Royal Opera House favourite Jonas Kaufmann clips

Source ROH: Watch: Our favourite Jonas Kaufmann clips

‘Ahead of the tenor’s performance at the Last Night of the BBC Proms, we pick some of our favourite YouTube clips.

BY LOTTIE BUTLER (ASSISTANT CONTENT PRODUCER (NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA))

9 SEPTEMBER 2015 AT 3.00PM | COMMENT ON THIS ARTICLE

Acclaimed German tenor Jonas Kaufmann will take to the stage of the Royal Albert Hallthis Saturday for the grand finale of the Proms. Last Night of the Proms, a celebrated concert that marks the close of the two-month classical music festival, will be broadcast live on BBC Two (first half from 7.15pm) and BBC One (second half from 9pm).

Jonas will join pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, soprano Danielle de Niese and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Marin Alsop. They will perform a programme that ranges from world premieres to the National Anthem. View the full programme.

Jonas will sing Thomas Arne’s ‘Rule, Britannia!’ (the first German to do so at the Last Night of the Proms) as well as operatic arias ‘Nessun Dorma’ from Turandot, ‘Recondita armonia’ from Tosca and ‘Donna non vidi mai’ from Manon Lescaut.

For a taster of Saturday’s performance, watch Jonas perform ‘Donna non vidi mai’ inJonathan Kent’s production of Manon Lescaut. The production had its world premiere in June 2014, and was subsequently screened live in cinemas across the world:

Jonas has just released a new album – Nessun Dorma: The Puccini Album. The recording, which includes excerpts from all of Puccini’s operas (except the all-femaleSuor Angelica), was recorded with Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and choir of the Accademia Nazionale Di Santa Cecilia.

Jonas next performs at Covent Garden as the lovestruck Don José, opposite Anita Rachvelishvili‘s fiery femme fatale in Francesca Zambello’s Royal Opera production ofCarmen. To whet your appetite, watch an extract of his performance at Covent Garden from 2006:

Jonas made his Royal Opera debut in 2004 as Ruggero in La rondine, and has since sung roles including Alfredo in La traviata, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Don Carlo, and Maurizio in Adriana Lecouvreur. In April 2014, he performed a hugely successful main-stage recital of Winterreise, Schubert’s lieder cycle that he has also recorded with Sony:

Carmen runs 19 October–30 November 2015. Tickets are still available for some performances.’

Day tickets are released at 10am each morning for personal callers , and returns may become available

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Hello old friend – and i don’t mean Puccini ;-)

http://www.vevo.com/watch/USSM21500374?syndicationid=bb8a16ab-1279-4f17-969b-1dba5eb60eda&shortlink=kkzoiS&country=GB

Please click on the link above to view the video, otherwise it is embedded into the ClassicFM article linked below (it’s a promo video but apparently not available everywhere, etc and i can’t embed it here as Vevo and WP seem to hate each other)

Talk about coincidences, this is what dropped into my Inbox this morning 🙂 I knew the CD was coming, it is somewhere in my pre-order list at amazon, but i’d pre-ordered it and then forgot about it. I do have everything he has recorded to date, not all DVDs, but all CDs as it is the audio aspect that interests me more that some productions.

ClassicFM has done a funny little article about it here 😉 Feel free to have a look and don’t throw tomatoes at the photos, i knew, some kid in the office has been at photoshop again and he ain’t very good about it! As you can easily tell by comparison with the live figure in the video 😀 No idea why they do this stuff and create bad wax replicas in photos, but there you go, money only goes so far with the classical music business and the money goes to the recording process and little is left to pay really good photographers…

I know these videos are made for a purpose, to sell. But i have no issue with that, particularly as it is a tiny market compared to pop music and singers, if lucky, only make about 1 Eur per CD sold. These days it is more to capture a voice for future generations, to get to sing stuff you may not get a chance to do on stage, to collaborate with certain musicians, etc. And these recordings are very expensive to make, pay the orchestra, the conductor, the venue. It used to take several weeks in the past but these days people hardly have the funds to stretch recordings like these for more than 1 week. So it is intense, very hard work, sometimes 6h+ in the studio/hall a day. And that is a lot for singers who under normal circumstances when they performed sing for about 3-5h a night every 3 days on average.

