This had to be a special Proms season, and so it is; when you’re competing with the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics, you need a starry line-up. Booking opens next Saturday, online very much to the fore, and you’d better be quick off the mark if you want to get your first choices. For the 7th year running, Promming tickets are 5, and for the very first time, seats are half price for the under-18s, the sole exception to that being the Last Night. The Festival Director does not make any claims for the Proms along the lines of ‘the People’s Proms’ or ‘Proms for the Young,’ but he would have been quite justified in doing so.
So, what’s on top of our list? musicOMH staff interests cover just about everything on offer, but these are the highlights. For the first time ever, the six major opera performances will include complete operas from each of the Royal Opera House (Berlioz’ Les Troyens starring Jonas Kaufmann and conducted by Antonio Pappano, on July 22nd) the English National Opera (Britten’s Peter Grimes starring Stuart Skelton and conducted by Edward Gardner, on August 24th), and Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro starring Vito Priante, on August 28th).
As ever, the First and Last nights are magnets for lovers of great voices: on the opening night, Bryn Terfel features in an all-British programme which includes Elgar’s Coronation Ode as well as the world premiere of a new work by Mark-Anthony Turnage (July 13th). On the last night, Joseph Calleja sings arias including ‘Pourquoi me réveiller?’ and ‘E lucevan le stelle’ — what a long way he has come since we interviewed him in 2010.
Another ‘first’ sees the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Vienna Philharmonic giving two performances each in one season — the former on August 30th (Ligeti, Wagner, Sibelius, Debussy, Ravel) and 31st (Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2, Lutoslawski’s 3rd Symphony) under Simon Rattle, and the latter on September 6th (Beethoven’s 4th Piano Concerto, Bruckner’s 9th Symphony) and 7th (Haydn’s Symphony No. 104, Strauss’ An Alpine Symphony) under Bernard Haitink.
As usual, British choral works feature strongly, this year including Elgar’s The Apostles and the Proms premiere of Howells’ Hymnus Paradisi. That honorary Brit George Frideric Handel features in three Proms, most notably in a rare outing for the wonderful Judas Maccabeus, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment directed by Laurence Cummings, and a starry line-up drawn from the finest of today’s Handelian singers, with John Mark Ainsley in the title role (July 19th).
There are no fewer than 17 new commissions this year, plus 5 world premieres and 14 other UK and London first performances, and the anniversaries of both Debussy and Delius are handsomely celebrated. Every Prom is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and in HD sound via the website at bbc.co.uk/radio3 — all are available to listen to again for a further seven days. Tickets go on sale from 09.00 on May 12th via the website at bbc.co.uk/proms, by telephone on 08454015040, and in person at the Royal Albert Hall.