When I made a documentary for the BBC on Barbara, I tried to solicit the participation of the then-First Lady. Inconveniently, she was having a baby that week, after greeting world leaders, so I directed my attentions elsewhere.

Now, no longer in the Elysée, Carla has volunteered to guide the BBC around some of the great makers of chanson –  Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Barbara, Francoise Hardy, Charles Trenet and Serge Gainsbourg. You can hear the show on BBC Radio 2 tomorrow night at 10pm. Click here for details.

I get to provide some background commentary. Should be fun. Click here.


carla bruni

Two months ago, EMI veteran put his Overgrown Path blog to bed. He was going to ‘stand back from blogging’. He was done with all that. We expressed regret.

Now it looks like we’ve helped provoke him to return.

So much the better.


Say what you like about Paris, but you’re not a celebrity until Paris has embraced you.

As part of the events around the opening of the new Paris concert hall in January, it was announced today that there is to be a David Bowie retrospective, imported from the V&A in London, where it made fewer waves. Eric De Visscher, Director of Music Museum, says it will cover Bowie’s ‘multiple characters: Major Tom, Aladdin Sane, etc… He touched upon many artistic horizons! Music, fashion, film … ‘


The conductor Nicholas Smith, a former head of chorus at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, has been charged with indecent assault on a teenaged girl, a pupil at the school, between between 4 May 1976 and 3 June 1978.

Smith, 65, who once conducted the Ulster Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic, lives in France.

He has been ordered to appear in court in Manchester on June 13.

Presumptions of innocence until guilty apply.

chethams 3

The bucolic art form is growing in England.

Glyndebourne, est. 1934, employs two London orchs, the LPO and the Age of Enlightenment.

Garsington Opera, est. 1990, has, until now, employed a pick-up ensemble of mostly London-based musicians.

Today it announces that from 2017 it will engage the Philharmonia Orchestra for one full production. Press release below.







  • 2015 collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company of abridged version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Mendelssohn’s incidental music.


  • From 2017 Philharmonia Orchestra to join Garsington Opera for one opera production every season


As the curtain goes up on Garsington Opera’s 25th anniversary season, Douglas Boyd, artistic director, is delighted to announce two major developments. In 2015 there will be a collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company of an abridged version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Mendelssohn’s incidental music and from 2017 the Philharmonia Orchestra will join Garsington Opera for one opera production every season.




Garsington Opera continues to develop as a major summer opera festival and will form a partnership with one of the world’s great symphony orchestras, the Philharmonia Orchestra, initially for five years, which will enhance the artistic quality and reputation of the company. Garsington Opera is also committed to the Garsington Opera Orchestra, which will focus on baroque, classical, Italian and chamber works, whilst the Philharmonia Orchestra will enable larger-scale works to be performed.


David Whelton, Philharmonia Orchestra, Managing Director said:  Creative partnership is at the beating heart of the Philharmonia’s artistic approach, and the opportunity for us to collaborate with one of the most forward-thinking opera festivals in the UK is tremendously exciting.  We are absolutely delighted to be a part of Garsington Opera’s future, and look forward immensely to working together with Douglas Boyd and the Garsington creative team to bring extraordinary new productions of the larger scale 19th and early 20th century repertoire to audiences at Wormsley.”



For the first time Garsington Opera is working on a joint project with the RSC with performances at both Wormsley and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford. It will be a rare opportunity to see an abridged version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, under the creative guidance of Gregory Doran, Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, illuminated with Mendelssohn’s enchanting incidental music, played and sung by the Garsington Opera Company and Orchestra, conducted by Douglas Boyd.


RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran said “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so I am delighted to be able to stage this bespoke version incorporating speeches from the play along with Mendelssohn’s gorgeous score.  It was one of the first pieces of music I heard in childhood and inspired my lifelong love of Shakespeare.  This is a very exciting new collaboration with Garsington Opera, and I hope will appeal to lovers of theatre and music alike.”


