My telephone conversation with David Ward, co-founder and Artistic Director of Northern Opera Group, began with a sheepish confession. Before undertaking some research prior to our discussion, I knew little…
‘A brief history of song’ is the subtitle of the 2020 Oxford Lieder Festival (10th-17th October), which will present an ambitious, diverse and imaginative programme of 40 performances and events.
‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’
Eboracum Baroque is a flexible period instrument ensemble, comprising singers and instrumentalists, which was founded in York – as its name suggests, Eboracum being the name of the Roman fort on the site of present-day York – while artistic director Chris Parsons was at York University.
‘There could be no happier existence. Each morning he composed something beautiful and each evening he found the most enthusiastic admirers. We gathered in his room – he played and sang to us – we were enthusiastic and afterwards we went to the tavern. We hadn’t a penny but were blissfully happy.’
When soprano Eleanor Dennis was asked – by Ashok Klouda, one of the founders and co-directors of the Highgate International Chamber Music Festival – to perform some of Beethoven’s Scottish Songs Op.108 at this year’s Festival, as she leafed through the score to make her selection the first thing that struck her was the beauty of the poetry.
“At the start, one knows ‘bits’ of it,” says tenor Mark Padmore, somewhat wryly, when I meet him at the Stage Door of the Royal Opera House where the tenor has just begun rehearsals for David McVicar’s new production of Death in Venice, which in November will return Britten’s opera to the ROH stage for the first time since 1992.
“Trust me, I’m telling you stories …”
When British opera director Nina Brazier tries to telephone me from Frankfurt, where she is in the middle of rehearsals for a revival of Florentine Klepper’s 2015 production of Martin?’s Julietta, she finds herself – to my embarrassment – ‘blocked’ by my telephone preference settings. The technical hitch is soon solved; but doors, in the UK and Europe, are certainly very much wide open for Nina, who has been described by The Observer as ‘one of Britain’s leading young directors of opera’.
“We need to stop talking about ‘diversity’ and think instead about ‘inclusivity’,” says Bill Bankes-Jones, when we meet to talk about the forthcoming twelfth TÍte ‡ TÍte Opera Festival which runs from 24th July to 10th August.