Opera + Classical Music Features

Great Performers 2007-2008

With the Royal Festival Hall threatening to finally reopen in June of this year, its competitors must work especially hard to attract both audiences and performers.

The Barbican’s Great Performers line up looks to be the product of immense care and thought.

It boasts not only a spectacular selection of world class artists, but also a wide and complementary range of shows that should appeal to even the most eclectic taste.

One treat looks to be the Festival by Peter Sellars, which kicks off the season in July. Titled New Crowned Hope, this mix of music, dance and political debate was created by Sellars as a response to Mozart’s 250th, and it looks to be about the most artistically valid thing to have stemmed from the anniversary. Given its UK premiere is the new, highly praised, John Adams opera The Flowering Tree, which comes to London with Adams conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Jessica Rivera providing the vocal thrills (from 10 August 07). Also recommended is Kaija Saariaho‘s La Passion de Simone with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (from 10 July 07).

Contemporary music is, indeed, served well throughout the season. On 21 October 07, the Philip Glass Ensemble perform Glass’s Music in Twelve Parts; one of the most important minimalist works and also one of the lengthiest. On 12 June 08, the compoer’s opera Waiting for the Barbarians will be given its UK premiere. Osvaldo Golijov‘s Ainadamar will be seen on 13 April 08, and on the 24th of that month, Kaija Saariaho‘s Adriana Mater will be conducted by Edward Gardner.

Meanwhile, popular tenor Ian Bostridge will perform throughout the season in a tempting series of performances. Britten’s harrowing masterpiece Billy Budd is up first, with Daniel Harding conducting the LSO and Bostridge partnered by Nathan Gunn as Billy and John Relyea as Claggart (from 7 December 07). On January 14, there is the immensely inviting prospect of Schubert Lieder with Bostridge, Dorothea Rschmann and Thomas Quasthoff. On 14 March 08, Iestyn Davies and Carolyn Sampson complete a fantastic cast for the St John Passion, while October 08 sees Bostridge partnered by Mitsuko Uchida, most excitingly in Schubert’s Die Winterreise on the 21st. However, it is at your peril that you miss Idomeneo on May 14 2008, given that Kate Royal (a great Countess at Glyndebourne) performs Ilia, Christine Rice performs Idamante and Emma Bell performs Elettra, the role with which she opened La Scala’s 2005 season to tremendous acclaim.

On 17 April 2008, Christopher Hogwood conducts the Academy of Ancient Music in Handel’s Flavio, while leading counter tenor Andreas Scholl performs in a number of the composer’s cantatas on 21 January 08. Recitals from Dmitri Hvorostovsky on 9 October 07 and Cecilia Bartoli on 19 December 07 are both promising. Natalie Dessay (so characterful in the Royal Opera’s La Fille du rgiment) makes a couple of highly anticipated appearances, while Magdalena Kozena sings a welcome selection of Baroque arias on November 15 2007. After his La Scala theatrics last month, the prospect of Roberto Alagna‘s recital on 2 May 08 is actually rather exciting, while the vocal phenomenon that is Juan Diego Flrez returns to the Barbican on 12 July 08 after his superb appearance in December last year.

On 16 October 07, the talented violinist Gidon Kremer directs the Kremerata Baltica in a very promising programme that includes Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence. Itzhak Perlman is also not to be missed when he performs a solo recital on 13 November 07. Meanwhile, on the piano, Murray Perahia and Piotr Anderszewski perform on 12 February 08 and 15 March 08 respectively. Highly recommended.

With regard to orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic‘s two concerts under Valery Gergiev are obvious musts (22 and 23 February 08), while Mariss Jansons conducts the Amsterdam Concertgebouw twice, most interestingly on 26 June 08 in the great Turangulila Symphony by Messiaen. Esa-Pekka Salonen‘s concert on 9 November 07 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the luxuriously toned Karita Mattila should also be a necessity. However, after their impassioned performance of The Creation last year, I am tempted to predict that Paul McCreesh conducting the Gabrieli Consort and Players in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (18 October 07) will be the highlight of the year. It also helps that two of the most articulate and expressive artists around Miah Persson and Christianne Stotijn lead the quartet of singers.

With such a line up, one thing seems clear – the Royal Festival Hall has a fight on its hands if it wishes to become London’s most popular concert venue.

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