Friday, 29 April 2011

BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Master Classes


Details have been released for this year's BBC CSW Master Classes. Shared between the New Theatre, and the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, the classes will take place on Saturday, the 18th of June. The classes, as usual, will overlap, so unless you are Hiro Nakamura, or own a worryingly nuclear powered car, you can only make it to two classes.

  • 11 a.m. Kiri Te Kanawa & Håkan Hagerård (New Theatre)
  • 12.30 p.m. Bengt Forsberg (RWCMD)
  • 3 p.m. Marilyn Horne & Dennis O'Neill (New Theatre)
  • 4 p.m. John Fisher (RWCMD)

Tickets for each class cost £8, and the sessions will run for over an hour. You can book tickets for the RWCMD sessions through St David’s Hall website. Tickets for the New Theatre sessions can only be purchased through ringing 029 2087 8889.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

WNO Offers Galore

Who loves ya baby? Well, WNO of course.

Tomorrow's concert at St David’s Hall sees the return of WNO's Up Close initiative. For £3 audience members under 30 will get a ticket for the concert, and have the opportunity to chat with orchestra members after the concert about the concert itself, or about classical music in general. If you fancy taking up this offer e-mail with your details, and WNO will get back in touch with you.

The second bout of WNO loving you is an invitation to the unveiling of Project Electroclassic's Dust to Dust, taking place at the Weston Studio (Wales Millennium Centre) next Tuesday, the 3rd of May. The event begins at 8 p.m. with the performance, and subsequent panel discussion, expected to run no later than 9 p.m. If you fancy popping along for the event e-mail to add your name to the guest list.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Orchestra of WNO Hit the Hall

Photo Brian Tarr

Friday, unless you didn't know (where have you been?), sees the final installment of the Orchestra of WNO’s series of concerts at St David’s Hall this season. Lothar Koenigs conducts a programme made up of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, and Bruckner's 7th Symphony. Given the sheer enjoyment of the previous two concerts ticket sales have been surprisingly slow, so it would be nice to Usain Bolt the rhythm of events.

Now that I've encouraged you to come along I may now dissuade some of you. It seems that the front of house customer lift is out of order at the moment, which has led St David's Hall to offer refunds if you rely on using the lift to get into the hall. It's the one great weakness of the building that when it was originally built there should have been more than a single customer lift incorporated into the design, but hindsight is perfect (and usually moany), and I can't remember the last time it went down with an injury.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Project Electroclassic

Image Jo Fairfax

While Taxation Law is a sorry minefield of clauses, sub-clauses, basement clauses and offshore deep shaft clauses, it essentially lacks the romance of a far more profound legal question - Who owns a work of art? The creator? The collaborator? The middle man? The consumer? Luckily, those intrepid folks at WNO///3 have taken it upon themselves to consider this question...

Project Electroclassic is a special commission by WNO///3 into the tricky world of Intellectual Property. Composer Jessica Curry, along with sonic artist Michael Fairfax, visual artist Jo Fairfax and soloists from the Orchestra of WNO have combined forces to explore the fundamental intricacies of what it is to create a new work of art, and who, if anyone, owns it.

In the course of creating a new work of musical and visual art, the yet to be officially performed Dust to Dust, the team has incorporated, among other things, a reworked two chord adagio from Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.3, a response to a Charles Tomlinson poem about bees and Bach, a line from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself and video images of the soloists wearing gas masks and evening wear.

But don't take my word for it. Project Electroclassic has been documenting the creation of Dust to Dust in a blog where you can read the thoughts of the contributors as they journey along the creative path, and consider the realities of creative ownership. Click here to go to the archive page.

Not wanting to sound like the overbearing know-it-all in your life I suggest you read the entries bit by bit so you can best gain a sense of the time and space required for the creation process. But you don't only get to read; you get to hear and see the work in creation, including a new discovery for me – the graphic score. The finished project will be unveiled at the Weston Studio (WMC) on the 3rd of May, and will be filmed and uploaded to WNO///3.

In the meantime you can listen to Jessica Curry and Michael Fairfax talking about the project on last week's Music Matters by downloading the podcast of the April 16th edition (Maazel). It's available to download for a further 21 days as I type this. The interview, and subsequent discussion on IP, takes place 24 minutes into the show.

And now, dear readers, if you'll indulge my ego for a short while, here's my take on things Project Electroclassic...

One morning, while waiting for the work train, I found myself whistling a tune I had conjured the previous evening. It was a simple, if slightly melancholic, melody that helped pass the time. As usual there were four of us waiting for the train. Though we had spent countless hours together we had never spoken to each other, always waiting quietly until the train arrived and we'd take our separate seats. That day, in keeping with tradition, we didn't speak to one another, and when the train arrived I got onboard whistling my little creation.

