Next Salon Discussion

First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 5 December 7:00pm start

Tuesday 5th Dec: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

We'll discuss two topical subjects

Manchester music reviews
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Manchester music reviews

Welsh National Opera - Tristan and Isolde

Tristan and Isolde by Welsh National Opera

Reviewed by Denis Joe June 2012

 

A Wagner opera production is always an event unmatched by any other. The passion displayed on stage is generally reflected by the audience. Perhaps no other opera produces greater feeling than Tristan and Isolde.

 

Based on the 13th Century poem of Tristan by Gottfried von Strassburg, Wagner took one section of the story and rewrote it. The result was an opera that casts a giant shadow over all aspects of musical composition, even to this very day. As the conductor of this performance says in the programme notes “With its expansion of harmony, its achievement of chromatic independence, and its ‘emancipation of dissonance’, Tristan ultimately leads the way to atonality and to twelve-tone composition.” We can certainly feel the hand of Wagner’s Tristan on the early Schoenberg and throughout Mahler’s works.

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Welsh National Opera - La bohème

La bohème by Welsh National Opera

Reviewed by Denis Joe June 2012

 

For its Summer 2012 season, Welsh National Opera presents two of the greatest and most famous operas on the theme of love. But the two could not be more different: Puccini’s classic, La bohème, gives us a real-life approach to love, with all its irrationality and heartache. Wagner’s masterpiece, Tristan and Isolde, meanwhile, positions love in the realms of a virtue that is even higher than valour or duty.

 

Are you put off the idea of opera by all those hysterical protagonists, highbrow plots and sky-high prices? Well, watch this myth busting video by Tim Rhys Evans on the WNO website. But if I could recommend one single opera, above all others, to the uninitiated it would be La bohème. An opera replete with the most beautiful melodies that combine with a simple tale to melt the blackest of hearts.

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Halle Orchestra, photo by Joel Chester Fildes

Fanfare for H.M. the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Hallé Orchestra at The Bridgewater Hall

Reviewed by Denis Joe June 2012

 

Thirty-five years ago, as a 19-year old, spotty-faced youth, I bought myself a copy of the Sex Pistols’ single God Save The Queen. It was the latest landmark in an exciting youth movement and like many others of my age we were caught up in the Punk scene. It was rebellious, exciting and struck an anti-establishment pose. We didn’t examine the more reactionary facets, such as the sneering manner in which Johnny Rotten, and the rest, viewed the masses with a patronising contempt for their celebrations of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. More than a third of a century later, I find myself at a concert celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and enjoying it immensely.

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Manchester Mid-day Concerts

The Manchester Mid-Day Concerts Society

Reflections on two performances at The Bridgewater Hall

by Charlotte Starkey March 2012

 

Another season of The Manchester Mid-Day Concerts is drawing to a close with the last concert on Thursday, 19th April. Whilst these observations are written towards the end of a memorable season of music, this is a useful moment to look back briefly at a couple of recent concerts in preparation for what is to come in the forthcoming season beginning later this year.
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Life is a Dream by Birmingham Opera Company

Life is a Dream by Birmingham Opera Company

at Argyle Works, Birmingham

Reviewed by Denis Joe March 2012

 

Going to see an opera doesn’t normally entail a drive to an industrial estate warehouse on the outskirts of the city, but this was to be a new experience for me: opera denuded of its high art pretentions.

 

I had heard whispers about Birmingham Opera Company before: this was opera for the masses; cutting edge and the realisation of Berthold Brecht’s revolutionary approach to theatre outlined in his Short Organum for the Theatre.

 

Arriving at the ‘venue’ in Digbeth, Birmingham, we made our way through a strip door into a small warehouse section with a makeshift bar and people standing around or sitting on a few work benches and chairs.

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Halle Orchestra, photo by Joel Chester Fildes

Last Train to Tomorrow at Bridgewater Hall

Exciting Carl Davis premiere for 2012 with the Hallé and Hallé Children's Choir

To be reviewed by Denis Joe June 2012

 

Last Train to Tomorrow: For children’s choir, actors and orchestra based on the story of the Kindertransport.

 

Sunday 17 June 2012 at 3pm in The Bridgewater Hall will see the world premiere of Last Train to Tomorrow, a new work composed and conducted by Carl Davis (CBE) and commissioned by the Hallé Concerts Society for the Hallé and Hallé Children’s Choir.

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Ailís Ní Ríain with her Ensemble 10/10 commission

Ensemble 10/10 at Liverpool Philharmonic

Reviewed by Denis Joe March 2012

 

Liverpool can count itself fortunate that it is home to one of the world leading contemporary music ensembles: Ensemble 10/10. was founded by two Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra members, Nicholas Cox and Hilary Browning, in 1997. They are award winners of the Royal Philharmonic Society music Awards and have released five CDs. The added bonus of a live performance is the enthusiasm of their director Clark Rundell, whose spontaneous wit is matched by his command of the Ensemble.

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Welsh National Opera - The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro (in Italian) by WNO

Reviewed by Denis Joe February 2012

 

Of the three operas that Mozart composed to libretti by Lorenzo Da Ponte The Marriage of Figaro is perhaps the most popular. Welsh National Opera presented their latest production of Don Giovani last year and will be presenting Cosi Fan Tutti in the autumn season, later this year. The three operas are recognised as amongst the greatest ever written and The Marriage of Figaro as one of the most perfect operas (see Anthony Negus in WNO programme p.12).

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Welsh National Opera - Beatrice et Benedict

Beatrice et Benedict by WNO

Reviewed by Denis Joe February 2012

(English translation based on Geoffrey Dunn, OUP 1965)

 

Based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice et Benedict is not appreciated as well as the rest of the Berlioz output. And whilst the composer rated it as a divertissement - and it is seen very much as that today –  I think it is a masterful piece. Commissioned for the opening of a new opera house in Baden-Baden, in 1862, Beatrice et Benedict was to become Berlioz’s last major work.

 

Berlioz worshipped Shakespeare’s work and only used a part of Much Ado About Nothing adding the role of the composer, Somarone, the duet, a beautiful nocturne that closes the first act, sung by Ursule and Héro (Vous soupirez, madame!), the trio of Héro, Beatrice and Ursula (Je vais d’un cœur aimant) and Beatrice’s heart-stopping aria (Dieu! que viens-je d’entendre?).

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Welsh National Opera - La Traviata

La Traviata (Sung in Italian) by WNO

Reviewed by Denis Joe February 2012

 

Perhaps the two most popular opera composers, these days, are Puccini and Verdi. Whilst the former’s output dwarfs the latter, only a handful of Verdi’s operas remain popular, and none more so than La Traviata. It is the staple production of many opera companies and an opera that is guaranteed to get ‘bums on seats’. That would suggest that the chances of presenting the work in a novel fashion are pretty slim. But David Mc Vicar’s La Traviata (first performed two years ago) certainly gives food for thought and in doing so creates the realisation that the composer, even at the height of his popularity, did not rest on his laurels.

 

The Prelude to this opera is, for me, the most perfect beginning to any opera. We know from the start that it will not end well for the characters, as the orchestra plays the quiet bars, that we will hear again in the third act: the leitmotif of Violetta on her death bed. It is the most heart-rendering music I can think of and describes a scene that could be nothing other than tragic. Slowly the prelude picks up tempo as we go backwards into the fading heartbeats that will dominate the second act. Then there is a pause, as the curtain rises to reveal a large group of people, enjoying what life has to offer.

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