By Michael Roddy
From Reuters - Mon Jun 18, 2007
Composer Thomas Ades has scored the pounding beat of a dance club for orchestra, got a soprano to sing a breathtaking 17 high E's in her first minute onstage and ended a concerto by slamming down a piano lid.
Just don't call him the "wunderkind of British music" anymore. On March 1, the Londoner whose prodigious talent has taken the music world by storm, turned 36.
"My friend said to me...'You stop being young when you turn 36'," Ades, his face beaded with sweat, told Reuters in a rare interview following an orchestra rehearsal last week.
"In a way, it's a huge relief. I seem to have been young for a very long time. I've been the 'wunderkind' for ages."
Everyone should have such an enchanted youth, and end it with prospects so bright.
Almost from the moment he started composing seriously, at age 17, Ades, a graduate of King's College, Cambridge and London's Guildhall School of Music, has been heralded as the shining star of British music, a successor to Benjamin Britten, possibly another Mozart.
The tall, almost teddy-bearish Ades, is so multi-talented -- he's a superb pianist and conductor -- he could have had his pick of careers, but in the end, he had to compose.
"If you are lucky enough to find your voice...you really have no choice. You kind of have to do it, no matter how many offers you're lucky enough to get to perform.
"That little voice in the back of your head just keeps saying, 'If you can write you have to'. Somebody, (French novelist Andre) Gide or somebody, said, 'If you can stop, do.' ...It's a lot of hard work."
No one knows that better than Ades, who has had his share of crises on the way to success, including having premieres of both his symphonies conducted by one of the world's top conductors, Sir Simon Rattle, and an opera produced at Covent Garden.
That was his second opera, "The Tempest", based on Shakespeare's play, and its 2004 premiere almost was one of the great train wrecks of music history.
As "one of the last of the old steam-powered composers", Ades shuns computers and writes out everything by hand -- which takes time.
"I rang them...and said, 'We can postpone this or I can do it but it will be a nightmare for everyone, I mean, cast, orchestra, everyone'...And I understand, they just can't postpone...
"The dress rehearsal, we had to close, it was so terrifying they didn't let anybody in, and they pulled it out of the hat on the first night, but it was the skin of the teeth."
A revival last March worked better after Ades had a chance to fine tune. It gave the cast, including American soprano Cyndia Sieden, the only one so far to tackle the suicidal role of the sprite Ariel singing the 17 high E's, a chance to shine.
"She swears she's not the only one who could do it...but we'll have to clone her, I think," Ades said with a laugh.
Asked if "The Tempest" might be headed for The Metropolitan Opera, America's showcase house where his work has yet to be performed, Ades said there had been talk, but he could not confirm anything other than "I have my fingers crossed".
And what next?
"It's high time I do a new string quartet. I'm looking forward to that. What it will be like, I don't know yet. We'll see."
String quartets -- you have been forewarned.