Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: Southbank Centre announces its 2015-16 Season

Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre (Photo: India Roper-Evans)

We are constantly being told that Classical Music is dead or dying: from the perspective of those of us who attend many concerts, classical music has never been more competitive with other forms of entertainment, and indeed competitive amongst its own groups and venues. It’s not uncommon to have to choose between three tempting events in an evening, often nearly sold out with enthusiastic audiences. That competition brings ambitious seasons such as this one, which has equal allure to that of the Barbican – except for the dearth of Handel on the Southbank!

The season highlights opera in concert, focus on women, a new festival on mental health, and an exceptional level of ambition in terms of new music. The major orchestral events will take place at the Royal Festival Hall, but with the closure of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room for the season, many concerts will be held in the idyllic surroundings of St John’s, Smith Square, which is very good news for those who dislike the ambience of the QEH, once described by a singer as “a place to develop photographs.”

The major focus on opera in concert brings us such delights as Karita Mattila’s UK role debut as the Kostelnička in Janácek’s Jenufa, Christian Gerhaher’s Wozzeck and the acclaimed staging of Opera North’s complete Ring. The spotlight on women brings a new festival, Deep Minimalism featuring the music of, amongst others, Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk and Mica Levi. There are new commissions from composers such as Sally Beamish, Unsuk Chin and Samantha Fernando, and conductors such as Marin Alsop feature strongly.

Another new festival, Altered Minds: Art, health and mental states explores the links between creativity and mental health with a programme of art, music, talks and debates including concerts from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a programme of Schumann with Marin Alsop, and Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments performed by Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Anu Komsi.

Orchestras featuring strongly include the LPO marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and continuing its commitment to new music, and the Philharmonia celebrating its 70th anniversary with a Myths and Rituals festival devised and led by Esa-Pekka Salonen, exploring the musical life and legacy of Stravinsky. The London Sinfonietta celebrates the 90th birthday of Pierre Boulez, the International Orchestra series presents concerts from, amongst others, the Simon Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic and the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

An intriguing new venture comes in the shape of What you Need to Know, which tells the story behind eight iconic works featured in the season: in an informal, undaunting environment, you can learn about such masterpieces as Berg’s Wozzeck and Wagner’s Ring. The course is aimed at those new to the repertoire as well as those with knowledge of it, so it should prove a popular and useful addition to the schedule.

More information on the Southbank’s 2015-16 season can be found here: southbankcentre.co.uk

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