The following morning I arrived at the station and joined my taciturn companions. Except, on this day, all three were more animated than I had seen them before. One was humming a tune that sounded familiar to my ears. Another was whistling a melody that my memory also found comfortable to be around. The third was sketching all four of us waiting for the train, surrounded by what I took to be crows. By now the humming and whistling were encircling each other, and I gradually began to realise I was hearing variations of the tune I had created.

With a slight hesitation I asked the first man what he was whistling. He replied he wasn't sure, but he thought it was from a song he'd heard on the radio. I asked the second man if he could tell me the name of the tune he was humming. He said he'd heard me whistling it the previous day and he couldn't get it out of his head. Could I tell him what it was? I told him I had made the tune up myself. As soon as I'd spoken these words the third man told me I was mistaken, but the tune was an old folk song his grandmother used to sing to him when he was a child. He showed us his drawing, pointing each of us out in turn, and then motioning with his nibbled pen towards what I could now see weren't crows, but musical notes. This, he told me, was the tune I had been whistling the previous morning. I was convinced he was mistaken, and I told him this, but he refused to be persuaded otherwise.

The train arrived and we got on board, and this time we took a table seat. I, the whistler, the hummer and the sketcher continued our discussion about the tune which I said was mine, which the whistler had heard on the radio, which the hummer had acknowledged was my creation and which the sketcher was adamant was the echo of an old folk song.

To this day we still discuss the tune on our way to work, except now the tune is the whistler’s, the sketcher has heard it on the radio, I’ve acknowledged it as the creation of the whistler, but the hummer tells us it’s an old hymn his grandfather used to sing to him as a child, and he draws a sketch of the four of us waiting for the train, the notes rising above our heads as witnesses.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Margaret Price Documentary on S4C

Celebrating Margaret Price's ROH debut as Cherubino

In case you missed it when it was broadcast on the weekend, erm...just as I did, S4C are reshowing a tribute to the late Margaret Price tomorrow evening at 11.10 p.m.

If you still manage to miss it you can catch it on S4/Clic for the next 33 days. Those of you unfamiliar with Welsh can access English subtitles through clicking on the owl. Unfortunately the documentary is only available in the UK.

Contributors include the likes of James Lockhart, Bryn Terfel, Dennis O'Neill, Placido Domingo, José Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

"I'll tell you exactly what happened..."

We've all been there, trying to explain to a friend what happens in the Ring, or even just Die Walküre, and realising after half an hour all you've managed to get across is No, that was Apocalypse Now, not Tropical Thunder...uhm, Tropic Thunder.

Yes, opera plots are confusing, barmy, bizarre, idiotic things - in this way they mirror life more than we'd care to admit. But perhaps they're not as confusing as we make them out to be - in this way they make anything I've written with a philosophising slant in the previous sentence a little pile of ramblage.

Perhaps you can cut to the chase of a plot in less time than you think you can (a bit like me with this post). Maybe you can do it with 140 characters, or even less. The third edition of The Omniscient Mussell’s Twitter based #operaplot competition / festival is (already) up and running with the competition due to end on the 15th. Yes, I know, I've been late with this post.

There are a multitude of goodies on offer, and this year WNO have joined in zee fun and are offering two tickets for any production from their 2011 / 12 season for the best #operaplot tweet in the WNO touring region. The FAQ's of the competition can be found here, and for a little more on the competition here’s this year's judge Eric Owens...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Keep on Running

I believe that marathons are best eaten, not run, but apparently some people disagree with me on this matter and next Sunday they'll be taking to the streets of London in a televised example of communal masochism. Some will be running to win (cue Brendan Foster’s Lament of the Disappearing British Distance Runner, coupled with his attempt to break the Guinness record for most frequent use of the name Paula within two and a half hours), some will be fulfilling a lifetime's ambition, a few will be wanting to resurrect their careers (celebrity, not sporting) and others because they fancy running around dressed as a pantomime horse.

Oh, and then there will be those running for causes great and great. Among this last category will be two masochists currently working with WNO...

Running to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society will be WNO's own Katie Heath-Jones. Stage managery creature by day, her backstage navigational skills will come in useful during the inevitable carnage caused by a celebrity interview about a pulled calf muscle (circa) 200 meters into the race. To sponsor the Mesotronic Managing Marauder KH-J click here.

Running for children’s charity, Sparks, is WNO’s current Eisenstein, Mark Stone. There’s no word yet as to whether he will continuously sing Largo al factotum from start to finish, substituting Figaro with Paula in an attempt to take on Brendan Foster, but you never know. To sponsor the Sizzling Sussex Speedfreak MS click here.

If you’re still reading this then I guess there’s a part of you saying I'll be tucked up in bed next Sunday morning, and then there will be another part of you saying shall I sponsor one of them? How about both? Okay, so that's me pretending to be you (badly), but now I've planted the (un)subliminal thought you may find yourself clicking one of the above links before the week is out...before the week is out...before the week is out...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

What's on in Cardiff in April

Pass the sledgehammer, I'm going in...