Anyway, enough boring background about the making of 😉 This video is a promo about the upcoming CD which contains only Puccini arias. Funny enough Puccini is not my favourite composer at all, BUT the man had a knack for brilliant stage drama and the music can rival the best of movie scored from today. And he picked interesting stories to tell.

I am sure anyone will recognise some arias on this video, the Tosca bits and the Vincero 😉 (from Turandot, about an princess who kills all the potential suitors who can’t solve the riddles she sets them 😉 this one is set to defeat her however, duh! 😉 ) I do like Tosca a lot and not just the well known bits but the duets and the interactions and he is by far my favourite painter, Mario Cavaradossi. I can’t begin to describe the sweetness of his vocal lines when the talks to his lover, the famous singing diva, Floria Tosca. Check this out, from a live performance and listen out for the chuckles, smooching sounds and all that 😉

It is one of my favourite roles of his, among other things because i was there when he sang it for the first time, in London with Tony Pappano (same conductor as on the upcoming CD) a bit over 7 years ago 🙂 Another very fond memory of those nights (went to see it 3 times 😉 ) is the way the hall went dead silent when he sang his last year just before he knew he was going to die, saying good bye to his memories of her and to life in general and hearing the sighs and sobs of people around me, men and women alike. In fact people were so utterly moved, nobody dared to clap at the end of the aria and that is, as far as i know unheard of. Because you see, in opera, arias are there to impress with vocal proves, with high notes and it can be so exciting to hear you forget what the singer sang about and cheer him for what he is able to accomplish with his voice.  Now imagine somebody who puts his all into it and all he gets is…. silence 🙂 We actually had to tell him what people were experiencing after the show, as he thought something had gone wrong for the usual reaction not to happen. As he says in the video, Pappano knew him better maybe than he knew himself as an artist at the time and gave him this role to own, at a time when nobody in an opera house as big as the ROH would have considered to pick him for something as challenging and high profile. And boy was it special 🙂 I remember wanting to come back again and again and again (i wasn’t living in London at the time) until a ‘certain someone’ said: ‘don’t, it’s enough, i’ll do this again’.

And i have seen it quite a few more times and hope to see it some more 🙂

His Mario i’ll never get bored with. But there is another role on the CD and of Puccini that i particularly like, he mentions him in the video as well, the story of the bandit, saved by a strong woman 🙂 Puccini adored his leading ladies and his operas are mostly showcases for sopranos. But i like this story because it was written at the beginning of the century when stories of strong women were not necessarily a staple on stage and it is nice that for once the hero is not the tenor 🙂 This aria, which happens towards the end of the opera is therefore special, because it captures a moment of utter vulnerability. He has been captured, his bandit days are over and he is prepared to die hanging and asks them to not tell her about his death but pretend he has gotten away and if living a life of freedom (And then she comes and convinces them to let him go as she believes he is reformed and she can save him; the opera actually has a happy ending, which is unusual!).

So there it is, video from a live performance this time, Ch’ella mi creda libero e lontano (let her believe me free and far away from here..):

Looking forward to the CD now, not only because of the nice memories it has brought back, but because this is the most thrilling, powerful, rich, raw and emotional voice i have ever heard live on an opera stage 🙂 Mille grazie Jonas 🙂

#BlogIntroChallenge 1: What made you start blogging?

The lovely and ever inventive and creative Guylty has issued a new blog challenge. It is all a journey of introspection via the above question path. I’ll take this slowly, as seems to be my pace round here, but time is impossibly limited so at least i can start with nr 1.

I had this half written and ironically in the page i had written i was saying how much more i enjoy my new blog home compared to the old…. when i clicked by mistake and the whole thing was gone! Why is there no auto-save on WP???

Unfortunately i now have to cut the story short 😦

What i was saying is that this blog is not really new, i have been at it for a surprising – to me – number of years just changed street address so to speak. Meet me… back in 2008…  Opera is Magic!

The impulse back then was the same as when i pushed myself to get back at it: real life experiences which were both enriching and life changing. I’ve been going to live performances of music and theatre since the age of 3 when i parents first took me to see an opera. It has always been part of my life, but it was growing and changing myself and circumstances around me that led to a more conscious enjoyment of it. I moved countries and had to travel a lot for work so could only see a lot less. I learned to live without the frequency of events, experienced other hobbies and discovered the internet at some point as a means of keeping in touch with the artistic world.

I also realised that what for me has always been a source of joy and excitement did not mean overall positive reactions. In seems at least in classical music the more people know and have experienced, the more they enjoy criticising and debating. So i wanted to keep that feeling of excitement for longer  but also convey it to others, among which many of my friends who had not experienced it before or to a much lesser degree. Which is sort of why my first post was in Spanish although i am not a native speaker, to share with friends. I switched to English immediately after as the interactions outside the net suggested other people may want to read too.

I got enormous joy out of writing and sharing the experience and the travel time in hotels allowed me to keep it alive for a good number of years. When work pattern changed it became more difficult also because some of the people i shared the experience in writing crossed over in real life and i was having the face to face conversation that i used to have in writing before. 2012 has been a year of artistic high points and big accumulation in real life of events, i lost the energy to repeat what i spent tens of hours talking about. And the two years that follow lack any high points that came close to those. Nothing quite reached the level of excitement that i had experienced before ( and other rl concerns emerged as well).

As you can see i couldn’t bring myself to close it completely, not even to make it private, i loved writing it. So i kept it and i routinely played around with the idea of continuing. I created the empty shell of my current house more than a year before i actually started writing again..

And then came 2014 🙂 with a life changing summer you have heard much about by now 😉 And i felt inspired, challenged, enriched again.The inspiration came from where i did  not expect it and it is very different to write about something that is so much less familiar to me. And i felt it has also given me the permission to write about other topics too. And inspiration and joy has come not only from the impulse originator, but also from making new friends, interacting with people, finding new ideas, exchanging thoughts. I like the fun times as much as i do the pensative times. Thanks for bringing me back and for allowing me to feel completely at home in the blink of an eye 🙂 And the latter is fully due to the interaction with you fellow bloggers and commentators 🙂

Olivier nominations 2015 x2!

–> Update, because i want to keep Yael Farber’s generous and thoughtful words with the news of the nomination so i can always go back to this post and remember the wonderful feeling of the day 🙂

What a day! Congratulations first of all to all the nominees!! Well done and it is a great achievement 🙂 Details of all nominations on the Oliviers page. I’ve tried not to think too much about awards as i’m not really objective in my opinions and i tend to care too much if people/stuff i like are in them and care too little if they are not (yes, sour grapes and all that 😉 ). But, i live in London and see a lot of plays and operas so on some level i always get involved, i hear about things, read reviews, have my own opinions. Less so with the BAFTAs, but even there i certainly care more about the BAFTAs than i do about the Oscars these days. Mainly because they are closer to my areas of interest and work.  The Oliviers are, as much as i understand, among the many local awards probably the most respected and coveted. Probably also because shows that tend to get generally really good reviews will be recognised at the awards, so there is a feeling of consistency. I was certainly interested this year as i’d seen more shows than usual; we’d discussed some predictions with friends, many of which were fulfilled. Some things i secretly wished would happen, but didn’t really dare to hope.. And then while being harassed from one meeting to the next on a truly horrible Monday the announcements hit and my cultural universes collided in the most amazing way! My two favourite artists in the whole wide world BOTH got nominated for an Olivier!!! Richard Armitage really, actually, wonderfully got nominated for his John Proctor in the Old Vic Crucible and… the one and only 😉 Jonas Kaufmann got his second nomination to an Olivier for Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut & Andrea Chenier/ Giordano, both for the Royal Opera House!! I never though i’d actually get an event where my opera and theatre interests would merge, or get to write a post where they would end up sitting naturally next to each other 🙂 I’ve always meant to ‘introduce’ them to each other around here but never found the time for a proper post and now reality has taken me by surprise! 🙂 Wonderfully so! I’m very pleased. Some things i understand much better, like the opera scene –> for one, it is much smaller than the theatre scene and i just have many more years of experience (i’ve guessed and actually agree with 90% of the nominations there – doesn’t make me any less happy to see it confirmed!). I am glad Richard Jones also gets some recognition, good opera directors like him are very few and far between and we need to really celebrate them. Especially considering the amount of tosh i’ve seen lately even at big international houses like the ROH. I can’t even begin to say how many times i have sat in a theatre recently and wished the opera directors were half as good as the theatre directors of the pieces if was seeing. And a lot of the plays were in modern settings, but none dipped into the pretentious, self-indulgent, navel-gazing concepts that i am frankly sick of seeing on the opera stage!  Having said that, all opera production nominated deserve their praise, they were good ones and we need more of these! As for Jonas himself, well in a way it is long overdue really, i think he actually deserved it back in 2007 when he was Don Jose in Carmen at the ROH, which was certainly some of the best singing in this role i ever heard and without a doubt the best acting of it on an opera stage 🙂 Not that Chenier wasn’t amazing, it certainly was some of the best singing at the ROH in years 🙂 But the Oliviers are very ‘London’ and West- end. Weirdly it can take some time even for an international star to become a household name in London, an integral part of its artistic live. And i think Jonas truly become part of ‘London artistic life’ over the last 12 months when he’s spend more time than ever here, did two new productions very successfully, was present at all kinds of artistic events around town, sang to the locals and subscribers at the Wigmore, stepped outside the boundaries of classical music listeners on BBC Radio3 and really connected with the general public, he even got invited to Desert Island Discs! (as a friend of mine put it, it’s a sign you have ‘arrived’ in London if you are on DID!). It seems he finally has and i wouldn’t actually be surprised if he won it this time round. And he better put his tux on and come to London and be there if it happens! 🙂 I know his shelves are heaving with awards but this is the Oliviers! And hey, the Olivier ceremony happens at the Royal Opera House, it’d be just like coming to his second home 😉 and here he is, the Chenier’s last poem before the execution (it’s a cheeky filming one so that is why it is wobbly, but you’ll get the idea i think 🙂 ) and here is a euronews video clip about the opera, unfortunately i can find it in many languages, but not English, this is the German version In terms of theatre there is much more variety and there are trends that can go in opposite directions. People tend to say theatre in London is more traditional, but actually it is ‘story driven’ and good story telling is paramount. Because  of that there is maybe less appetite to ‘go crazy’ with concepts on stage which is why i think critics tend to push and favour innovation. So the directors who will manage to be innovative and modern but also tell a story well will certainly be featured significantly at awards. Acting is generally of a very high standard and there are significant amounts of new plays being written and staged. It’s probably the most competitive theatrical environment in the world and at the same time it is big business. There is old and well established acting tradition, but