Great Performers at the Barbican Series 2006-7 Preview
By Dominic McHugh
From MusicOMH - 03/2006
Two concert series at the Barbican in the next year are making me lick my lips at the mere thought of such delicious fare.The first involves the return of at least four of the world's greatest operatic divas to the hall, as well as a handful of their male counterparts.And the second is a remarkably comprehensive overview of both well-known and seldom-heard oratorios and operas from the Baroque and Enlightenment.
After her utterly riveting lieder recital in November 2005, the American soprano Renée Fleming returns on December 2, 2006, for a concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
And on May 8, 2007, Romanian diva Angela Gheorghiu is accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra in another recital. Though the programmes are yet to be announced, these two already legendary singers are in their prime, Fleming's creamy, floating tones contrasted with Gheorghiu's pathos and glamorous delivery.
It's a sign of the Barbican's prominence on the world's stage that they can attract such a lavish roster of singers in the same season. On October 31, the dream team of Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon reunite after their recording of Verdi's La traviata for a concert with Marco Armiliato. Before then, on 27 October, Magdalena Kožená sings a tasty selection of Mozart arias with the period instrument orchestra Il Giardino Armonico. The concert includes several arias from La clemenza di Tito, which Kožená sang so memorably on the marvellous recent recording by Charles Mackerras. On March 17, two great American singers join the BBC Symphony Orchestra under their new Chief Conductor, Jiri Belohlavek: baritone Thomas Hampson and mezzo soprano Susan Graham. And in a programme including Strauss songs, the American soprano Deborah Voigt returns to the hall on June 9, 2007.
Enthusiasts of Handel opera have a treat in store on October 17, when Emmanuelle Haim conducts a starry cast in Theodora; Anne Sophie von Otter is one of the many draws. Then on March 27, 2007, Christophe Rousset conducts Ariodante, reuniting Angelika Kirchschlager and Danielle de Niese after their triumph in Glyndebourne's Giulio Cesare last summer. The latter opera also figures in the Barbican's series, though with a very different cast, including Marijana Mijanovic, under René Jacobs, and there's even more Handel on May 18, with the rarely heard Amadigi di Gaula performed by Christopher Hogwood and his Academy of Ancient Music.
Meanwhile, Haydn lovers will be attracted by The Creation on October 26, performed by the Gabrieli Consort and Players under Paul McCreesh, and The Seasons on March 11, 2007, with Sir John Eliot Gardiner. And for Bachians, the St John Passion on April 5, 2007 features Camilla Tilling; popular counter-tenor Andreas Scholl sings a selection of Bach cantatas on November 24.
The Barbican is unrivalled for its contemporary music programme, and 2006-7 promises to be its strongest season to date. Phases is a celebration of the music of Steve Reich for his 70th birthday. This is a typically well-planned event, involving his seminal works (such as The Cave and Tehillim), new commissions, and music from the composers that have inspired him the most (for instance, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring).
Even more exciting is the event planned to explore the young British composer Thomas Adès. Entitled Traced Overhead, and timed to coincide with the revival of Adès' opera The Tempest at the Royal Opera House, this concert series brings together many of the world's greatest artists. Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic are the starriest visitors, playing the UK premiere of Adès' The Ark alongside works by Janácek and Dvorák on March 7, 2007. A particularly exciting evening at LSO St Luke's brings together Adès with his musicals friends the Labèque sisters, the Arditti Quartet and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, in a concert pairing his chamber works with those of the American composer Conlon Nancarrow. The composer turns accompanist on April 3, accompanying Ian Bostridge in a recital by a range of European composers. He also plays the piano role in a performance of Mahler's Wayfarer lieder on April 17, featuring the baritone Simon Keenlyside.
Finally, Peter Sellars is bringing a festival to the Barbican in summer 2007, which originated this year as a commission from Vienna to celebrate Mozart's 250th birthday. New Crowned Hope is remarkably diverse, and takes its theme from the supposed characteristics of Mozart's last year: 'magic and transformation, forgiveness and reconciliation, and death and dying'. A little fanciful, perhaps, but the prospect of a new opera by John Adams, a major dance piece by Mark Morris, and an oratorio by Kaija Saariaho is enough to render the exercise interesting, whatever its motivation.
More conservative concert goers will be happy about the return of the Dresden Staatskapelle under Daniel Harding in January, the Concertgebouw under Jansons in February and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Simon Rattle in May. Also up for grabs are Maxim Vengerov leading the Mozart violin concertos from the violin, Valery Gergiev completing his Shostakovich cycle in September and December, and the pianists Evgeny Kissin (March 5), Murray Perahia (April 23) and Maurizio Pollini (June 12) in solo recitals.
The season is called 'Great Performers'. It's no exaggeration.