Rising Seattle soloist Simone Porter will play the Barber Concerto in Cincinnati next week in place of concertmaster Timothy Lees, who’s suffering a stress injury, Janelle Gelfand reports.

Simone, now 19, spent her teens commuting by air twice weekly to Los Angeles in order to study at the Colburn School. When I heard her there two years ago, I wrote: ‘she is going to make it to the big time very soon.’


simone porter


He succeeds the late Kurt Masur as head of a horn and tuba contest in Markneukirchen.

thielemann sport1


Markneukirchen/Berlin (MH) – Der Dirigent Christian Thielemann (56) wird neuer Schirmherr des Internationalen Instrumentalwettbewerbs Markneukirchen. Das teilten die Veranstalter am Mittwoch mit. Thielemann ist Nachfolger des im Dezember 2015 verstorbenen Kurt Masur, der das Amt seit 2005 innehatte. Als weitere Schirmherrin stand für dieses Jahr bereits die sächsische Kunstministerin Eva-Maria Stange fest. Der Wettbewerb findet vom 19. bis 28. Mai in den Fächern Horn und Tuba statt.

Welsh National Opera has just unrolled its 2016/17 season and there’s a UK premiere of one of David Pountney’s Bregenz discoveries, André Tchaikowsky’s The Merchant of Venice.

This is irresistible. The British Tchaikovsky is about to receive his due at last. I shall walk to Wales if necessary, in the rain and dress shoes, to witness the long-gestated masterpiece of this unacknowledged genius. Also in the season (see press release below)…. Rebecca Evans as the Marschallin.

andre tchaikovsky

Autumn 2016 will see Welsh National Opera joining in the large scale celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with three very contrasting works inspired by the playwright. The season begins with Verdi’s opera Macbeth and its tale of state violence, corruption and superstition directed by Oliver Mears, conducted by Andriy Yurkevych and with Luis Cansino in the title role performing with the Company for the first time.

Continuing the theme is the classic musical, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate based on Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew and full of showstoppers including Too Darn Hot, Wunderbar, Another Op’nin’ Another Show and Brush up Your Shakespeare. Kiss Me, Kate is directed by Jo Davies, a specialist in musical theatre and opera. The British première of The Merchant of Venice by André Tchaikowsky, directed by Keith Warner completes the season. Composed by a Polish-Jewish genius, who survived the Holocaust hiding in a wardrobe in Warsaw, Tchaikowsky’s The Merchant of Venice is a powerful and serious attack on prejudice but also contains moments of tender beauty. The opera premieres in the UK, following performances at the Bregenz Festival in Austria originally commissioned by David Pountney. David Pountney said “It is a riveting thought that a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto chose to spend his last years composing an opera based on a Shakespeare play in which we are never quite sure if hatred of the Jews is being condoned or condemned.”

The theme acknowledges Shakespeare’s cultural importance and demonstrates his enormous influence across all art forms, now enriched by thrilling music.

Love’s Poisoned Chalice

Spring 2017 sets the Company on more traditional ground with revivals of the Company’s much loved productions of La Bohème with Marina Costa-Jackson making her WNO debut singing Mimi alongside Puccini’s classic, Madam Butterfly. A lesser known gem is Frank Martin’s touching and eloquent re-telling of the Tristan and Isolde story, Le Vin Herbé, (meaning the spiked drink!). This subtle and sensitive opera creates a wonderful opportunity for Welsh National Opera’s celebrated Chorus to take centre stage in a ‘Greek Chorus’ style role. Le Vin Herbé is the first main stage production awarded to the Company’s former Genesis Assistant Director, Polly Graham.

Vienna Vice

Summer 2017 offers a taste of one of music’s most seductive destinations, Vienna, with a celebration of the city’s musical culture in the form of a new production of Richard Strauss’s sumptuous comedy Der Rosenkavalier with Olivia Fuchs making her directorial WNO debut and with Rebecca Evans making a role debut as The Marschallin. Alongside Der Rosenkavalier is John Copley’s opulent, traditional and popular production of Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II – both works offering beguiling examples of the Viennese talent for being naughty and extremely charming at the same time.

These two famous operatic scores are the perfect opportunity for the Company’s new Music Director, Tomáš Hanus, to make his operatic debut. Tomáš Hanus also has devised a programme of music for the WNO Orchestra which will offer a journey through the themed seasons with concerts at St David’s Hall, Cardiff. Tomáš Hanus is now recognised as one of the Czech Republic’s most exciting and important conductors.  He first came to prominence during the Conductors’ International Competition in Katowice in 1999. His varied career includes conducting at major European opera houses including the Dresden Semperoper, the Bavarian State Opera, the Royal Danish Opera, the Norwegian National Opera and Teatro Real Madrid as well as conducting international symphony concerts around the world.

