Two opera singers were aboard the doomed Germanwings plane

The opera world is in shock at the news that mezzo-soprano Maria Radner and bass Oleg Bryjak were on the Germanwings plane that has crashed in the French Alps. 150 people are believed to have been aboard the flight and it is expected that nobody has survived. Everyone's thoughts and hearts are with those who have lost loved ones in this appalling tragedy

Posted in Classical Pit

Softer, sweeter, finer…

...and no, it's not just the cats. I've had a busy weekend's work and here is the latest, therefore, from our Amati Magazine:

a) My interview with the brilliant Hungarian violinist Barnabás Kelemen about Gypsy style, classical stye and what it's like to have a bit of both;

b) The Monday Newsround, with the latest from London, New York, Norfolk and more.

Today I'm doing the Editor's Lunch interview for May. This is nice. I get to take a star to lunch at a wonderful restaurant. This particular star suggested going Italian, so we are - but I'm hoping that the place I've selected will give him a lot more than he bargained for.
Posted in Classical Pit

Richard III: where’s the opera?

So this is Richard III week: the unfortunate medieval monarch, apparently much maligned by history and Shakespeare alike, turned up underneath a car park in Leicester, was positively identified with intense scientific investigation, and is currently on his way to be reburied with appropriate pomp in the town's cathedral this afternoon.

Richard III is, perhaps oddly, my favourite Shakespeare play. The power of its poetry simply could not be stronger. Where is the composer who could grab its heart of darkness and turn it into music? We could think of Beethoven or Verdi, but perhaps Mussorgsky would be the most fitting of the past. Today? We'd maybe give a British composer first bite of the cherry at this, in this day and age - hello, Harrison Birtwistle? James MacMillan? George Benjamin? But the field remains wide open to the world. The resurfacing of the king himself should be a good excuse for someone to commission something big. [Note: I've updated this paragraph out of utter terror that the remark about British composers, though intended with my usual Ironic Twist of Tongue, would be misconstrued as supportive to UKIP in some way. I would sooner die.]

Because you're missing a trick. Just look at this - the scene before Clarence's murder in the Tower:

SCENE IV. London. The Tower.

Enter CLARENCE and BRAKENBURY
BRAKENBURY
Why looks your grace so heavily today?

CLARENCE
O, I have pass'd a miserable night,
So full of ugly sights, of ghastly dreams,
That, as I am a Christian faithful man,
I would not spend another such a night,
Though 'twere to buy a world of happy days,
So full of dismal terror was the time!

BRAKENBURY
What was your dream? I long to hear you tell it.

CLARENCE
Methoughts that I had broken from the Tower,
And was embark'd to cross to Burgundy;
And, in my company, my brother Gloucester;
Who from my cabin tempted me to walk
Upon the hatches: thence we looked toward England,
And cited up a thousand fearful times,
During the wars of York and Lancaster
That had befall'n us. As we paced along
Upon the giddy footing of the hatches,
Methought that Gloucester stumbled; and, in falling,
Struck me, that thought to stay him, overboard,
Into the tumbling billows of the main.
Lord, Lord! methought, what pain it was to drown!
What dreadful noise of waters in mine ears!
What ugly sights of death within mine eyes!
Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks;
Ten thousand men that fishes gnaw'd upon;
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scatter'd in the bottom of the sea:
Some lay in dead men's skulls; and, in those holes
Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept,
As 'twere in scorn of eyes, reflecting gems,
Which woo'd the slimy bottom of the deep,
And mock'd the dead bones that lay scatter'd by.

BRAKENBURY
Had you such leisure in the time of death
To gaze upon the secrets of the deep?

CLARENCE
Methought I had; and often did I strive
To yield the ghost: but still the envious flood
Kept in my soul, and would not let it forth
To seek the empty, vast and wandering air;
But smother'd it within my panting bulk,
Which almost burst to belch it in the sea.

BRAKENBURY
Awaked you not with this sore agony?

CLARENCE
O, no, my dream was lengthen'd after life;
O, then began the tempest to my soul,
Who pass'd, methought, the melancholy flood,
With that grim ferryman which poets write of,
Unto the kingdom of perpetual night.
The first that there did greet my stranger soul,
Was my great father-in-law, renowned Warwick;
Who cried aloud, 'What scourge for perjury
Can this dark monarchy afford false Clarence?'
And so he vanish'd: then came wandering by
A shadow like an angel, with bright hair
Dabbled in blood; and he squeak'd out aloud,
'Clarence is come; false, fleeting, perjured Clarence,
That stabb'd me in the field by Tewksbury;
Seize on him, Furies, take him to your torments!'
With that, methoughts, a legion of foul fiends
Environ'd me about, and howled in mine ears
Such hideous cries, that with the very noise
I trembling waked, and for a season after
Could not believe but that I was in hell,
Such terrible impression made the dream.

BRAKENBURY
No marvel, my lord, though it affrighted you;
I promise, I am afraid to hear you tell it.

CLARENCE
O Brakenbury, I have done those things,
Which now bear evidence against my soul,
For Edward's sake; and see how he requites me!
O God! if my deep prayers cannot appease thee,
But thou wilt be avenged on my misdeeds,
Yet execute thy wrath in me alone,
O, spare my guiltless wife and my poor children!
I pray thee, gentle keeper, stay by me;
My soul is heavy, and I fain would sleep.

BRAKENBURY
I will, my lord: God give your grace good rest!

CLARENCE sleeps



Five minutes later, or less, he is drowned in a barrel of sack.
Posted in Classical Pit