London 2015: Classical Music, Ballet and Opera (July - December)

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China National Peking Opera Company

Farwell My Concubine

 

From the Royal Opera House to the Wigmore Hall, find out the best classical music, ballet and opera in London with Rachel Halliburton's pick of events.

 
 

Indian Classical Music

If you've never dipped your toe into Indian classical music before...

 

In the second half of this year, London's classical music scene looks east, with a wide range of performers and festivals celebrating traditions across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. At the Southbank Centre this September, the tenth Darbar Festival brings a new collection of auditory treats to the banks of the Thames with its extensive programme of classical music from India. If you've never dipped your toe into Indian classical music before, there is a five-day appreciation course to get you swimming through the different options with confidence. If you're immersed and loving it, then famous performers include Pandit Ronu Majumdar on the bansuri flute, and vocalist Pelva Naik performing dhrupad, India's oldest form of vocal music.

 
 
 

All Corners of the Globe

The Shubbak Festival celebrates contemporary Arab culture and Shaolin Kung Fu Masters return.

 

It's far from the only opportunity to travel abroad musically - the Southbank Centre also brings the female Tunisian singer Sonia M'Barek to the Purcell Room at the start of September. At Sadler's Wells, there's a celebration of contemporary Arab culture with Algerian choreographer Nacera Belaza bringing Sufi-inspired works 'Les Oiseaux', 'La Nuit' and 'La Traversee' to the Lilian Baylis Studio as part of the Shubbak Festival. In a very different work, the Shaolin Kung Fu Masters return to the UK in late September after a seven-year absence, with breathtaking choreography and dramatic use of sound for Shaolin - their popular, martial-art inspired show at the Peacock Theatre. And in November, the China National Peking Opera Company will perform 'Farewell My Concubine' and 'The Warrior Women of Wang' at Sadler's Wells. The latter show brings together a cast of over 50, combining music, song, mime and finely crafted costumes for their tale of grief, courage, patriotism and family loyalty.

 
 
 

Far East Comes West

Benedict Andrew's new production of La Boheme comes to the London Coliseum.

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Tube: Bond Street Station, Oxford Circus Station

 

Dates: 23rd July 2015

 

Artists from the Far East also feature prominently in Western classical offerings - the exciting young Chinese female conductor Xiang Zhang comes to the English National Opera to conduct the Australian director Benedict Andrew's new production of La Boheme. It's not till the start of the next year that the Bach Collegium Japan comes to the Barbican for its first big UK residency. But there are opportunities to see other exciting Japanese artists before then, including the female harpsichordist Satoko Doi-Luck - who performs different versions of the baroque styles, the chaconne and passacaille - at the Handel House Museum.

 
 
 

Big on Baroque

Catch the wonderful period-instrument Arcangelo Orchestra this July.

 

Satoko Doi-Luck's concert is just one indication that the baroque scene is as ever in fine fettle. This July the wonderful period-instrument Arcangelo Orchestra brings a programme of Couperin, Charpentier and Blow to the Wigmore Hall, featuring French baritone Stéphane Degout and the tenor Samuel Boden among their soloists. At the Barbican the French conductor Laurence Equilbey and her Insula Orchestra will make their London début with a concert including works by the Czech baroque composer Zelenka and CPE Bach. This December will see the Academy of Ancient Music performing JS Bach's Christmas Oratorio at the same venue. It will also be performing the final instalment of its three year Monteverdi cycle, Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria in September.

 
 
 

The Proms

Highlights include the first night with soloist Lars Vogt and a David Attenborough-narrated prom.

 

The summer and early autumn is, of course, dominated by The Proms, which opens on July 17 with a programme that includes 'Belshazzar's Feast' and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 with soloist Lars Vogt. The more outlandish offerings in the season include Eric Whitacre's choral and orchestral work 'Deep Field', a BBC co-commission that takes as its inspiration photos of other galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. There will also be a prom devoted to the musical mind of Sherlock Holmes, and a David Attenborough-narrated prom linked to his TV series Life Story. More traditionally there will be an impressive line-up of pianists for the complete concertos of Beethoven and Prokofiev, as well as six of Mozart's late concertos.

 
 
 
 

Superb Soloists

Alina Ibragimova, Yo-Yo Ma and percussionist Evelyn Glennie play at the Proms

 

The Proms will also bring its share of big soloists into town - including violinist Alina Ibragimova, who plays Bach in the Late Night Proms, and Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who performs all six of his cello suites in one concert. Percussionist Evelyn Glennie will mark her 50th birthday by curating her own chamber music concert for the Proms. Other big beasts in town will include pianist Stephen Hough, who this October will perform a programme of Schubert, Liszt, Franck and his own Third Sonata at the Barbican. This November the Wigmore Hall will give audiences a chance to become more familiar with the Russian-German pianist Igor Levit, described by the critics as one of the most talented musicians of his generation. And at St John's Smith Square, in the same month, another acclaimed Russian pianist, Nikolai Demidenko will perform a programme that includes Brahms and Prokofiev.

