Browsing: La Scena Online

Salzburg teaches the French a lesson Berlioz’s Les Troyens in Salzburg by Norman Lebrecht / August 3, 2000 BEFORE we all head off for Britain’s favourite holiday destination, let us briefly plumb the hidden depths of French insularity. The nimbus of musical obtuseness now hangs heaviest around Paris. The Salzburg Festival opened last week with its first-ever staging of Les Troyens, the late masterpiece that Hector Berlioz neither saw nor heard and which, for nearly a century after his death, was held to be unperformable. Based on Virgil’s Aeneid and deploying the armies of Athens, Troy and Carthage, the epic…

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On Wagner by Norman Lebrecht / July 26, 2000 An orchestral veteran was telling me in the Garrick the other day how Sir Thomas Beecham sent him to Bayreuth in 1934 to buy some heavy-metal instruments for a Ring at Covent Garden. The young visitor was adopted by Bayreuth’s principal hornist, who was so taken with his ‘kleiner Englander’ that, between acts, he rushed over to Winifred Wagner, the English-born festival director, and formally introduced him. Frau Wagner, in return, presented her companion for the evening – and that’s how my friend John became one the few English musicians to…

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Poison in the Garden – The declining importance of the arts in the political agenda. by Norman Lebrecht / July 19, 2000 AS you sit down to read this, I shall be sitting with one of our more rapacious media moguls discussing the ever-widening gap between illusion and cultural reality. We have a government that tells us that it is pumping unprecedented amounts into the arts, yet around the country the arts are in greater distress than ever. Welsh National Opera has announced that it is cancelling its annual visit to Plymouth and halving its fortnight in Liverpool because constraints…

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Long live the Russian revolution Amid scenes of wonderment the visit of the Kirov climaxed this week with an awe-inspiring War and Peace. For the third time this century Russian visitors have opened our eyes and set new standards in opera and ballet. by Norman Lebrecht / July 12, 2000 WITH the outbreak of War and Peace at Covent Garden, the last slab in the monumental Kirov season has been put in place, and it becomes possible to assess the project in its historic perspective – for historic is the only word. Three times in the 20th century the Russians…

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Bucks Stop Here – The Biggest Need Not Be the Best by Norman Lebrecht / July 5, 2000 THE international concert circuit revolves around the assumption that there are three crack orchestras in Europe – in Berlin, Vienna and Amsterdam – and five in America, where the mighty handful are commonly known as the Big Five. The assumption is not founded on current form or conductor. In Europe, the pecking order was established long ago by the record industry which, dying, is now sowing confusion. In America, money speaks. The Big Five were supposedly the richest outfits, namely: Boston, Chicago,…

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Not All Is Lost – the Decline of Serious Music Criticism by Norman Lebrecht / June 28, 2000 THE world is going to the dogs was the theme of the Prince of Hesse Memorial Lecture delivered at Aldeburgh last week by the veteran music critic Andrew Porter. “Serious, scholarly music criticism,” sighed Porter, has “disappeared” from our daily press. Most concerts pass unreviewed; few debut recitals are ever reported. Critical authority has been usurped by powerful “arts editors”, usually women and often, in Porter’s view, acting “in connivance with publicity ladies” to subvert cultural priorities. “The celebrity interview,” said Porter,…

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Sitting alone in a box at the opera can give rise to mild delusions. The Duke of Wellington used to imagine he was in his sitting room at home and would greet the singers on stage as arriving guests. ‘Good evening, Miss Lind,’ he’d call out to the Swedish Nightingale. ‘How are you tonight? All right, I hope.’ He was not at all bothered when she proceeded to go mad and die before his eyes as Donizetti’s Lucia. Myself, I like to kick off shoes and sip coffee, receiving a performance at two levels of immersion, wet and dry. In…

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Ida Haendel – The one they don’t want you to hear by Norman Lebrecht / June 22, 2000 WITH its pristine acoustics and sexy ceiling friezes, Wigmore Hall has served London splendidly for almost 100 years as its premier venue for debutants. Most of the 20th century’s great performers took their first UK bow beneath its Pre-Raphaelite cupola, along with innumerable hopefuls never to be heard again. No compromise: ‘I am not there to please the audience,’ declares Ida Haendel. ‘I am not an entertainer, I am there to serve the composer. I want people to listen’ A debut at…

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Six-Women Show Pushes the Envelope by Joseph So / June 20, 2000 Leaving the theatre after the premiere of Sirens/Sirenes on Thursday evening, I overheard a woman whispering to her companion: “this sure isn’t your typical opera!” She is right, but then the show doesn’t pretend to be opera. Billed as “a bilingual, a cappella, choreographed music theatre spectacle”, it has the same power as its more classical cousin. Depending on your mindset, Sirens may bedazzle, amuse, intrigue, or move you, or it may leave you befuddled and bewildered. What it is not capable of is to leave you indifferent.…

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Noxious Crossover by Norman Lebrecht / June 14, 2000 ONE night last week, having despaired of finding anything more cultural on British television than saggy-bottomed naturists on Channel 5, I was zapping around the cable map when Italy, for once, came up trumps. Rai-Uno, the premier state channel, had cleared its schedules of sappy game shows and was relaying a live event entitled Luciano and Friends. The mighty Pavarotti was making music in his hometown of Modena for the benefit of Tibetan charities. The Dalai Lama, no less, was sitting in the front row of the arena and beside him…

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