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James Gaffigan & Edward Gardner Perspectives on the classical music scene in the US

Samantha Hankey The mezzo on a whirlwind rise

NYO Jazz Issue 2 – Summer 2018 www.askonasholt.co.uk

Multi-talented Yevgeny Sudbin: the photographer

Taking the reins Alison Balsom & Inon Barnatan on becoming festival directors


Fiona Shaw · Lars Vogt’s festival at 20 · Alvin Ailey

NYO-USA’s new sibling on inaugural tour

The Green Room Guest editor Phillippa Cole Contributing writers Jessica Duchen, George Hall, Sarah Lambie, Andrew Stewart Editorial committee Donagh Collins, Jonathan Fleming, Frances Innes-Hopkins Designer Frances Innes-Hopkins Printed by Hill & Garwood Printing Limited Moor Park Industrial Centre Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 9ET

Contact us thegreenroom@askonasholt.co.uk The Green Room, Askonas Holt, 15 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1BW

Read online The Green Room is available as a free digital publication at www.askonasholt.co.uk/magazine. Should you wish to receive a printed copy, please email us at the address above.

Cover photograph Tippet Rise, Montana © Yevgeny Sudbin

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Welcome Welcome to the second edition of The Green Room. This issue was originally advertised as a summer festivals focus, but as our ideas came to fruition (and given my impending move to America!) we decided to give it a USA slant instead. Within our US focus, conductors James Gaffigan and Edward Gardner chat to each other about the differences they experience in approaching orchestras on both sides of the Atlantic; including the niche personalities of the orchestras and repertoire (p. 10). And we shine a spotlight on the young American mezzo soprano, Samantha Hankey (p. 9). The recent winner of the inaugural Glyndebourne Cup and the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions; her star is fast rising.

PHILLIPPA COLE GUEST EDITOR Phillippa studied the oboe at Chethams School of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music, from where in 2011 she was awarded the ARAM for services to music. Prior to joining Askonas Holt in 2006, Phillippa worked at the Almeida Theatre, the Aldeburgh Festival and at English National Opera. From the summer of 2018 Phillippa will become the Associate Director, Artistic Planning at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

Our touring department are no strangers to the American orchestral scene (p. 28) and this year we are delighted to be touring to Europe the NYO Jazz (an off-shoot of NYO-USA), who make their inaugural concerts this year. We talk to Sean Jones, a former lead player with Jazz at Lincoln Center and NYOJazz’s Artistic Director, plus Carnegie Hall’s Doug Beck and Clive Gillinson (p. 20). And from the new to the old; this year marks Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 60th anniversary and we take a moment to look at the ethos behind the company and their plans for the future (p. 13). We touch on summer festivals with two of our articles: Alison Balsom and Inon Barnatan, both busy performing artists, talk to George Hall about adding new strings to their bow by becoming festival directors: Alison here in the UK at the Cheltenham Festival and Inon over on the West Coast in La Jolla (p. 16). An old hand at running a festival, Lars Vogt tells Jessica Duchen about the approach he takes at his festival in Heimbach, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary (p. 26). Sarah Lambie speaks to actor and director Fiona Shaw, who gives us some insight into how she uses her theatre background to approach her opera directing work (p. 14). Then, closer to home, we start a new series of staff interviews; with Assistant Artist Manager Alice Wright kicking us off and giving us an insight into her life (p. 23). So many of our artists are multi-talented and I was fascinated by the colours and the light in Yevgeny Sudbin’s sensational photography which we feature both on the cover and on pages 24 and 25. And finally, I write this during my last few days working at Askonas Holt, where I have been privileged to work with inspirational artists and truly wonderful colleagues over the last twelve years. Thank you for all the amazing music!

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3 EDITOR’S WELCOME 6 NEWS Long Yu, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Avery Amereau, Nuno Coelho, Finnegan Downie Dear 9 FOCUS SPOTLIGHT ON... Mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey 10 FOCUS IN CONVERSATION Conductors James Gaffigan & Edward Gardner discuss the classical music scene in the US 13 FOCUS SPOTLIGHT ON... Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 14 INTERVIEW Actor & director Fiona Shaw 16 TAKING THE REINS Alison Balsom & Inon Barnatan on their new positions at leading festivals


20 FOCUS NYO-JAZZ The new sibling to the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America 23 MEET THE TEAM Assistant Artist Manager Alice Wright 24 OUTSIDE MUSIC Yevgeny Sudbin: the photographer 26 SPANNUNGEN AT 20 Lars Vogt speaks about his festival in Heimbach 28 FOCUS LISTINGS US orchestras on tour 30 ON TOUR

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9 < Pictured left: “Daydreams. One of the many artworks, scattered around the 10,260 acres of privately owned land, this structure (Daydreams) was built by artist Patrick Dougherty, using local willows. (Tippet Rise, Montana, USA, July 2016)” – Yevgeny Sudbin

Photos, clockwise from top left: Fiona Shaw, NYO-USA at the Concertgebouw © Chris Lee, James Gaffigan © Daniela Kienzler, Lars Vogt © Giorgia Bertazzi, Samantha Hankey © Dario Acosta, I, CULTURE Orchestra © ´ Konrad Cwik / © IAM, Alvin Ailey’s Michael Francis McBride © Andrew Eccles, Edward Gardner © Benjamin Ealovega, Inon Barnatan © Marco Borggreve, Daydreams © Yevgeny Sudbin

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News Yannick Nézet-Séguin & Long Yu sign exclusive contracts with Deutsche Grammophon

Future plans on the label include the next instalment of his late Mozart opera cycle, to be released this summer: La clemenza di Tito with Joyce DiDonato, Rolando Villazón and Adam Plachetka. Coinciding with the announcement, and with Yannick’s final concerts as Chief Conductor in Rotterdam, DG have released a 6-CD set of previously unissued live recordings with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, hand-picked by Yannick.