 
 
 

Happy Anniversary!

It's the 70th anniversary of the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Proms celebrate Pierre Boulez's 90th year.

 

There are plenty of big anniversaries to celebrate - at the Southbank Centre, the Philharmonia Orchestra marks its 70th anniversary with a focus on the works of Stravinsky. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment hits 30 just as its main venue at the Southbank Centre - the Queen Elizabeth Hall - undergoes major refurbishment. Smaller concerts will now be performed in St John's Smith Square, while the larger ones remain at the Royal Festival Hall. The Proms will celebrate Pierre Boulez's ninetieth year, as well as the 150th anniversaries of Nielsen and Sibelius. John Wilson and the John Wilson Orchestra will come to the Royal Albert Hall to mark, among other things, the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra's birth.

 
 
 

Entrances and Exits

Acclaimed Russian conductor Valery Gergiev departs the London Symphony Orchestra.

 

Some prominent entrances and exits feature in the conducting world this autumn. The acclaimed Russian conductor Valery Gergiev departs the London Symphony Orchestra - a great loss for the orchestra - though there is huge excitement that he will eventually be replaced by Sir Simon Rattle in 2017. This September, the maestro Bernard Haitink will feature as a guest conductor at the LSO, teaming up with pianist Murray Perahia and singer Anna Lucia Richter for three blockbusting concerts. Just off Trafalgar Square, Mark Wigglesworth begins his first season as Musical Director of the English National Opera, taking over the reins from Edward Gardner. This September he will conduct a new production of Shostakovich's 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk' - which will be directed by Dimitri Tcherniakov. Other major productions at the ENO will include Verdi's 'The Force of Destiny', directed by bad-boy Catalan director Calixto Bieito.

 
 
 

Something Completely Different

Get 'Lost In Thought' in 'A Mindfulness Opera' or see a comic meditation on love and marriage.

 

For the "And now for something completely different" factor, there is much to explore this season. In November the Royal Opera House presents 'Monotones I and II' and 'The Two Pigeons' on the main stage. In the first, Erik Satie's music accompanies Frederick Ashton's modernist choreography, while the latter is a comic meditation on the nature of love and marriage. In October, choreographers Alastair Marriott and Wayne Macgregor introduce 'Connectome' and 'Raven Girl', a mixed programme of ballets inspired by science and fairytale. At LSO St Luke's, people in search of inner peace can go to 'Lost In Thought: A Mindfulness Opera' - a four hour work based on the classic structure of meditation, accompanied by music by Rolf Hind. And at Sadler's Wells 'Genesis', choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, is a philosophical examination of the idea of life and death, looking at pressures on the individual to conform. The production is created in collaboration with Chinese dance artist, Yabin Wang, known for her dancing in the feature film House of Flying Daggers.

 
 
 

Ballet's Biggest Names

Akram Khan, Hofesh Schechter, and Matthew Bourne bring first class dance to London.

 

No classical music season would be complete without the works by ballet's biggest names - Akram Khan, Hofesh Shechter, and Matthew Bourne. Khan - in collaboration with Israel Galvan - brings Torobaka to Sadler's Wells, a work inspired by a Maori poem about the sacred traditions surrounding the cow and the bull. Bourne's The Car Man makes a triumphant return to the same venue throughout July and early August, and Shechter brings his celebrated barbarians trilogy to the UK for the first time.

 
 
 
 

New Opera

Luke Styles débuts his opera Macbeth at the Royal Opera House this September.

 

There's plenty of interesting new work to be sampled - at the Royal Opera House the Australian born, UK-raised composer Luke Styles debuts his opera 'Macbeth' this September. The ROH will also present Georg Friedrich Haas's new opera, 'Morgen und Abend' starring great German actor Klaus Maria Brandauer. In another look to the east, award-winning Syrian composer Zaid Jabri and librettists Yvette Christiansë and Rosalind Morris will present four scenes from 'Cities of Salt' in the Linbury Studio. This new opera explores the impact of the discovery of oil on a small desert community.

 
 
 

Christmas in Dance & Opera

The Little Match Girl, The Snowman and Sleeping Beauty are among the highlights.

 

Christmas, of course, brings with it a demand for more traditional entertainments, and these are abundantly available. Arthur Pit brings his sell-out success The Little Match Girl back to the Lilian Bayliss Theatre, The Snowman rolls into town back at the Peacock Theatre, and Matthew Bourne will bring back his delightful gothic Sleeping Beauty to Sadler's Wells. That great seasonal stalwart The Nutcracker starts playing at the Royal Opera House on 8th December - while the English National Ballet responds with its own version from 16th December. Plenty, then, with which to stuff your musical stocking, with the future of classical music in London looking as bright as the star on top of any Christmas tree.

 
 
 
 
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