I’m finally updating my News after a very busy two months. Time has been focussed on moving house, planning various interesting projects for the future and preparing for my next two major engagements – Bach, Christmas Oratorio and Handel, Alcina - both in Norway and both involving exciting new creative ideas.
The first involves three concert performances of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Norwegian Wind Ensemble and the BBC Singers.
The Norwegian Wind Ensemble is one of the countries oldest ensembles, originating as the Military Band of the ancient Fort in Halden, bordering Sweden. No longer attached to the military, the group performs an extraordinary variety of music from historically informed performances of baroque wind music through to jazz, improvisation and rock covers.
I’ve now been in Halden for 10 days (with a few days at home to rehearse the BBC singers) working on an incredible arrangement of the Christmas Oratorio for wind. The forces are diverse – modern clarinets, oboes, flutes, soprano saxophones and bassoons, Natural Trumpets and Sackbutts and a continuo team – and yet it fits together beautifully. The piece always rings out truly through the changed orchestration, and at many moments, new light is shed on this incredible score – sackbutts and slide trumpets accompanying every nuance of the chorale “Ich Steh an deiner Krippen hier” and a hauntingly beautiful “Schliesse, mein Herze” using obligato clarinet. It’s been a joy working here with such versatile and passionate musicians and very affirming to realise that brilliant music can be realised in many different ways.
There is a brief diversion from my Alcina preparation this coming week when I travel to North Luffenham in Rutland for a recording project with one of my chamber groups, Galàn.
I’ve been working with Galàn for a number of years, performing repertory written primarily for three sopranos and continuo. This current recording project is focussed on the repertoire emanating from Italy at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century. Much of the music we will be recording was written by Lussasco Luzzaschi for the famed Concerto delle Donne of Ferrara. The pure virtuosity of this music (for the singers at least) is astounding. We will also be recording duets by Monteverdi, a wonderful one-act serenata written by Antonio Draghi and a fantastic new commission by Alexander Campkin. I’m also putting down some Frescobaldi Toccatas for the disc.
This recording marks the culmination of several years of concentrated repertoire research, fund-raising, and indeed performances (including a memorable concert in a frescoed hall in Ferrara).
I’ve just finished a month working with English Touring Opera preparing their new productions of Handel, Agrippina and Cavalli, Giasone. It’s been great working with a company that is so geared towards taking the wonder of opera out to areas of the country that don’t get regular access to excellent live opera. They also spend a lot of energy nourishing young talent, giving ever harder to come by opportunities to emerging singers, stage managers and administrators.
It has also been fantastic learning Agrippina and revisiting Giasone. Cavalli’s Giasone was one of the most popular operas of the seventeenth century and understandably so with its juxtaposition of comic characters and tragic ones is almost Shakespearean in terms of the quality of drama. Agrippina is wonderous in terms of the freshness and vivacity of the young Handel’s music. It is a score full of ideas that he was to plunder time and time again through his operatic career.
As always, it’s been a privilege working with both main cast and understudies in preparing roles musically.
Details of ETO’s autumn tour can be found at www.englishtouringopera.org.uk.
I was asked by the Academy of Ancient Music to perform a series of mini-concerts as part of the National Gallery’s recent exhibition, Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure. Not only was this a great opportunity to play unusual Dutch repertoire with violinist Bojan Cicic, it was also fantastic playing music surrounded by such extraordinary art. We had a wonderful time discovering little known works by musical contemporaries of Vermeer, discussing our work, instruments and music with the many visitors to the exhibition and extending our knowledge of Japanese cuisine courtesy of an amazing restaurant nearby!
I finally bid farewell to Glyndebourne this week after an incredible four month journey into the musical world of the French Baroque assisting William Christie on Rameau, Hippolyte et Aricie.
Four months of intensive Rameau ‘boot-camp’ began at the end of April with a fortnight of Chorus rehearsals. Aided by the amazing Florence Daguerre de Hureaux, I prepared the chorus to be the musical heart of the opera, refining every detail of Rameau’s subtly nuanced score before William Christie arrived and sculpted further with both principals and chorus. After a further six weeks of staging rehearsals with the principals and chorus, I turned my attention to preparing the cover cast in preparation for not only the eventuality that they might have to go on, but also the venerable Glyndebourne tradition of the “Cover-Run” – the cover studio performance of the entire opera.
As always, it has been an absolute pleasure working with the wonderful Glyndebourne Chorus (surely one of the most dynamic and versatile opera choruses), the OAE, and of course the superb cast of principals. I look forward to returning.
Photographs of Glyndebourne 2013 taken as part of The Guardian’s coverage, including Rameau Chorus rehearsals.