Thursday, July 07, 2011

Site stats...

As you know, I'm a confirmed technotwit and my understanding of how various blog rankings are worked out amounts to 000. Still, I'm pleased to see that on the list of the top 25 classical music blogs, JDCMB has pulled in at no.8 on the "ultimate rank". Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise is no.1. JDCMB is missing, though, from Invesp's ranking according to 'monthly visitors', despite last month having clocked up more than 3000 above the total of that particular no.1. Could be as simple as my site being implanted with a counting device that doesn't match theirs.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

If Tosca survived, what about Brunnhilde?

Alex Ross has been to Rome and checked out the Castel Sant'Angelo, from the ramparts of which Tosca leaps to her death at the end of Puccini's opera. His reasonable conclusion is that the diva could well have survived, as there's a ledge just a few feet beneath. 

Could we face unexpected sequels to a range of operas in which the lead character's death mightn't be all it's cracked up to be? Just imagine...

Don Giovanni: the Commendatore drags the Don away ostensibly to hell - but once they're at a safe distance from the house he unmasks and turns out to be Giovanni's brother Giorgio in disguise, come to rescue baby bro from all those harpies. The boys run off and set themselves up with false papers on a yacht in Marbella.

Götterdämmerung: Brunnhilde utters her Immolation Scene, rides into the flames...and out the other side. She and her trusty Grane escape the apocalypse on the Rhine and cross the sea to a green and pleasant land, where they live quietly in the countryside before winning both the Derby and the Grand National. Brunnhilde becomes a famous equestrian champion and marries an aristocrat; Grane, on his retirement, sires a new generation of British racehorses with apparently magical powers.

Got any more?

(PS - have been writing my official response to the Opera North/Lee Hall situation, so watch that space...)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Picker the best

Here's my interview with the composer Tobias Picker about Tourette's Syndrome, how his Jewish background affects his music, and why Rita the Rat is a Jewish hippy in his Fantastic Mr Fox... (From this week's JC.)

Glyndebourne: big job for Ticciati

Robin Ticciati, the 28-year-old British conductor, has been announced as Glyndebourne Festival Opera's next music director, starting from January 2014. I'd have eaten my sole surviving hat if they'd picked anyone else. Glynditz is one big, delectable cake to take, and comes accompanied by champers. All jolly well deserved, too.

It seems just the other day that Nicholas Snowman, in his short tenure as general manager of Glyndebourne, announced the appointment of an unknown twentysomething Russian as music director. "Vladimir Jurowski? Who?" said everyone. Clever move - just look at him now. But that was ten years ago.

The big question now is: what will Vladimir do next?

Of course you know all about Ticciati's new job already...I'm not going to start wittering on about "embargoes", Twitter or why we referred to Robin as XXXX for 18 1/2 hours. Instead, here are some vital statistics from the press release explaining how Robin, who's currently music director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and used to be music director of Glyndebourne's touring opera, will go bob bob bobbing along to the Sussex opera house.

  • When Robin Ticciati takes up his new position in 2014 it will mark the 80th anniversary of the Festival and the 10th anniversary of Robin’s professional operatic debut, made at Glyndebourne in 2004.
  • Robin is only the seventh Music Director in Glyndebourne’s 77-year history, following on from Fritz Busch, Vittorio Gui, John Pritchard, Bernard Haitink, Andrew Davis and Vladimir Jurowski (2001 – 2013).
  • Robin is one of a long list of illustrious conductors and singers who started their careers at Glyndebourne, attracted by its generous rehearsal conditions and the supportive environment in which artists can grow and develop.
  • Robin’s first professional operatic engagement, as Assistant Conductor for performances of Die Zauberflöte for Glyndebourne on Tour (GOT) in 2004, immediately led to further invitations to conduct for both Glyndebourne on Tour and the Glyndebourne Festival (GFO).
  • Since 2004, Robin’s collaboration with Glyndebourne has included four productions for GOT (Music Director of GOT from 2007 – 2009) and three productions for GFO, including performances ofHänsel und Gretel, Macbeth, Die Fledermaus and Don Giovanni in this year’s Festival.
  • Robin will return to Glyndebourne in 2012 to conduct Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro in a new production for the Festival directed by Michael Grandage.

