Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s first tour of Australia

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - Photo: Simon van Boxtel

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra – Photo: Simon van Boxtel

For the first time in its history, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is touring Australia in what promises to be a spectacular finale to the World Tour of six continents being undertaken this year to celebrate the Orchestra’s 125th anniversary.

Hailed by Gramophone magazine as “the world’s greatest orchestra”, the Royal Concertgebouw received its royal designation on the occasion of its hundredth anniversary, in 1988.  It comprises 120 musicians from over 20 countries, and despite its size, it functions – according to its website – “more like a chamber orchestra in terms of the sensitivity with which its members listen to, and work in tandem with, one another”, requiring “both a high individual calibre and a great sense of mutual trust and confidence”.  Since its founding in 1888, the Orchestra has had only six chief conductors, a role currently held by Mariss Jansons.

Mariss Jansons, only the sixth Chief Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 125 years - Photo: Marco Borggreve

Mariss Jansons
Photo: Marco Borggreve

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is renowned the world over for its unique sound, and whilst the superb acoustics of its Amsterdam home, The Concertgebouw, play an important role in upholding this reputation, it’s also universally accepted that outside the Main Hall, there is no other orchestra which sounds quite the same.  The influence of its chief conductors and the calibre of the musicians themselves, are also acknowledged to be important factors.

The 2013 celebratory tour has already taken in appearances in Europe, the United States, South Africa, South America, Russia, China and Japan, and during its Australian visit, the Orchestra, under Maestro Jansons, will be performing nine concerts, four of which will feature pianist Yefim Bronfman. In addition, various members of the Orchestra will be giving workshops and chamber music concerts.

The RCO’s managing director, Jan Raes, says, “Music is a unifying force. It brings people together. The orchestra is an important cultural representative of Amsterdam and of the Netherlands. It is a standard-bearer for European symphonic culture and is frequently invited to perform in the world’s leading concert halls. We’re proud of that and want to share it with everyone. Made up of 120 musicians – of whom around seventy are Dutch, the remaining fifty hailing from other countries all over the world – the orchestra represents over twenty nationalities in all. You could say it truly reflects the world we live in.”


Yefim Bronfman
Photo: Dario Acosta

The tour opens at the Perth Concert Hall on November 21st, where the programme will feature three works: the Overture De getemde feeks by the Dutch composer Johan Wagenaar, excerpts from Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5.  The following evening, the orchestra can be heard in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3, with soloist Yefim Bronfman, and Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben.

On November 24th and 25th, the RCO will repeat these two concert programmes at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane, and on November 26th and 27th, at the Melbourne Arts Centre.


Sydney Opera House
Photo: Christian Mehlführer via Wikimedia Commons

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra then travels to Sydney, where it will make three appearances at the Sydney Opera House, bringing its tour to a close on December 1st with the Wagenaar, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky programme.  This will be a festive occasion, courtesy of  the Consulate-General of the Netherlands in Sydney.  Several special events are being organised, including a meet-and-greet after the concert.

It is also reported that ‘FC Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’ has challenged ‘FC Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’ to a football match. The titans will go head-to-head in a friendly game scheduled for November 27th.

The Concertgebouw was commissioned in 1882 and designed by Adolf Leonard van Gendt - Photo: Leander Lammertink

The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam – Photo: Leander Lammertink

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s 2013 anniversary year has been one of exceptional exposure both within the Netherlands and abroad, boosted by the fact that the Orchestra shares this momentous anniversary with its Amsterdam home, The Concertgebouw concert hall, also celebrating 125 years in 2013.  It was Bernard Haitink who referred to The Concertgebouw as “the best instrument of the orchestra that it houses” – both the Main Hall and the Recital Hall are renowned for their exceptional acoustics.

The World Tour has been a major contributor to that exposure, as has the launch of RCO Editions, the video magazine that enables music lovers all over the world to invite the orchestra into their homes.  Since the launch of this video magazine on November 3rd, over 13,000 RCO Editions downloads have been logged.

RCO Editions

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

The Concertgebouw

Mariss Jansons

Yefim Bronfman



Preview home page


BBC Proms wins ‘Beyond Theatre Award’


The Royal Albert Hall, home to the BBC Proms
Photo credit: BBC

The 2013 BBC Proms festival was the winner of the Beyond Theatre Award at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards ceremony on November 16th.