there is also ‘establishment’ and a constant tension with trying to be innovative, fresh, open and particularly on the talent side that is an uphill battle. There may be a slight whiff of snobbism towards actors with a TV background rather than a classical theatre path but that is easily overridden by the quality of performance and because the public tend to be experienced and knowledgeable, they are also demanding and it’s often the case that the very good plays and performances will result in extended runs. This year’s nominations are a refection of all these kinds of sometimes conflicting trends. Check out the play with by far the biggest numbers of nominations and you’ll see the push for innovation and change 🙂 And the wide spread of awards among plays is surely an attempt to give recognition to many outstanding performances and plays during last year. (By the way Olivier nominations seem to run from the last one to the nomination day as some things i thought were highlights of last year were actually nominated in 2014 and some things nominated in 2015 i haven’t seen yet and the run is ongoing). I am very very happy that the Oliviers finally gave recognition to the Crucible! I think they wanted to send  clear message considering what has happened at other awards in town. It’s certainly quite extraordinary how they chose to message their appreciation of the play, they decided to single out only 1 individual! Which i think is quite extraordinary in itself! “An imposing Richard Armitage starred in internationally acclaimed director Yaël Farber’s chillingly atmospheric, exhilarating take on Arthur Miller’s classic American drama.” Although they give credit to Yael for the production, she’s actually not individually nominated under directors. I do think that is a pity as i think she was a significant catalyst in the final product. But they singles out one extraordinary performance: “Richard Armitage provided a colossal presence at the heart of The Crucible, playing a prowling John Proctor, whose very being balanced on a knife edge.” Considering how often Richard has stressed that for him this was an ensemble work i wonder how this sits with him, i don’t think he fully agrees with them 🙂  But however he may feel about being singled out like this, it still is our right as well as the Olivier’s choosers to point the finger at him and say: ‘accept it or not, we feel you were outstanding and special’ (deal with it!):-) Let’s remember what Richard thought of John Proctor (DT interview for the cinema) – and the look in his eyes pretty much tells the story of how much Proctor meant to him 🙂 And here are some more insights from a recent interview in Theatermania. (try that kind of schedule, opera singers of the world 😉 …just kidding!) I don’t know why they chose the way they did, but i fully agree about the extraordinary and unique quality of his individual performance. And i agree from the perspective of having seen quite a few of the nominees of 2014 as well as 2015. For me the Crucible means more than the other nominees, but that’s also because the play itself is closer to my heart as a story in itself. Although many of the others fascinated and interested me and even touched me, this one reached deepest. I don’t know who will win, i can sort of make an educated guess, which wouldn’t surprise me. But of course a little sparkle of hope is always there, who knows 🙂 I am just pleased that the acting community has given him a big thumbs up for his talent and exceptional work. Come back and do more, Richard! There are other nominations i’m also very happy about, here is just one of many: Wheeldon’s ballet interpretation of Shakespeare’s famous Winter’s Tale was one of my dance highlights from last year. A classical, full length narrative ballet is a rarity these days and everything about this was fantastic, from the original music to the brilliant choreography and dancing. It was the RB at its very very best!  But, there are also some unforgivable omissions, one of which is really huge and i am very sure i will not be the only one asking why??? Helen McCrory’s breathtaking, shattering Medea at NT is missing from the best actress nominations. I’ve seen 3 Greek plays in the past year and this was by far the best production and the best performance (much much more powerful in my opinion than the Electra at the Old Vic… ‘establishment’). I also find it rather sad that Adrian Schiller’s Hale isn’t on the supporting actors nominations; there are many ensemble members of the Crucible worthy of recognition but in comparison to other performances nominated in the category i thought his was much more powerful, human and convincing. I also thought the lighting for the Crucible was by far the best i’ve seen … sadly i think these details have fallen victim to the perceived ‘traditional’ nature of the production and the general desire to recognise innovation… But, there is more recognition than i was expecting and i am very happy about that. I’m less happy that fate has given me this gift and at the same time delivered a strong blow to my backside…. So, given my two boys will be celebrated in London in April you’d think i’d be there to say a Bravo and celebrate as well, but no.. the ceremony happens on a day i’m actually not even in the UK and i won’t even be able to watch it.  It’s a downer of incredible proportions as the likelihood of both of them being at the same event ever again is a big fat zero… The one thing that would maybe compensate me for not being able to be in London for this is both of them winning it! Now i wonder what are the chances of that? 🙂 Crossing fingers… and toes…

