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George Frideric Handel

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Royal Opera House

May 25

How The Royal Opera has kept opera looking forward for more than three hundred years

Royal Opera HouseEva-Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole in Anna Nicole © ROH / Bill Cooper 2011 Creating new work is crucial to the future of any art form. Right from the very beginning, the Royal Opera House has played a significant role in the forging of new operas, hosting its first world premiere in 1735 with Handel’s Ariodante, just a few years after the opera house was built. Following in Handel’s footsteps are such composers as Weber , Vaughan Williams , Britten , Henze , Birtwistle and Adès , whose work was championed by the ROH – as a delve into the precious archive material in the ROH Collections reveals. The first theatre on our Covent Garden site was built in 1732. Just two years later a fortuitous (for us) series of events led Handel to become resident composer at the new theatre. Along with Ariodante there were numerous important world premieres of Handel’s music here, including the operas Alcina and Berenice, and the oratorios Semele , Judas Maccabaeus and Solomon . Read More: Explore Handel’s London After Handel’s residency relative dry spell followed, as the theatre, then called the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, primarily staged plays and English light opera. Then in 1824 it was announced that the great German composer and conductor Carl Maria von Weber was to be the theatre’s next musical director, following the fantastic acclaim his opera Der Freischütz had received across Europe. Included in Weber’s contract was the commission of a new opera: Oberon , Weber’s first opera in English. It was performed for the first time on 12 April 1826, conducted by the composer, despite his suffering from ill health. The premiere was a triumph – but tragically Weber died just 13 weeks after arriving in London. Playbill for world premiere of Oberon at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 12 April 1826 © Royal Opera House In 1847 the theatre became a dedicated opera house, initially called the Royal Italian Opera and from 1892 the Royal Opera House. The transformation was thanks to the arrival of Italian conductor Michael Costa , who made the theatre a centre for the UK premieres of new works fresh from the continent. The list of great 19th-century operas that had their UK premieres at the Royal Opera House is long, and includes Verdi ’s Rigoletto in 1853 and Falstaff in 1894, Wagner ’s Lohengrin in 1875, Saint-Saëns ’ Samson et Dalila (in concert) in 1893 and Puccini ’s Tosca in 1900, Madama Butterfly in 1905 and Turandot in 1927. Costa’s legacy was the Royal Opera House’s continuing reputation as an international centre of world-class opera. Signed black-and-white photographic print of soprano Emmy Destinn as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly © ROH Collections Madama Butterfly, 1905 © ROH Collections Charles Craig as Lieutenant F.B. Pinkerton and Sena Jurinac as Cio-Cio-San in the 1959 revival of Madama Butterfly (1950) © ROH Collections Sena Jurinac as Cio-Cio-San in the 1959 revival of Madama Butterfly (1950) © ROH Collections Sena Jurinac as Cio-Cio-San in the 1959 revival of Madama Butterfly (1950) © ROH Collections Josephine Veasey as Suzuki and Sena Jurinac as Cio-Cio-San in the 1959 revival of Madama Butterfly (1950) © ROH Collections Elisabeth Schwarzkopf as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly. Photograph by Roger Wood © ROH Rudolf Schock as Lieutenant Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly. Photograph by Roger Wood © ROH Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly. Photograph by Roger Wood © ROH Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly. Photograph by Roger Wood © ROH Sophie Fedorovitch costume design for Cio-Cio-San from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater. Sophie Fedorovitch costume detail for Cio-Cio-San from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater Sophie Fedorovitch's costume design for Cio-Cio-San from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater. Sophie Fedorovitch costume design for chorus member from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater Sophie Fedorovitch costume design for chorus member from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater Sophie Fedorovitch costume design for chorus member from Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Brian Slater Act II set design from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 Roger Wood, ROH Collections. Arthur Davies as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Arthur Davies as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. John Dobson as Goro in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Arthur