The 119th Proms season of what is undoubtedly the greatest classical music festival in the world, was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall from July 12th to September 7th, 2013, with an impressive line-up of some of the greatest international artists, orchestras and ensembles, appearing over 92 concerts in the biggest ever broadcast Proms festival.

The award was presented to Roger Wright, Director of the BBC Proms, at a star-studded event at The Savoy Hotel by Sir David Attenborough, who described the Proms as “a pivotal part of British and global artistic life”, and a festival which had been “at the heart of London’s cultural calendar for over a century”.

The Beyond Theatre Award recognises British talent that has put theatre in a new environment or discipline, or has provided London with an experience in some way theatrical. Last year it was awarded to Danny Boyle and his team for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

On receiving the award, Roger Wright said “I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the BBC Proms team for what was an amazing summer of firsts.  From Daniel Barenboim conducting Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle to a collaboration with Radio 1 for the first ever Urban Classic Prom, the theatre of the Proms continues to break boundaries by reaching audiences across art forms and across the world.  The BBC’s on-going commitment to the Proms is a testament to its support for arts and music.”

Guests at the ceremony were entertained with a film of highlights from this year’s Proms season, ranging from Matt Smith at the Doctor Who Prom, flamenco dancers, gospel choirs and leading international classical artists who included Joshua Bell and Mitsuko Uchida, to the world famous Last Night of the Proms, starring soprano Joyce DiDonato, Nigel Kennedy and Marin Alsop, the first woman to conduct the Last Night concert.


A Proms performance for a capacity audience
Photo credit: Chris Christodoulou

A short film of highlights from the 2013 Proms can be seen on this link:

The 2014 BBC Proms run from Friday 18 July to Saturday 13 September.

Preview article on the 2013 Proms season

Proms 2013

London Evening Standard


Preview home page

Worldwide celebrations for Britten Centenary


Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears at Snape Maltings Concert Hall, 1969
Photo: Hans Wild

November 22nd marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, and commemorative concerts and events are taking place around the world to celebrate the life and works of one of the greatest composers in 20th century British classical music.

Not only was Britten a towering figure in British – and international – music, but he and his long-time partner, Peter Pears, who was regarded as one of the century’s outstanding tenors, left a remarkable legacy – “….  some of the finest music for the voice ever written, a revival of English opera, the Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, an artist development programme that has nurtured many leading performers, and our sister organisation, Aldeburgh Music” (The Britten-Pears Foundation).


Britten on Aldeburgh Beach, 1959
Photo: Hans Wild

Naturally, many commemorative events are taking place in the United Kingdom, the focal point being Aldeburgh, where Britten and Pears made their home.  Since November 2012, Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Centenary programme has been conducting a year-long celebration of his music, a celebration centred around his home county of Suffolk – the landscape and the community which were both so central to his life and work.

The festival culminates in the Britten Centenary Weekend – from November 21st to 24th – presented in association with BBC Radio 3 which will be broadcasting from Aldeburgh over the entire weekend.  Details of the performances can be found on the website


Britten at work in the new studio at The Red House, 1958
Photo: Kurt Hutton

The Red House, in the Suffolk town of Aldeburgh, is where Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears lived and worked, from 1957 until their deaths – Britten’s in 1976, Pears’ in 1986.  Now the home of the Britten-Pears Foundation, it’s open to visitors who can – for the first time – see the Studio in which Britten composed, and which has recently been restored, as well as the Gallery which has a new exhibition on the composer and his music.  The interiors of the house are re-presented just as they were in the mid-1960s, including the historic Library room, and there’s an Archive which has been purpose-built to house Britten’s internationally-significant collections.

The Britten-Pears Foundation is also mounting a special exhibition in his birthplace, the town of Lowestoft.  Here, for the first time, the 1930s manuscripts – which Britten wrote there as a boy – are displayed, together with other childhood mementos.


Britten at Crag House, c1949
Photo: Roland Haupt

Apart from the celebrations across the United Kingdom, there are over 1000 performances of Britten’s work and related events, taking place around the world over the next two weeks – across the United States, from New York to San Francisco, in Toronto, Montreal, St Petersburg, Moscow, Paris, Madrid, Leipzig, Berlin, Budapest, Helsinki, Gothenburg, Bologna, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Sydney, Auckland, and many other centres.  The world has come together to celebrate the centenary of the man who was born 100 years ago this month, in the English seaside town of Lowestoft – on the feast day of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music.