David Pickard, General Director of Glyndebourne said: “I am delighted that Robin has accepted our invitation to become Glyndebourne’s Music Director from 2014. I can think of nobody more appropriate to continue Glyndebourne’s long tradition of artistic excellence and innovation.

None of us will forget the excitement when, as a 21-year-old assistant conductor on Die Zauberflöte in 2004, Robin Ticciati stood in the pit at Glyndebourne for the first time and conducted the overture. Those who were present at this rehearsal were in no doubt of his exceptional talent. Over the past seven years, we have been privileged to enjoy many thrilling performances from Robin, both as Music Director of Glyndebourne on Tour, and as a regular conductor at the Glyndebourne Festival.”

Robin Ticciati said: I am honoured to have been offered this wonderful opportunity and I look forward to Glyndebourne becoming my operatic home. From my very first experience of Glyndebourne, I was overwhelmed with the unrivalled opportunities that the environment offered. Creating opera with such talented artistic teams and world-class musicians in an organisation that places great emphasis on detailed musical preparation is a genuine privilege.”

Vladimir Jurowski, Glyndebourne Music Director said: “I am relishing my time at Glyndebourne as Music Director (2000 – 2013) and am very proud of the body of artistic work that we have produced together to date. The unparalleled rehearsal opportunities and detailed preparation dedicated to every aspect of the organisation has allowed me to realise many of my artistic dreams.  I am delighted that in 2014 the enormously talented conductor Robin Ticciati will take over this role. I have every confidence that he will cherish, as I have, the opportunity to create opera in the unique environment that Glyndebourne provides.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

RIP Herbert Eisner (23 June 1921 - 28 June 2011)

Tom's father passed away peacefully this morning, having made it to his 90th birthday a few days ago. He was a very remarkable man and I feel lucky to have been his daughter-in-law.

Herbert was a physicist whose field of expertise was explosions in confined spaces; he became head of the Safety in Mines Research Establishment in Derbyshire and was often to be seen on TV as a commentator on issues such as the King's Cross fire and trouble in the Channel Tunnel. He was born in Berlin and escaped the Nazis when he was sent to boarding school in Buxton at the age of 15 - little suspecting he'd spend most of his life in the same town - though not before attending the 1936 Olympic Games, where he and his family saw Jesse Owen win his race. Apparently the Nazis ceased persecution of the Jews for the Olympics' duration so that the world wouldn't see what was going on.

Herbert's aunt, Lotte Eisner, was a film historian who wrote a biography of Fritz Lang and in the 1920s was great friends with Leni Riefenstahl. One day around 1926 Leni called Lotte and invited her to tea, saying "There's someone very special I want you to meet - his name is Adolf Hitler." Lotte refused to go. Later she wrote in her autobiography that she regretted this decision. She wished she'd gone to tea, and taken along a revolver.

Despite his successful career as a scientist, Herbert was also an extremely fine writer. His mother was a close friend of Bertolt Brecht and as a child Herbert was dandled on the great author's knee. He wrote better in English than most native English speakers and was runner-up to Muriel Spark in a short story competition run by the Observer in the 1950s. The story was about Der Rosenkavalier. He later wrote several plays that were presented on Radio 4, a couple of children's books and a TV play in which Susan Hampshire starred - tragically the BBC did not keep the film...

Herbert's grandfather's used to play cards with Richard Strauss. So in Herbert's honour, here is the composer conducting his own Ein Heldenleben, with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1944. By the time this was recorded Herbert was 22: he'd been interned as an "enemy alien" in the Isle of Man, then joined the British army and been posted to India. Due to his German origins he changed his name to Evans while in the military, and his comrades used to call him Taffy. This despite the fact that he had a strong German accent right up to his birthday the other day, when we saw him for the last time.

In his own quiet way, he certainly had a hero's life.