Geoffrey Smith looks forward to the musical plenty of August
Geoffrey Smith samples the rich feast of August music
ITHINK of August as a festival, a musical feast offering rich pickings for every taste, with variety and plenty going hand in hand. Communities large and small host events in premises of all sorts—churches, beaches —in a range of genres as inclusive as the locations themselves.
Giving the lead is this year’s BBC Proms—fittingly, as that great institution has always played a key role in establishing what the country regards as appropriate in our musical culture. Thus, Proms Director David Pickard’s decision to take the Proms out of the Royal Albert Hall, in his ‘Proms At’ sequence of four concerts, will encourage the different ways music can be presented and consumed.
What’s particularly pleasing about the ‘Proms At’ initiative is Mr Pickard’s judicious pairing of venue and repertoire. The first concert, last weekend, took place in the handsomely decorated Georgian interior of the Chapel at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, ideal for Rossini’s pious but playful Petite messe solennelle with David Hill and the BBC Singers.
This Saturday, August 13, finds a programme of Restoration settings from Shakespeare in the candlelit intimacy of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in Shakespeare’s Globe, performed by Jonathan Cohen’s Arcangelo. Then, the contemporary scene has its turn, first amid the gritty charm of the Roundhouse at Camden on August 20, where the London Sinfonietta under Andrew Gourlay will play works by Birtwistle and Ligeti, plus a world premiere by David Sawer.
Finally, September 3 sees the much-touted concert at the Bold Tendencies Multi-storey Car Park in Peckham, a properly urban environment for the Minimalist art of Steve Reich, delivered by Christopher Stark and his MultiStory Orchestra (0845 401 5040; www.bbc.co.uk/proms).
New scenes, new audiences, variety, excitement and quality —what more could you ask from a festival? Well, the thrill of a new star swimming into your ken, perhaps, a personality inspiring keen anticipation with a mixture of talent and novelty. Which is why there’s no hotter ticket at the Royal Albert Hall this summer than the Proms debut of Mirga Grazinyte-tyla, newly appointed Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO). Just 29, the diminutive Lithuanian will conduct her ensemble in Prom 55 on August 27, riding waves of praise and enthusiasm from her colleagues.
The well-selected programme offers scope for the full range of her abilities—from Mozart’s effervescent overture to The Magic Flute and the premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s Shakespearean extravaganza let me tell you, featuring soprano Barbara Hannigan, to the fateful thunder of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. There’s every chance a star will be born and, if you want to witness the launch of Miss Grazinyte-tyla’s career on her own turf, she and the CBSO will give the same concert the evening before at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall (0121–780 3333; http:// cbso.co.uk).
Meanwhile, the beacon of August festivity shines as bright as ever in Edinburgh, where the International Festival (to August 29, 0131– 473 2000; www.eif.co. uk) teems with musical bounty: eminent soloists include Russia’s new star pianist Daniil Trifonov, who displays his virtuosity in recital, concerto and chamber music, and Sir Antonio Pappano’s Orchestra dell’accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Yannick Nézet-séguin convey the riches of the symphonic repertoire.
Topping and tailing the Edinburgh experience is a pair of operatic classics: Bellini’s Norma, in a Salzburg Festival production showcasing the legendary mezzo Cecilia Bartoli, and Mozart’s Così fan tutte, from the Festival d’aix-en-provence.
In a curious coincidence, as the festive momentum of August surges into the new musical season of September, Edinburgh’s operatic showpieces foreshadow the coming schedule at the Royal Opera House (020–7304 4000; www.roh.org.uk). On September 12 (until October 8), Covent Garden returns with a new production of Norma, followed from the 22nd to October 19 by a new Così fan tutte, plus a revival of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (September 13– October 11).
Unfortunately, the opera house’s original intention for Norma has not gone according to plan: Bellini’s masterpiece was intended as a vehicle for super diva Anna Netrebko, who belatedly decided the part didn’t suit her
voice and withdrew. The good news, however, is that she has been replaced by rising star Sonya Yoncheva. In turn, the new production of Così fan tutte, by Jan Philipp Gloger, will arouse special interest, as it supersedes the well-loved ‘Armani’ staging by Jonathan Miller.
ENO (020–7845 9300; www. eno.org) begins anew with a muchneeded new staging of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (September 30– October 26). The director is the innovative Richard Jones, a man with a taste for bright colours and dramatic zest—very much in the festive spirit.
Sir Antonio Pappano leads the Orchestra dellõaccademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia to Edinburgh
New star: Mirga Grazinyte-tyla
Hot: Così fan tutte comes to Edinburgh from Aix-en-provence