Opera + Classical Music Features

Preview: Vasko Vassilev 20 year anniversary @ Royal Opera, London

Vasko Vassilev

Vasko Vassilev

Next Monday’s recital in the Royal Opera House’s Lunchtime series is a most unusual one; Vasko Vassilev, the ROH Orchestra’s Concertmaster, will be celebrating his 20 year anniversary in the role with a semi-staged recital of newly commissioned arrangements of music from his favourite operas and ballets. The Paul Hamlyn Hall, once the Floral Hall and still known by that name to many opera goers, will also feature the work of Shogo Kariyazaki, the famed master of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.

We asked Vasko about his remarkable career so far – he is only 43, and was the youngest ever leader of the ROH orchestra when appointed at 23. After the RCM, he was “faced with the stark reality of not having a permanent visa in the UK despite being an international prize-winner… so I led consecutively, as the youngest guest leader, the Philharmonia, the LPO and the LSO.” So rewarding did he find leading that when the ROH invited him to audition, he leapt at the chance and can now look back on having worked with many of the great conductors of our time. It was at the behest of Bernard Haitink that he was the first in the ROH orchestra to be given the title of Concertmaster, and asked to choose from the most inspiring experiences in the house he unhesitatingly opts for his first Ring with that conductor.

The works to be performed on Monday reflect his career and future plans, with music inspired by Madama Butterfly with which he first led the orchestra in 2007 and will lead for the 2015 revival. There will also be a Turandot Fantasy and a Carmen­ – inspired ‘Flamenco Fantasy’ which is fitting as he has been involved with that work under many guises for the ROH. Taking centre stage will be a customized red piano played by the composer-arranger Pamela Tan Nicholson, whose collaboration with Vasko has enjoyed great international success.

Vasko and Pamela Tan Nicholson have been musical partners since he was 19, and she has had a huge influence on his career – he says that she is “…one of the most versatile and talented musicians I have ever met,” and “There was no way I would do this recital without her.” Their company, Trittico, has engaged in multiple projects including performance in 40 countries, showcasing their approach of mixing contemporary and classical music in different styles and programmes. Currently touring their semi-staged concept of Cinema Concertos, they have performed to standing ovations in Europe and South East Asia, with appearances in China and India lined up for 2015.

Monday’s recital combines the musical and visual – intriguingly, the ROH tell us that “Flowers will enhance the recital and everything in it, from the pianos to the costumes to the musicians to the music.” Vasko says that “Opera and ballet is always about music and visuals – so I wanted my recital to be the same.” Kariyazaki’s innovative use of flowers for stage and costume design and his work in such locations as the Petit Palais in Paris and the Fifth International Film Festival in Rome, should mean that eyes as well as ears will be delighted with the event.

Further information can be found here: roh.org.uk/events

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Vasko Vassilev 20th anniversary recital @ Royal Opera House, London
Preview: Vasko Vassilev 20 year anniversary @ Royal Opera, London