Davies as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Chorus in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Miao Qing as Suzuki in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Frigerio set design for Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Frigerio set design for Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic Catherine Malfitano as Cio-Cio-San and Arthur Davies as Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Miao Qing as Suzuki and Anna Cooper as Kate Pinkerton in Espert’s 1988 premiere production of Madama Butterfly, 1988. The Royal Opera © Zoe Dominic. Set designer, Frigerio's set in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Set designer, Frigerio's set in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Set designer, Frigerio's set in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Yoko Watanabe as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Yoko Watanabe as Cio-Cio-San in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Set designer, Frigerio's set in Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly, 1992. The Royal Opera © ROH Production. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San and Dennis O'Neill as Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Dennis O'Neill as Pinkerton and Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Josephine Veasey as Suzuki and Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San, Leo Nucci as Sharpless and Diana Montague as Kate Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Francis Egerton as Goro and Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Diana Montague as Kate Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San and Leo Nucci as Sharpless in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San and Leo Nucci as Sharpless in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Raina Kabaivanska as Cio-Cio-San in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1981. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Miwako Matsumoto as Cio-Cio-San and Stuart Burrows as Pinkerton in Robert Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly, 1978. The Royal Opera © Donald Southern, ROH Collections. Model box for Act I scene from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Helpmann’s 1950 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act I scene from Nuria Espert’s 1988 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act II scene from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act II scene from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act II scene from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Model box for Act II scene from Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH. Photo by Ruairi Watson. Signed black-and-white photographic print of composer Giacomo Puccini © ROH Collections The ROH’s equal responsibility to championing British composers came to the fore at the end of World War II. In 1946 a new resident opera company was established at the Royal Opera House: the Covent Garden Opera Company, later to become The Royal Opera. The company commissioned its first new opera in 1949, and went to a leading British composer of the day: Arthur Bliss ’s The Olympians , followed the next year by Vaughan Williams’s The Pilgrim’s Progress . The company’s first great success, though, was Britten ’s Billy Budd in 1951. The press response was rapturous, Robert Ottaway writing for the Sunday Graphic that ‘last night a masterpiece was born, and it will outlive the lot of us’. Theodore Uppman as Billy Budd in the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Scene from Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Act II scene 2 of the Covent Garden Opera Company production of Billy Budd (1951), produced by Basil Coleman at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Photograph by Roger Wood Detail of poster for the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 © Royal Opera House Poster for the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 © Royal Opera House Press cuttings from ROH Collections for the world premiere of Billy Budd, December 1951 © ROH Collections Press cuttings from ROH Collections for the world premiere of Billy Budd, December 1951 © ROH Collections Over the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st The Royal Opera commissioned new works from British and international composers, with a role call of prominent names: Britten’s Gloriana in 1953; Walton ’s Troilus and Cressida in 1954, Tippett ’s The Midsummer Marriage in 1955, The Knot Garden in 1970 and The Ice Break in 1977, Richard Rodney Bennett ’s Victory in 1970, Maxwell Davies ’s Taverner in 1972, Henze’s We Come to the River in 1976, Birtwistle’s Gawain in 1991 and The Minotaur in 2008 and Mark-Anthony Turnage ’s Anna Nicole in 2011. Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Joan Cross, Basil Coleman (producer) and Benjamin Britten during rehearsals for 'Gloriana' (1953) at Orme Square. ©1953 ROH / Roger Wood Basil Coleman (producer), Benjamin Britten and Joan Cross during rehearsals for 'Gloriana' (1953) at Orme Square. ©1953 ROH / Roger Wood Rehearsals for ‘Gloriana’ (1953) in the Crush Bar. © 1953 ROH / Roger Wood Basil Coleman (producer), Benjamin Britten and Joan Cross during rehearsals for 'Gloriana' (1953) at Orme Square. © 1953 ROH / Roger Wood Basil Coleman, Benjamin Britten and Joan Cross during rehearsals for Gloriana in 1953 at Orme Square © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Benjamin Britten and John Pritchard (conductor) sharing a joke during rehearsals for Gloriana in the Crush Bar of the Royal Opera House © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Geraint Evans as Lord Mountjoy, Jennifer Vyvyan as Lady Rich, Monica Sinclair as Frances and Joan Cross as Queen Elizabeth I in Gloriana at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1953 © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Scene from Gloriana at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1953 © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Press cuttings from ROH Collections for the world premiere of Gloriana, June 1953 © ROH Collections Press cuttings from ROH Collections for the world premiere of Gloriana, June 1953 © ROH Collections The Royal Opera’s commitment to new opera continues to the present day. Recently the Royal Opera House stage has seen the world premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas ’s Morgen und Abend in 2015 and the UK premieres of George Benjamin ’s Written on Skin and Thomas Adès’s The Exterminating Angel , both Royal Opera co-commissions. Forthcoming premieres include Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence and Unsuk Chin ’s Alice Through the Looking Glass on the main stage, in addition to a rich programme of new work in the Linbury Studio Theatre and other spaces around London – all continuing to build on the Royal Opera House’s centuries-old tradition. Playbill for world premiere of Oberon at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 12 April 1826 © Royal Opera House Costume design by Attilio Comelli for an unnamed female character in Madama Butterfly (1905) © ROH Collections Costume design for Suzuki from 1905 production of Madama Butterfly © 2016 ROH Collections. Detail of poster for the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 © Royal Opera House Poster for the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 © Royal Opera House Theodore Uppman as Billy Budd in the world premiere of Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Scene from Billy Budd performed by the Covent Garden Opera Company at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Basil Coleman, Benjamin Britten and Joan Cross during rehearsals for Gloriana in 1953 at Orme Square © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Benjamin Britten and John Pritchard (conductor) sharing a joke during rehearsals for Gloriana in the Crush Bar of the Royal Opera House © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Geraint Evans as Lord Mountjoy, Jennifer Vyvyan as Lady Rich, Monica Sinclair as Frances and Joan Cross as Queen Elizabeth I in Gloriana at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1953 © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Covent Garden Opera Company in Gloriana (1953) © Roger Wood / ROH Collections Scene from Gloriana at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1953 © Royal Opera House/ROGER WOOD Severed head prop used by John Tomlinson as the Green Knight in Gawain, The Royal Opera, 1991 © Royal Opera House Material from Collections production file for Anna Nicole, The Royal Opera, 2011 © Royal Opera House Eva-Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole in Anna Nicole © ROH / Bill Cooper 2011 Eva-Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole and Gerald Finley as Stern in Anna Nicole, The Royal Opera, © ROH / Bill Cooper 2011 Helena Raskar and Christoph Pohl in Morgen und Abend © ROH 2015, photograph by Clive Barda Sarah Wegener and Christoph Pohl in Morgen und Abend © ROH 2015, photograph by Clive Barda The principals (2) in The Exterminating Angel (C) ROH 2017. Photograph by Clive Barda John Tomlinson and Anne Sofie Von Otter in The Exterminating Angel (C) ROH 2017. Photograph by Clive Barda Lessons in Love and Violence runs 10–26 May 2018. Tickets go on general sale 31 January 2018. The production is a co-production with Dutch National Opera , Hamburg State Opera , Opéra de Lyon , Lyric Opera of Chicago , Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona , and Teatro Real, Madrid , and is given with generous philanthropic support from The Monument Trust, Stefan Sten Olssen and the Boltini Trust. Unsuk Chin’s Alice Through the Looking Glass will be performed as part of the 2018/19 Season.

