Messrs Rattle and Sellars bewitch the Barbican audience with a sumptuous rendition of Janáček's magnum opus.
In a week in which Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor opens at Zurich’s Opernhaus, Verdi’s Aida at the Met and Adams’ Girls of the Golden West at the Dutch National Opera – all of which feature a female protagonist, and yet have been produced by teams almost exclusively made up of men – how refreshing it was to open last night’s programme and discover that (almost) the entire creative team for Dani Howard’s brand-new opera Robin Hood are women. A further irony – that the opera documents the shenanigans of an all-male, masonic brotherhood – was not lost on me either.
A quick skim through Bachtrack’s 2018 statistics will reveal a more than sedentary attitude towards programming. The most performed living composer, Arvo Pärt, only entered the fray at number 46, whilst his female counterpart, Kaija Saariaho, was ranked a staggering 190th. It was, then, with some relief that I joined a packed audience at the Royal Festival Hall for the first in multiple offerings from SoundState – the Southbank Centre’s brand-new festival, committed exclusively to performing new music.
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I can’t claim to have much prior experience of Mark Bowden – save for a few whispers amongst the au courant of my university’s music department, and a vague sense of some well received discs which, as is so often the case, I never got round to listening to. But as the final movement of his Sapiens sputtered into nothingness, leaving an enraptured audience grappling with the speculative message of Yuval Noah Harari’s second book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, I felt both foolish to have overlooked Bowden’s music, and deeply fortunate to be present for the world première of this, his latest work.
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“Did you get your hearing aid to work, Ian?” “I didn’t need it in the end!” Just one scrap of conversation overheard in the lobby of Cadogan Hall after last night’s Hungarian bonanza, which – and I’m inclined to agree with Ian – was not lacking in oomph.
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To describe this afternoon’s programme without raising eyebrows is rather like how I imagine the pioneer of the peanut butter and jam sandwich felt when justifying their discovery.
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