Long Yu with DG President Dr. Clemens Trautmann © Stefan Höderath/Universal Music

On 30 May, it was announced that Yannick Nézet-Séguin has signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. The Montreal-born conductor, hailed by the Financial Times as the “greatest generator of energy on the international podium”, first appeared on the yellow label nearly 10 years ago for DVD recordings of Roméo et Juliette (Salzburg Festival 2008) and Carmen (Metropolitan Opera 2010), and began a long-term collaboration in 2012.

Just a week later, the label announced an exclusive contract with Long Yu, China’s pre-eminent conductor on the international scene, and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra (SSO). The new partnership is set to build on Long’s critically acclaimed work as Music Director of the SSO and help promote the orchestra’s powerful

blend of tradition and ambitious future vision. It will also enhance the SSO’s “Music Connecting Worlds” ethos. Since his appointment a decade ago, Long has steered the SSO to new heights of artistic excellence, helping it to attract many world-class musicians to its ranks. Their first DG recording, an album of works from the Chinese and Russian repertoires, will be released in 2019 to mark the SSO’s 140th anniversary. It was also announced that Long and the SSO will kick off DG’s 120th anniversary celebrations this year, with a concert in Beijing’s famous Forbidden City. Long’s previous releases on Deutsche Grammophon include Lang Lang’s Dragon Songs, and a recording of Chinese orchestral works. www.deutschegrammophon.com

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New signings We are delighted to welcome three exceptionally talented musicians to our roster for general management: contralto Avery Amereau, and conductors Nuno Coelho and Finnegan Downie Dear.

© Matilde Fassò

© Sebastian Wagner

© Frank Bloedhorn

Avery Amereau

Nuno Coelho



Finnegan Downie Dear

Described as “a rarity in music” and “an extraordinary American alto on the rise” by the New York Times, Avery has already amassed an impressive list of career accolades, including her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2016 as the Madrigal Singer in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, aged just 25.

Portuguese conductor Nuno was awarded First Prize at the Cadaqués International Conducting Competition in 2017, winning him engagements with over thirty major orchestras in Europe, Asia and South America over the next three seasons.

Avery studied at Juilliard, where she was the proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship and the Shoshana Foundation 2017 Richard F Gold Career Grant. Exceptional in baroque repertoire, she performed with the school’s historical performance department under conductors including William Christie and Maasaki Suzuki, and sang at Bachfest Leipzig and the Boston Early Music Festival.

He has worked extensively with the Orquestra Gulbenkian, and the 2018/19 season will see him further develop this relationship in the official role of Guest Conductor, leading subscription concerts and tours.

CONDUCTOR Finnegan studied at Cambridge University and at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating from both with distinction. He subsequently worked as an assistant conductor, repetiteur and coach for some of the world’s foremost opera companies, including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opernhaus Zürich, Bayerische Staatsoper and the Salzburg Festival. Concert appearances include with the RTÉ Concert and Dartington Festival Orchestras and Shadwell Ensemble.

Future engagements include debuts with Salzburg Festival, Opera de Lille, Tokyo Symphony and BBC, plus a return to Glyndebourne.

Recent engagements include concerts with Sinfonieorchester Basel, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and Kammerorchester Basel; while forthcoming highlights include dates with the Ulster Orchestra, Beethoven Orchester Bonn, Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia and Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur.

Represented by Sue Spence, Camilla Wehmeyer & Natasha Worsley

Represented by Antonio Orlando & Gaetan Le Divelec

Represented by Henry Lindsay & Gaetan Le Divelec

www.askonasholt.co.uk/artists/ avery-amereau

www.askonasholt.co.uk/artists/ nuno-coelho

www.askonasholt.co.uk/artists/ finnegan-downie-dear

He is Music Director of the awardwinning Shadwell Opera, and this season made debuts with both Polish National Opera, conducting an award-winning production of Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, and Scottish Opera, leading a critically acclaimed production of MarkAnthony Turnage’s Greek.

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Opera house debuts: June to October




David Soar, Grange Festival Il barbiere di Siviglia (Basilio)

Stephen Costello, Liceu Barcelona La favorite (Fernand)

René Barbera, Wiener Staatsoper Don Pasquale (Ernesto)




Domingo Hindoyan, Mariinsky Theatre La bohème (Conductor)

George Andguladze, Teatro San Carlo, Napoli / Rigoletto (Sparafucile)

Franco Fagioli, Hamburg Staatsoper Alcina (Ruggiero)


Domingo Hindoyan, Lyric Opera of Chicago / La bohème (Conductor)

13 JUNE Anita Hartig, Opera di Roma La bohème (Mimi) 16 JUNE Frederic Wake-Walker, Opera du Rhin Eugene Onegin (Director) 19 JUNE Etienne Dupuis & Rodion Pogossov, Royal Opera House / La bohème (Marcello) 30 JUNE James Gaffigan, Santa Fe Opera Ariadne auf Naxos (Conductor)

Evan Rogister, Bolshoi Theatre La bohème (Conductor) 25 JULY Yuval Sharon, Bayreuth Festival Lohengrin (Director) 5 AUGUST Virginie Verrez, Glyndebourne Vanessa (Erika) FROM 5 AUGUST

Kristina Mkhitaryan, Opera di Roma La traviata (title role)