The Independant - Reviews

May 22

Ariodante, Barbican, London, review: Contains some of Handel's most extraordinary depictions of derangement

Mezzo Alice Coote replaced Joyce DiDonato at short notice to sing Ariodante in The English Concert's latest instalment in their series of Handel's operas




My Classical Notes

May 4

More on the Magic of Bach

Today’s topic at My Classical Notes is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and specifically his Cantatas for Soprano: Bach, J S: Cantata BWV202 ‘Weichet Nur, betrübte Schatten’ (Wedding Cantata) Cantata BWV152 ‘Tritt auf die Glaubenbahn’ Andreas Wolf (bass-baritone) Cantata BWV199 ‘Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut’ Performed by Carolyn Sampson (soprano), with the Freiburger Barockorchester, Petra Müllejans conducting. Bach’s period as organist to the Duke of Weimar (1708-17) was the time of his early mastery. Nowhere is this more evident than in the small but highly distinguished body of cantatas he wrote there, whether for the court chapel – the Himmelsburg or ‘Castle of Heaven’ – or for some clearly very joyful wedding (BWV202). From the amazing duets for soprano and oboe of the latter to the penitential strains of BWV199, the radiant voice of Carolyn Sampson and the virtuosos of the Freiburger Barockorchester do full justice to Bach’s inventiveness. Soprano Carolyn Sampson has been proclaimed “the best British early music soprano by some distance” by the editors of Gramophone. A native of Bedford, she studied voice with Richard Smart at the University of Birmingham, and made her debut with the English National Opera in a production of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea and continues to appear with this company with regularity in addition to appearances at the Paris Opera. Here is Carolyn Sampson in music by Haendel:



