Showing posts from July, 2023
  The Fairy Queen Longborough Festival Opera *****   ‘The Fairy Queen’ is often described as a “Restoration spectacular” and that term certainly proved to be apt in this fresh and vibrant take on Purcell’s semi-opera: a fascinating mash-up of baroque and folk music, interwoven with chunks of Shakespeare’s text from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that – whilst the inspiration for Purcell’s work – forms no part of the composer’s original libretto; indeed, this new production was as much ‘semi-play’ as ‘semi-opera’.   What so easily could have been an unhappy marriage of mixed musical styles was anything but in the sensitive hands of Co-Music Directors Harry Sever & Naomi Burrell; their realisation blended these styles seamlessly, and of course so many of Purcell’s masques in ‘The Fairy Queen’ are close in idiom to folk music of the time.   In the hands of Director Polly Graham and Designer Nate Gibson, Shakespeare’s wood became an abandoned urban theme park, complete with
                                                                CBSO YOUTH ORCHESTRA ACADEMY                                                             Symphony Hall **** What might have appeared a somewhat wan winding-up of the CBSO Youth Orchestra’s year (a last-minute change of venue, an audience straggling across the stalls of the auditorium) turned out to be a fizzer of a concert, the hand-picked Academy delivering a Scottish-themed programme under its regular conductor Michael Seal. Seal, freshly-returned from conducting the CBSO’s Bollywood concert at the Royal Albert Hall Proms, presided as coolly and magisterially as ever over his youthful charges (some so youthful that the obligatory chaperone was there, sitting unobtrusively at the side of the stage), baton so clear, left hand eloquent, all gestures carefully marshalling his forces. Peter Maxwell Davies’ An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise was given with a huge amount of rhythmic gusto, not least from the strings, bras
                                               CBSO PROM                                                             Royal Albert Hall ****   Written within six years of each other in the 1930s, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana are as different as chalk and cheese. The Stravinsky, hieratic and austere (no upper strings nor warm clarinets) seems to be distancing itself from the political turmoil of the period, while the Orff throws itself enthusiastically into populist hurly-burly (whilst occasionally revealing a previously unnoticed debt to the Stravinsky). Bringing his full forces of the CBSO and its several Choruses, along with University of Birmingham Voices, to the Royal Albert Hall, still-new Principal Conductor Kazuki Yamada literally brought a 6000-strong audience to its feet (and not just the Arena and Gallery Prommers) after a gripping concert featuring both works. Projection was heroic in this distancing acoustic, a far cry (forgive t
                                                              l’Orfeo                                              Longborough Festival Opera ***** Nestling in the Cotswolds, this charming venue has long gained international renown for its Wagner presentations, so it might come as a surprise to find artistic director Polly Graham turning her attention to Monteverdi’s l’Orfeo. Yet this example of one of the earliest pioneering operas, creating a whole new art-form, does in fact share several of Wagner’s ideas. Inspired by recent discoveries about the structure and delivery of the sound-world of ancient Greek theatre, an academy of enthusiasts hit upon the idea of seamlessly unfolding heightened text-delivery creating something original (an aim echoed by Wagner a quarter of a millennium later, where recitative took precedence over set-piece arias and ensembles). Naturally the subject-matter for these creators centred upon the seminal staple of all music, the legend of Orpheus, wh
                 CBSO PREMIERE AT THE CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL                                              By Christopher Morley     James B. Wilson owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Cheltenham Music Festival.   “They are renowned for their support of new music and have provided many opportunities to me.,” he begins.   “After graduating from the Royal Academy of Music I was invited to participate in their Composes’ Academy and wrote probably what I consider my Opus number one, a choral piece called ‘Lullaby’.”   That was in 2014 and since then I was commissioned again to write a piece for Chineke!   which was ‘The Green Fuse’, a response to a Dylan Thomas poem. It was Chineke!’s first-ever commission, something historic I am proud to have had a hand in. That work was later recorded on the NMC label and has become quite a calling-card for me. So Cheltenham’s support has been invaluable in my progression as an artist.”   James   has repaid his debt by composing a n