David Pountney, Artistic Director of Welsh National Opera explained, “Our 16/17 season ranges from Shakespeare’s tough politics and wicked humour to the opulent naughtiness of Viennese bedrooms, via a truly exquisite re-telling of Tristan and Isolde’s doomed romance. I can’t wait to hear Portia’s “The quality of mercy” speech set to music, nor the most ravishing trio of female voices lead by Rebecca Evans, but a whole year of glorious opera lies in between!”

It was 1998 when Mitsuko Uchida was joint music director of the Ojai festival and 2004 when she last played there. Now they’ve asked her back to preside in 2021. What took them so long?

Also coming up at Ojai: Barbara Hannigan will be music director in 2019, Patricia Kopatchinskaja in 2020.

Good calls.

mitsukouchida (1)

The newspaper has published an editorial that objects to the planned cuts in the chorus of English National Opera.

It likens the chorus singers to hospital doctors who are on strike today against an unfounded Government assault on their working hours and practices.

It adds: in both the NHS and the ENO, those in charge are making the same mistake. The goodwill of those who make the NHS and the ENO the institutions they are is being put at risk by picking on the people who provide the service. To restore harmony we need a chorus of disapproval against such mismanagement.

Well intentioned as it maybe, the editorial is simplistic, verging on Corbynistic.

Setting the NHS issue to one side, the ENO problem is not any ‘such mismanagement’. It is, if anything an excess of management, or meddling, by the company’s executives, its lacklustre board and a vindictive, unaccountable Arts Council England that wants to punish present administrators for the sins of their predecessors.

What ENO needs is not a chorus of disapproval but a show of support for its survival. Any disapproval should be directed not at the present managers but at the ACE, led by ENO’s former chairman.

Oddly, those culprits are not mentioned in the Guardian’s one-eyed editorial.


The Passenger by Mieczyslaw Weinberg

Stéphane Lissner has rolled out an original season for 2016/17, with 11 new opera productions including one world premiere, a co-pro with London’s Royal College of Music, Britten’s little-seen Owen Wyngrave, Pretty Yende as Lucia di Lammermoor, one conductor under 30, and much else.

See the full list on forumopera. Almost all seats cheaper than Covent Garden. Book your Eurostars now.


It has been an age since I looked to my shelves for a work by a major composer and found that, after 40 years of building a library, I don’t have it. Nor, so far as I recall, have I ever heard it, either in concert or on the radio (though a few recordings do exist)….

Happily the gap has now been filled. Find out what it is here.

bartok field recording

The first Afro-American to sing a name role at La Scala – she was Aida in 1960 – has a birthday today.

Many happy returns, many happy memories.


In his Evening Standard review of Magic Flute at English National Opera, Barry Millingon observed that:

‘Tamino, sung by Allan Clayton, who is vocally in excellent trim but needs to spend more time at the gym if he is to be stripped regularly to his boxers’.

The young British tenor (whose ironic twitter name is @fatboyclayton) replied succinctly:

‘Barry Millington can fuck off.’

allan clayton

Happy Wednesdays, everyone!

UPDATE: A different take on the show, here.

Dr Alexander Buhr becomes managing director of Decca Classics from today.

A rising star at Universal Music, he reinvented Mercury Classics as a successful crossover label with such artists as Miloš Karadaglić, Yundi, Tori Amos, Olafur Arnalds, Andreas Ottensamer and Mari and Hakon Samuelsen. He will now take control of both labels.

He succeeds Paul Moseley, who has been given a strategic role within Universal. He holds a PhD in Musicology from the University of Hamburg as well as an MBA (SMI Steinbeiss, SDA Bocconi, and Stern School of Business). He will report to Rebecca Allen, Decca Record Group’s Managing Director, who is riding high on Bocelli and Rieu sales.

Dr Buhr has been told to put the identity back into Decca. The brand has got fuzzy.

alex buhr

The Polar Prize winners for 2016 have just been announced, one from serious music the other from pop.

The Italian mezzo will receive 1m Swedish crowns (about $150,000).

A Swedish songwriter known as Max Martin is her opposite number.

Past winners include Chuck Berry, Björk, Steve Reich and Peter Sellars.

The winners get to make a big, world-relayed speech.

bartoli St--Petersburg--Teaser

UPDATE: The announcement video, with anachronistic commentary and a gormless interviewer: