Saturday, July 30, 2016
The Paul Hamlyn Hall © ROH, 2014 With The Royal Opera and Royal Ballet Companies having headed off on their summer break, there are only a handful of performances left of the 2015/16 Season. Before the theatre closes for its annual summer refresh, we welcome Pet Shop Boys for a unique four date residency to celebrate the release of their new album and the Bolshoi Ballet . The Moscow-based company are always popular with London audiences and we look forward to welcoming them to Covent Garden for their performances of five productions over the course of two weeks. Reflecting on the past 10 months, I hope you have enjoyed the variety offered by our two resident Companies. My own personal highlights from The Royal Opera's Season included John Eliot Gardiner 's collaboration with the Monteverdi Choir , Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and the Hofesh Shechter Company in Orphée et Eurydice , a stunning new production of Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci under the baton of Antonio Pappano and the final performance of Werther , which saw Joyce DiDonato and Vittorio Grigolo bow out on a high before the tenor returns next Season in Les Contes d'Hoffmann . During The Royal Ballet's Season, I particularly enjoyed the debuts in Romeo and Juliet and the Company's Christopher Wheeldon Mixed Programme. It was also - as ever - a delight to see the reaction from younger audience members to The Nutcracker . I'm sure that each of our supporters will have their own favourite moments from the 2015/16 Season. Do share them via the comments section below. We now look forward to the coming Season, with booking for Autumn 2016 now open. Friends booking for Winter opens in September 2016 - do check specific booking dates for the various membership levels before then. Until September, and on behalf of the Royal Opera House a huge thank you to all of you.
Romeo And Juliet | The Queen Of Spades | National Youth Orchestra | Der Nächtliche Wanderer | NormaJohn Eliot Gardiner’s performance of Berlioz’s great dramatic symphony ticks the Proms’ Shakespeare box. It’s with the Monteverdi Choir and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique; Julie Boulianne, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and Laurent Naouri are the soloists. Continue reading...
When I encounter a fine musician, I really do not much care if the recording is old or new. What I care about is whether I derive a lot of pleasure and satisfaction from the musical interpretation. That was the case today, when I spent some time listening to violinist Viktoria Mullova perform the music of Bach on an older recording. I was thrilled by her sound, her sensitive interpretation, and her technique. What I heard is captured on this recording: Bach, J S: Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin, BWV1001-1006 Performed dby Viktoria Mullova (violin) The London Guardian wrote: “To hear Mullova play Bach is, simply, one of the greatest things you can experience” Some years ago Viktoria Mullova recorded the three Bach Partitas on a modern violin but has never recorded the Sonatas, and in the meantime her interpretations have been transformed by her studies in Baroque practice and her subsequent performances with masters such as Gardiner, Dantone, Harnoncourt, Antonini and il Giardino Armonico. BBC Music Magazine wrote the following: “In this recording Viktoria Mullova presents virtually flawless playing but, of greater importance, she sustains an impeccably punctuated, modulated and compelling dialogue through Bach’s counterpoint with seemingly effortless intimacy and charm.” Here is Ms. Mullova performing the music of Bach:
Liam Scarlett in rehearsal for The Age of Anxiety ©ROH. Bill Cooper 2014. Frankenstein is Liam Scarlett ’s first full-length piece for The Royal Ballet on the Covent Garden main stage, but in recent years his one-act works have made him a familiar presence at the Royal Opera House – and indeed further afield. Here are a few highlights from his prolific career to date: Viscera Inspired by the raw energy of Lowell Liebermann ’s First Piano Concerto, Scarlett created Viscera for Miami City Ballet in 2012. It has since been performed by The Royal Ballet twice, in 2012 and 2015. ‘There’s no taking it easy in this ballet’, Scarlett says: the outer movements are a whirlwind of energy, and the searing pas de deux which comprises the central movement simmers with intensity. Sweet Violets Scarlett’s first narrative ballet, created for The Royal Ballet in 2012, explores the artist Walter Sickert’s sordid fascination with Jack the Ripper . Sweet Violets is a dark, brooding ballet incorporating John Macfarlane ’s atmospheric sets of murky London brothels and backstreets, and Rachmaninoff ’s haunting Trio élégiaque as its score. A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare’s plays have long provided brilliant fodder for choreographers, from Christopher Wheeldon ’s The Winter’s Tale to Frederick Ashton ’s The Dream – and Scarlett turned to the same play that had enchanted Ashton half a century earlier for his 2015 work for Royal New Zealand Ballet and Queensland Ballet . To Mendelssohn ’s famous music, Scarlett conjured a funny, touching ballet which, the New Zealand Herald wrote, ‘may well become a classic telling’. The Age of Anxiety W.H. Auden ’s poem The Age of Anxiety is set in New York in 1944, following four figures trying to make sense of the modern world. Leonard Bernstein ’s Second Symphony, also a response to Auden’s poem, is the score to which Scarlett sets this 2014 Royal Ballet commission. Inflected with jazz and a sombre, bittersweet edge, the music and dance combine with Auden’s poem to form a fascinating trio. No Man’s Land Like Sweet Violets, Scarlett’s 2014 creation for English National Ballet draws on early 20th century British history – but here we are drawn into the Britain of World War I, and the women left behind by the newly drafted soldiers. The ballet combines a re-creation of a munitions factory staffed by these women with the men’s fate in the trenches, as well as a series of emotional pas de deux of love and loss. Watch more films like these on the Royal Opera House YouTube channel: Frankenstein runs 4-27 May 2016. Tickets are still available . The ballet is a co-production with San Francisco Ballet and is generously supported by the Taylor Family Foundation, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Will and Beth Gardiner, Karl and Holly Peterson, The Shauna Gosling Trust, The Constance Travis Charitable Trust, The American Friends of Covent Garden, the Frankenstein Production Syndicate, Bently Foundation, The Hellman Family and E. L. Wiegand Foundation.
Laura Morera as Elizabeth Lavenza and Federico Bonelli as Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein. © ROH 2016. Photograph by Bill Cooper Choreographer Liam Scarlett ’s new Royal Ballet production of Frankenstein will be broadcast live on BP Big Screens across the UK and in cinemas worldwide on 18 May 2016 at 7.15pm BST. Royal Ballet Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett has created numerous works for the Company, but Frankenstein is his first full-length work for the Covent Garden main stage. In his interpretation of Mary Shelley ’s gothic novel , the choreographer focuses on the tender love story between Victor and his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth as well as the emotions of Frankenstein's Creature. Of the ballet Scarlett says, ‘I think when the curtain goes down you’re not going to know who to feel more sorry for’. Download the Frankenstein Digital Programme for free using the promo code FREEFRANK and enjoy a range of specially selected films, articles, pictures and features to bring you closer to the production. The relay will be presented by former Royal Ballet Principal Darcey Bussell and BBC broadcaster Ore Oduba . BP Big Screen audiences will see exclusive coverage from Trafalgar Square, presented by conductor and choral expert Dominic Peckham . Find your nearest free-to-attend BP Big Screen . The Story A story that needs minimal introduction, Frankenstein has fascinated the world ever since it was first published in 1818 and is one of the key texts of the Gothic genre. Mary Shelley's novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein who succeeds in giving life to non-living matter. Horrified at what he has done, Victor abandons his Creation. Read about the true stories behind Frankenstein The Production Designer and artist John Macfarlane has set the novel back in the era of its publication and includes Gothic motifs such as a lavish manor house, a detailed re-creation of a 19th-century anatomy theatre and a magnificent display of electricity. The Music Frankenstein features an original score by Lowell Liebermann . Scarlett has used a number of the composer's works to score previous works, but this is the composer's first commissioned score for Scarlett. ‘I wanted something hauntingly beautiful’ says the choreographer, ‘and I think he really has done that.’ Read Lowell Liebermann's insights into the process of creating a ballet score The Cast Steven McRae as The Creature and Federico Bonelli as Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein. ©ROH 2016. Photographed by Andrej Uspenski In the cinema/BP Big Screen relay, Federico Bonelli will dance the role of Victor Frankenstein with Laura Morera as his sweetheart, Elizabeth. The Creature will be danced by Steven McRae . Review and win Frankenstein opened on 4 May 2016. Read audience reactions to the opening night and add your own review . After the relay, we will publish a roundup of audience tweets, so share your thoughts with the hashtag #ROHfrankenstein. BP Big Screen audiences will also have the opportunity to win a selection of Royal Ballet and Royal Opera DVDs by sharing their summer selfies from venues around the UK. Tweet or Instagram your pictures with the hashtag for the chance to win. Frankenstein will be broadcast live to BP Big Screens in the UK and cinemas worldwide on 18 May 2016. Find your nearest BP Big Screen to watch for free or your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list . The production is a co-production with San Francisco Ballet and is generously supported by The Taylor Family Foundation, Sarah and Lloyd Dorfman, Simon and Virginia Robertson, Will and Beth Gardiner, Karl and Holly Peterson, The Shauna Gosling Trust, The Constance Travis Charitable Trust, The American Friends of Covent Garden, the Frankenstein Production Syndicate, Bently Foundation, The Hellman Family and E. L. Wiegand Foundation.
