Julian has been given an academic upgrade before he starts work today at the Birmingham Conservatoire.


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press release:

Julian Lloyd Webber starts work today as the new Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire, part of Birmingham City University, focused on ensuring all students graduate with the skills they need to make careers in a rapidly changing 21st century music industry.
Newly appointed as Professor Lloyd Webber, he takes up his new position as work gets underway on a new £46m home for Birmingham Conservatoire, the first of its kind to be built in the UK for over a generation.
Professor Lloyd Webber said: “I am so looking forward to starting work at Birmingham Conservatoire, which has a proud history and a massively exciting future. I have already met many of the staff and I am now looking forward to meeting and working with the talented students.
“The opportunities that lie ahead for Birmingham Conservatoire are limitless. We will have an exceptional new home for making music as well as access to the University’s facilities and multi-genre expertise, ensuring our students leave with all the skills they need for today’s music industry.”
The new £46m home for the Conservatoire will open in 2017, providing music students with new practice and performance facilities. As part of Birmingham City University’s campus, Conservatoire students will also have access to a range of media and production facilities, including one of the largest green screen studios in the UK.

A major closed season signing: Mark Nuccio, associate principal and Solo E-flat clarinet of the New York Philharmonic, is joining the Houston Symphony as principal clarinet.

Mark has been 16 years with the NY Phil, four of them as acting principal.

mark nuccio

Laura Ahlbeck, who played principal oboe with the Boston Pops and was frequently heard in the Boston Symphony, has died at the age of 57, five years after retiring with a degenerative brain disease.

Laura was known, loved and respected far beyond the USA. First tributes here.

Our condolences to her husband Richard Ranti, BSO associate principal bassoon, their family and many friends.

laura ahlbeck

Catharine Rogers, a London opera singer, went to the dress rehearsal last Friday of Damiano Michieletto’s Covent Garden production of Rossini’s William Tell.

In the extended rape scene, she was profoundly upset. Knowing that it was bad form to discuss a production before opening night, she stayed quiet while others booed. Then she wrote to the ROH artistic director Kasper Holten.

Here’s Catharine’s account of her experience (full story here).

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On Friday afternoon I was in a bit of a quandary. It didn’t occur to me that I was capable of reacting so violently to an opera performance, but there I was, sobbing (thankfully silently) and shaking and unable to look away from a scene in Act 3 of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell at the Royal Opera House. I did not boo. It was however the first time I had ever heard booing and shouting at a dress rehearsal, and not at the curtain calls, DURING THE PERFORMANCE. This from an audience of opera professionals and supporters of the art. Afterwards I discussed with the women either side of me how unnecessary it felt, but I felt relatively calm. I spoke to my boyfriend on the phone straight afterwards and said how upsetting it had been. I briefly met one of the chorus who was not enjoying being part of it. I went home…

It was still getting to me. I am under a lot of stress at the moment, and feeling vulnerable, but I have never been the victim of sexual violence, I didn’t think I could feel so disturbed by something I knew was staged. The next day I spoke briefly about it to my flatmate, not sure what I should do, but aware I should do something. I burst into tears again (I have cried more tears in the last four days or so than I can ever remember doing). I decided to write to the ROH.


We asked Catharine what, exactly, upset her in the scene. She replied: ‘It was incredibly realistic with at one point the girl screaming in English, not in French, I felt paralysed and unable to help her….’ She felt the rape went on far too long and the production should have been preceded by a warning.

Catharine continues:

Then something unexpected happened: I switched my phone on between rehearsals to find an email from Kasper Holten. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. At first I thought it must be a marketing email – after all, I was *somehow* on a Labour mailing list that resulted in some of the most irritating promotional emails in history in the run up to the General Election purporting to be from Ed Milliband. Or his wife. Or anyone else in the Labour party you care to name. I digress. The Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House had indeed sent me an email. I hope he will forgive me, I thought about paraphrasing him at this point, but I think it would be wrong in case I change any of his meaning. This is what he wrote:

Dear Ms Rogers,

Thank you for your email, and for taking the time to write to me. I am
glad you enjoyed many aspects of the Guillaume Tell dress rehearsal.

