June is one of the busiest months in the year for live music in England. It's also the most beautiful month, when gardens burst with peonies, poppies, delphiniums, clematis and roses! Everything comes into bloom at once before the drought that can come in summer, musically as well as horticulturally.
In London this first week in June is Bizet Immersion - two Carmens and The Pearl Fishers at the ENO. I'm really looking forward to the latter, because it's completely different to the cliché of "pink, glitter and kitsch".
In Bizet's time, the East was an exotic amalgam of fantasy, which served a deeper purpose. People then needed "The East" to disguise their longings onto. At long as something is set in unreality, be it fake-orientalism or fairy tale, it's easier to deal with troubling things like sex and the subconcious. Composers used it as a cloak for musical experiment. Listen carefully to Bizet, how adventurous he is, playing around with ideas, made palatable because he coats them with "other".
Tonight, I will do a full preview of the ENO Pearl Fishers production. Last week, I went behind the scenes of the production, met the people, saw the sets, etc A lot of work goes into bringing productions to life, and it's team work, moreover. The myth of director's whim doesn't exist very often in reality. Please see my interview with the director, Penny Woolcock HERE.
Today, I'm off to the dress rehearsal of Carmen at Opera Holland Park and on Saturday Carmen at the Royal Opera House. Should be interesting! It is so much a part of modern culture. Everyone's Carmened since they were about three years old, they just didn't realize it was "classical music". Here's a link to a film clip in Mandarin, brilliant take off by the ultimate Modern Girl, Grace Chang.
Combine gardens and music and head for the English Song Weekend in Ludlow, Shropshire. It's unique, and held only every 3 years. Fantastic ambiance, perfect setting, good music, good talks and excellent company. This is the best season ever and I was seriously planning to go but so much else gets in the way. I know I shall regret.
Glyndebourne continues, it's magnificent, an incredible achievement because it was founded from one man's vision. It's Britain's Bayreuth but with a wider focus. Garsington, too, mixes opera with gardens and picnic. I'll be at Rossini Armida, but also Britten Midsummer Night's Dream, which will be wonderful in the Garsington open-air setting, as night falls outside. Stars courtesy of the Universe.
Then, there's Aldeburgh. Aldeburgh has always been "European" in outlook, because Britten identified with European composers like Shostakovich, Mahler and so on, much more so than the Cotswolds crowd. That's part of what makes Britten unique, he's English but "not" English at the same time, in a creative way. With Pierre-Laurent Aimard as Artistic Director, this distinctiveness will grow. Read my analysis of Aldeburgh 2010.here. Pierre Boulez is coming, in person, to talk.He doesn't turn up at any old "local" festival, but he does for Aldeburgh, and for Aimard. Great countryside, beaches, food and gardens too.
Another really important mini-festival, if you can call it that, will be the Theresienstadt Terezin Weekend at the Wigmore Hall. Curated by the Nash Ensemble, it features music from composers who were in the camp, but it will also be a kind of remembrance as they'll be doing films, talks and something on Hans Krasa's children's opera Brundibar. Some of the people who performed the original, in Theresienstadt, as children, may be there. Reunions like these can be quite poignant, you almost feel you shouldn't be intruding on privacy, but Theresienstadt music means a lot and must not be forgotten.
Wolfgang Holzmair will be singing. Read about his recording of Theresienstadt music HERE and about Anne Sofie von Otter's concerts and CD. There is a lot on this kind of music on this site, because it means a lot to me. I'll be writing more about the music at this particular weekend later, so keep coming back. If the only thing I can do is to make this site a resource for suppressed music of all kinds, it's small recompense.
Also, the Spitalfields Music Festival in London, a gritty part of the East End now trendy: Rumplestiltskin from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. And the City of London Festival, held in private Guildhouses, real medieval Guilds but members don't ply their trade in the same way now.
At the Barbican this first week, two important concerts - Daniel Harding and Thomas Adès, and Kabuki at Sadler's Wells. That's just week one, lots else elsewhere.