Looking back at 2014

somebody who joined me on the journey in 2014 ;-)

somebody who joined me on the journey in 2014 😉

It’s been quite the year! By the end of it a lot of things had happened that I could have never predicted and I feel very different at the end of 2014 than I did at the end of 2013…

It’s not necessarily been a happier year, but I feel more balanced and certainly more grateful at the end of it. I feel in a strange way … (.i almost said grown up but that is not it, in many respects quite the contrary!) reinvigorated, refreshed, with more things to hold on to on the journey.

Firstly, there is the realisation that nothing is more important or precious than the health of those we love, and our own as well to be able to enjoy it with them. So I am grateful for being ok and accepting of things I can’t change around me but hoping that things will at least stay as they are for as long as possible. There will still be realities that frustrate and make me feel like my hands are tied, but there is some peace I think is good to find in just dealing with things as they are when we can’t change them.

And I’m more determined to keep myself in good working order 😉 It may sound bland and boring, but I recognised how important it really is, among other reasons so I can enjoy the things I want to keep doing and trust that I will be able to deal with things that may come my way.

So yes, massively grateful for feeling like 25 a lot of the time! 😀 It didn’t really look like that in the first part of the year.

My year was thankfully still peppered with a number of live performances and for that I am even more grateful than ever. Every year I say this… 25 years ago I’d have never ever thought possible to live and work in London and enjoy the music I do, have visited the theatres I have, seen the cities I have in these past years. I know and I remind myself of how lucky I am and this year more than ever. So, on to some highlights. (I’ll skip the meh stuff, otherwise I’ll be sitting here as many hours as I spent seeing things. Not because they were bad per se, a few were, but I would still go see them if I could turn back time, you need to go see things to find the gems and everyone gives their best and it will provide a few hours of really nice music, even if it is not necessarily memorable):

The fun –

While a lot of things have been interesting, classical music in particular is not know a lot for the fun factor 😉 But I have seen 2 things which really brightened the heart and made me laugh:

  • The fabulous Elisir d’Amore /Donizetti at the Royal Opera House – all cast were brilliant but my thanks go to the amazing Vittorio Grigolo as Nemorino &Bryn Terfel as Dulcamara and the fabulous ROH chorus, whom I adore (amazing singers and actors the lot!). The house was shaking with laughter and they should prescribe this instead of Prozac! 🙂
  • The new Guys& Dolls at Chichester Festival Theatre with the adorable and warm voiced Jamie Parker (JP I wish you all the roles you want in 2015! And keep singing 🙂 ) Loved this as much as I liked his Henry V at the Globe.

The good and enjoyable  –

I realise nothing will quite be able to equal the year of my first Wagner Ring at the ROH and Berlioz Troyens at same ROH, so I needed to remind myself often not to expect to much. However, there were quite a few duds this year so maybe slimmer opera pickings than usual. In no particular order of preference

  • Manon/Massenet (one of my top 5 favourite operas) at ROH in spring with the elegant, special and generous American tenor Matthew Polenzani (to find out a bit more about him here  He’s a thoroughly accomplished singer and I hope he’ll be back singing in London often. Incidentally, since the reopening of the La Fenice opera house in Venice in 2004 (after the big fire damage) they also have their own traditional new year’s concert and this year they had MP and Maria Agresta alongside conductor Daniel Harding. So I’m able to treat you to my first operatic highlight of the year 2015 straight away! (They sang Boheme too, but I’m bored with that and never liked it much anyways) Here is Matthew’s best bit, an exquisitely sung Verdi aria from the opera Luisa Miller (the lover has betrayed him and this is all about pain):
  • Idomeneo/Mozart at ROH in a ‘funny’ production, which was so absurd it unfortunately alienated a lot of the audience (a friend of mine said it gave crap a bad name 😉 ), but which was musically so good I couldn’t care less if they wore bin bags on stage! ( they didn’t, but there were plastic sharks and plastic fish :-p ). Mark Minkowski conducted a heavenly Mozart and Matthew Polenzani sung an impeccable and fiery Idomeneo. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair as actually musically it was sheer bliss, it only misses out on excellent due to production… A lot of people left, I went back 3 times because it sounded so gorgeously!
  •  Both visits this year to Glyndebourne in the summer provided not only the wonderful tea in the grounds and the countryside outing 😉 (on the cheap as we tend to do either standing or cheapest available ticks) but also 2 great operas: Onegin/Tchaikovsky with the brill Ukrainian baritone Andrei Bondarenko and a beauuutiful Traviata/Verdi (one of my all time favourites) conducted by Sir Mark Elder as one can only wish to hear it and sung very well by another American tenor, Michael Fabiano and the sparkling young Venera Gimadieva
  •  A Werther/Massenet (one of my top 3 – I love French opera as you are bound to find out at some point ) at the Arcola theatre in London sung by great young singers in a reduced setting but it worked wonders.  It’s called fringe, but those young souls put their all into it and blew us away, tears and all. Which just goes to prove you don’t need big names or even big theatres to have amazing experiences.
  •  A Jonas Kaufmann Winterreise song recital at the ROH– it was great, but I was quite sick and sadly this will never be my favourite cycle nor is Schubert my favourite song composer and I just like JK in so many other things more; the Manon Lescaut/Puccini at ROH with JK again and Pappano – another Puccini that doesn’t quite enchant me but Pappano makes it worth a listen and so does Jonas; just not something I sit down to listen to on my own and another good but not great production.
  •  Juan Diego Florez singing La fille du regiment/Donizetti at ROH – how can you not love him? Always lucky to hear him sing live, just as it is with Jonas Kaufmann 🙂
  •  Gerald Finley (Canadian bass/baritone) singing songs at Wigmore Hall with Julius Drake and singing the most wicked and charming count in Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro at ROH – one I never miss when he is in town 🙂 Definitely special… and he climbed Kilimanjaro this summer with his sons for charity!
  •  Richard III at Trafalgar Studios, intriguing production with some good acting though not quite as fulfilling as I’d hoped it would be, but it was an interesting enough experience that I appreciated having.
  •  Joyce diDonato and Antonio Pappano – season opening concert at Wigmore Hall, she sang beautifully, he’s just incredible and the piano is just one of his many talents and it was great to listen in such an intimate setting even if the program was not always wow.

