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An Opera Singer

Rupert Christiansen reviews Rusalka at the Royal Opera House

I only hope that the furious booing with which it was greeted at the curtain call means that it will be returned to sender at the earliest opportunity.

Reactions to Rusalka

Yet another shit let’s shock production of a very dull opera …

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Tom Service talks to Alexander Goehr about his last opera, based on King Lear, currently in rehearsal:

At 78, Alexander “Sandy” Goehr is one of the linchpins of the British musical establishment. He was professor of music at Cambridge University for nearly a quarter of a century; as a student, he was one of the Manchester School of composers, along with Harrison Birtwistle (“Harry”) and Peter Maxwell Davies (“Max”). Not that he thanks me for reminding him of his establishment credentials. “It’s all bullshit,” he says with a wry smile, somehow managing to make a cuss word sound cultured with his deep, resonant tones. “Nobody understood that I was a complete outsider at Cambridge. I haven’t even got a degree, let alone a doctorate – and I only got the job back in 1976 because the place was so clapped out they had to appoint a sort of academic doctor to sort it out.”

Promised End is at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, London, on 9, 11, 14 and 16 October (box office: 020-7304 4000), then tours until 26 November.

Details: englishtouringopera.org.uk

She’s famous for disrupting the Turner Prize awards dinner in 1997 after turning up drunk.

And last night was another eventful evening for Tracey Emin, who had to be carried out to her car after indulging a little too much at the GQ Men of the Year awards.

It was an eventful night for the 47-year-old artist, who arrived at the Royal Opera House for the event dressed as Top Gear’s The Stig, before taking off her white jumpsuit to reveal a blue Vivienne Westwood cocktail dress.

She said: “I did used to be an alcoholic. Now I get drunk when I go out as opposed to getting drunk, staying in on my own. My maximum amount of alcohol these days is a bottle and a half of good, white wine. Maybe two, if it’s mixed with water. At that point, I usually black out. But, I’ve come a long way from the four cans of Stella, one bottle of brandy and anything that I could shove down my gullet in a night.”

(Source: Daily Mail)

Five decades into his brilliant career as one of the world’s great tenors, Plácido Domingo – now a baritone – is working as hard as ever. Catch him while you can, says Peter Conrad.

Plácido Domingo’s name means Placid Sunday, which is not what he will be enjoying today. He may well sleep until the afternoon, but will make up for that inertia tonight on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, in a BBC Proms performance of the Royal Opera’s production of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, he will age half a century, beginning as a swashbuckling corsair and ending – after the lapse of a few decades between the acts – as the elderly, careworn Doge of Genoa, poisoned by a vindictive political crony.

The Australian conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, who led the opening concert at the Sydney Opera House and was the first non-Briton to lead the Last Night of the Proms, has died in London at the age of 84.

Charles Mackerras was born in the US and raised in Australia before coming to England to study music.

Though internationally acclaimed, he disdained stardom and missed out on the plum post at Covent Garden.

He had become maybe my favourite conductor over the last few years. What a great man – great conductor, great musicologist, great reader and lover of music, great arranger too (Pineapple Poll). This is really sad news. He was the one conductor among the current generation of 80-somethings I was hoping would live longest; sorry, Haitink, Harnoncourt, etc. Not least because he was due to perform Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Mozart’s 40th and Schubert’s 4th in London this year – concerts which, since I’m moving to London, I was expecting to be the best nights of my year.

I don’t think I ever heard a recording of his that was not good, whether it was 18th 19th or 20th Century – he seemed to bring a fresh and exciting and always musically rewarding interpretation to the works he conducted.

It is very sad news, but he had a long and full life and left behind a great recorded legacy; you can’t ask for much more than that.

I recall an excellent concert at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester nearly ten years ago, where Sir Charles conducted Mahler’s Sixth Symphony with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. This was issued on CD with the BBC Music Magazine about a year later and I recalled how special and heartfelt the performance was. It is this, which I am spinning now, preparing for Mahler’s Eighth Symphony from the BBC Proms tonight. Great memories, great performance, very sad loss.

R.I.P. Alan Charles MacLaurin Mackerras, conductor, born 17 November 1925; died 14 July 2010

Related:

The modest maestro

The self-taught Argentine tenor, star of David McVicar’s new Aïda, talks to Emma Pomfret of the Times.

He is in town for Verdi’s Aïda, directed by David McVicar. It is Alvarez’s debut as Radames, the heroic Egyptian general caught in a love triangle between Aïda, a prisoner, and the scorned princess Amneris.

“I’m very engaged with the production,” Alvarez announces, explaining that this Aïda is no “earthy” Egypt but a mix of evocative ancient traditions: Aztec Mexico, Ancient Greece and samurai warriors. “It looks a little like Stargate.”

“Normally Radames is sung with a big warrior voice: ‘Wah, wah, bah, bah!’ ” Alvarez barks like an hysterical seal.

“I don’t have the body of a young man, but I’m athletic. I can move well on stage.”

“The audience think we are capricious billionaires; 20 or 30 years ago, yes, but not now. It’s not true.”

His greatest vitriol is reserved for opera bloggers, whose continual criticism and sniping gossip, he says, damages singers. “Perhaps you sing one bad performance and these websites attack and blow it out of proportion. They always write: bad, bad, bad!” he rants, drowning out the translator in English. “Some artistic directors read these sites and a lot of contracts go.” This hasn’t happened to him, and he cannot give me a direct example but, he says: “I know it has happened. This is the real cancer of our opera world.”

They know who they are.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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