Paul Riley picks the month’s best concert and opera highlights in the UK
LONDON Handel’s Semele
Alexandra Palace Theatre, 2 May Tel +44 (0)871 220 0260
Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi celebrations in 2017 must have whetted his appetite for touring opera. This spring the conductor takes Handel’s Ovidinspired Semele around Europe, including to the newly restored Victorian theatre at Alexandra Palace (see ‘Venue of the month’, left). Louise Alder sings the title role in a concert-staging by Thomas Guthrie.
Le Concert de l’hostel-dieu
St John’s Smith Square, 11 May Tel: +44 (0)20 7222 1061
As part of London Festival of Baroque Music, this Lyonbased ensemble celebrates the 400th birthday of the Venetian composer, poet and singer Barbara Strozzi with a lateevening postscript to The Bach Players’ earlier dance-themed concert. Laments and songs by Strozzi are set alongside music by near-contemporaries including Francesca Caccini and Isabella Leonarda.
Royal Opera House, 15-20 May Tel: +44 (0)20 7304 4000
The seismic fall-out from
Cretan princess Phaedra’s love for her stepson Hippolytus furnished Hans Werner Henze with the material for his final opera, premiered in 2007. Noa Naamat’s production showcases the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists, and Edmund Whitehead conducts Southbank Sinfonia.
Barbican, 18, 19 May
Tel: +44 (0)20 7638 8891
As if May visitors such as the Santa Cecilia Orchestra or mezzo-soprano Joyce Didonato weren’t enough, the Barbican spills out across Culture Mile for a free festival straddling some 100 sessions, over 800 years of music and artists ranging from The Academy of Ancient Music to Chineke!, and singer Nora Fischer to pianist-composer Thomas Adès.
Stockhausen’s Donnerstag aus LICHT
Royal Festival Hall, 21, 22 May Tel: +44 (0)20 3879 9555
Web: www.southbankcentre.co.uk Not seen in the UK for over 30 years, the ‘Thursday’ episode of Stockhausen’s epic LICHT opera-cycle brings together the London Sinfonietta and the
Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble under Maxime
Pascal with his own chamber orchestra from Paris, Le Balcon. The production is directed by Benjamin Lazar, and the central role of Archangel Michael is shared between tenor Damien Bigourdan, trumpeter Henri Deléger and dancer Emmanuelle Grach (see Composer of the Month, p62).
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Lighthouse, Poole, 15 May
Tel: +44 (0)1202 280000
‘This is the best of me’ wrote Elgar (quoting Ruskin) when he completed the score of his oratorio The Dream of Gerontius. Conductor Kirill Karabits invests it with a strong line-up, mustering American tenor Paul Appleby as Gerontius, Alice Coote as the Angel and James Rutherford as the Priest and the Angel of the Agony.
Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, 18 May
Tel: +44 (0)1865 980980
With last year’s 85th-birthday celebrations behind him, Krzysztof Penderecki heads to Oxford to conduct a programme devoted entirely to his own music. Gábor Boldoczki plays the recent Trumpet Concertino; the Oxford Philharmonic’s concertmaster Yuri Zhislin tackles the Viola Concerto (originally premiered by his father); and in between comes the Sinfonietta for Strings.
Assembly Rooms, Bath, 25 May Tel: +44 (0)1225 463362
Web: www.bathfestivals.org.uk Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations and Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski have long enjoyed a special relationship, not least at the 1990 Leeds Piano Competition and in a memorable recording in 2000. For Bath Festival, he offers a half-dozen preludes and fugues from JS Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier by way of warm-up.
Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, 8 May
Tel: +44 (0)845 548 7650
Fresh from Wagner in Munich and Puccini’s Tosca at Covent Garden, the Welsh bass-baritone makes his Saffron Hall debut with pianist Annabel Thwaite. Their recital wraps folksong arrangements by Britten and Copland around Schubert Lieder, English and Welsh songs, and Ibert’s Quatre Chansons de Don Quichotte.
Trinity College Chapel and
Little St Mary’s Church, Cambridge, 9, 10 May
Tel: +44 (0)1223 357851
Web: www.cambridgeearlymusic.org Across two concerts as part of Cambridge Festival of the Voice, the BBC Music Magazine Awards-nominated early music group Sollazzo Ensemble takes the musical pulse of 14th-century Florentine humanism and explores
Court life in 15th-century Burgundy – including the influential contribution of blind fiddlers Jehan Ferrandes and Jehan de Cordova.
NORTH AND WALES BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, 18 May Tel: +44 (0)333 666 3366
Web: valeofglamorganfestival.org.uk Composer Steve Reich is patron of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival’s 50th edition and his 2018 Music for Ensemble and Orchestra receives its Welsh premiere in the company of new works by Mark David Boden and John Metcalf. Graham Fitkin’s Metal, which includes untuned scaffolding, engineers a clangorous close.
Manchester, 23 May
Tel: + 44 (0)161 907 9000
Web: www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk Conductor Mark Elder has chosen a work he describes as direct and viscerally thrilling with which to conclude his last Hallé concert of the season: Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. Alice Coote is the mezzo dispensing the balm of ‘Urlicht’, and she’s joined in the finale by soprano Anne Schwanewilms.
St George’s Hall,
Liverpool, 23 May
Tel: +44 (0)151 709 3789
Web: www.liverpoolphil.com Liverpool’s flagship contemporary music ensemble rounds out its 21st-birthday year with one of Liverpool’s own: composer and clarinettist Mark Simpson (see interview, p40). He appears in both guises, and opens the concert with Straw Dogs, his 2010 reflection on reverence and destruction. To end, his clarinet takes centre stage in Henze’s Miracle of the Rose. And in between are works by Gary Carpenter and Gavin Higgins.
Los Angeles Master Choral
Sage, Gateshead, 25 May
Tel: +44 (0)191 443 4661
Web: www.sagegateshead.com Director Peter Sellars’s first foray into the staging of an a cappella work couldn’t have found a more searing subject. Orlando di Lasso’s swansong madrigal sequence Lagrime di San Pietro considers, in 75 exquisitely anguished minutes, Peter’s grief after denying Christ following the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.
AND N IRELAND Hebrides Ensemble
Concert Hall, Perth, 6 May
Tel: +44 (0)1738 621031
Web: www.horsecross.co.uk Soprano Ailish Tynan (see p122) joins the Hebrides Ensemble for Ravel’s sultry Les chansons madécasses – judiciously twinned with Judith Weir’s companion piece, Nuits d’afrique. Works by Rebecca Clarke and Rosalie Burell flank Jean Françaix’s String Trio.
Ulster Hall, Belfast, 24 May
Tel: +44 (0)28 9033 4455
Web: www.ulsterorchestra.org.uk The orchestra doesn’t just bid farewell to the 2018/19 season but also to its principal conductor Rafael Payare (see Backstage with… above), who’s heading for pastures new in San Diego. They part company in fine style with Mahler’s darkness-tolight Symphony No. 5, and before it Inon Barnatan is the soloist in Mozart’s turbulent Piano Concerto in D minor, K466.
Handel with care: Louise Alder takes the title role in Semele at Alexandra Palace