The Importance of Being Earnest

Saturday 28 April 2012 at 7.00pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Thomas Adès conductor
Barbara Hannigan Cecily Cardew
Peter Tantsits John Worthing
Joshua Bloom Algernon Moncrieff
Katalin Karolyi Gwendolen Fairfax
Hilary Summers Miss Prism
Alan Ewing Lady Bracknell
Benjamin Bevan Lane / Merriman

Gerald Barry: The Importance of Being Earnest (sung in English with English surtitles) 90′

21st Annniversary Symphony Hall“A Handbag?!” Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is surely the single wittiest play in the English language. Thomas Adès conducts Birmingham’s world-renowned BCMG and a stellar cast in this definitive concert performance of Irish composer Gerald Barry’s brilliant new opera. “My favourite living composer finds the hilarious musical equivalent for Oscar Wilde’s perfect absurdist paradoxes inhis riotously outrageous and funny new opera.” Thomas Adès

“The opera is hysterically funny. The score is highly sophisticated and indescribably zany… The world now has something rare: a new genuinely comic opera…”Los Angeles Times, 8 April 2011

Click here to find out more about composer Gerald Barry and his music.

Stephen Fry, Fiona Shaw, Thomas Adès and Gerald Barry discuss Barry’s new opera ahead of the upcoming European premiere performances.

The performance will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on May 19th 2012

Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post

“Turning Oscar Wilde’s “Earnest” Into an Opera”

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Article by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

“Gerald Barry talks about his new opera The Importance of Being Earnest”

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Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Orchestrally, Barry’s score is fascinating, fizzingly through-composed, winkingly allusive at times (including Janacek and Wagner, and the first two acts ending with references to the “Auld Lang Syne” with which the opera, in Barry’s own car-crashing arrangement, begins), and rich in imaginative touches, such as a duet for wind-machines, a seemingly endlessly prolonged brass trill, and two elegantly choreographed plate-smashing cameos.

 

Thomas Ades conducted with generous commitment, enthusiastically reciprocated by all concerned onstage, and most of a pleasingly sizeable audience.”

 

 

Review by Hilary Maddocks, Observer (at Barbican)

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Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian (at Barbican)

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Review by Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph (at Barbican)

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Tasmin Little Plays Beethoven

Wednesday 18 April 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Michael Seal conductor
Tasmin Little violin

Beethoven: Fidelio – Overture 6′
Beethoven: Violin Concerto 42′ Listen on Spotify
Nielsen: Paraphrase on ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ 6′
Nielsen: Symphony No. 4 (Inextinguishable) 36′

“Music is life,” declared Carl Nielsen, “and like it, inextinguishable!”And then, in the middle of the Great War, he proved it with a symphony that from volcanic opening to unstoppable finish, leaves you thrilled to be alive. It’s a long way from the serene open spaces of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, but CBSO associate conductor Michael Seal adores both composers, and soloist Tasmin Little gives everything she touches a special panache. Beethoven’s Fidelio launches the evening in heroic style, and as part of our celebration of the year 1912, discover Nielsen’s extraordinary tribute to the sinking of the “Titanic” – 85 years before Celine Dion! www.cbso.co.uk

If you like this concert, you might also like:
Once Upon A Time…, Wednesday 9 & Thursday 10 May
Summer Serenade, Thursday 28 June

Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Some might have been anticipating a virtuoso display, but Little shunned muscular heroics – or made them so effortless as to appear non existent – to focus on Beethoven the poet. Her ruminative and often daringly quiet playing brought a songs-without-words lyricism and sweetness to the melodies, and gave even the most workmanlike passagework a tensile sense of purpose. Such an intimate, ensemble approach clearly found favour with Seal and his equally sympathetic colleagues, who responded with wonderful sensitivity.”     …  

*****

The Dream of Gerontius

Thursday 12 April 2012 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121-780 3333

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Edward Gardner  conductor
Sarah Connolly  mezzo-soprano
Robert Murray  tenor
James Rutherford  baritone
CBSO Chorus  

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius 95′ 

“This is the best of me,” declared Edward Elgar on the score of The Dream of Gerontius – and this heart-rending vision of a lonely soul’s journey towards eternity might just be the greatest piece of British music ever written. Since its premiere in Birmingham 112 years ago, it’s become one of the CBSO’s signature works. Tonight Andris Nelsons takes his place in that great tradition, with a world-class team of soloists and an orchestra and chorus who have this music in their blood. Unmissable.