Perceptions of Hector Berlioz Roméo et Julette Op17 1839. have been shaped by performance practice filtered through recordings which is fair enough, since recordings reach more than live performasnces. Given Berlioz's fascination with Shakespeare and other things English, it's perhaps not so surprising either that English conductors dominate recordings. Everyone's grown up with Colin Davis, for example. Over the years, though, my feelings about Berlioz have been developing on different lines, thanks, probably to getting immersed in John Eliot Gardiner, Historically informed performance isn't about instruments so much as about understanding a composer on his own terms, and imagining whathe might have envisaged. In Berlioz's own time, he was very much avant garde. His Grand Treatise on Orchestration (1843) championed among other things the saxophone, invented only three years before and still very much experimental. The picture above shows Berlioz conducting to the horror of his audience, the figures in the foreground supposedly include Franz Liszt .Recently a friend recommended listening to Pierre Boulez's Roméo et Juliette, with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestras, recorded live in 1970, though not issued until some years later. How distinctive it sounds ! Boulez wasn't conducting a period orchestra but he seems to have understood why Berlioz used instruments like the ophicliede. They aren't timid ! Hence the fanfare in the introduction, the quirky trumpets and bassoons. the lushness of the harps and above all the sassy punch of the strings, pulling everything pulling together with dramatic forward thrust. We hear the wayward dance figures, and the sinister, almost demonic undercurrents. Roméo et Juliette is neither a stage play nor conventional opera but an innovation : music theatre for orchestra. Shakespeare carried no cultural baggage for continental European audiences in Berlioz's time, so the composer could do pretty much his own take on the story, using the Garrick version of the play brought to Paris in 1827 by Charles Kemble, which Berlioz attended and where he became infatuated with Harriet Smithson. The picture at left shows Smithson and Kemble in a production in the 1840's. In an age before close-ups and amplification, theatre practice would have to have been more exaggerated than we're used to now. Perhaps Berlioz, a theatre critic, intuited that good orchestral writing had the potential to express feelings in greater complexity than most actors at the time were capable of. The extremes in this music reflect stage practice, yet modified by the sophistication that orchestral subtlety can provide. This is an intense performance, made all the more powerful because Boulez draws from the dramatic tension inherent in the music itself : a composer's insight into interpretation, that springs from within. Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette isn't about the lovers so much but about cross currents : feuding families, , crowds versus individuals, beauty versus violence and in the midst of all this, an element of supernatural magic that is more "Gothic" than Shakespeare. Structurally it's tight, the Prince holding forth in the beginning and the brilliant Friar Laurence monologue at the end. Montagues and Capiults rip each other apart, but Friar Laurence's intelligence and humanity give Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette its power.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner (20 April 1943) is an English conductor. He founded the Monteverdi Choir (1966), the English Baroque Soloists (1978) and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (1990). Gardiner has recorded over 250 albums with these and other musical ensembles, most of which have been published by Deutsche Grammophon and Philips Classics. Gardiner is most famous for his interpretations of Baroque music on period instruments with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, but his repertoire and discography are not limited to early music. Gardiner has served as chief conductor of the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra and has appeared as guest conductor with such major orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Philharmonia, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Vienna Philharmonic.