NEW! Abandoned Liszt Opera Sardanapalo Premieres in Weimar in August

08/05/2018

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World Premiere of an Abandoned Liszt Opera in Weimar – 170 Years Later 

Under its Principal Conductor Kirill Karabits, the Staatskapelle Weimar will give the world premiere of a rediscovered Italian opera Sardanapalo by Franz Liszt – which was left incomplete and has lain largely forgotten in a German archive for almost 100 years. ‘The name of the composer Franz Liszt has never been associated with Italian opera’, Karabits explains. ‘I’m delighted to be conducting the premiere of Sardanapalo in Weimar. This discovery should open a new page not only in Liszt’s musical heritage but also in the music history of the 19th century.’ Act I of the opera survives complete. This will be presented in a concert version.

The music has been resurrected by David Trippett, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge. He discovered the opera manuscript was legible more than ten years ago, a century after it had been catalogued and largely forgotten in the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv in Weimar. ‘The music that survives is breath-taking – a unique blend of Italianate lyricism and adventurous harmonic turns and side-steps’, Trippett explains. ‘There is nothing else quite like it in the operatic world. It is suffused with Liszt’s characteristic style, but contains elements from Bellini and Meyerbeer, alongside glimmers of Wagner.’

On 19 and 20 August 2018, soprano Joyce El-Khoury and tenor Charles Castronovo will lead the cast in the world premiere of this notable work in Weimar, where Liszt composed it and where he served as Kapellmeister of the Hofkapelle, today’s Staatskapelle Weimar.

The libretto, based on Lord Byron’s tragedy Sardanapalus, is topical. It tells the story of Sardanapalo, King of ancient Assyria (modern-day Syria and Northern Iraq). He is a peace-loving monarch, more interested in revelry and women than politics and war. He deplores violence and brutality, and, perhaps naively, he believes in the innate goodness of humankind, but is overthrown by rebels and burns himself alive with his lover, amid scents and spices, in a great inferno. Liszt’s opera focusses on the love between king Sardanapalo and his favourite concubine, Mirra, who seeks to persuade the king to go to war to defend his realm, against his better judgment.

Known only to a handful of Liszt scholars, the manuscript – with much of its music written in shorthand and only one act completed – was assumed to be fragmentary, often illegible and consequently indecipherable. However, after Trippett spent the last three years working critically on the manuscript, including using Liszt’s own instructions for orchestrating the score, the music can be heard for the first time. As the Cambridge academic explained: ‘Fortunately, Liszt left just enough information to retrieve what was evidently the continuous musical conception he had at the time. We will never know why exactly he abandoned his work on the opera. It seems Liszt was not satisfied with the libretto for Acts II and III.’ Trippett adds: ‘I suspect he would have been surprised to learn that Act I is resurfacing in the 21st century. But I like to think he would have smiled on it.’

The world premiere concert performance will be broadcast on Deutschlandfunk Kultur, and a recording will be released with audite.

A trailer with extracts of ‘Sardanapalo’ can be seen here, a research documentary chronicling the resurrection is here, and a short aria is available here.

A critical edition of the music will be published by Editio Musica Budapest (Universal Music Publishing) in 2019, and the underlying research will appear in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association later this year.

NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL

07/05/2018

Russell Thomas interviewed by Margarida Mota-Bull

Russell Thomas

The first time I came across Russell Thomas was a couple of years ago and by pure chance while searching for tenor performances in Don Carlo on YouTube. In the long list that appeared, a video caught my attention, showing Mr Thomas in a duet with Anja Harteros. She was a household name in the operatic world but I didn’t know him. So, I watched it and listened carefully to Thomas’s voice. Its power, beauty and warmth impressed me immensely. Read more

NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN

05/05/2018

Rafal Blechacz talks to Geoffrey Newman

Rafal Blechacz © Marco Borggreve

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NEW! The London Orchestra Project’s Metamorphosen on 27 May at LSO St Luke’s

03/05/2018

A New Player Development Initiative: The London Orchestra Project

The brainchild of Stephen Bryant, leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and conductor James Ham, London Orchestra Project has a unique take on player development.

The London Orchestra Project

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NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE

19/04/2018

Markus Poschner talks to Gregor Tassie

Markus Poschner (c) Reinhard Winkler

Born in a musical family in 1971 in Munich, Markus Poschner has become one of the most sought-after conductors in recent years. He has worked extensively in both opera and concerts, all the major European orchestras, and in the United States and the Far East. Currently Markus Poschner is general music director of Opera Linz and principal conductor of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, which he shares with and the principal conductorship of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana in Locarno with whom he has made a highly regarded cycle of the Brahms symphonies. As he prepares his orchestra from Linz on their third UK tour he spoke to me about his career and ambitions in music. Read more

NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June

19/04/2018

COG

Chelsea Opera Group present a concert performance of Massenet’s Thaïs (1894), at the Cadogan Hall, Saturday 23rd June 2018, conducted by Stephen Higgins with Sally Silver in the title role. Read more

UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV

18/04/2018

Carly Paoli Performs For The Chelsea Pensioners at Royal Hospital Chelsea

For a review of her Cadogan Hall concert click here.

(L-R) – Chelsea Pensioners Ivor Williams, Mike Palin, Mike Smith and Mike Hall
with Carly Paoli at the Royal Hospital Chelsea

Carly Paoli, the rising star of the classical music world, performed a special concert for the Chelsea Pensioners on Friday 26 January 2018. The private performance, which took place in the Pensioners’ Club at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, was a special preview of Carly’s forthcoming concert at Cadogan Hall on 15 February 2018. Read more

NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO

16/04/2018

FV

Franco Vassallo is an acclaimed interpreter of leading Verdi roles – amongst many others – in the world’s most important opera houses (including Teatro alla Scala di Milano, Opéra de Paris, London’s Royal Opera House and New York’s Metropolitan Opera). He has just sung Scarpia for the first time in Puccini’s Tosca at the Staatsoper Hamburg in the Robert Carsen production and performed with Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann. Read more

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