I haven’t always liked music with people singing – particularly lieder and opera. I did always think that in my later years I would be nudged towards opera, in the same way that perhaps my reading will nudge me towards Trollope and Proust when I am more grown-up.
Notwithstanding my reservations, in the last 6 weeks I have been to the complete gamut of singing possibilities:
- The orchestra and chorus of Santa Cecilia, conducted by Sir Antiono Pappano, singing Verdi’s Requiem at the Royal Festival Hall. Completely wonderful, proper Italian choir singing big music.
- “Thebans” by Julian Anderson, a new opera at the ENO. I could see it was a proper opera, but I found it a bit plodding narratively, and felt it could have been written at any point in the last 50 years. So didn’t exactly excite me.
- Opera Erratica’s “Triptych” at the Print Room. I loved it, a sort of mini opera created by a cooperative. Highly modern, dense with meaning, and very pretty girls wearing not much. Much more engaging than “Thebans” and points one way forward for opera as something less expensive, elitist and hierarchical.
- Alice Coote and Christian Blackshaw at the Wigmore Hall performing Schumann Lieder. From the first note I was transported to another world; I already knew that Blackshaw is amongst my favourite pianists, and found Alice Coote’s voice an equal delight. Still surprised this concert wasn’t reviewed anywhere, I think it’s the best of the 50 I have been to so far this year. But the music establishment is a bit anti-Blackshaw because he won’t play their celebrity games and is seen as a bit “difficult”.
- Luca Francesconi's “Quartett” at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House. Utterly amazing, absorbed in the 80 minutes of this modernist mini-opera. As above, reviewers ignored/found it difficult which reduced audience numbers. But I loved it.
- “River of Fundament” by Matthew Barney, with music by Jonathan Bepler, at the Colliseum. Visually beautiful, unforgettably intense. Somewhere between a film, art, opera and surreal pornography. And six hours long. Two weeks after seeing it I know I would go again like a shot if the opportunity offered itself, mostly to hear the music again. Bepler has written things for voices to do that I haven’t heard before, and would like to hear more of.
- “Lyrische Symphonie” by Alexander Zemlinksy, at the Staadbad in Mitte/Wedding, Berlin. Seven connected movements, scored for an orchestra of 200 with baritone and soprano soloists. The staging I heard was with a reduced orchestra of 23, but still worked really well. It’s music I ‘d like to hear again.
- Janacek’s “The Cunning Little Vixen” at Garsington, with Claire Booth in the title role. Claire was great, fully engaged in the role of the Vixen. Garsington is also a fantastic setting, it reminds me of Glyndebourne when I first went there (as a teenager) in the 1970s, before it got all corporate.