Royal Opera House

April 28

10 of opera's greatest bass roles

René Papa as Méphistophélès in Faust, The Royal Opera © ROH/Catherine Ashmore, 2011 Opera’s lowest male voice type is used to explore the best and worst in human nature, from murderous villainy to benign wisdom. Here are some of our favourite examples of bass roles from more than two centuries of opera and what makes them so impressive: Zoroastro – Handel ’s Orlando Zoroastro – whom Handel’s anonymous librettist loosely modelled on the Persian sage Zoroaster – is the voice of reason in this opera of insanity and unruly passions. From his commanding opening aria ‘Lascia amor’ onwards, Zoroastro attempts to persuade the unstable hero Orlando to give up his unreciprocated passion for Angelica and return to deeds of valour. Being a wise magician, he eventually succeeds, and in Act III expresses his joy in one of the most jubilantly virtuoso arias in the bass repertory, ‘Sorge infausta’. Osmin – Mozart ’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail Inspired by Handel, Mozart created his own Zoroaster-inspired sage in Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte /The Magic Flute), whose arias ‘O Isis und Osiris’ and ‘In diesen heil’gen Hallen’ are among opera’s noblest. The bullying harem-keeper Osmin is altogether different: his blustering aria ‘Solche hergelauf’ne Laffen’ and drunken duet ‘Vivat Bacchus!’ (both using ‘Turkish’ percussion), his futile attempts to control the spirited character Blonde and his bravura Act III rondo ‘O, wie will ich triumphieren’ (which is a must-hear due to its use of one of the lowest notes in the bass register) make him one of opera’s greatest comic villains. Méphistophélès – Gounod ’s Faust Méphistophélès’s charm, wit, and chocolate-rich bass voice – shown to best advantage in such episodes as his demure Act I entrance, zestful Act II aria ‘Le veau d’or’ and dapper seduction of Marthe Schwertlein in the Act III quartet – give him a demonic appeal. His underlying viciousness comes to the fore in his sardonic Act IV serenade to Marguerite and in the terrifying Act V trio – but this doesn’t stop us feeling that in Faust the devil has the best tunes! Philip II – Verdi ’s Don Carlo Philip II’s evolution from authoritarian ruler to suffering husband makes him perhaps Don Carlo’s most interesting character. Until the end of Act III we are inclined to dislike Philip for his tyrannical behaviour towards his wife and son. However, in his aria ‘Ella giammai m’amò!’, with its haunting introduction for solo cello, Philip laments his loneliness and his loveless marriage with a dignity, sorrow and resignation that arouse our sympathies, and that the bass voice’s rich, dark timbre makes all the more poignant. Gurnemanz – Wagner ’s Parsifal Wagner uses the sonorous richness of the bass voice to convey the wisdom and benign nature of the veteran Grail Knight Gurnemanz. This part requires tremendous stamina – Gurnemanz is on stage for the whole of the two-hour Act I and 90-minute Act III, and has several lengthy monologues. But the beauty of his music, particularly the sublime ‘Good Friday’ monologue, makes the effort more than worthwhile. Baron Ochs – Richard Strauss ’s Der Rosenkavalier Strauss pulls off a near-impossible feat in his first great comedy, and creates a character who is as appealing as he is comically repellent. Ochs’s loutish entrance in Act I, boorish behaviour towards Sophie in Act II and sleazy seduction scene in Act III make us thoroughly glad when he gets his comeuppance. And yet, his warm bass voice, exuberance and the lilt of his favourite waltz in Act II give him a certain charm. Bluebeard – Bartók ’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle Bartók offers an unconventional reading of the Bluebeard story, presenting Bluebeard not as a murdering psychopath, but as a fiercely private man, who appears to love his new wife Judith but hesitates to reveal his secrets to her. Bluebeard’s mysterious vocal style – predominantly plain declamation, but with passages of tender lyricism, particularly in the heartrending final scene – makes him one of opera’s most fascinating enigmas. It is up to each singer of the role to decide how villainous, or how noble, he might be. Boris Ismailov – Shostakovich ’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk There’s no doubting the villainy of Boris Ismailov, who scolds his daughter-in-law Katerina in growling tirades, dreams of seducing her to the sounds of a sleazy waltz, brutally attacks her lover Sergey and terrifyingly returns after his death to haunt Katerina. And yet, one can’t wholly despise Boris Ismailov. As John Tomlinson , one of the role’s greatest interpreters, has remarked: ‘Boris… is completely unredeemable…  but there’s something admirable about the sheer energy of the guy’. Claggart – Britten ’s Billy Budd Claggart is another great bass villain – the low, hollow sound of his voice make his mixture of brutality and Machiavellian cunning particularly terrifying. He’s not one-dimensionally evil though: his great Act I monologue ‘O beauty, handsomeness, goodness’ – which Britten’s librettist E.M. Forster considered the most ‘important piece of writing’ in the libretto – conveys emotional confusion and loneliness as well as a nihilistic compulsion to destroy what is good. Moses – Schoenberg ’s Moses und Aron Schoenberg movingly portrays Moses’s inarticulacy by writing his part entirely in growling, halting Sprechstimme (half-song, half-speech), while casting his articulate but untrustworthy brother Aron as a mellifluous lyric tenor. But the dramatic intensity and psychological complexity of Moses’s part more than compensates for its limited melodic content, particularly in the final soliloquy, which ends with the heart-breaking words ‘O Wort, du Wort, das mir fehlt!’ (O Word, you Word that I lack!). Don Carlo runs 12–29 May 2017. Tickets are still available. The production is a co-production with Norwegian National Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, New York and is sponsored by Coutts with generous philanthropic support from Ian and Tina Taylor and The Taylor Family Foundation, Aud Jebsen, Simon and Virginia Robertson, the Patrons of Covent Garden , The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund and The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation Cover awards .

Classical iconoclast

April 22

Formula saves the BBC Proms !