Avery Amereau, Aida Garifullina, Oksana Volkova & David Webb, Salzburg Festival / Salome (Page), Les Pêcheurs de perles (Leïla), Pique Dame (Polina / Daphnis) & L’incoronazione di Poppea (Liberto / Soldato II / Tribuno)



Nathalie Stutzmann, Chorégies d’Orange / Mefistofele (Conductor)

Andrea Caré, Finnish National Opera Tosca (Cavaradossi)



Andrea Mastroni, Staatsoper Berlin L’incoronazione di Poppea (Seneca)

Nicole Car, Etienne Dupuis & James Gaffigan, Metropolitan Opera La bohème (Mimi, Marcello & conductor)

Christina Gansch, Glyndebourne Pelleas et Melisande (Melisande) 3 JULY

Olga Pudova, Chorégies d’Orange Gala concert

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11 OCTOBER Siobhan Stagg, Victorian Opera Pelleas et Melisande (Melisande) 13 OCTOBER Iurii Samoilov, Michigan Opera (US debut) / Eugene Onegin (title role) 19 OCTOBER Duncan Rock, Opera Queensland Don Giovanni (title role) 21 OCTOBER Olga Pudova, Dresden Semperoper Die Zauberflöte (Queen of the Night) 28 OCTOBER Asmik Grigorian & Gary Griffiths, Oper Frankfurt / Iolanta (Iolanta & Robert) / Oedipus Rex (Creon)

Photos, from top left: Volkova © Kristina Kalinina, Samoilov © Maria Shkoda, Car © Georges Antoni, Costello © Dario Acosta, Gansch © Kartal Karagedik, Wake-Walker, Fagioli © Julian Laidig, Hartig © Paul Buciuta / Marea Dragoste, Andguladze, Stagg © Simon Pauly, Rogister © Simon Pauly, Grigorian © Rokas Baltakys


Samantha Hankey © Dario Acosta

Samantha Hankey’s list of awards, performances and roles is so impressive, you might be hardpushed to believe she only graduated from her Master’s degree at Juilliard this time last year. Since then, she has won first prize in the inaugural Glyndebourne Cup, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and the Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition, as well as receiving a Richard Tucker Career Grant. The 26-year-old Massachusetts native has already made European debuts in both Oslo and Geneva, and will perform no less than five roles at the Met next season, her debut there. She even has a role that was written for her; the title role in David Hertzberg’s The Rose Elf, which receives its world-premiere performance in the underground catacombs at Brooklyn’s GreenWood cemetery this June. Was it a conscious decision to pursue competitions over, say, a young artist programme? “[A YAP is] not something I necessarily wanted to do” she told OperaWire in January, “I think having been at Juilliard for six

years I wanted to go out and explore what I can do with my training and in that regard doing [the Met Council auditions] really helped me.”

Most memorable experience as an audience member?

It seems she can do rather a lot! We caught up with Samantha for a few questions.

Seeing Jessye Norman perform songs of John Cage at Carnegie Hall in 2012. I never thought I would see her perform live and she was everything I had imagined she would be.

Where did it all begin? Why music?

Last thing you listened to?

I was in the chorus of a local production of Annie when I was six! I fell in love with singing and asked my mum to take me to voice lessons, which led to choir, performing arts high school and I just never stopped!

Some Gamelan music, a song called Jadra Parwata. It’s part of my preperformance ritual.

What do you love most about your career?

Definitely Mozart- I think he’d be the life of the party!

All of the adventures and challenges! I love that every day is a bit different; the rehearsal schedule changes, some days there are lessons, travel, days off… I feel I’m well suited to these changes. I couldn’t picture myself sitting at a computer all day, five days a week.

Musical heroes?

Best musical advice received? Accept all of the advice that is given to you, respectfully, but afterwards, take away only what you need, you can use, and what resonates for you.

Who would you invite to your ideal dinner party, living or dead?

Tatiana Troyanos, Jessye Norman, and Prokofiev. Career plan B? I’m pretty sure I would do something that involves helping animals, being out in nature, or for the environment. Perhaps a wildlife ranger or focused in marine life conservation! And finally, which other talent would you most like to have? What I would give to be able to dance!

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Dual perspectives Conductors James Gaffigan (a New Yorker with positions in Amsterdam and Lucerne) and Edward Gardner (a Brit who recently made several major US debuts) share their perspectives on the classical music scene in the US James: One of the first things I wanted to ask is how you feel about being asked to conduct American music in the US; do you find it intimidating? When I go to the UK I steer clear from Elgar, or Britten, which is strange, because when I go to Helsinki I want to do Sibelius, and when I go to the Czech Phil I love to do Dvořák or Suk... Edward: It’s funny, I haven’t really done American music in the US; I shy away from it in exactly the same way I think. I would love to do some Copland in the US though; when you’re hearing an orchestra play their own music you get the real essence of who they are. Though I find American orchestras really good at British music as well. Let’s say Britten and onwards. They’re incredibly quick and get that style completely. J: I think it’s in their vernacular to swing things; I find it really easy to do anything that has elements of jazz in it with American orchestras. I’ve always found that when I hear bits of Ives it feels extremely nostalgic, but when I hear Enigma or

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Peter Grimes I hear something very foreign. E: The more I do any of those pieces, the more I enjoy doing them outside the UK than inside. Somehow, they’re kind of trapped within whatever tradition is thought to be. If you talk to British orchestras about Enigma variations it makes them a little bit itchy, because on one hand it’s very wellknown and it’s overplayed, and on another it’s unbelievably elusive to get it great. Yet taking pieces like that to America, that doesn’t have the stigma or itchiness, is wonderful. Let’s talk about the temperament of the orchestras. I find it’s a very different feeling in a rehearsal with an American orchestra than with a British orchestra. J: I remember when I started conducting people would say, “the British orchestras are great in the first rehearsal, but it’s hard to get it any better than that.” E: That’s the cliché, yes... J: I’ve worked with LSO, LPO, BBC,

