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London 2014: Classical Music, Opera and Ballet

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London Symphony Orchestra: Scriabin

(c) Alberto Venzago

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London Symphony Orchestra: Scriabin
English National Opera: Rodelinda
Faust
Kim Criswell and the Nash Ensemble
Basel Symphony Orchesta
English National Ballet: Lest We Forget
 

 

London is currently enjoying an exceptional musical jamboree: the Southbank Centre sold over 200,000 tickets for its exploration of 20th century culture The Rest is Noise, and the celebrations of Britten's centenary and Verdi and Wagner's bicentenaries provoked a wealth of marvellous opera.That looks set to continue in 2014, according to Rupert Christiansen.

 
 

Opera: New Productions

 
English National Opera: Rodelinda

English National Opera: Rodelinda

 

Perhaps the season's operatic highlight comes at the London Coliseum from 3rd May, where English National Opera (ENO) will première Julian Anderson's Thebans, a new version of the ancient myth of Oedipus and his daughter Antigone. Directed by Pierre Audi and featuring a strong cast, this is guaranteed to be an exciting and controversial production.  Also at ENO, Handel's romantic Rodelinda will be presented in a fresh interpretation directed by the brilliant Richard Jones, with baroque specialists Rebecca Evans, Lestyn Davies and John Mark Ainsley in principal roles.

A few hundred yards from the Coliseum, the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is not to be outdone: its offerings include lavish new productions of Mozart's black comedy Don Giovanni (in a contemporary setting), Richard Strauss' mysterious fairy-tale Die Frau ohne Schatten and Poulenc's searing drama of religious persecution during the French Revolution Dialogues des Carmelites, conducted by the legendary Sir Simon Rattle.

 
 
 

Opera: Revivals

 
Faust - (c) Catherine Ashmore

Faust

(c) Catherine Ashmore

 

Another hot ticket will be the revival of Gounod's warhorse Faust: with operatic superstars Anna Netrebko, Bryn Terfel, Joseph Calleja and Simon Keenlyside on parade, tickets for these performances will be like gold dust.

Those with more adventurous tastes should also look out for productions of two contrasting 20th century classics, Tippett's philosophical King Priam and Britten's light-hearted Paul Bunyan, both to be staged in the ROH's smaller Linbury Studio Theatre. But if all you want is old-fashioned romance and spectacle, then how about the arena production of Puccini's weepie La Bohème at the Royal Albert Hall?

 
 
 

Classical Music: Southbank Centre and the Barbican

 
London Symphony Orchestra: Scriabin - (c) Alberto Venzago

London Symphony Orchestra: Scriabin

(c) Alberto Venzago

 

Concert life in London benefits from healthy competition between the Southbank Centre and the Barbican Centre. At the Southbank Centre's main venue, the Royal Festival Hall, Esa-Pekka Salonen will conduct Mahler's mighty Symphony of a Thousand with the Philharmonia, while Vladimir Jurowski mounts the podium for Beethoven's Choral Symphony with the London Philharmonic. There will also be solo recitals of Chopin and Beethoven by the peerless Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini.

At the Barbican, home of the London Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding conducts Mahler, Valery Gergiev conducts Scriabin, and the great Royal Concertgebouw visits from Amsterdam for three Bruckner-dominated concerts under its maestro Mariss Jansons.

For connoisseurs of vocal glamour, there are solo concerts by mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. The virtuoso pianism of Evgeny Kissin will doubtless provide further fireworks. 

 
 
 

Classical Music: Wigmore Hall

 
Kim Criswell and the Nash Ensemble

Kim Criswell and the Nash Ensemble

 

The Wigmore Hall is a quiet mecca for lovers of chamber music and song, and showcases the talents of some of the world's finest performers, ranging from the superb exponent of German lieder Christian Gerhaher singing Schumann to Joshua Rifkin playing Scott Joplin's irresistibly charming ragtime.

Whether you fancy Alice Coote singing Mahler or Broadway star Kim Criswell singing Richard Rodgers, Christophe Rousset and his early music band Les Talens Lyriques in Rameau and Charpentier or the Takacs Quartet playing Beethoven and Dvorak, there's truly something for everyone at the Wigmore.

 
 
 

Classical Music: Kings Place and Cadogan Hall

 
Basel Symphony Orchesta

Basel Symphony Orchesta

 

London's newest concert hall, Kings Place, is fast establishing a reputation for challengingly offbeat programming: a good example is Dark Pastoral, an evening devoted to poetry and music associated with the First World War given by actor Alex Jennings and tenor Andrew Kennedy. The venue also celebrates its association with chamber music with year-long festival Chamber Classics Unwrapped. Putting a new spin on the annual 'unwrapping' seasons, which usually focus solely on one composer, this festival will look at chamber music as an entirety.

There are also rich pickings to be had in two churches converted into pleasant concert venues: in Chelsea, the Cadogan Hall hosts the cutting-edge Basel Symphony Orchestra for three concerts (24th, 28th & 30th April) of minimalist music; in Westminster, St John's Smith Square which celebrates its 300th anniversary year, holds a weekend Schubertiade mixing the familiar and surprising, led by tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Anna Tilbrook.

 
 
 

Dance: Ballet, Flamenco and Tap

 
English National Ballet: Lest We Forget - (c) Chris Nash

English National Ballet: Lest We Forget

(c) Chris Nash

 

Ballet fans tend to heave a sigh of relief once the Christmas Nutcracker season is over, and the programming becomes more adult-orientated again. One obvious highlight will be Christopher Wheeldon's new full-length work for the Royal Ballet, based on Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale; another will be English National Ballet's visit to the Barbican with Lest We Forget, the collective title for one-act pieces by younger choreographers Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Liam Scarlett inspired by the centenary of the First World War.

There's also non-stop activity at Sadler's Wells, a venue that prides itself on being eclectic and international: from Germany comes Pina Bausch's iconic Tanztheater Wuppertal, followed by the enchanting Cloud Gate from Taiwan, a fortnight of authentically Hispanic flamenco and the return by popular demand of Savion Glover, the American marvel who has reinvented the art of tap.

It's a measure of the resilience and imagination behind the British music and dance scene that, despite budget cuts, this year's menu looks richer than ever.

 
 
Sophie Wallace

EDITOR

Sophie Wallace

1st October 2014

 

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