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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Wigmore Hall; ROH; Vanessa

11 June, 2020 — By Michael White

The Royal Opera House’s production of Pucciini’s Il Trittico

SLOWLY, cautiously but hopefully, the music world is starting to edge back to some kind of normality. Last week I wrote about the Wigmore Hall’s new series of live recitals – playing to an empty auditorium but broadcasting on radio and streaming online every weekday lunchtime throughout June. It’s proved a huge success. And it continues this week with stellar artists like baritone Roderick Williams singing German Lied on Friday, pianist Imogen Cooper playing Schubert and Beethoven Monday, and clarinettist Michael Collins playing Poulenc Thursday. Everything goes out at 1pm on Radio 3. But if you want to see as well as hear, go to the website: www.wigmore-hall.org.uk

THIS week’s big news, though, is that the Royal Opera House is back in business, sort of. Having closed its doors in March, it opens them again this Saturday for a showcase evening, hosted by Antonio Pappano and featuring a new small-scale ballet by Wayne McGregor alongside miniature recitals of English repertoire by singers Gerald Finley, Louise Alder and Toby Spence. As at the Wigmore, there will be an empty auditorium. But it goes out live at 7.30pm on the website: www.roh.org.uk And it’s free, though with donations welcome. Also free is the ongoing series of archive performances that the ROH is streaming online at the same company website. And through to June 19 you can access its well-received 2011 production of Puccini’s three one-act operas known as Il Trittico. They’re very different pieces: a brooding blood and guts melodrama set on a Parisian barge, a tear-jerker about a nun with a past, and a riotous comedy (one of the most genuinely funny things in operatic rep) about hypocrisy and greed in an Italian family. Staged by Richard Jones in his characteristically skewed style, they’re a must-see.

BUT for something more unusual, don’t miss Samuel Barber’s Vanessa which Glyndebourne is offering free online from Sunday 14 to Sunday 21. Written in the 1950s to a libretto by the composer’s partner Gian Carlo Menotti, Vanessa is a gothic romance about stifled passion: slightly OTT but with a lusciously melodic score delivered here for Glyndebourne by the hot young Czech conductor Jakob Hrusa. You can find it on the website, www.glyndebourne.com/openhouse, and on YouTube too. But as you watch it, think of Lady Mary Christie, who has just died. Mary was for many years the chatelaine of Glyndebourne, living, as she liked to say, “above the shop” albeit in a grand way. She was feisty, fun, an ever-present figure through the Glyndebourne season. That she bows out at this time, when the season should be up and running rather than closed and empty thanks to Covid, is peculiarly sad.

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