Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Holland Festival 2010, Amsterdam

The Holland Festival in Amsterdam is one of the most adventurous European festivals. The current Varèse 360˚ weekend at the South Bank was created for last year's Holland Festival. What happens at the Holland Festival first, happens elsewhere next. It's interesting because it proves that ordinary, mainstream audiences don't have any problem dealing with innovative , imaginative fare.

This year's keynote opera is Benjamin Britten's Curlew River. It's a joint production with the Edinburgh Festival (Olivier Py) presented by Opéra de Lyon, so catch it in Amsterdam from 3rd June. Michael Slattery sings the Madwoman, with the Lyon cast.

Since Curlew River was inspired by Britten's experiences in Japan, this opera ties in well with another Holland Festival speciality: Japanese classical theatre. This year features Noh, specifically a variant called "Noh with Bonfire",  traditionally presented once a year at the Shinto temple at the base of Mount Fuji. It's a production by Umewaka-kai, the National Theatre of Japan. The great star is Umewaka Rokuro Gensho, the 56th head of an illustrious family that has been presenteing Noh for hundreds of years. Noh masters are revered. like royalty, but a lineage based on artistic merit. They're doing four different plays over two days.  Japanese Noh fans from all over Europe (and Japan) will be there. So should Britten fans because it's a rare opportunity to hear this uncommon opera in context.

They're doing Pygmalion, too, but Rameau's dance opera, not the usual GBS play. It's special because it's the first collaboration between William Christie, Les Arts Florissants and the Trisha Brown  Dance Company.  This matters a lot, because much baroque opera was created around dance, and Rameau in particular. Hearing this music in concert is nowhere near what it would have meant to the composer. Trisha Brown is one of the top modern dance companies, so this will be seriously good dance, not "pastiche baroque".

Later in June, René Jacobs leads the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin in Don Chisciotte  in Sierra Morena, a Cervantes opera by Francesco Bartolomeo Conti. Although this was first seen in Innsbruck in 2005, it's a rarity. With Jacobs and his specialist orchestra and cast (dancers, too), this should be good.

The Holland Festival is also doing a new version of Harrison Birtwistle's The Corridor, premiered last year at Aldeburgh. This time, it's completely new. Those who weren't impressed last year might have to think again. The staging will be Pierre Audi, no less, and Reinbert de Leeuw conducts the ASKO /Schoenberg Ensemble. With all respect to the first production, this version looks to be all the more accomplished and sophisticated. Elizaberth Atherton and John Graham Hall sing.

That's just the opera. The music programme''s interesting, too: Boulez, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Uchida, Tetzlass, Mullova, Queyras, a George Benjamin premiere conducted by David Robertson and much else. Visit the Holland Festival site HERE.