Artistic Director Cameron Menzies and baritone Yuriy Yurchuk talk about Northern Ireland Opera

Robert Beattie in conversation with Cameron Menzies, Artistic Director of Northern Ireland Opera, and baritone Yuriy Yurchuk

Cameron Menzies in Belfast’s Grand Opera House © James Ward Lost Lenscap Photography

I have been reviewing Northern Ireland Opera’s productions for some years (links to some of my reviews can be found here). I have been struck both by the very high quality and infinite variety of their productions. They have produced a string of more conventional operatic productions, including La bohème, La traviata and Tosca which have received glowing reviews from the Press. Opera Magazine commented: ‘Northern Ireland Opera’s La traviata suggests that the artistic director Cameron Menzies has at long last realised the region’s ambition to have a grand opera company truly deserving of the name.’

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Geoffrey Newman in conversation with conductor Leonard Slatkin

Distinguished American conductor Leonard Slatkin talks to Geoffrey Newman

Leonard Slatkin © Nico Rodamel

Leonard Slatkin has been a force in the American classical music scene for almost fifty years and will celebrate his eightieth birthday in 2024. Born into a distinguished musical family and trained at Aspen and Juilliard, Slatkin has been Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony (1979-1996), the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington (1996-2008), the BBC Symphony (2000-2004), the Detroit Symphony (2008-2018) and Orchestre National de Lyon (2011-2017).

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Colin Clarke in conversation with Gavin Higgins and Ben Goldscheider about a new horn concerto

Gavin Higgins’s Horn Concerto’s London premiere: Colin Clarke discusses it with the composer and soloist

(l-r) conductor Jaime Martin, Gavin Higgins and Ben Goldscheider © Yusef Bastawy

It is not every day a new horn concerto is premiered. On Wednesday, February 7 Gavin Higgins‘s concerto receives its London premiere by the London Chamber Orchestra under Christopher Warren-Green, with Ben Goldscheider as soloist. The piece appears in the company of music by Elizabeth Maconchy (Music for Strings), another Horn Concerto (Mozart No.4), and Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony (a report will appear on this site).

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Kahchun Wong’s musical alchemy: Beethoven and Mahler in perfect harmony

Zach Carstensen profiles conductor Kahchun Wong

Kahchun Wong © Ayane Sato

Anticipation crackles in the air, thick like summer lightning before the storm breaks. A hush descends, settling over an expectant audience. Every cough or rustling program feels like a desecration. At the podium, conductor Kahchun Wong stands at the edge of creation – shoulders squared, back straight, baton held aloft.  A moment’s pause, pregnant with possibility, his hand dips, slow and deliberate, tracing the first stroke of a masterpiece: Beethoven’s Symphony No.9.

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François-Xavier Roth discusses the music of Bernd Alois Zimmermann with Antoine Lévy-Leboyer

François-Xavier Roth, Musical Director of the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne, will conduct Die Soldaten the legendary opera by Bernd Alois Zimmermann, in Cologne, Hamburg, and Paris. He discusses this extraordinary yet still too little-known composer.

François-Xavier Roth (left) with Antoine Lévy-Leboyer

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Gregor Tassie in conversation with soprano Mariana Zvetkova

The Bulgarian soprano Mariana Zvetkova talks to Gregor Tassie about her career One of the most outstanding singers from the 2023 Ring cycle in Sofia was the distinguished soprano Mariana Zvetkova. She has enjoyed a major worldwide career over several decades and was cast in the first Sofia Ring cycle in 2013 and was Fricka in Das Rheingold in Plamen Kartaloff’s … Read more

Gregor Tassie in conversation with soprano Ayla Dobreva

Sofia Opera’s Woodbird Ayla Dobreva talks to Gregor Tassie

Ayla Dobreva

Apart from the stupendous production standards, a great deal of the acclaim for the 2023 Plamen Kartaloff Ring cycle was for the singers in the roles of Wotan, Brünnhilde and Hagen, but the coloratura soprano Ayla Dobreva as the Woodbird provided one of the most striking performances in Siegfried. Dobreva performed in all four operas of the cycle; firstly, as Woglinde in the opening scene of Das Rheingold singing when soaring on a trampoline, in Die Walküre, she was Helmwige mounted on one of eight red horses of the Valkyries, and finally challenging Alberich in the closing scene in Götterdämmerung. She was also one of the Flower Maidens in Parsifal, but it was her spectacular entry on a trapeze that made the biggest impression of all.

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Robert Beattie in conversation with pianist Sandro Russo

Italian pianist Sandro Russo talks to Robert Beattie

Sandro Russo © Jiyang Chen

Chetham’s Music School in central Manchester run an International Piano Summer School every year for pianists of varying levels of ability including talented students, teachers and adult amateur pianists. As an enthusiastic amateur pianist, I decided to enrol on the course myself earlier this year. There were many distinguished professional pianists on the course teaching students and giving masterclasses. In the evening a number of the teachers gave concerts in Chetham’s Stoller Hall. It was amazing to hear such a wide and varied range of demanding repertoire being performed to such a high level.

I was struck by one concert, in particular, by the Italian pianist, Sandro Russo. Sandro performed all twelve of Liszt’s Transcendental Études and his performance was deservedly greeted with a standing ovation.

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