Those dark colours are extraordinarily suited to these times.

A carefully crafted, inclusivist comment from the tenor about his forthcoming release, circulated by the Catholic News Agency:

‘The concept behind ‘Believe’ is based on three words: faith, hope and charity. These are the three theological virtues of Christianity, yet – quite independently of any religious belief – they are also the three extraordinary keys to giving meaning and completeness to the lives of every one of us.’

The Boston Symphony has renewed its music director for three more years, to the summer of 2025.

But the contract has an evergreen clause, ‘reflecting a mutual intent for a long-term commitment between the BSO and Mr. Nelsons well beyond the terms of any of their contracts.’ He will conduct at least 12 weeks of the year in Boston.

At the same time, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra renewed Nelsons’s contract for another five years in similar fashion, up to 2027

Nelsons 41, is the obedient servant of two masters.


Anja Harteros has pulled out of three Toscas in the coming week in Munich.

Who’s up for it?

Sonya Yoncheva.

(And practically any other soprano with a working phone.)


The Russian soprano, recovering from Covid-19, has been posing for social media pictures in Moscow.

She tells her followers: ‘In few days I will come back to singing and tell you about new plans! And – NO – I am Not gonna make photos with mask.’



My monthly essay for The Critic has just gone upon its website. I have shared some thoughts on polarised attitudes to Richard Wagner and his role in history.

Much as I admire Alex Ross’s new book, I take issue with his claim that Richard Wagner was ‘the most widely influential figure in the history of music’. He wasn’t.

… At the risk of undermining his own thesis, Ross quotes Nietzsche in advocating that no statement should ever be made about Wagner without the word “perhaps”. I am well past 600 pages before I see the flaw in his case. Ross states that Wagner is — perhaps — the most influential figure in the history of music. He isn’t. Remove Bach and there is no history. Take out Beethoven and everything grinds to a halt. Eliminate Verdi and there is no Italian opera. Without Stravinsky, no twentieth century.

Remove Wagner, however, and the rest of music continues regardless. Wagner is a one-off, an ego, a restless provocateur. To Wagnerites, he’s the fusion of all arts. To Wagner-sceptics like me, he’s a genetic anomaly, a genius without anxiety.

Read the full article here,


The Scottish Government, responding to an online woke campaign is pressuting the international festival to be more female and diverse.

The festival says: ‘We make no excuses for our shortcomings and recognise that we are not yet where we want to be.

‘Whilst we are proud of our resulting programme and our ability to create work for more than 500 individuals, we acknowledge our failure to reflect the diversity of practice in our community and our responsibility to give voice to those whose voices have been marginalised.’

The language could be taken from a Stalinist confession.

Read here.


Covent Garden’s decision to sell David Hockney’s portrait of David Webster is crude, callous and self-damaging in more ways than its desperate board seems to realise.

Webtser, a department store manager from Liverpool, was general administrator of the Royal Opera House from its estbalishment as a state-funded company in 1946 until his retirement 25 years later. He created the company out of rubble and amateurs and steered it to a position of respect among the world’s leading opera ensembles. In the course of writing Covent Garden: The Untold Story I acquired a deep regard for this grey, gay, capable, dedicated, ingenious hedonist.

The ROH was his life. Webster died in Brighton, aged 67, within a year of his retirement.

His farewell gift was the portrait by Hockney, then a young darling of the London arts scene with affordable commission rates. Webster gave back the Hockney portrait to the ROH.

Today it is worth an estimated £18 million. Covent Garden, in Covid times, needs the money and has put it up for sale.

But the house, without its founding father, will lack tradition and romance, roots and legend, the very heart of its story. It will be just another pile of bricks where opera and ballet are performed.


Vienna’s Der Standard, which used to be a serious newspaper, has gone wild with hyperbole this weekend over the young British conductor Alexander Soddy who, according to its critic, set new standards in Salome at the Vienna State Opera.

‘Soddy’s conducting was an event that has not been experienced in this house for decades,’ the review gushed.

Read here.

Soddy shares a manager with Kirill Petrenko.

This is Holland’s premier concert hall, adapted for Covid distancing and ease of drinking.



The Finnish star Karita Mattila is renowned for aways showing up.

Last night, however, she cancelled Janacek’s Jenufa in the composer’s home town of Brno ‘due to a sudden health indisposition.’

We wish her better.


The Berlin Philharmonic has announced that the Chinese pianist Lang Lang and the Latvian mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca have cancelled recitals in November ‘due to the current regulations to contain the corona pandemic and the associated associated quarantine regulations for entry from risk areas.’

Both have rescheduled for next year.

Mezzosopranistin Elīna Garanča und Pianist Lang Lang verschieben coronabedingt ihre Konzerte in der Philharmonie Berlin Aufgrund der aktuellen Bestimmungen zur Eindämmung der Corona-Pandemie und den damit verbunden Quarantäneregelungen bei Einreise aus Risikogebieten müssen sowohl Elīna Garanča als auch Lang Lang ihre für den November geplanten Konzerte leider verlegen. Der Liederabend der Mezzosopranistin Elīna Garanča, begleitet vom Pianisten Malcolm Martineau, im Großen Saal der Philharmonie Berlin wird vom 10. November 2020 auf den 6. Mai 2021 verschoben. Das Klavierrezital mit Lang Lang wird vom 18. November 2020 auf den 17. November 2021 verlegt. Das Konzert findet ebenfalls im Großen Saal der Philharmonie Berlin statt.