© Benjamin Ealovega


Bournemouth... and they really want to dig deeper. It’s a total cliché. E: I quite like the rhythm of the way American orchestras rehearse, with a short rehearsal on day one. You have to hit the ground running in that two and a half hours so that it gestates overnight, and by day two it really feels like you’re in a project together. J: It used to feel like survival to me when I first started. But you have to pick your battles and not everything is going to be perfect. You have to let some things slide and then assume that some things will get better. E: We both work with orchestras that have a lot of rehearsal time, generally. When you go back to the States and there’s a day and half of pretty short rehearsals, do you alter how you do it? J: I programme differently as a guest conductor than as chief conductor. With Lucerne, if I’m doing a big programme with, say, a world premiere and a very difficult symphony by a lesser known composer, I’ll add a rehearsal. Or I’ll have a sectional with the strings beforehand. Then, as a guest conductor, if there’s a piece on the programme like Sibelius Symphony No. 4, say, or a Busoni piece nobody knows, I’ll make sure the rest of the programme is doable. Not to hide the modern piece, but to give it the appropriate rehearsal time. E: The more I do, the more I realise that. That day and a half is quick and you want to get to the general feeling really on top of it. The other thing I wanted to talk about is general rehearsals. In America, I find that the orchestra really want to work in that rehearsal? J: [laughs] It’s funny you say that, as I had the opposite thing when I started fixing things in a general rehearsal in the UK for the first time. People looked at me and were like “what’s wrong with this guy?” And everyone will say something different,

© Juan Carlos Villarroel

even within the orchestra. I had a very strange experience where I had one person saying “you really should run the Bruckner symphony at the general”, and the other said “please don’t run it, the musicians will be so upset”. You have to step back and make an artistic decision, that can’t be based on whether people will like you or not. But at the same time you don’t want to hurt their trust or their stamina for the evening. Every orchestra’s different and to gauge that is a psychological maze. E: Even my own orchestra [Bergen Phil] have talked to me about how much they want to play on the day. For some people, not doing a runthrough of a Tchaikovsky symphony on the day is awful; they can’t cope with the idea of not having it in their muscles that day.

fundraising and meeting sponsors; it’s a normal part of my life. In Lucerne too. But I think the only place where I’ve met patrons in the UK is Glyndebourne. In America, there are lots of people giving their private money to these institutions, and you need to make sure they know how much they’re appreciated. The one danger with that is you also need to convince them about repertoire choices, to inspire them about things that may seem out of the ordinary for them. E: What I’m struck by in the States on every level is the civic model of an orchestra; the way it exists within the community. And that’s from the way the patrons interact, they’re incredibly generous, to the way that a season’s programmed,

J: It’s like training; you can’t just run a marathon, you have to get into it. Can I ask, did you enjoy the New York Philharmonic? [Edward made his New York Phil debut earlier this year] E: Completely wonderful! It sounds pejorative, but they’re so professional about the way that they rehearse. It’s a lovely thing. I found them completely flexible and interested in what I wanted to do with the music. J: For some reason, especially when I was a teenager, they had a strange reputation among conductors, and a lot of my colleagues that are our age went there, and they didn’t have such a great experience. But again, that was a decade ago. E: With all of these orchestra reputations, they’re always five or ten years out of date. There are very few places where you feel they want anything other than for it to go as well as possible. The Green Room: And how do you view the network of support around US and UK institutions, in terms of financial support and audience development? J: In the US, I do a lot of

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“What I’m struck by in the States on every level is the civic model of an orchestra; the way it exists within the community.” Edward Gardner to the fact that they’re much more known within normal people’s circles let’s say, in a place like New York or San Francisco. The San Francisco Symphony is the orchestra of the city and they’re very proud of it. That’s hard to get, especially in places like London. I think about it more and more; what the orchestra does as a cultural magnet within a city. I love all that about America. And the fundraising; I would never have a problem doing that. There are so many people willing to support. And I’m sure you’re right about the repertoire, because you must appeal utterly directly to the people funding and to the people coming. J: It’s a balance of trust. If you gain their trust, you can do anything. But you need to gain their trust. E: Which is no bad thing, we should have to anyway. In the UK, opera has that kind of thing. You mentioned Glyndebourne, and places like ENO, the Royal Opera, rely so much on their patrons, and there’s quite a close connection between the big patrons and the performers. What about opera? It feels like a different beast in America from symphonic work. The temperature of opera orchestras is different. The Met orchestra, who are remarkable because they’re putting this stuff on so quickly and so brilliantly all the time, have an atmosphere more like a British orchestra; people start working things out for themselves, it’s a bit chattier. J: They are much calmer, they know

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it’s a long run. Even in the shorter runs at the Met for example. I’m leading the Met for the first time this fall [James conducts La bohème at the Met this September], but I know from friends in the orchestra that their mentality is “ok, we’ve been through this, we know how it goes, but there are a few new people, so we’re going to take our time to figure it out”. There’s a lot more pressure on the clock when you’re with a symphonic orchestra. E: I can’t remember who said this to me, but someone in an opera orchestra said that they don’t judge their relationship with a conductor until they’ve seen them with the singers and can see how that chemistry works. And then if they feel it works, they go along with it. I find that very much at the Met. If a singer and a conductor are locked in, it happens, and if they’re not it really doesn’t. You’ve worked in a lot of American opera houses, haven’t you? I saw you in Washington with that lovely Figaro, and you’ve been to San Francisco, Chicago? J: Yes, and Houston – a beautiful company, they did a great job. I like US opera houses. Again, I find you get to know the public; they come backstage, they sponsor dinners, they have events, they have parties after the show. I think opera lovers are die hard, but I also think there can be a strange relationship to the voice and, especially if the singing is in another language, some people can have a tough time with that. Something I do

that people love is The Ring Without Words. So many people came to me when I did it in Detroit saying “I’m so glad we didn’t have to listen to those people screaming in German!” I was heartbroken, because this is some of the best music we have! At least it’s a wonderful introduction for people... E: And you did that with a symphony orchestra? J: Yes, the Detroit Symphony. And I did it with Lucerne too. The musicians love it because they never get to play this music. TGR: Is it another cliché to say that there’s an American sound in terms of symphony orchestras? J: I think those days are over. Chicago sounded a certain way with Fritz Reiner, Cleveland sounded a certain way with George Szell. What made an American sound back then was the music director. They had priorities of sound and of balance, and they were very different from one another. [Eugene] Ormandy in Philadelphia had a very different view as to what a good orchestra sound was from Szell. I think the American sound is a very strange concept, and what defines a great American orchestra is versatility. And I think the same goes for the British orchestras; they can play any style. E: The one thing that I’d add to that is that with American orchestras a lot of their identity is framed by the halls, because of course they rehearse in them as well, which you sometimes get in Europe, but never in the UK. That’s a very specific thing to America. 


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater “Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.” The ethos of the legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey lives on today in the company he formed, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which performs to hundreds of thousands of people each year throughout the United States and around the world. Now under the artistic direction of Robert Battle – only the third person to hold the role after Judith Jamison and Ailey himself – the company holds audiences spellbound with its powerful and deeply felt repertoire, rooted in the African American experience. During the coming season, Ailey celebrates its 60th anniversary; a milestone that will be marked by a

series of special events and new ballet commissions, as well as extensive national and international touring. In addition to the long-established Ailey School and junior company, Ailey II, the organisation also continues to grow its education and outreach activities, and increasingly takes such programmes overseas to add an extra dimension to guest engagements. On a recent tour to South Africa, for example, the Ailey dancers participated in over 60 workshops and school visits, bringing Alvin Ailey’s inclusive message into some of the nation’s poorest township areas. Askonas Holt’s working relationship with Ailey goes back a mere ten years, but has seen the company visit cities as diverse as Moscow, Edinburgh and Rio de Janeiro. In October 2018, the

Alvin Ailey’s Linda Celeste Sims © Andrew Eccles

company adds Dubai to its touring schedule, marking its first visit to the United Arab Emirates. And as always they will bring with them Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece Revelations, a work which shines across the decades with undimmed power. “People come expecting it”, said Robert Battle in a recent interview for The Guardian, “particularly parents who see it as a rite of passage for their children. Young people today may not all go to church or know spirituals, but there is such a distillation of mood and message in Revelations that it cuts through age, colour, economics, all that stuff. The kids see it and something happens. There is something vital in this work, and as long as audiences still need it, we’ll do it.” 

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Shaw Delight Actor and director Fiona Shaw talks to Sarah Lambie about workshopping opera, roles she relates to, and causes close to her heart to explain, comes in respecting and trusting the composer: “When I did Elegy for Young Lovers at the ENO I thought God I don’t know what this is about, but I went to Italy and met Hans Werner Henze – on a Ryanair flight just for the day – and he was so delightful and so old, and I thought, in this opera must be him and sure enough, then I had a ball finding the opera, because I believed that all the fears of his childhood were somewhere in what seemed this cartoonish reality, and quickly it stopped being cartoonish and became quite frightening.”

When I call Fiona Shaw she’s on her way home from RADA. She’s just borrowed a group of students to help her decide how she’s going to direct Cendrillon for Glyndebourne on Tour which begins rehearsals in September. She’s infectiously excited about what her morning’s exploration has done for her understanding of the piece: “Suddenly these characters begin to emerge not as cardboard cut-outs but as people with real psychological problems, and somehow instead of being a children’s story it becomes something about the ill-ease of what it is to be in the world.” Is improvising with actors in this way her usual approach with opera, I ask: “Yes, I did it with Lucretia and it worked incredibly well” (Shaw

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directed Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia for Glyndebourne on Tour in 2013, and it subsequently re-ran at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and at Glyndebourne Festival). “One thing I did with the RADA students for that was the rape scene, because I didn’t want the singers to be embarrassed by it, so I needed to find ways of doing it that could at least be rehearsed – I like to have a possibility limitation so I’m not asking absolutely everything of them.”

Preliminary work on Cendrillon is only one of the plates Shaw is spinning at the moment, though. She’s got a number of projects on the go as an actor: filming in Belfast for Ruth Wilson’s new television series Mrs Wilson; and starting on a second series of Killing Eve by Phoebe WallerBridge, whom Shaw describes as “a genius of language – sort of a Dorothy Parker of the modern age.”

Workshopping with actors isn’t common practice among opera directors, but Shaw finds it a really helpful process: “I think it’s because I’m from the theatre. And I also don’t ever want to decide on a reality, I always want to discover that reality.”

While we’re on her acting career, I ask Shaw something which arises from my own experience. Often in finding a character one is influenced by life – because naturally one brings one’s own truth to a role – but occasionally, roles influence life themselves, and in the discovery of a character written by a playwright or screenwriter one thinks I’d love to be more like that person. So has she ever played somebody whom she would like to be more like, herself?

Part of this discovery, she goes on

“Well,” she says, much to my delight,


“I think that’s one of the most beautiful things a person can say – that’s a really good use of art – you’ve made me love all the characters I’ve played in one go!” “I played Celia [in Shakespeare’s As You Like It] when I was younger, at the RSC, and I loved her because she was witty and a little bit frightened about committing in life, and I was exactly the same! I really liked her because she did such good things for her friend Rosalind, and then I played Rosalind and I thought I am Rosalind – of course I wasn’t, but I thought this person has a heart the size of Scotland and has a gorgeous way of pursuing knowledge by just asking questions and I thought I would love to be that more. “Growing up in Ireland, loving literature, loving Irish poetry, the parameters of my imagination were the parameters of the poets, and then I came to England and walked into the imagination of Arden and Shakespeare and it was really mind-expanding. I played Beatrice in Much Ado, who I also liked very much, she’s a very nice person, and I did the Taming of the Shrew which I didn’t like so much because I think Katharine is a very squashed person – but the very fact that you’re allowed to walk with these women who are trying to find something out about the nature of what it is to be human,

not just what it is to be a woman, was a phenomenal privilege. “I loved Hedda Gabler because she was flawed, I loved the fact that she was so honest about how she could not get comfortable in the world; and I loved Medea because she was very witty. I certainly felt I expanded when I played those women. I loved them, and did of course hope that some of them would rub off on myself.” Despite the depth and variety of her Olivier award-winning career in the theatre, however, in recent years Shaw’s work has turned more to TV: “I haven’t done a play for four years now, I’ve gone in to television which has become the new theatre. I shouldn’t say that really because it’s not fair on the theatre, but television writing and acting has become superlative. “Theatre was at its best between the mid-80s and maybe the end of the nineties, it was still a place where something was being communally discussed. There was an idea that our generation was testing by throwing a big classic against a wall and seeing what would happen, and I do not feel at the moment that that is the enterprise. We’re not waiting with bated breath for the next Chekhov because we know that it will be radically rediscovered, so I don’t feel so excited about what’s going on in theatre, and it hasn’t a hope against

Christine Rice & Matthew Rose in Fiona’s The Rape of Lucretia at Glyndebourne © Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photo: Robbie Jack

television which is just phenomenally good. The TV series has absolutely whipped our audience away from the theatre – you know, why go out when you can stay in and watch stupendously well-argued, well thought-through, quite long stories?” Knowing that Shaw is about to host a gala for SWAP’ra – a new charity supporting women and parents in opera – I ask whether there are other causes which she’s particularly behind at the moment, and not surprisingly for a woman with so evidently large a heart, a plethora of thoughts come out, including the need for vastly greater racial diversity in theatre and particularly in opera: “It is breath-taking that we remain racially so un-diverse in the opera: it’s not good for the opera, it’s not good for society, it’s not good for audiences”. She goes on, “I also wish that feminism would find its intellectual arm, rather than reactive feminism, you know I’m so sorry that Susan Sontag [American writer, filmmaker, philosopher, teacher, and political activist] is dead, she would write very well about this moment, and it needs a voice of some really huge intellectual force that takes on the inevitable complications of the contradictions. “The #MeToo movement is fantastic, but will become a fundamentalist, parochial movement if it doesn’t find a serious intellectual voice or voices to hold its potential. And we should broaden our horizons beyond Brexit to worry about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, these are also people – and they are people who are very near us on the TV, and they are also women, and they have been cruelly, cruelly treated. Rather than worry about Hollywood, perhaps we should worry about them.”  Sarah Lambie is an actress, singer, teacher, editor and writer. She is editor of Teaching Drama, Head of Content for drama at the Music & Drama Education Expo, and cofounder of Golem Theatre

Summer 2018 The Green Room 15


Alison Balsom and Inon Barnatan speak to George Hall about programming, audience development, and balancing their new roles with performing careers

© Jason Joyce

Taking the reins

16 The Green Room Summer 2018


Recently, two major performing musicians have been announced as the Artistic Directors of major international festivals. In the UK, trumpet player Alison Balsom takes over the venerable Cheltenham International Music Festival, founded in 1945 and successfully run for the last decade by Meurig Bowen; while in the United States, pianist Inon Barnatan assumes the music directorship of the Summerfest held in La Jolla every August since 1961.

appearances to show continuity over a period which represents a bit of us both.”

Balsom’s appointment was announced in late 2017 and her first programmed festival will be in 2019. When did she first become aware of the event? “Very early on in my career. It’s a wonderful British institution, and as classical musicians it’s on everyone’s radar”.

She is clearly looking forward to tackling some of challenges the position will pose. “It’s a huge opportunity for me to work in an area with which I’m very familiar and which I love greatly, but from a different corner of the table in terms of the approach: how to make things successful, how to make a vibrant, exciting event so that all types of people will want to come – people who are very loyal, discerning concertgoers who have been coming to the festival for decades, but also those who have never been and who hopefully I can persuade to come for the first time.”

She’s thrilled at the prospect of getting involved with an event possessing such a great history. “Obviously it has a wonderful legacy of showcasing British contemporary and now international contemporary music, and it’s also got an incredible atmosphere. I’ve performed in the Town Hall on a few occasions, but this is my first time really getting to know the organisation intimately.” The 2018 programme has been almost exclusively planned by departing director Bowen. “I’m making one or two

Balsom has been working intensively on the festival since January 2018. “My first week in the job I had to think, who do I need to book now? I wanted to make sure that my favourite artists and ensembles hadn’t already been booked up, so I thought I’d better get in there with my first phone calls to the big cheeses in the industry.”

Cheltenham houses not only the celebrated music festival, but similar events based around other artistic and intellectual pursuits. Do people get confused by all the things going on? “That is our challenge, as the Cheltenham Festivals plural – music, jazz, literature, science. We are almost victims of our own success. Cheltenham is a festival town, and things work so naturally here that there does seem to be some sort of festival happening almost all of the time.” “Each of them has a different demographic. One of my biggest desires is to try to attract some of those audiences loyal to other festivals, and who are already

committed to leaving their front rooms and their TVs and spending money on a ticket for something, to come to ours. I want to find a way of saying, “this is for you as well”, so that there will be something nourishing in the music festival whether or not they’re used to going to it.” Naturally Balsom will continue her career as a leading trumpeter: so will this new job put further demands on her time? “Anyone who’s freelance knows how difficult it is to divide up your time, so trying to carve out the time for practice and keeping my own performing career going while also thinking in an entirely different way about how to pull together an immense event is a bit of a juggling act.” She’s absolutely certain, though, that her experience as a trumpet soloist used to programming her own recitals will stand her in good stead. “The challenge over my entire career has been to find repertoire which I can get my teeth into and which has artistic integrity, but which at the same time has meaning for a wide audience – whether that’s the people who follow me all the time, or children, or people who have heard the Haydn Trumpet Concerto performed in 50 different ways.” As far as festival programming goes, “the classical repertoire is so completely masterful that we want to present as much of it and as wide a variety as possible, but in a way that makes it completely beguiling to people who are maybe scared of the concert hall. Cheltenham has some wonderful venues with beautiful acoustics where music can soar and come alive.” “Programming is fascinating because you can go in any direction. You don’t have to do the obvious things:

Summer 2018 The Green Room 17


“I think I’m going to be an evolutionary with just a bit of revolution dropped in at strategic points!” Inon Barnatan

you can contrast pieces in a really surprising way, though it has to be very well thought-through. In a festival you can have that sense not just of a one-off concert, but of a journey. I do hope to be able to put my personal stamp on my time in Cheltenham.”

American violinist Cho-Liang Lin, known to his friends as Jimmy. “If I’m not mistaken he’s been there for 18 years”, Barnatan explains. “He’s a wonderful violinist and a wonderful guy, and has done wonders with the festival: he’s also the one who invited me in the first place”.

Pianist Inon Barnatan, meanwhile, is looking forward to doing the same with the La Jolla Summerfest – an event which is entirely devoted to chamber music. How did he become aware of the festival? “The summer’s when I get to indulge my love for chamber music and I’ve been going to La Jolla as a participant for quite a few years.”

“I have big shoes to fill, but I have my own ideas and musicians that I love playing with who I would love to invite. With everything you take on, you have to decide whether you are going to be an evolutionary or a revolutionary.” Which is he? “I think I’m going to be an evolutionary with just a bit of revolution dropped in at strategic points!”

He has always loved the location, too. “It’s such a special place – the very southern tip of California before you get to Mexico, one of the most beautiful areas of the United States.” He enthuses about the cliffs, the seals barking, the pelicans and the ocean; “coupled with chamber music”, he says, “that made it hard to say no.”

Above all Barnatan is the keenest possible advocate for the festival’s raison d’être. “To me, chamber music is an integral part of how I view my musical life. I feel that if I didn’t view my work as a soloist with an orchestra as chamber music, then the performance would be the poorer. All the things I do – chamber music, playing as a soloist, playing with orchestras – feed into one another: there is a tremendous amount of synergy between the three. Now, having a festival, I have a sandbox in which I can explore ideas and projects and think about programming – which is something I do generally in my career, but which I can explore here in a broader sense.”

And there will be a new hall in the middle of La Jolla village. The acoustics for the 500-seater hall at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center are being looked after by Nagata Acoustics – who also worked, inter alia, on Suntory Hall, Walt Disney Hall and many others. It opens in April 2019, and so Barnatan’s first festival will be the first Summerfest to be held there. He also pays tribute to his long-term predecessor as artistic director of the event, the leading Taiwanese

18 The Green Room Summer 2018

How much of his time will be involved? “I’ll be there for the month of August every summer, and during the year I’ll fly in for a few planning meetings. Most of my time related to

the festival is spent thinking about it. I do a lot of planning on planes, for example – so it weaves very nicely into my current life.” Summerfest, of course, has its regular audience, but Barnatan is keen to develop it further. “Having this wonderful new hall will help tremendously. I think my job is to offer something that will make people come back. We’re always thinking about how to get people into the hall for the first time – but actually the most important thing is to think, how do you get them to come back regularly?” He has specific ideas about how he might do just that. “One thing that classical musicians don’t think about enough is the theatrical aspect of concerts. What is the experience like if you go to a concert as an audience member? Having a festival allows you to play around with what it means to experience the event as a whole, and to make it as compelling as possible.” But he also wants audience members to feel included. “During the season there is often this sense of family – a feeling of closeness and intimacy. I want people to feel that they are very much part of it, not just as observers or listeners but as part of this dedicated musical family that follows the development of the festival from beginning to end and from year to year.”  George Hall is a freelance writer contributing regularly to newspapers and magazines including The Financial Times, The Stage, Opera, Opera News & BBC Music Magazine.