Britten at The Red House, c1965
Photo: Courtesy Britten-Pears Foundation

The Britten-Pears Foundation is currently working on a catalogue of the complete works of the composer, one of the Foundation’s major projects for the centenary.  In this video, Dr Lucy Walker and Jonathan Manton introduce the Britten Thematic Catalogue, explain what such a catalogue is, and reveal how this one will be different from traditional publications of this kind.

For a complete run-down of events celebrating Britten 100, please visit

Aldeburgh Music’s Britten Centenary 

The Britten-Pears Foundation


The Red House, Aldeburgh, home of the Britten-Pears Foundation
Photo: Philip Vile

Preview home page

“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” opens in San Francisco


Alicia Hall Moran and Nathaniel Stampley in the national tour production of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess”
Photo: Jeremy Daniel

A new adaptation of George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess, specifically created for Broadway, opens in San Francisco on November 10, ahead of a national tour.  Entitled The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, this highly-acclaimed production was the winner of the the 2012 Tony Award® for Best Musical Revival.

With a revised book in musical theatre format, and jazz-oriented musical arrangements performed by a 23-piece orchestra, the show features one of Broadway’s most accomplished creative teams, led by Tony Award®-winning director Diane Paulus, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, and two-time Obie Award-winning composer Diedre L Murray.


Nikki Renée Daniels, Joshua Henry and the Original Broadway Revival cast
Photo: Michael J Lutch

When it opened on Broadway at the Richard Rogers Theatre in January 2012, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess was rapturously received by the critics. Time Magazine referred to it as the “#1 musical of the year”, and Associated Press as “A gorgeous version of the Gershwin masterpiece”.  The critic from The New Yorker wrote of “A great achievement that left me breathless”, The New York Times described it as “A big hit!  An indispensable tickets!” and Newsday as “A luscious piece of musical theatre!”.

Starring Alicia Hall Moran as Bess and Nathaniel Stampley as Porgy, the touring production has a cast which includes Alvin Crawford as Crown, Kingsley Legg as Sportin’ Life, Sumayya Ali as Clara, Denisha Ballew as Serena, Danielle Lee Greaves as Mariah and David Hughey as Jake.


David Allen Grier and cast of the Original Broadway Revival production
Photo: Michael J Lutch

Porgy and Bess was the only opera which Gershwin wrote – he referred to it as an “American folk opera”.  Based on Dubose Heyward’s novel, Porgy, and his play of the same name – which he co-wrote with his wife, Dorothy – the story is set in Charleston’s fabled Catfish Row, telling of the attempts of Porgy, a disabled beggar, to rescue the beautiful Bess from her violent and possessive lover, Crown, and Sportin’ Life, the drug dealer.  Their relationship, which develops into a deep romance, is regarded as one of most uplifting love stories in musical theatre.

The original production of the opera Porgy and Bess was performed at the Colonial Theatre in Boston on September 30, 1935, with libretto by DuBose Heyward, who co-wrote the lyrics with Ira Gershwin.  The show then moved to Broadway, featuring a cast of classically trained African-American singers, which was considered a daring and visionary artistic decision at the time.


Cast of the Original Broadway Revival
Photo: Michael J Lutch

“Every so often,” says director Diane Paulus, “a project comes along that is so astonishing that one has to drop everything and just say I’m going to do it.  That’s what I felt when I was asked to do The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.  The epic sweep of the story, the immense history of the musical itself and the unforgettable Gershwin score, highlighted by Summertime, I Got Plenty of Nothing and It Ain’t Necessarily So make this unquestionably one of the greatest American masterpieces.”

For more information,please visit  Information on the tour schedule can be found on

George and Ira Gershwin
DuBose Heyward
Diane Paulus
Suzan-Lori Parks
Deidre L Murray
Alicia Hall Moran
Nathaniel Stampley


    Preview home page

Sondheim at the Southbank Centre


The BBC Concert Orchestra
Photo: Kevin Clifford

 The BBC Concert Orchestra, led by Keith Lockhart, presents a showcase of the life and music of lyricist and composer, Stephen Sondheim, at the Southbank Centre on Sunday November 10th.  Sondheim: Inside Out is the Orchestra’s final performance as Artistic Partner of the festival entitled The Rest is Noise which has been running throughout the year at the Centre.

