Roberto Alagna and his wife  Aleksandra Kurzak have announced their withdrawal from the ROH’s L’Elisir d’Amore.

In an instagram message, he says he is suffering from tracheisis. He withdrew in the middle of tonight’s performance and was replaced by Ioan Hotea. Not clear if she is continuing.

@royaloperahouse #sosorry #tried but #havetostop #rohelisir #tracheisis … #seeusoon with @aleksandra_kurzak #love to all 😓😣

A post shared by roberto.alagna.official (@robertoalagna.tenor) on

They have announced the Kyoto awards in Japan.

Three winners each receive a diploma, the 20-karat gold Kyoto Prize medal and prize money of 50 million yen ($449,624).

The 2017 winners are Dr. Takashi Mimura, a Japanese semiconductor engineer and honorary fellow at Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., Dr. Graham Farquhar, an Australian plant physiologist and distinguished professor at Australian National University, and Dr. Richard Taruskin, an American musicologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.

According to the citation, Taruskin is ‘a Musicologist and Critic of Prodigious Erudition Who Has Transformed Contemporary Perspectives on Music through Historical Research and Essays That Defy Conventional Critical Paradigms’.

And so he does.

Blamed by a Times ‘investigation’ for taking council funds at the expense of the poorest in the borough, Opera Holland Park has responded with a sombre statement noting its engagement with the Grenfell Tower disaster.

In summary:

– Opera Holland Park receives no council funds, has not done so since 2015.

– One of its cherished staff members is listed as missing in the inferno.

– The company employs many people from the borough and is closely involved with local charities.

– It has launched a large fundraising effort for Grenfell Tower victims.

Read the full statement here.

Shame on the Times. Might be time to cancel subscriptions.

Stephen Moss, one of the Guardian’s more thoughtful commentators, proposes today that we remodel British primary education along Finnish lines, by giving every five year-old an instrument to play.

He writes from personal experience:

Almost every other person you meet says one of their greatest regrets is that they didn’t learn to read music or play an instrument. That’s certainly true of me: there were no lessons on offer at my big comprehensive. Good though it was, it didn’t offer too many frills. It had enough to do getting you through the curriculum. There was no school orchestra; no tradition of teaching – properly teaching – music. The only real players there were – I remember an ace pianist and a very good trombonist – were middle-class kids being taught in private lessons paid for by their parents…

Read on here.

The headline across pages 6 and 7 of the Times today is one of the most distortive I can remember in a British broadsheet newspaper.

It reads:

Council made a fortune on social housing and lost it on opera.


The implication is that Kensington and Chelsea Council blew its money on champagne and arias while neglecting poor people in tower blocks.

Which is both untrue and outrageous.

Kensington and Chelsea founded the Holland Park Festival in a marquee in 1988 and funded it for quarter of a century. In Orcotber 2015, the festival became an independent charity. It continues to receive a small subsidy from the council, as part of its public duty to promote education and leisure amenities.

According to the Times: ‘Last year the council lost £1.5 million on staffing and operating the opera, its accounts show. In 2014-15, it lost £1 million.’

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, these ‘losses’  are part of its former* public subsidy.

The Times continues: ‘The festival which last night showed a performance of Don Giovanni, and sells picnic hampers for £265, takes place in Holland Park, a green space whose neighbours include some of the country’s richest people, including David Beckham.’

This is disgraceful tabloid demagoguery.


I have never seen Mr Beckham at the opera, or partaken of a £265 hamper, but I have seen lots of people watching opera at Holland Park who cannot afford the prices of any other summer opera. It is a very mixed audience and the council was right to support it with a modest amount of tax funds. UPDATE: *The council’s grant to the opera ended last year.

The Times attack is both uninformed and unfounded. Will we see a retraction?

UPDATE: Opera Holland Park responds here.

Frederick Pinto is 21. He has been playing in El Sistema for ten years and is a member of its national orchestra.

On April 4, while walking to rehearsal, he was seized by police in Caracas, beaten and brutalised. ‘I’m a musician,’ he shouted, to no avail.

His mother, when she was summoned to pick him up, was threatened with violence to herself and the rest of the family. The threats were followed by phone calls.

The family left Venezuela and is now in Spain.

Frederick is appealing for funds to enable him to continue his musical studies.

He was not allowed to take his French horn out of Venezuela.

Watch, and weep.

Help here if you can. The appeal was launched this morning.

One of the most closely-contested finals of the competition was possibly the least watched.

For the duration of the competition, the BBC did nothing to generate public or media interest. There were no press features, little online discussion and nothing – or next-to-nothing – on the BBC’s own website.

This morning, hours after Catriona Morison’s fairy-tale victory, news of her triumph appears fourth story down on the BBC’s entertainment website, behind three commercial pop features.

Unlike past years, the winner, Catriona Morison, was not interviewed this morning on the flagship Radio 4 Today programme (at least according to its running order).

Nor does the Cardiff result appear this morning in print media or their associated websites. Why not? Because the BBC failed to promote a competition in which it appears to have lost interest. Either it skimped on the publicity budget, or its publicists fell down on the job.

The BBC has the largest publicity operation in UK media. It works tirelessly to promote the BBC’s output. This year, the publicity machine did nothing – presumably by order – to make the public aware that there was a tense and intriguing finale coming up in Cardiff. Why not? Was this BBC incompetence or, more likely, indifference?