I ruminated at length in the last post about the Southbank Centre’s The Rest is Noise season, and just last night the season’s tie-in BBC4 documentary The Sound and the Fury aired its first episode (I haven’t seen it yet, but the always-reliable Noisy Nothing has already thrown open the debate). But there is plenty more music-wise to get excited about in London in 2013.
Here are some of the biting point‘s most anticipated music events:
- As a kind of short-circuiting alternative to the slow, teleological trudge of the Rest is Noise, Nonclassical presents their Pioneers of Electronic Music festival, which encompasses eleven days of events (6th-17th March) and looks to be a totally fascinating undertaking. Spread across various East London venues, the festival combines screenings of documentaries and feature films with talks, a ‘synth lab’ workshop, a performance from Peter Zinovieff and Aisha Orazbayeva and a night of music inspired by the work of Daphne Oram. The centrepiece of the festival is another of their superbly-curated nights at XOYO on 14th March, probably the most exciting yet, with electronic offerings from Stockhausen, Messiaen and Varèse, an original film by Le Corbusier, and a 30-piece electronics ensemble called Dirty Electronics. Oh, and Alex Paterson of The Orb. Go. (Obviously.)
- The classical blogosphere was rocked in early January (to the extent that such a thing is possible), by a press release from the Royal Opera House declaring an intensified commitment to the production of new work, with ’15 new operas’ to be staged between 2013 and 2020.
[To be clear, this press release is replete with the usual over-placatory language, this time from Director of Opera Kaspar Holten, who hopes that ‘opera audiences will share our curiosity and come with us with open minds along this journey’ (ugh!), cautioning that ‘there is not and should not be a guarantee of success for every single piece, only for innovation and risk-taking’. And it must be emphasised that despite his admirable claims that new work is ‘at the core of what and who we are’, not ‘at the periphery’, this will still amount to a significant minority of work within their whole programme – an average of two new works a year – most of which will be consigned to the smaller Linbury Studio Theatre. This should be the absolute minimum proportionate amount of new work for a key publically-funded institution like the ROH. I’m not sure it quite merits the orgy of back-patting that it seems to have induced.]
- However, it’s certainly not bad news. There are quite a few interesting things lined-up, beginning in 2013 with Benjamin’s Written On Skin, directed by Katie Mitchell, as well as the first UK staging of Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest. It gets crazier next year, with new commissions from Matthew Herbert and Ben Frost, the latter of whom is directing his own adaptation of Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory (!!). Then, looking further into the decade, there’s a revival of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole which, alongside Birtwistle’s recently-revived The Minotaur, represents one of the ‘surprise’ contemporary successes which presumably gave the terminally-reactionary ROH honchos the courage to attempt such a ‘risk-taking’ ‘journey’. And things get even more exciting by 2017 (if you can wait that long), when Thomas Adès is set to bring a new opera to the main stage based on Luis Buñuel’s film The Exterminating Angel. By far the most intriguing (and potentially ‘risk-taking’) project is, predictably, the most distant: a set of four full-scale operas made in response to questions posed by (biting point hero) Slavoj Žižek. Sounds too good to be true, really.
- Over at ENO, the upcoming production to watch out for is Michel van der Aa’s Sunken Garden, a multimedia opera with a libretto by David Mitchell, featuring the use of 3D film. It’s on at the Barbican in mid-April.
- Also at the Barbican, the very successful Reverberations marathon festival which brought Bang on a Can and other Reich acolytes to London in May 2011, is to be followed up by a similar marathon festival curated by Nico Muhly and entitled A Scream and an Outrage. The line-up isn’t completely finalised, but many of the artists involved in 2011’s festival are set to make a return, while there’s a fitting tilt from Reich to Glass in terms of lineage, and hints of Muhly’s own involvement in the Icelandic music scene and the British choral world. I really hope this ends up becoming a regular thing.
- Also at the Barbican, on 16th March, the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel present the European premiere of John Adams’s The Gospel of the Other Mary, a new oratorio and Barbican co-commission, exploring the story of Lazarus, with direction by Peter Sellars.
- One of the weirder looking events of the next month is the BBC Concert Orchestra’s FREE event at the Roundhouse on the 11th March, Baroque Remixed – ReWired : ReStyled : ReFreshed. Sure, it sounds kind of awful, but it’s not one of those sneaky, silly-named Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment affairs where they play two hours of Bach and ten begrudging, patronising minutes of new music. Crazily enough, there is no straight-up old music involved at all; everything’s somewhat processed (or ‘remixed’) from Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, via Adès, to Matthew Herbert and a Moog Ensemble. And Lauren Laverne presenting, apparently… (And it’s free.)
- Even while The Rest is Noise is going on, there is other stuff going on at the Southbank, and for the London Sinfonietta, the rest is Reich. On the 26th February, they’re continuing the Landmarks series with Netia Jones, which I touched on in the last post, with a multimedia concert that situates the birth of New York minimalism within its socio-historical context. Then, on the 5th March, we finally get to hear Reich’s ‘Radiohead piece’ Radio Rewrite, in a concert that also features the composer’s Double Sextet.
- Later on in the year, ENO are set to produce Philip Glass’s latest opera The Perfect American – imagining the final years of Walt Disney’s life – as directed by Phelim McDermott of Improbable, the company behind ENO’s spectacular recent Satyagraha. Then in September, it’s an American Lulu from the Opera Group and Olga Neuwirth, a ‘radical reworking’ of Berg’s famous work from a formidable composer and company.
- If I’d been quicker off the mark, I would have mentioned the one-two punch of classic London fringe opera malarkey which was Opera in Space‘s Dido and Aeneas in the Bussey Building, and Silent Opera‘s L’Orfeo at Trinity Buoy Wharf. I missed both these shows, and with them any potential answers to the obvious question why anyone would want to stage either of these works ever again. Please no more fringe-promenade-warehouse Dido and Aeneases. Or L’Orfeos. Just because they’re kinda short and simple and small-scale. And also please no more Bohèmes or Traviatas either. Just because they have parties in, and they’re sort of gritty, and you can have fun dressing up as sex workers. These are all clichés now. Let this be our late resolution for 2013. Thank you London.