Unfortunately, Andris Nelsons has had to withdraw from this concert due to the illness of his daughter. We are very grateful to CBSO principal guest conductor Edward Gardner, who has agreed to conduct this performance.

Tenor Toby Spence has also been forced to withdraw from this concert due to illness, and we are grateful to Robert Murray who replaces him.

www.cbso.co.uk

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

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…     “A different, often more intimate approach is called for in Part II and Murray was equally successful here. He brought a pleasing lightness of tone and sense of repose to ‘How still it is’ and the extended dialogue with The Angel was done with fine sensitivity. Much later in Gerontius’ journey towards Judgement ‘I go before my judge’ – rightly singled out as a key moment by Stephen Johnson in his perceptive programme note – was an awestruck moment, superbly realised by Murray and Gardner. Murray was excellent in his last solo, ‘Take me away’. The opening phrase, taken thrillingly in one breath despite the broad tempo, was a great cry – as it should be – yet very well controlled. Murray gave a splendid, eloquent reading of what is surely an aria in all but name, crowning an impressive portrayal. ”     […]

[…]     “Even without the need for the conductor to keep his arms raised there was a long silence (43 seconds, and it seemed longer) after the last chord had died away. No one dared break the spell. That was just as it should have been and, in many ways, the silence spoke even more eloquently of the audience’s appreciation than did the prolonged ovation that followed. Elgar’s choral masterpiece had been well and eloquently served.

The concert was broadcast live by BBC Radio 3. It’s available for listening here for the next week. I shall certainly be listening again.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…      “Within these lavish paragraphs he was able to summon so much detail, whether from the perennially remarkable CBSO Chorus (and how fresh and youthful they sounded where necessary!) or from the responsive and supple orchestra itself.

There were two incidents I’d never noticed before in five decades of loving the work, but Gardner’s acuity brought them out: the suspenseful timpani roll over a prolonged organ pedal at the end of “Praise to the Holiest”, and the shriek from piccolos and other woodwind as the Soul of Gerontius glimpses the searing perfection of God for the minutest instant before gladly consigning himself to Purgatory.”     …

Review by Richard Whitehouse, ClassicalSouce:

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…      “The CBSO Chorus sang with relish in a piece that it has most likely tackled more often than other comparable choir, not least in the evanescent build-up to a spine-tingling ‘Praise to the Holiest’ – its contrapuntal dexterity admirably rendered despite a momentary falling-off in tension prior to the final refrain. The CBSO, too, was on fine form while taking Gardner’s predilection for incisive tempos firmly in its collective stride. Suffice to add that no-one rehearing the work, as well as those encountering it for the first time, could have failed to be impressed with the breadth, audacity and conviction of Elgar’s creative vision.”

Review by Andrew H. King, Bachtrack:

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…     “Murray’s Gerontius was at once feeble and passionate, unravelling Newman’s story of the ailing man facing death with excellent diction. Some high notes were ill-prepared but in such a taxing score (and at short notice) this was forgivable.

The chorus were prepared to an exemplary standard and they, along with their chorus master Simon Halsey, are to be commended for their abilities.”     […]

[…]     Radiant and warm, tender and rich in tone, Connolly excels in Elgar’s dramatic writing always opting for the more taxing notes where he provides easier alternatives.”     …

*****

Review by Peter Reed, ClassicalSource (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Review by Igor Toronyi-Lalic, TheArtsDesk (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Blog post by Robert Hugill  (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Review by Barry Millington, London Evening Standard (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Review by Claire Seymour, Opera Today (for same programme but at Barbican)

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Gergiev conducts Parsifal

Good Friday: Gergiev Conducts Parsifal

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Friday 6th April 2012

Symphony Hall

Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Valery Gergiev conductor

Avgust Amonov Parsifal
Larisa Gogolevskaya Kundry
Yury Vorobiev Gurnemanz
Evgeny Nikitin Amfortas
Alexey Tanovitsky Titurel
Flowermaidens:
Viktoria Yastrebova
Oksana Shilova
Liudmila Dudinova
Anastasia Kalagina
Zhanna Dombrovskaya
Anna Kiknadze

Wagner
Parsifal

This concert has a running time of c. 5 hours 30 minutes including two intervals.