The excellent and memorable –

Thin opera pickings this year, which was one of the surprises, but thoroughly compensated by ballet and THEATRE!

  • Tristan and Isolde – Wagner at ROH, always good, especially with Tony Pappano conducting and Nina Stemme singing and I had also missed Wagner a lot!;
  • French baritone Ludovic Tezier and Jonas Kaufmann singing the 2 main characters in Verdi’s Forza del destino, Munich Bayrische Staatsoper- didn’t much like production, wasn’t convinced by the conducting, don’t much care for the soprano but these two ripping at each other while singing are in-cre-di-ble! I can’t find the duets now, but this quick video gives you a shred of it, with the voices melding in Verdi heaven 🙂
  •  And very much to my surprise Ariadne auf Naxos /Strauss at ROH – again with Pappano conducting and the fascinating Karita Mattila singing. In fact this was one of the bigger musical surprises for me. I don’t like Strauss operas except Elektra and Salome, the neo-romantic ones don’t do much for me and my previous experience of Ariadne has not been good. I only went along to give it another try and I loved it! Due to conductor, brilliant and fun production by Christoph Loy, but above all due to the ladies singing (just in case you were wondering if I was fixated on male voices 😉 a bit , but I do like females ones to, just picky 😉 ). Karita Mattila, Ruxandra Donose and Jane Archibald were all 3 brilliant singers, actresses and just lovely elegant ladies. We had them in a ‘In Conversation’ event and I adored them all, the kind of women you want to become when you grow up, fantastic at what they do, fun, sparkling, powerful and feminine. Definitely one of the special highlights of the year. And I would have never expected that in a million years! Live and learn 🙂
  • The Verdi Requiem with Pappano conducting his 2nd orchestra, the Accademia Nazionale St Cecilia Rome on their visit to London. Everyone expected this to be forceful and full of power and instead it was soulful and emotional, it felt absolutely right, true and from the heart, one of the most beautiful renditions I’ve ever heard and the most touching.
  • BALLET, ballet, ballet! Everything I’ve seen these past 12 months from the Royal Ballet has been top notch and worth seeing and revisiting. In fact, there is only 1 other thing I saw this year as often as the RB McMillan Manon 😉 I saw every cast and I even got to see Roberto Bolle dance for the first time! The one who brought me to tears was however my lovely Ed Watson, who, together with my other shining star of the year, Steve McRae, danced in the new full length ballet Winter’s Tale (new music and ballet on Shakespeare’s tale of jealousy), which I can’t wait to see again. It’s so reassuring and just amazing to witness the creativity in both music and ballet at the RB (Winter’s Tale by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and music by Joby Talbot)! And there were many more highlights from the RB, like McRae’s peerless Oberon in McMillan’s A midsummer night’s dream and several modern pieces – Liam Scarlett’s ‘Sweet Violets’ and ‘Age of Anxiety’, Alastair Marriott’s ‘Connectome’ and Kim Brandstrup’s ‘Ceremony of Innocence’. I mentioned only 2 of my favourite dancers, but there are several more and I have to say ballet has felt very much alive and exciting this year at the RB, so much new work that I loved and many revivals of great quality. It’s totally exciting to see creativity thriving and I’ve loved all new stuff so far! Keep up the good work RB, you’re doing great! And I don’t regret one bit reshuffling my tight budget to reduce opera  a bit and enjoy more ballet, I’ve been richly rewarded!
  •  THEATRE!!!!! Now this is new and has been a significant shift over the past year. It’s an interest that has been growing slowly and has received a big boost this year. In previous years I could have mentioned a few things I’ve seen, a couple really good ones, but this year has been incredible and one good thing has led to another! While in opera a lot has not made this list and in ballet I’ve felt I wanted to mention most of what I have seen, in theatre bar 2 every single thing I’ve seen makes my list of highlights!
  • There was Richard II from the RSC which I saw in their run at the Barbican with the outstanding David Tennant as Richard. Great acting from him and the rest of the cast, great production and one more reason to love Shakespeare. It was the first time I had the chance to see David Tennant act live and I’m totally convinced, can’t wait for the next opportunity, whatever praise he got for the role it was fully deserved;
  • Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston, sadly not in the theatre but the cinema version, equally stunning, well acted and great production and the trio of plays at the beginning of the year was completed by
  • Henry V with Jude Law at the Noel Coward – one more where I went along doubtful and came out stunned and emotional and excited; he was as good as all the papers said and I am totally on board with the reviews which remarked on how lucky we were in London to enjoy these 3 actors in these 3 great productions! And the year had just begun!
  • The James plays at the National – I wish I’d been able to see all 3 instead of just the 2nd , sadly I miss the trilogy due to work travel but what I saw grabbed me totally ; again it ticked all the boxes, great acting, great production, great script in this case too.
  • Medea at the National – with Helen McCrory!!! A great example of how you can make modern audiences feel Euripides as if it was happening today! She was breath-taking and I felt like I had barely survived the play it was so intense. I also loved the modern/contemporary production.