I am sorry that you found the scene in act 3 so disturbing. The director
wanted to show the reality of war and oppression, which is of course the
themes Rossini’s opera deals with. And sadly, what we show on stage in act
3 is of course only very mild compared to what happens in countries
occupied by aggressors around the world, and compared to what women must
endure in times of war and occupation. It is important for the director to
show this in order to exactly put the spotlight on how women are made
victims and to remind us how damaging and horrible sexual violence towards
women is. So he and you totally agree on what a terrible thing rape is
(the scene on stage never amounts to actual rape, even though I agree it
is very violent and humiliating).

Rossini chose the subject of war and oppression for his opera because he
wanted to make statements about these issues, and it is important that we
do not only allow his opera to become harmless entertainment today. The
story of the opera also includes multiple murders, which surely is as bad
as rape? It is, however, always a discussion how much one needs to show on
the stage, of course.

Following your reaction, we are reviewing the scene with the director and
some changes will be made before opening night, although the scene will
still be included.

We already have a warning on our homepage stating that ³The production
features a scene involving an adult theme and brief nudity², but we will
consider whether the warning needs to be stronger and more visible.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me with your feedback. I assure
you we take it very seriously and are considering it carefully.

Best wishes
Kasper Holten

But nothing happened. The rape went ahead without warning.

Catharine writes:

Kasper Holten has let me down. Whilst I had no expectation that the scene would change, I did think there would be a proper warning. HALF of all women in the UK have been the victim of sexual or physical violence. HALF. I thought it was 1 in 4 until today.

Frankly, if it were me, I would have walked out onto the stage before the downbeat and announced that “there would be a disturbing scene of a sexual and violent nature in Act 3. We have thought long and hard about it’s inclusion. We feel it is artistically relevant, but that it would be wrong to let it pass without warning.”

Her conclusion: This scene is meant to shock, and it’s meant to shock CHEAPLY. Without protecting the very people who’s plight it is designed to highlight.’

Read Catharine’s full account here.


fabio luisi picture

Examine this image closely.

It’s a photo from a family scrapbook, taken somewhere in Bavaria in 1936.

All the children are raising their arms in the Hitler salute, marshalled by a couple of adult Nazis.

One little boy in the front keeps his arms stubbornly at his side.

Who is that little boy?

fabio luisi picture

Fabio Luisi, principal conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, tells Slipped Disc:
‘The little boy in the first row is (my wife) Barbara’s father, Johann Eichinger, born 1931. He is the only one in the crowd who is not doing the “Hitlergruss” (and not screaming “Heil Hitler”).

‘His mother forbade him to do the “Hitlergruss”, he listened and he was allegedly very proud about his own behaviour.

‘His family was a German anti-nazi family, and they had a lot of problems because of this picture.

‘We find this picture highly remarkable, showing that there were Germans who did not follow the collective Hitler hysteria, even educating at their own risk their children not to be a number in the crowd.

‘Johann (Hans) is my father in law now, he can remember that day and is still proud. In the second picture you see him with Barbara, my wife, me and his wife Gitta Eichinger.’
luisi family

Bavarian State Opera has cancelled the July 4 live streaming of Claude Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande ‘for technical reasons’. Instead it will show Arabella with Anja Harteros in the title role on July 11.

Early Pelleas reviews have been mostly hostile. One critic reported that the audience considered Christiane Pohle’s production to be ‘the flop of the season’. Other critics found it static and depressing.

Those sound like good ‘technical grounds’

Wonder whether Covent Garden will pull the plug likewise on its much-booed William Tell.

pelleas munich

First broadsheet reviews of last night’s storm-tossed production pulls no punches.

Richard Morrison writes on the Times website:

william tell2



With one inexcusably nasty five-minute sequence, rightly greeted with a performance-stopping furore of boos probably unprecedented in Royal Opera House history, this show went from four stars to one. An over-reaction? Not if you saw 20 men from the chorus pull forward a woman, taunt her, strip her naked and then pile on to rape her. Explicitly and downstage.

That this gratuitous degradation should be presented in 2015 Britain by the nation’s most highly subsidised arts institution shames not only the production’s director, Damiano Michieletto, but also Covent Garden’s chief executive, Alex Beard, and the director of opera, Kasper Holten. Why did they concur? I was shocked to see children in the audience.

Full review here (firewall).

More reviews as they come in.

Michael Church in the Independent:

Some directors love to shock, but Damiano Michieletto got more than he bargained for when he staged a slaveringly-protracted stripping-naked of a female actor in a gang-rape chez the evil Gesler in Guillaume Tell: the auditorium was swept by a sudden hurricane of booing so loud, so angry, and so unanimous that the music was drowned and the scene brought to an embarrassed halt.

This Italian director may have urgent things to say about Nineties Bosnia – whither he had transplanted Rossini’s Swiss melodrama – but it took the unprecedented gut reaction of 2000 punters to ram home the tastelessness of his little idea.

The mass-bathing of a group of nearly-naked four-year-olds in the next act was no less gratuitous.


Yet there is also much to like in this production, which has allowed Antonio Pappano to see staged the opera he has long championed.

More here.

Tim Ashley in the Guardian:

The Royal Opera is, perhaps, going to have to start reconsidering its priorities and its relationship with its audience after the first night of Damiano Michieletto’swretched new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. The groundswell of concern about the bifurcation between musical excellence and weak theatrical standards at Covent Garden has been gathering for some time now. Michieletto’s decision to re-cast the third act ballet – in which the tyrannical Gesler’s henchmen force a group of girls to dance with them – as a protracted and pruriently voyeuristic gang rape, resulted in an immediate reaction of unprecedented anger, as sustained booing swept through the auditorium, drowning out the music, and continuing until the end of the episode.

A few individuals carried on heckling the singers – unfairly – through to the start of Act IV. Not everyone, it should be added, had got that far. People were voting with their feet as well as their voices: quite a few had already left during the second interval.

Alexandra Coghlan in the Spectator:

Let’s talk instead about how Michieletto’s production — lazy in concept, violently ugly in execution — doesn’t earn the extremity of that scene. There’s an emotional and dramatic void at the core of the show, partly born of Rossini’s ponderous score (which has moments of astonishing beauty and drama, unfortunately stitched together into a rather unwieldy whole), but mostly sucked hollow by a director who misunderstands his material. To include all the opera’s ballet music but to deny it any dancers is misguided; to supplement that lack with second-rate mime from the singers is just plain wilful.


VIDEO: How they booed the director (starts at 4:10)

Moscow Conservatory was on fire on the evening before the last night of Tchaikovsky Competition finals. No casualties have been reported. Tchaikovsky judge Peter Donohoe reports from Moscow:

It seemed to be coming from one second floor room and had only spread to one further room, but of course I was not able to see properly. The Russian fire service was certainly out in force – lots of fire engines, an ambulance, the road closed right down towards Red Square and what seemed like miles of hose. However, there was no sign of anyone hurt. The problem will be the smoke and smell after it has been put out; its effect tomorrow on the final could be considerable. We will have to see.

Moscow Conservatory has had devastating fires in the past. This will be nothing like that. But it is so sad to see such a beautiful building, in which such beautiful things happen, going through this. in fact, it is horrible; I would really appreciate it if we could resist the urge to post trivial and silly comments.

You can watch video here.

moscow cons

UPDATE: Here is the official report:

On June 30 at 00:07 a.m. [Moscow time] the Centre for Crisis Management of the Main Department of Russian Emergencies Ministry in Moscow received a call that a fire had broken out in the administrative building on Bolshaya Nikitskaya street 13, building 1. The first 1. The first fire rescue units arrived at the specified location by 00:10 a.m. The fire was on the 2nd floor of the building in an area of 70 square metres. Due to skillful actions by the fire rescue troops, 35 people were evacuated.

At 00:14 a.m. the fire was rated as “rank 2” [out of 5], which was later cancelled, after the allocation of rescue forces.
As a result of the coordinated and timely actions of fire rescue units, the fire was contained by 2:59 a.m. and extinguished at 3:25 a.m. A personnel of 92 people and 26 technical units was involved in this operation.
No casualties have been reported.

h/t: Daina Svabe

moscow cons fire

Press release, just in:


Today it is announced that Sir Simon Rattle will take on the role of Artist-in-Association with the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. This announcement coincides with Sir Simon’s appearances with the LSO at the Barbican Centre this week, which further highlight his commitment and involvement with young people’s music-making, and this new role will be undertaken alongside his appointment as Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra from the 2017/18 season.

The appointment drives forward his desire to bring performance, orchestral practice, artistic creation, learning and discovery together in a single vision for the future.

Sir Simon Rattle said “This is a once-in a lifetime opportunity to join up every element of our work. I am thrilled to become involved with this pioneering collaboration between a world-class orchestra, arts centre and conservatoire at the heart of one of the world’s great cultural cities. It gives us the chance to develop a unique offer of inspiring music for a new generation”.

