Wednesday, 17 November 2010

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011 News and Order Form

Photo from BBC

The first concrete example of how the recent Comprehensive Spending Review will affect the arts in Wales has come in the shape of a shrunken BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2011. The number of contestants for the biannual competition will be at its lowest since the inaugural competition in 1983. Back then the number was a modest eighteen. Next year it will be a slightly less modest twenty. Generally speaking the average number of contestants has hovered around the twenty-four to twenty-five mark. The zenith was a whopping twenty-nine in 1989 – the Battle of the Baritones competition. Although no word has seeped out yet why the number has fallen it would take a fantasist not to believe the financial boa constricting of the BBC by the Conservative / Lib Dem government is the sole reason for such a considerable reduction in numbers.

So what does this mean for everyone concerned?

Quite obviously five singers will miss out on career boosting opportunities to advertise their wares to the many international agents and houses who view CSW as one of the major talent spotting competitions in the world. For singers far from the operatic hubs of London, Vienna, New York CSW has given them an invaluable opportunity to (pardon the pun) make their voices heard. Taking away this opportunity is not only unfair to the singers themselves, but if continued in the long run will take the gleam off the competition itself as some of the biggest successes have come from entrants who didn’t win the competition; Elina Garanca, Anja Kampe, Michael Volle, Marius Kwiecien and Nina Stemme to name a few. One of the reasons why CSW has been such a success is that it includes singers from all parts of the globe, but if finances begin to decline so too will the budget for travelling to hear singers off the beaten track. But it’s hard to see, given the financial straight jacket the BBC finds itself in, the numbers rising above the twenty mark for the considerable future. Hopefully it goes no lower.

What about the audience?

With the smaller number of singers comes the inevitable loss of a preliminary concert; four instead of five for 2011. Not that this has affected the season ticket prices with them remaining more or less at the same level as 2009 - £190, £120, £80 and £50. It has to be pointed out though that unlike 2009 the ticket includes entrance not only for all four preliminary concerts and the main final, but also the Song Prize Final, which was a separate ticket for 2009. This is okay if you like recitals, but not everyone does - so perhaps a fairer option would to have been two season tickets - one at a lesser price for the orchestral concerts, and another for the same price with the Song Prize added on.

To book your season tickets you can follow this link to a downloadable pdf form. Please note that applications are by post only, with orders being processed in February 2011. You can pay by cheque, credit card or you can spread your order over three payments. Booking for separate concerts will take place from the 1st of March onwards in person, by telephone or online.

Best of luck in your ticket ordering, and even bigger best of luck for the fortunate twenty competitors!

In closing this CSW update I would hope that the organisers will see fit to pay tribute, during the 2011 edition, to two figures who did so much to raise the profile of the competition and who have sadly passed away in recent times - founder J Mervyn Williams and late patron Dame Joan Sutherland.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Ariadne auf Naxos on BBC Radio 3 Saturday, 13th of November 6pm

Owen Webb (Harlequin) Gillian Keith (Zerbinetta) (Pictorial presentation Richard H Smith BBC)

Har, har! Avast ye opera lovers! Come circle round this here roarrrrrring fire while I tell ye a tale o’ stereophonic news that’ll have ye setting course f’r BBC Radio 3 t’morrow ev’ntime. Har, har, har, har, har, har, har-har-har-har!

The cap’n o’ the fair ship BBC Radio 3 has set the ship’s sails in search o’ a desert island called Naxos, that be in’abited by a fair damsel call’d Ariadne. T’arrive at this fair damsels shores ye need to tune in at 6pm UK time so ye can board the ship WNO with cap’n Baton Rouge Koenigs at the helm with ‘is fine crew the WNO orchestra. Paying their way be Sarah Connolly, Gillian Keith an’ Orla Boylan with Ricardo Tamura up in the crow’s nest. I did shiver me timbers with this lot in the ten month o’ this year! It awlso be a mystikal appointment as ye can ‘ear it f’r a whole sev’n o God’s days aft’r the show on i-Player.

Fare thee well me hearties! But look out f’r me parrot Polly, she be eatin’ a galley’s worth o’ mints today. Har, har, har, har, har, har, har-har-har-har!

---------- It's an update - hence all this redness and new fontage ----------

In addition to the performance you can also listen to Sarah Connolly, Orla Boylan and WNO’s dramaturg Simon Rees being interviewed by Donald Macleod on the Ariadne page. But hurry up – you only have until Saturday evening to listen to everything before it’s packed away.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

WNO's Meistersinger Wins TMA Award

Bryn Terfel as Hans Sachs (Catherine Ashmore WSJ)

Awards ceremonies can be funny old things. Just ask Jarvis Cocker or Roberto Benigni...maybe not Mick Fleetwood. Most fair minded people would accept that comparing the artistic merits of books, films, blow drying and tinting is impossible given the variety of tastes on offer to human taste buds. Having sat on some judging panels myself I can now, after fifteen years of reflection, admit that my casting vote for Wagging Tongue’s Salon Conversationalist of the Year 1995 was weighted not for the winner’s patter but because she reminded me of Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. But I am just a mere mortal on this spinning, spherical, circular...erm…planet, my dear, dear readers.

Fast forward to 2010.

The place? The Lyric Theatre in Old London Town.

The prize? The TMA Achievement in Opera Award 2010.

The nominees?

Glyndebourne (Billy Budd). Opera North (Ruddigore). WNO (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg).

Are you feeling tense? Nervous? Heart racing like a pneumatic drill set to Being Chased by Villagers With Torches and Pitchforks Level 8? Are your eyes chewing the screen? Is sweat cascading from your curled hands? Your voice, is it rising rising louder, and louder, and louder as you read this to your colleagues in your office, your parakeet back home or to a carriage full of strangers on your way to / from work?

I’ll get on with it.

And the winner, ladies and gentlemen, is, was...WNO for Die Meistersinger!

Okay, so you probably guessed the result by the very fact I’ve written this post, and while I do take awards with a hefty pinch of salt I can’t deny I was pleased to see Meistersinger recognised in this way. Sadly I wasn’t there to shout out Yes! Yes! Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees! before charging onto the stage, grabbing the award and thanking everyone on the panel for giving me, the opportunity, to thank everyone I had ever met (with the exception of Kevin “The Sand in your Eye Kid”) for inspiring me to win the award for World’s Greatest Ever Blinker.

Fortunately for, WNO, John Fisher was in attendance and he had the following to say...

"This is a great honour…I want to stress that this award has been won by the whole company; it is recognition for every person who works at WNO, and acknowledges their extraordinary commitment in meeting the enormous challenge of performing such a complex and ambitious work. It also highlights again the magnificent cast led by Bryn Terfel, the marvellous conducting of Lothar Koenigs, WNO’s Music Director, and the brilliant production of Richard Jones and his team."
(nabbed from WNO website)