Showing posts with label Sinfini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sinfini. Show all posts

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My first opera...

I've enjoyed taking a trip down an operatic memory lane for Sinfini, plus talking to a range of celebs about their first experiences of opera and what got them hooked - among them ballerina Zenaida Yanowsky, actor Henry Goodman and comedian Rainer Hersch. Read the whole thing here: http://sinfinimusic.com/uk/features/2013/02/my-first-opera-curtain-up/



What follows is a further ramble on the topic...

Thinking back, I owe my whole opera thing to my parents, who never talked down to me about music when I was a kid. They seemed to know how to encourage an enthusiasm without piling on undue pressure and when I picked up that Magic Flute box (tempted by the picture: left) and wanted to know what was in it, my mum showed me how to follow the translated text as if it was the most natural thing in the world (it was the classic Klemperer recording, in German, without dialogue). It was good of them to put up with my unfortunate singalongaluciapopp tendencies, too.



I’m not surprised they bought me an alternative. This was easier: just one LP, in English, much of it positively designed for singing along. It was The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britten: the story of a group of children and their nanny who rescue a small boy chimney sweep from his abusive employer. It was easy to follow and impossible to forget. Nobody ever seemed to perform it, though. At the time, I had no idea there could be anything sinister in a song about a boy in a bath and I still find myself humming that syncopated, swingy waltz melody now and then. I’ve never once seen this opera live. A footnote: one of the child singers on that recording turned up in my year at university and we used to have a whale of a time playing violin and piano music together (he’d swapped the voice for the fiddle long before). I enjoyed the notion that I’d cut my musical teeth by inadvertently listening to my duo partner singing.

I fell for Eugene Onegin on the car radio, but seeing it in the theatre aged about ten (starring a young soprano named Kiri Somethingorother) left me colder than I'd hoped it would. It was all a bit static, it was hard to hear the words and I couldn't work out why on earth Tatyana fell for Onegin in any case, as he wasn't exactly an appealing kind of chap. (Right: Kiri as she probably looked in those days...)

Eventually live performance did enchant me – but not as you might expect. It was comedy, courtesy of English National Opera. The gods in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld perching on their clouds; Lesley Garrett stripping off as Adele in Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus; and above all, the sight of my father reduced to complete screeching, weeping helplessness over the nuns in drag in Rossini’s Count Ory. This could only happen in the theatre. And when it happened, there was no point resisting. 

Interesting to see that while a lot of my interviewees cite Mozart and Puccini as their ways in to opera, Ed Gardner thinks those aren't such a good place to start. He plumps straight for Shostakovich and Janacek. 
 

Friday, January 25, 2013

JD meets LUTOSLAWSKI

Today is Witold Lutoslawski's centenary. Back in 1992 I met him for the first, and sadly only, time - and talked to him about his Piano Concerto and working with Krystian Zimerman. This interview was never published, though, and I'm lucky that the cassette tape just about survived the intervening 20 years. I played it through my old Walkman; it emerged a bit slow and a bit low, but with words entirely clear. I've now made an article out of it for Sinfini.

I can't help finding the great composer's comment about this concerto being "playable" slightly amusing - to me it looks 500% impossible.

As Krystian is playing it on Wednesday with the Philharmonia and Esa-Pekka Salonen at the RFH, the interview is out just in time. Read it here:
http://sinfinimusic.com/uk/features/2013/01/lutoslawski-anniversary/

And book for the concert here: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/music/classical/tickets/philharmonia-orchestra-63639?dt=2013-01-30

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Classic Brits: time to call time?

Friends, Londoners, countrymenandwomen, lend me your eyes. Please read this coruscating demolition of the surreal universe of cultural crap that is the Classic Brits Awards Ceremony. It's been written for the Sinfini blog by the pop-culture journalist Paul Morley, who'll be familiar to anyone who watches BBC2's Friday night Review Show. His account leaves me convinced that it's time to call time on this ten-tonne barrel of ghastliness and close it down once and for all.

Fasten your seatbelts. http://blog.sinfinimusic.com/paul-morley-reviews-the-classic-brit-awards-2012/

Friday, July 06, 2012

Music + Art = Magic?

Spent Wednesday morning at the preview of the new exhibition From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism at the Royal Academy of Arts, talking to the curator MaryAnne Stevens and the French conductor Fabien Gabel about the correlation of music and art in the Impressionist era, and why it was that it took about 20 years for composers to cotton on. Then we had a go at matching some of the paintings with appropriate music...Above, Degas's Dancers in a Studio; an exercise in form and perspective made up of images of preparation. Debussy Etudes?

Results are up now on the new and still developing music portal intriguingly entitled Sinfini, which word seems to suggest an infinite symphony of sins... In reality, though, the site is clean, enthusiastic and friendly, while the most sinful thing about this assignment is probably Duparc's gorgeous setting of Leconte de Lisle. The exibition, at the RAA's Sackler Wing, opens tomorrow.