As Artist-in-Association with the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School, alongside his music directorship of the LSO, Rattle will become involved in exploring cross-arts collaborations and special projects across the LSO, Barbican, and the Guildhall School.

Initiatives include:

  • a series of commissions by the Barbican for Rattle and the LSO when he becomes Music Director
  • an annual series of semi-staged operas mounted jointly by the LSO and the Barbican, launched with Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in January 2016
  • a regular series of orchestral ‘side-by-side projects’ by the LSO and the Guildhall School, launched with this week’s performance of Walton’s First Symphony
  • championing the development of new Guildhall School postgraduate courses  in conducting and choral training
  • supporting the role of singing with LSO Choral Director Simon Halsey

Sir Nicholas Kenyon said “It is a natural extension of all Sir Simon’s aspirations for his relationship with the LSO that this should include the creative organisations who are at the heart of the City of London’s developing cultural hub. We look forward to creating some memorable events with him in the years ahead as we bring the power of music and the arts to new audiences”.

Professor Barry Ife, Principal, Guildhall School said, “We are very excited to have someone of Sir Simon’s stature involved with inspiring our students and working with us to develop groundbreaking new courses. It’s the latest marker of our unique and growing partnership with the LSO and Barbican, which has brought many invaluable opportunities to Guildhall students and will continue to do so.”

Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director of the LSO, said “We are delighted that Sir Simon’s role with the LSO will extend to include major collaborations with our partners in the Guildhall School and the Barbican Centre, building on recent initiatives.  As the concept of a cultural hub in the City of London develops, it is important that we are working together to realise extraordinary projects that develop future generations of musicians and music-lovers.”

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photo (c) Chris Christodoulou/LebrechtMusic&Arts

The first night audience at the Royal Opera House is not a baying mob. Disapproval is expressed by low applause and early departure. Last night, the audience broke its behaviour rules at a bad new production.

Tim Walton reports:

I have just been to see William Tell at the ROH. The first night of a new production and the first performance at CG for 22 years.

It started ok, but then soldiers appeared with machine guns!

In the 3rd act things went from bad to worse when the soldiers grabbed one of the peasants, stripped her and there was then a mock rape. The booing started and went on through most of the act and at the end.  Dozens of people then got up and walked out.

At the end of the performance there were cheers for the singers, quite rightly but there was a large amount of booing when the production team came on stage.

I have been to over 400 opera performances at the Garden, but I have never witnessed what I heard and saw tonight.

Most regular opera goers know that Kaspar Holten (Royal Opera artistic director) is not up to much, but I am astonished that Tony Pappano allowed this shameful production to go on in this form. Has he lost all artistic morals?

This is going out live at cinemas on Sunday afternoon. If the booing happens then the world is going to know about it!!


william tell


Holten issued a statement, saying he’s sorry. But not very:

‘The production includes a scene which puts the spotlight on the brutal reality of women being abused during war time, and sexual violence being a tragic fact of war. The production intends to make it an uncomfortable scene, just as there are several upsetting and violent scenes in Rossini’s score. We are sorry if some people have found this distressing.’

Here’s the production trailer:

Here’s Michael Roddy’s report on Reuters.

And here’s a further eyewitness account, sent to Slipped Disc by ‘Opera Spy’:

Prolonged booing and catcalls, normally reserved for an offending performer’s curtain call, erupted mid-performance at the Royal OperaHouse last evening, at one point seeming likely to stop the show or even start a fight. However, singers and orchestra ploughed through the interruption regardless, only for it to resume vociferously as the production team joined the cast lineup at the end. One habitué said it was the worst such demonstration of disapproval he had seen in 56 years of opera going. The occasion was a controversial updated (1950s) staging of Rossini’s Guillaume (William) Tell, one of the works the 19th-century Italian composer wrote to a French text for a Parisian commission. The ballet sequences which Paris opera audiences demanded in those days were replaced in this version by mimed scenes, one involving a fully nude rape victim, and it was this which provoked the sudden outburst last night. Subsequent trickles of shouted objection included “shame on you, Tony” for the conductor, a loud boredom snore, “big deal, they moved” for a static chorus and “sit down!” for a soloist obliged to try to sing
while lying on a table on his side. Rival factions yelled “bad behaviour” and “shut up or get out!” Covent Garden used to be such a genteel place.

UPDATE: First review here.