtain call video below. Based on this fetching recital I wish I had seen his Nadir at Holland Park but it is one of those operas that rarely appeals. His Royal Opera debut is coming up this autumn in Les Vêpres Siciliennes directed by Stefan Herheim and will be great to see him as part of such an ensemble cast in a fairly rare opera by Verdi. Another young singer to add to the list of up and coming new stars.

Curtain Call Video

Some Tweets

Yun Wigmore List

Kicking the Prommers to the ground is poor form

17 Jul

BBC PRoms 2013Reading performing artists putting down their own audience never makes any sense to me. Chris Gillett wrote a blog post for Sinfini (the Universal Music financed quasi blogging effort. Apparently tasked to demystify classical music…). He  explains his dislike for older prommers and their rudeness. I have mentioned many times my experience from the two Proms seasons I worked at the Royal Albert Hall as a Steward on Twitter. And I will make it clear that I am not the biggest fan of the ridiculous “sporting” element introduced by the hunt/cattle run for the front of the arena. A lot of the hoggers are smelly, unpleasant people who are there more to be seen than to listen. But they are a minority. His assertion that by abolishing the season passes the crowd would change or be magically younger/different is naive if not ridiculous. Who has the time to go and queue for the Proms? Only the unemployed, students or the retired (sons and daughters of oligarchs are invited to Grand Tier Boxes). So the demographic for the front few rows will look identical season tickets or not.

His conclusion: Now, I’m no great fan of any movement that attempts to make concert-going more appealing to the young at the expense of the middle-aged and elderly. Why should the young have everything their own way? But I really think the Proms needs a shake-up, to break the stranglehold the ageing, die-hard prommers now have on this extraordinary festival.
Seems totally over the top and verging on the disingenuous.

The Proms may have many faults, including a ridiculous sense of self-worth but at least they are truly accessible with the £5 standing promming tickets. And I have taken the opportunity to see many great orchestras and soloists over the last decade for such a small charge. As a Steward I had to intervene many times when arena prommers verbally abused foreign visitors for not following their arcane rules, but this small minority that bullies newcomers exists in any closely-knitted group.  Using such a minority as a shorthand to project our own ideas about what an audience has to be, leads us to some very predictable conclusions.

Classical music circles get into a navel gazing mode rather frequently when they start pondering the older age of their audiences and overall access.The age of the audiences should not be the main object of fascination but the size. Orchestras, opera houses and concert halls should strive to bring in many people from whatever age and background. The senseless pursuit of a mythical group of youngsters that will instantly fall in love with classical and opera is a construct perpetuated by the very people who are meant to help make venues all-embracing in reach. Maybe the ulterior motive is that talking about age is much more convenient because it absolves them from responsibility in looking into their price structures and ticket distribution. Because the  main two reasons for not going to concerts is the failure of music education in schools and the unreasonable ticket prices at certain venues. With the recession biting, potential audiences are very price sensitive.

The Proms with offering nearly 1.000 tickets for £5 at every concert are giving a low cost entry to a world of music seen as unreachable or elitist. Can we celebrate this very fact and refrain from giving in to victimising the faithful punters that attend every season? Despite a wholly unsuitable venue and scorching temperatures the Albert Hall is near sold out for most events. Lets stop this self hating nonsense and wish Mr Gillett good luck the next time he steps on that stage as a comprimario or as a plaything for a new composer. Lets spread the love of good music and stop these nonsensical divisions and finger-pointing.

Update

It seems that pointing out to C G that ignoring the fact that he offended far too many people by being petty and presumptuous and avoiding to respond to any tweets addressed to him…made him unfollow and block me on Twitter. A little hissy fit that makes a great addition to this silly little attention seeking attempt from the grubby Sinfini site.

CG Twitter

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