Formula saves the BBC Proms 2017!  This may be the beginning of the end for Sir Henry Wood's dreams of the Proms as serious music. Fortunately The Formula, perfected by much-maligned Roger Wright, is strong enough to withstand the anti-music agendas of the suits and robots who now run the Proms.  Shame on those who rely on formula instead of talent, but in dire straits, autopilot can save things from falling apart.  So, sift through the detritus of gimmick and gameshow to find things worth saving   (Read here what I wrote about The Formula)   Danierl Barenboim is a Proms perennial, for good reason, so we can rely on his two Elgar Proms (16 and 17 July) especially the Sunday one which features a new work by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Deep Time, which at 25 minutes should be substantial  Pascal Dusapin's Outscape on 19/7, 28 minutes, also substantial Anotherr "regular" Proms opera, Fidelio on 21/7, with a superlative cast headed by Stuart Skelton and Ricarda Merbeth, tho' Juanjo Mena conducts  Ilan Volkov conducts Julian Anderson's new Piano Concerto on 26/7 , tho's the rest of the programme, though good isn't neccesarily Volkov's forte  On 29/7 Mark Wigglesworth conducts David Sawer's The Greatest Happiness Principle  On 31/7, Monteverdi Vespers with French baroque specialists Pygmalion   On 1/8, William Christie conducts the OAE in Handel Israel in Egypt and on 2/8, John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists do Bach and my beloved Heinrich Schütz.  On 8/8 Gardiner returns with Berlioz The Damnation of Faust, with Michael Spyres. First of this year's four Mahlers is Mahler's Tenth (Cooke) with  Thomas Dausgaard and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra  Robin Ticciati, back with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on 15/8 with an interesting pairing, Thomas Larcher Nocturne-Insomnia with Schumann Symphony no 2.   Throughout this season, there are odd mismatches between repertoire and performers, good conductors doing routine material, less good conductors doing safe and indestructable. Fortunately, baroque and specialist  music seem immune.  See above ! and also the Prom featuring Lalo, Délibes and Saint-Saëns with François Xavier-Roth and Les Siècles on 16/8   Perhaps these Proms attract  audiences who care what they're listening to  Schoenberg's Gurrelieder on 19/8 with Simon Rattle, whose recording many years back remains a classic but may not be known to whoever described the piece in the programme "Gurrelieder is Schoenberg’s Tristan and Isolde, an opulent, late-Romantic giant."  Possibly the same folk who dreamed up the tag "Reformation Day" like Nigel Faarage's "Independence Day" Nothing in life is that simplistic  The music's OK, but notn the marketing. Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC SO in Elgar Symphony no 3 (Anthony Payne) on 22/8   Potentially this will be even bigger than the Barenboim Elgar symphonies, since Oramo is particularly good with this symphony, which may not be as high profile but is certainly highly regarded by those who love Elgar   On 26/8, Jakub Hrůša conducts the BBC SO in an extremely well chosen programme of Suk, Smetana, Martinů, Janáček and Dvorák   More BBCSO on 31/8 when Semyon Bychkov conducts a Russian programme  Marketing guff seems to make a big deal of national stereotypes, which is short sighted  These programmes cohere musically, but that's perhaps too much to expect from the new Proms mindset On 1/9,  Daniele Gatti conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Bruckner and Wolfgang Rihm  An odd pairing but one which will come off well since these musicians know what they're doing They are back again on 2/9 with  Haydn "The Bear" and Mahler Fourth  which isn't "sunny" or "song-filled".  It's Mahler,  not a musical.  Gergiev brings the Mariinsky on 3/9 with Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich Symphony no 5.  Another huge highlight on 7/9 : The Wiener Philharmoniker, with Daniel Harding in Mahler Symphony no 6 - so powerful that nothing else needs to be added to sugar the pill   For me, and for many others, that will be the real :Last Night of the Proms   Party time the next day, with Nina Stemme as star guest     

George Frideric Handel
(1685 – 1759)

George Frideric Handel (23 February 1685 - 14 April 1759) was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, and concertos. Handel was born in Germany in the same year as Johann Sebastian Bach and Domenico Scarlatti. Handel received critical musical training in Italy before settling in London and becoming a naturalised British subject. His works include Messiah, Water Music, and Music for the Royal Fireworks. He was strongly influenced by the great composers of the Italian Baroque and the middle-German polyphonic choral tradition. Handel's music was well-known to composers including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.



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Meeting in Music

George Frideric Handel




Handel on the web...



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Great composers of classical music

Messiah Water Music Opera Oratorios

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Great composers of classical music
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