Mariinsky UK tour supported by BP.

Another landmark experience in Symphony Hall’s 21st Anniversary Festival. Three years since their last visit, Valery Gergiev and the chorus and orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre take us on the ultimate quest for the Holy Grail: an epic story whose final scenes fittingly unfold on Good Friday with music of overwhelming potency.

‘Mesmerising. A landmark for Gergiev.’ The Observer on Gergiev and Mariinsky’s Parsifal recording

Concert performance sung in German with English surtitles. Please note surtitles may not be visible from every seat. Please check when booking.

One of a series of Wagner’s greatest operas, performed in the space of 6 months as part of Symphony Hall’s 21st Anniversary Festival.
The Royal Opera: Die Meistersinger – Wednesday 11 January
Tristan und Isolde – Saturday 3 March
Wagner’s Ring: Die Walküre – Saturday 30 June

www.thsh.co.uk

Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

Click here for full review

…     “Presented as a concert performance there were some strong performances from the cast. Yury Vorobiev was a powerful Gurnemanz, the wise knight who acts as a conduit for the action and holds much of the plot together.

Avgust Amonov was a placid Parsifal who would have benefited from a little more gusto while Larisa Gogolevskaya attempted to be beguiling as Kundry, the woman who mocked Jesus on the cross and is cursed for ever more.     […]

[…]     At five hours 45 minutes including intervals Parsifal was a bum-numbing experience but one I would sit through all over again given the chance.”

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “Larisa Gogolevskaya was absolutely stunning as the Mary Magdalene-like Kundry, deploying a gamut of voices to convey a range of tormented emotions, and leaving the stage looking understandably drained. The sonorously-voiced Yuri Vorobiev was a totally authoritative, constantly involved Gurnemanz, pleasingly less of the major-domo fusspot he can appear onstage, Yevgeny Nikitin played the mortally-sinful Amfortas as less of a whinger, more of a bitter repentant, and Nikolay Putilin was genuinely fear-evoking as the self-castrated sorcerer Klingsor.”     …

***** 

Sokhiev conducts the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony

Birmingham International Concert Season 2011/12

Sunday 1 April

Symphony Hall

Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse
Tugan Sokhiev conductor
Thomas Trotter organ

Berlioz : Roman Carnival Overture 8’
Rachmaninov : Symphonic Dances 35’
Saint-Saëns : Symphony No 3, Organ 36’

encores :   and Bizet – Carmen Overture

Symphony Hall’s mighty organ takes the limelight in Saint-Saëns’s gloriously uplifting symphony. One of France’s most revered orchestras brings its trademark joie de vivre to a programme which also features Rachmaninov’s irresistible orchestral dances under the baton of their Music Director, the electrifying Tugan Sokhiev.

This is a fundraising concert, in aid of Performances Birmingham Limited
Charity Number: 1053937

http://www.thsh.co.uk

Review by Diane Parkes, BehindtheArras:

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…     “And finally Saint-Saens’ mighty Organ Symphony which truly makes the most of Symphony Hall. With Birmingham City Organist Thomas Trotter at the keyboard, the sound swelled through the pipes, taking advantage of the venue’s amazing acoustics. ”     …

Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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Tugan Sokhiev has lived and learned on his way to the very top”     …

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

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…     “The flutters soon disappeared, and the orchestra’s charismatic and expert principal conductor Tugan Sokhiev built a totally absorbing, spine-tingling reading, squeezing every oodle of tone from his remarkable string section. Thrills and spills were here a-plenty, but most memorable was the gentle ‘poco adagio’, chastely singing over Trotter’s beautifully-judged quiet organ chords.”     …          *****