London 2014: Classical Music, Ballet, Dance and Opera

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I due Foscari

copyright Prammer, Theater an de Wien

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I due Foscari
Eva-Maria Westbroek as Anna Nicole
John Tomlinson as King Marke in Tristan und Isolde
Classical Music: The Proms
Adventures in Wonderland
Dance & Opera: Christmas Crackers
English National Opera: Otello
Classical Music: Barbican


Placido Domingo stars in a new production at the Royal Opera House; the English National Opera stages new productions of Otello and The Gospel According to the Other Mary; and the world famous Proms provides a wealth of high class classical music.

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Opera: Royal Opera House


In the first new production of the 2014/2015 opera season at the Royal Opera House, Placido Domingo, one of the most influential figures in opera today, takes on the title role of the Doge Francesco Foscari in Verdi's I due Foscari, from 14th October 2014 until 2nd November 2014.

Love and comedy go hand in hand in L'elisir d'amore, Donizetti's popular opera which returns to the Royal Opera House this autumn. 1950s Italy is the setting for Laurent Pelly's acclaimed production which stars Vittorio Grigolo as Nemorino and Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel as the quack doctor Dulcamara.

There's more to delight at the Royal Opera House with Anna Nicole (11th to 24th September); and Tristan und Isolde (5th to 21st December), Christof Loy's stark, contemporary setting which so divided opinion when it was first staged  here in 2009 that there were boos from the first night audience. However, worth the ticket price alone is Nina Stemme who gave "the most incendiary performance by a Wagnerian soprano for many decades" (The Independent) five years ago and who returns as Isolde.


Opera: English National Opera


The English National Opera (ENO)'s 2014/2015 season sees the return of Peter Sellars, known for re-staging operas in ultramodern settings, as director-in-residence. He oversees the world staged premiere of John Adams's The Gospel According to the Other Mary (21st November 2014 until 5th December 2014), a big, ambitious production which gives the retelling of the Passion story a political twist.

Another highlight of the ENO programme is its new production of Otello, staged to celebrate Shakespeare's 450th anniversary. Director David Alden returns to the Coliseum following his recent triumphant production of Peter Grimes and is reunited with Grimes collaborators Ed Gardner who conducts and Stuart Skelton who plays the title role for the first time.

Big changes are afoot at ENO with the departure of music director Edward Gardner who will leave at the end of the 2014/15 season after eight years in the job to be succeeded by another English conductor, Mark Wigglesworth, previously in charge of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the end of the '90s.

In his final season Edward Gardner leads ENO's outstanding orchestra and chorus, conducting Wagner's The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, directed by Richard Jones. And all this is before Mike Leigh, the film director behind well-loved Brit flicks Vera Drake and Another Year, makes his operatic debut with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance opening on 9th May 2015, sure to be a highlight of Gardner's final season.

Headlines about the English National Opera having its annual Arts Council England grant cut - from 17.2m in 2014/15 to 12.4m in the next financial year - may look like glum news but fear not. ENO artistic director John Berry does not see this as cause for complaint, instead its part of a strategy to ensure a "sustainable future" for ENO. Long may the show go on.


Classical Music: The Proms


A War Horse Prom, the first ever BBC Sport Prom, and a performance by the Pet Shop Boys are just some of the highlights of the 2014 Proms which takes over the Royal Albert Hall once again this summer, bringing some of the best classical musicians to London.

The 2014 season, which runs from Friday 18th July to Saturday 13th September, includes 92 concerts, and 12 world premieres.

In addition to the main events - which include concerts by Laura Mvula, Paloma Faith, and Rufus Wainwright - there are chamber music concerts and Saturday matinees in nearby Cadogan Hall and outdoor events throughout the country. The world-famous Last Night of the Proms brings everything to a thrilling finale - you'll be lucky if you can get your hands on a ticket (they're just as coveted as tickets for the Wimbledon finals). But there is a fun alternative: join Terry Wogan and thousands of revellers in the annual Proms in the Park closing party in Hyde Park.


Classical Music: Barbican


The 2014-15 classical music season at the Barbican features an incredible range of music and outstanding performers, including artist focuses on Joyce DiDonato. Opening with an exuberant evening of bel canto opera and closing with a glittering concert with the New York Philharmonic, the series takes in Handel's Alcina (10 October 2014) with Joyce DiDonato in the title role appearing with The English Concert and a very strong cast including Alice Coote as Ruggiero.