Maria Friedman, renowned Sondheim interpreter, is joined by American musical star Kim Criswell, Olivier Award winner Laura Michelle Kelly, Michael Xavier – star of West End musical Love Story – and Turlough Convery, winner of the 2013 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year Competition.



The concert features hits from some of Sondheim’s greatest shows – numbers such as Losing My Mind from Tony-winning Broadway hit Follies, Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music, Not While I’m Around from Sweeney Todd, Comedy Tonight from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Not a Day Goes By from Merrily We Roll Along and songs from Sunday in the Park with George – a musical inspired by Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.


Conductor Keith Lockhart
Photo: Chris Christodoulou

Stephen Sondheim was an unknown college graduate in the mid-1950s when Leonard Bernstein asked him if he’d like to write the lyrics for a musical on which he, Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents were working.  Sondheim was apparently not too keen on writing the lyrics for music which someone else had written, however since the composer was Bernstein – with two Broadway hits already under his belt and another on the way – Sondheim agreed, on the basis that he might learn something along the way.  The musical was West Side Story, and for Sondheim, the next 50 years …. are history.


Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London
Photo: Morley von Sternberg

Sondheim:  Inside Out takes place at 3.00 pm on Sunday, November 10th, at the Southbank Centre in London.  The concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Friday December 20th, at 2.00 pm.

For further information and tickets, please visit the Southbank Centre website.

BBC Concert Orchestra
Keith Lockhart
Stephen Sondheim
Maria Friedman
Kim Criswell
Laura Michelle Kelly
Michael Xavier
Turlough Convery


Preview home page

Step into the world of New York City Ballet


A dancer at work at the barre during Company class
Photo:  Pretty Matches Productions/Zero Point Zero Production

“We are New York City Ballet.  We Invite You Into Our World.”  Thus reads the strapline, and that’s exactly what one of the world’s foremost ballet companies has done, in a video documentary which has just gone live on AOL On.

Entitled city.ballet., this documentary takes you beyond the footlights, the costumes and the glamour of the world of ballet, to the harsh realities of the life of a dancer.  Captured in unadorned actuality is the dedication, the endless striving for perfection, the exhaustion, but also the joy and elation, of the challenges which go with mastering the near-impossible requirements of arguably the most physically demanding profession in the world.  Yet those who have chosen to follow it are driven by a passion, dedication and total devotion, which to many would probably defy reason, but within which lie the magic and mystery of this most captivating of art forms.


Sarah Jessica Parker chats in the studio with NYCB soloist Craig Hall (left) and corps dancer Harrison Ball (right).
Photo © Erin Baiano

Narrated by executive producer – and NYCB board member – Sarah Jessica Parker, the documentary reveals that every member of the Company is a graduate of the School of American Ballet.  These dancers have trained together since childhood, their lives inextricably linked by their shared ambition, drive and desire to become part of what’s described as “a uniquely American aesthetic”,  co-founded by choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1948.  They were joined the following year by Jerome Robbins who – with Balanchine – helped to build NYCB’s impressive repertoire, and firmly establish the Company in New York.  Peter Martins is the present Ballet Master in Chief, and he says, quite simply, that in New York City Ballet “complacency does not exist”.


NYCB Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, leads Company class.
Photo:  Pretty Matches Productions/Zero Point Zero Production

Indeed, when dancers choose to dedicate their lives to a career in ballet, they also choose a life of total sacrifice – there are no half measures with ballet – it’s all-consuming, dominating every facet of a dancer’s existence.  As one of the footnotes in the documentary puts it:  “When you spend thirteen hours a day rehearsing, you can kiss a normal social life goodbye”.


NYCB corps dancer, Gretchen Smith, in Company class
Photo:  Pretty Matches Productions/Zero Point Zero Production

Divided into 12 segments of roughly 5 minutes each, the documentary gives a fascinating insight into the daily lives of the Company members.  Much of the footage has been shot during rehearsals, some of it shows the dancers at home, and the interviews with all ranks – apprentices, members of the corps de ballet, soloists and principals – are frank, revealing and often entertaining.  There is absolutely no disguising the fact, however, that every one of them feels enormously privileged to be part of the world that is New York City Ballet.

city.ballet. – by Sarah Jessica Parker Pretty Matches Productions, and the Emmy award-winning Zero Point Zero Production for Aol On Orginals – can be viewed on this link.

New York City Ballet

George Balanchine

Lincoln Kirstein

Jerome Robbins

Peter Martins

Preview home page