Making music again #2

Back in July I shared a few ways we could still see live music in spite of the pandemic, but it was marvellous to experience it for myself recently.

Orchestra of Opera North: The Four SeasonsOpera North
From baroque Mantua to mid-20th century Buenos Aires, two radiant evocations of place and the passing of time. Celebrated British violinist Chloë Hanslip joins musicians from the Orchestra of Opera North as soloist/director in Vivaldi’s tour de force.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is so well known as to be almost cliche, but Chloe’s performance, together with a slimmed-down (though no less powerful) version of the Orchestra of Opera North, was stunning — so joyful and energetic. And following it with Piazzolla’s version was great fun, too.

Written in the mid to late 1960s, Argentine composer and bandoneon virtuoso Ástor Piazzolla’s Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas are a witty and playful tribute in tango to Vivaldi’s concerti.

I had never heard this piece before. My knowledge of Piazzolla starts and ends with Libertango, so it was wonderful to be introduced to some more. Here’s a performance of it by the Curtis Institute of Music.

I wasn’t the only one to appreciate being back in the Town Hall again, however different the seating arrangements might be now.

But let’s not forget opera and ballet. 25 October was World Opera Day, swiftly followed by World Ballet Day on 29 October.

Celebrating opera freelancers for World Opera DayOpera Holland Park
At Opera Holland Park, we know the most exciting part of the year has arrived when our team grows from just under twenty to around 300, as we’re joined by the talented freelancers who work onstage, backstage, Front of House and in our Box Office. For World Opera Day 2020, we want to share a few of the projects some of those freelancers have been working on over the last few months.

Calling all ballet lovers! World Ballet Day 2020 is on October 29Pointe
“Now, more than ever, the digital celebration of dance promises to unite us all as we face new, shared challenges across the world,” says Royal Ballet director Kevin O’Hare, adding that he looks forward to “bringing our art form to audiences who are missing live performances.”

2020, eh? Will things ever be the same again?

How hundreds of freelance musicians asked for help with a socially distanced protest and performance at WestminsterITV News
Parliament Square echoed to the sound of classical music today as 400 musicians staged a mini concert to highlight the impact of coronavirus. The pop-up performance of Gustav Holst’s Mars was limited to 90 seconds by the police to avoid attracting a crowd.

‘Being told to retrain is an insult’: 150 opera singers fight for the arts in Parliament protestClassic FM
“This protest today is really one of the largest musical gatherings in the UK since coronavirus,” said Romaniw, speaking to Classic FM. “It’s about coming together and singing together in unison, to really protest for the future of our industry, and to celebrate the importance of art and live music. There’s nothing quite like it.

Waiting for Tosca

We’re off to see Opera North’s Tosca in a few weeks. Can’t wait, it’s been getting some great reviews.

Tosca, Grand Theatre, Leeds, review: Drama to hit you in the gut – chiming with the demands of Puccini’s music
Post-Weinstein, and following revelations of world-wide corruption in the Catholic church, recent history has played into the hands of any director who wants to give Puccini’s Tosca topicality. Edward Dick and his team have eagerly grabbed this opportunity: their production for Opera North is both viscerally shocking in its violence, and queasily recognisable in its portrayal of the deal which power likes to make for sex.

Tosca review, Opera North, Grand Theatre Leeds: a brutal, thumping success
The closest opera has yet come to the world-view of the action movie, Tosca hits hard, below the belt.There is no subtlety to mine here (though I toy with a fancy that Tosca might secretly be quite excited by Scarpia’s sexual offer) and no time to waste: from the violent opening explosion to the heroine’s final defiant death leap, Puccini has no higher aim than that of gripping an audience by its vitals.

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Tosca review – contemporary take on Puccini is compelling and creepy
Edward Dick’s provocative, if quirky new production of Tosca for Opera North relocates Puccini’s political thriller from Rome during the Napoleonic wars to an unnamed present-day country in which church and state collude as forces of reaction. Dick is acutely aware that the opera maps on to the concerns of our own times – the printed programme contains photographs of a Five Star Movement rally in Rome and Donald Trump standing, head bowed, in front of a wooden cross. The staging alludes, too, both to the emergence of the new far right and the abusive sexuality that has resulted in #MeToo.

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Tosca, Opera North review – exciting update, strong on sonic thrills
Puccini’s Tosca isn’t a subtle work, and this, Opera North’s fourth production since the company’s founding in 1978, is occasionally too loud and crude. But it’s undeniably powerful. Edward Dick’s 2017 Hansel and Gretel left me a little nonplussed, but this Tosca is miles better, a colourful update which manages to juggle plenty of schlock with sound artistic nous. He’s helped by conductor Antony Hermus, making his Opera North debut and securing some terrific, full-throated orchestral playing, much of it at the upper end of the dynamic scale.

In preparation, I’ve been listening to this Callas recording — it’s all pretty thunderous stuff!

Puccini – Tosca (Callas, Di Stefano, Gobbi – recording of the Century : Victor De Sabata)

The Opera North version is directed by Edward Dick, the guy behind the amazing Hansel and Gretel we saw last year.

Hansel and Gretel review – screen-savvy kids summon a Blair Witch fairytale
Bold video projections evoke an online forest where two youngsters find danger, in Opera North’s imaginative Engelbert Humperdinck revival.

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