The 2015 season will also feature three new productions – Mozart’s Così fan tutti  conducted by Douglas Boyd and directed by John Fulljames, Britten’sDeath in Venice conducted by Steuart Bedford who conducted the world premiere in 1973, and directed by Paul Curran and Strauss’ Intermezzoconductor Jac van Steen, director Bruno Ravella.


Douglas Boyd said: I am thrilled that we are collaborating with two such highly acclaimed international companies.  These are exciting developments which reflect our ambitions to continue to grow artistically as an international summer opera festival. 




Douglas Boyd will conduct a new production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin directed by Sir Michael Boyd, David Parry conducts Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri directed by William Tuckett and Tobias Ringborn conducts Mozart’s Idomeneo with Tim Albery directing.



Two world premieres are planned for 2017 and 2018; an Opera for All following on from the success of Orlando Gough/Richard Stilgoe’s community operaRoad Rage, and a new work within our main season.

A fairly small sample polled by English Touring Opera and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama indicates that people who go to opera in their local multiplex are no more likely than before to buy tickets to the opera house.

Only 234 people were asked, so the sample may be written off as statistically insignificant in global – that is, Met – terms. But 85 percent of those who responded said after seeing the movie that they felt no greater urge to visit live opera. Click here for details.

So what has been gained by the main plank of Peter Gelb’s Met strategy?

met seats

Madiba, an opera on the life of Nelson Mandela, has been withdrawn after three performances in Pretoria for want of funds.

The producer, Unathi Mtirara, a member of the Mandela family, blamed non-payment by the National Lottery.

Full story here.


The BBC has just released archive film of a 1964 Britten-Pears studio recital.

The first song they perform is Purcell’s ‘Man is for a woman made’. The second is about a bachelor wooing a maid. The third song is described by Pears as being about ‘woman as deceiver’. The next about ‘woman as a faithful companion’.

Several in the audience, and certainly the producers, were aware that the artists were gay and living together. What went through their minds when hearing this determined dissimulation? Leading the applause, from the back row, is the late Earl of Harewood

Watch the fascinating survey of English song here.

britten pears recital

The Chelsea Hotel – where the composer Virgil Thomson lived and died, where Leonard Cohen wrote a song about having oral sex with Janis Joplin, where Arthur Miller lived and wrote, where Bob Dylan composed ‘Sara’, where Sid Vicious’s girlfriend Nancy was found stabbed to death – has fallen into the hands of boutique hoteliers and brand managers. It’s getting sanitised and made over.

Another bit of New York heritage gone to the wreckers and dreckers.


Jenna Douglas, a Canadian pianist and singing coach, is fed up at being taken for granted by singers and opera companies. On her entertaining Schmopera site, she has published a list of things you really shouldn’t do to a pianist.

‘Why do pianists put up with it?’ demands Jenna (pictured). ‘Because we can’t afford not to. Sure, we’re thanked profusely (even publicly!) for our extra work. When we save the day by sight-reading like a monster for a masterclass, we’re momentarily everyone’s hero. But that’s not good enough. Again, in no other industry would you dream of asking a trained professional to do work that wasn’t on their contract, for which you have no intent of paying them.’

Click here to read in full.

We’re sure Slippedisc.com readers could add more common perils of the opera pianist.


jenna douglas

A spokesman for the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra has disclosed that the it almost cancelled a trip to Carnegie Hall over a lack of sufficient documents testifying to the age of ivory in its bows and other instruments. ‘We were terrified they would be seized at Customs,’ said Christian Beuke. The tour was saved by the intensive intervention of German Embassy in Washington and officials from the hall.

The visit was then blighted by a health cancellation by music director Lorin Maazel and the withdrawal of soprano Karita Mattila on political grounds.

Tricky times.


karita mattila

Ewa Michnik, general manager and music director of the opera in Wroclaw, Poland, is the winner of the 2014 Richard Wagner Prize of the city of Leipzig. Michnik, described in the citation as ‘an epitome of European culture, single-handedly presided over a Ring cycle in Wroclaw in 2006.

ewa michnik