There's not much going on operawise in the flesh in Cardiff in April, but there are plenty of bits and bobs to distract you from your Easter eggs, and your subsequent mission to get fit (for the second time this year).

The first port of call is St David's Hall, which welcomes a variety of orchestras from less slightly afar to even less-less slightly afar. The LSO rumble into town on Friday with Julia "Smokin' Fiddle" Fischer riding shotgun*. A week later and the BBC NOW conjure up some Berlioz magic with Romeo and Juliet with the aid of Susan Bickley and Jonathan Lemalu. In a lunchtime concert Peter Jablonski travels from Haydn to Copland / Bernstein. And closing out their very enjoyable three date gig at the hall the Orchestra of WNO play some Wagner and Bruckner.

Hoddinott Hall welcomes its resident orchestra, the BBC NOW, in addition to the likes of BBC New Generation Artist Francesco Piemontesi, flautist Emmanuel Pahud, cellist Alban Gerhardt and the National Youth Wind Orchestra Of Wales.

The Met Live in HD broadcasts continue at Cineworld Cardiff with Le Comte Ory (Joyce DiDonato, Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Florez), Capriccio (Renée Fleming and Sarah Connolly) and Il Trovatore (Marcelo Alvarez, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Sondra Radvonosky).

And although it isn't in Cardiff, despite its name, Showcase Cinema Cardiff will be showing Cavalliere rusticana / Pagliacci from Barcelona's Liceu (Ildiko Komlosi, Ángeles Blancas, Marcello Giordani, Marco di Felice, Luciana D’Intino, Inva Mula, José Cura and Andrzej Dobber).

*Unfortunately Julia Fischer has had to withdraw due to injury, but LSO concert master, Roman Simovic, has come to the rescue and will be performing the Sibelius.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Rattling a Tin 21st...Century Style

Okay, so my last post wasn't about how you can help WNO but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. And now the flow is taking me back upstream to remind you of how you can help out WNO in a financial kind of way.

First up you can contribute without actually spending any money by using the search engine, which is like a 70's supergroup combining search results from Bing, (formerly known as Ask Jeeves) and Yahoo!

The next way you can help is by doing your online shopping through This is a devilishly simple idea where retailers donate a certain percentage of what you spend with them towards WNO. The variety of retailers is too large and varied for any succinct reportage but, as I'm not a professional journalist, I feel it's my duty to amateurs the world over to barge on ahead regardless of brevity with an alphabetical tour of a to z...

Amazon – British Gas – Crotchet Classical – Disneyland Paris
Eurostar – Fitness First – Genes Reunited – Hilton
iTunes – John Lewis – KLM – Love Film
Nigel’s Eco Store – O2 – P&O Ferries – Qantas
RAC Insurance – Sainsbury’s – Tesco – uSwitch
Viva La Diva – Wallis – Your Golf Travel – Zone Alarm

It's quite simple to use, all you have to do is create an account for yourself and remember to login before you make purchases. And yes, I know, X is missing.

If you would prefer you could donate directly to WNO in a variety of ways, including helping to support next year's new production of La bohème. And, of course, there's the age-old way of donating and that's to put your bum on a seat for WNO performances when they tour close to your stomping ground.

Friday, 1 April 2011

David Pountney to be WNO's Chief Executive and Artistic Director


Outside of a Van de Graaff there aren't many things in life that can give you a free perm - but today my hair was given a truly worthy curly wurly with the news that David Pountney will be WNO's new Chief Executive and Artistic Director. Currently the Intendant at the Bregenzer Festival Pountney will take up his position with WNO in September of this year, combining both roles until he steps down from his Bregenzer role in 2013.

Having worked with Scottish Opera and English National Opera he is no stranger to the opera scene in the UK and his vast experiences abroad with the likes of Zurich, Vienna and Bavarian State Opera promises much excitement for WNO’s future. He’ll be working closely with Music Director Lothar Koenigs and they should be quite familiar with each other given that Koenigs has conducted at the Bregenzer festival, so the Poutney directed Lulu in the spring of 2013 promises to be an exciting production.

Speaking about the appointment the Chairman of WNO, Geraint Talfan Davies, had this to say...

"We are truly delighted to have found someone of David Pountney’s experience and stature to lead WNO for the next five years. With his substantial track record for innovation and excellence, he will reinforce the international standards and the sense of artistic ambition on which the company’s reputation has been built..."

The man himself had this to say...

"I am really thrilled to have the chance to return to lead a company that has long been very close and important to me - a national and international company that has enormous potential to be a powerful creative force on the European opera stage. That potential stems from its secure base in Wales, from which it derives its deeply grounded musical tradition. I particularly look forward to nurturing that tradition alongside my friend and colleague, music director, Lothar Koenigs."



David Pountney will be talking to Petroc Trelawny on this evening's In Tune on BBC Radio 3 from 5pm. If you miss it you can catch it on the BBC i-Player for a further week - fast forward to 1:42:25.