Which made me regret even more the many failures in opera to direct them in interesting ways. Theatre this year was anything from traditional like the Richard II or the Henry to the modern and out there like Richard III or Medea and they were all successful in their own ways, there wasn’t a production I felt was useless among them. And yes if I had to pick a genre that really blew me away this year, it was theatre! I went in open minded but doubtful at the same time about its potential impact on me and came away feeling so much and so deeply! And also very very grateful of being able to see all these actors on stage live today.

Best productions –

Speaking of productions, this is just a mention for the direction itself rather than the content or musical value in some cases.

  • Kasper Holten’s new Don Giovanni at the ROH – brilliant, modern, exciting, physiologically eventful and insightful! Like few directors with him I felt he really understands women 🙂 Can’t wait to see a revival.
  • Alcola theatre Werther by Aylin Bozok – yes great opera can be done with little money and still be wonderful!
  • Wheeldon’s Winter’s tale at RB – a perfect example of narrative ballet done in modern ways, narrative ballet for the 21st century but building on all RB tradition, very clever and very beautiful!;
  • Liam Scarlett’s Anxiety – contemporary ballet telling a story for modern sensibilities, movie- like, boundary trespassing in many good ways;
  • Medea at the National by Carrie Cracknell – ancient theatre for our time, yes it can be done! Loved it! All theatre productions were great, effective in their individual ways, I liked Rii at Trafalgar for its boldness but it wasn’t quite effective, while Medea was new, fresh, contemporary and spot on.

And then there was the epic & life changing!

THE CRUCIBLE

To be continued… (i’ll update this same post as i want to keep it all together rather than creating another)