There's a focus on Sir John Tavener who would have been 70 this year with The Britten Sinfonia premiering his last major concert work, Flood of Beauty, on 28th September 2014. John Tavener Remembered, a beautifully-shot documentary film on the life of the composer is one part of the all-day BBC SO Total Immersion event on 5th October 2014 which includes choral and chamber music, a performance by the BBC Singers, discussions, and an evening concert.

Valery Gergiev brings his own Mariinsky Opera to the Barbican and embarks upon his final complete London season with the London Symphony Orchestra. playing eight concerts between September 2014 and May 2015 including the UK premiere of Shchedrin's The Left-Hander (4 November 2014) which was premiered in St Petersburg in 2013, a comic tale of Russians and Englishmen, of new technology, old traditions, and strong drink specially written for Gergiev and the Mariinsky.

On 2nd November comes one of the Barbican's classical music 2014-15 season's highlights - a new choral work by Sally Beamish based on poetry by Andrew Motion, commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra.


Classical Music: Kings Place and Cadogan Hall


London's newest concert hall, Kings Place, is fast establishing a reputation for challengingly offbeat programming: a good example is the annual Kings Place Festival (12th to 14th September 2014), 100 events and concerts squeezed into just three days. 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 looks 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 Proms concerts in the summer (21st, 28th July, 2nd, 4th & 9th, 11th, 18th, 25th,30th August, 1, 6 September) including mattinees, chamber music, and genre-bending entertainment. In Westminster, St John's Smith Square which celebrates its 300th anniversary year, holds four Sheaffer Sunday Matinees with Lucy Parham on piano. In the fourth and final concert on Sunday 23 November 2014 actors Juliet Stevenson and Alex Jennings read extracts from Chopin's best-loved works.


Dance: Royal Ballet


Kenneth MacMillan's Manon, which had its premiere in 1974, celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2014 and the Royal Ballet, the company he directed from 1970 for seven years, marks the occasion by opening its 2014/2015 season with this modern masterpiece.

Carlos Acosta both choreographs and takes the lead role of Basilio in Don Quixote (from 25th November 2014) dancing alongside Marianela Nunez who plays Kitri with "bewitching warmth and down-to-earth humanity" (Evening Standard).


Dance: Sadler's Wells


Autumn is a good time to visit the revered dance venue Sadler's Wells where there's non-stop dance activity including a staging of Matthew Bourne's Lord of the Flies, performed in London for the first time.

British pianist, conductor and composer Thomas Ades comes to Sadler's Wells on 30th October, 31st October and 1st November 2014 to conduct the Britten Sinfonia in his only London appearance in 2014. Thomas Ades: See the Music, Hear the Dance features four of his celebrated works, set to dance created by leading choreographers Karole Armitage, Wayne McGregor, Crystal Pite and Sadler's Wells New Wave Associate, Alexander Whitley.

Other highlights at Sadler's Wells include appearances from the Rambert Dance Company who stop by in September to perform a triptych of works by leading choreographers Shobana Jeyasingh, artistic director Mark Baldwin and Ashley Page. And the Birmingham Royal Ballet one of the UK's best loved companies who present family favourite, Beauty and the Beast, and a triple bill featuring three short works on the theme of war.


Dance & Opera: Christmas Crackers


Dance and opera fans are treated to some wonderful Christmas performances - and we're not just talking The Nutcracker - though if you do want to indulge in that most traditional of festive dances then look no further than the English National Ballet's version at the London Coliseum.

Leading up to Christmas, the Royal Opera House gives us Christof Loy's award-winning production of Tristan und Isolde, and Joanna Lee creates English National Opera's first opera for children, The Way Back Home, which will be staged at the Young Vic, bringing Oliver Jeffers delightful picture book about a trip to the moon to the stage.

The Royal Ballet stages a stunning stage version of Lewis Carroll's fantastical Adventures in Wonderland which returns to the Royal Opera House following its well-received world premiere in 2011. Christopher Wheeldon's 'Alice' combines elaborate costumes, projections and backdrops with inventive props and music by Joby Talbot.

Having so successfully given new interpretations to classics like Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Nutcracker!, Matthew Bourne now turns his attention to Edward Scissorhands, a spooky, other worldly show staged at Sadler's Wells this Christmas.

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