© Marco Borggreve


Summer 2018 The Green Room 19


Ahead of their inaugural tour this summer, Andrew Stewart explores the ethos behind the USAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s NYO Jazz and its siblings 20 The Green Room Summer 2018

NYO Jazz member Andrew Sumabat (trombone)

Living the American Dream


People said it was impossible. There were so many reasons why the United States had never formed a national youth orchestra. The talent was there in abundance. Yet the vast expense and geographical distances involved surely stood against bringing the best young musicians together in one place. Clive Gillinson chose to differ. Carnegie Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director created the conditions that gave birth to the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America five years ago. The international achievements of NYOUSA, from whistle-stop European tours with Valery Gergiev to critically acclaimed visits to China and Latin America, have demolished the myth that it could not be done. They soon inspired the launch of NYO2, a summer training programme for young instrumentalists, many from disadvantaged or deprived backgrounds, organised by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. The venue’s latest education initiative is set to take wing this summer with the debut of NYO Jazz at Carnegie Hall. Askonas Holt’s Tours & Projects team will handle the big band’s ensuing European tour, a voyage of musical discovery complete with prestigious concerts in venues including London, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Berlin. “When we launched NYO-USA in 2013, we were clear that NYO Jazz would follow,” Clive Gillinson recalls. “Jazz is America’s artform and we felt that it was important for us to nurture the next generation of players.” He adds that lessons learned while building a national

youth orchestra from scratch have been applied to NYO Jazz. Both bands are committed to quality. Whereas NYO-USA shares the stage with leading conductors and soloists, NYO Jazz will work with some of the best musicians in the jazz business. Trumpeter, composer and educator Sean Jones, a former lead player with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, has been booked to serve as NYO Jazz’s Artistic Director. He will be joined for its inaugural outing by Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Dianne Reeves and head a faculty comprising, among others, drummer Obed Calvaire, trumpeter Etienne Charles, pianist Gerald Clayton, saxophonist Erica von Kleist, bassist Mimi Jones and ensemble coach Reggie Thomas. Twenty-two players from sixteen states were chosen as the first NYO Jazz intake. They were selected by online audition, a process already tested and refined by NYO-USA. The band will gather in mid-July at Purchase College in New York’s Westchester County for an intensive two-week course prior to its Carnegie Hall debut and a fortnight on the road in company with ten support staff. Its transatlantic tour opens on 31 July at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds, moves to London’s Cadogan Hall the following evening, and continues with dates at Amsterdam’s Robeco Summer Nights series, the Edinburgh International Festival, Kassel’s Stadthalle and the Konzerthaus Berlin. “Music education was so important to me growing up,” says Sean Jones. “When I got older and garnered some sort of success, I wanted to make

© Jimmy Katz

“It’s going to be wonderful for these students and for me. I don’t think they yet understand the magnitude of what’s about to happen in their lives!” Sean Jones

sure that I gave back and was that mentor for young students that my teachers had been to me. NYO Jazz is the perfect opportunity to do that on a grand scale. It’s going to be wonderful for these students and for me. I don’t think they yet understand the magnitude of what’s about to happen in their lives! I’m overjoyed to have this opportunity to play America’s music in the way that I’ve always imagined it – no barriers, no lines, nothing holding us back.” Beyond the big city concert halls and excitement of the grand occasion, members of NYO Jazz are likely to draw their deepest inspiration from the band’s repertoire. Carnegie Hall has commissioned new works from jazz and classical bassist John Clayton and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, an acclaimed educator and one of the most versatile artists imaginable. Doug Beck, Weill Music Institute’s Director of Artist Training Programmes, praises Sean Jones for his expansive view of big band jazz. “We spoke to Sean about the project from its early stages,” he notes. “He’s identified some great charts from the 60s and 70s and hip-hop

Summer 2018 The Green Room 21


NYO ON TOUR Members of the first NYO-Jazz group: Anna Abondolo (bass), Domo Branch (drums) & Cyrus Mackey (trumpet)

Joined by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, NYO-USA returns to Asia, making debut performances in Taiwan and South Korea. 19 Jul · Carnegie Hall, New York 24 Jul · National Concert Hall, Taipei 27 Jul · Shanghai Symphony Hall 29 Jul · National Centre for Performing Arts, Beijing 1 Aug · Lotte Concert Hall, Seoul 3 Aug · Daejeon Culture & Arts Centre With soloist and band leader Sean Jones and jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves, NYO Jazz’s inaugural tour sees performances in the UK and Germany.

and R&B influenced pieces that from more recent years. They’ll play two of Sean’s tunes, a Christian McBride piece from the 90s, arrangements of Ellington and of Thad Jones and Frank Foster, who both led the Count Basie Orchestra. About half the programme is standard big band rep and half is a more contemporary take on what a large jazz ensemble can do.” The range of NYO Jazz repertoire and the quality of its teaching faculty are a delight to Clive Gillinson. He understands the enduring power of making music with the best at an early age. “You’ve got to create a magnet for talent, so that it’s irresistible to the best players from across the country. I was a cellist in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain when I was a kid. It was one of the most powerful, inspiring experiences of my whole life in music. When I came to Carnegie Hall, I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a national youth orchestra in the States. Of course, it would have been a monumentally expensive exercise before internet auditioning.” Advances in online technology, he adds, removed a mighty obstacle from the path of his nationwide project and prepared the ground for NYO-USA and its siblings. Before moving to New York in

22 The Green Room Summer 2018

the mid-noughties, Clive Gillinson realised ambitious artistic dreams during his long service as Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra. Education soared high on his LSO agenda and remains central to his work at Carnegie Hall. He was determined above all that the institution’s national youth ensembles programmes should be delivered free of charge to all participants, that each orchestra should be open to exceptional talent, never closed to individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. “You have to reach out – you have to engage with people,” he comments. “It’s no good saying access is easy! It requires a very proactive approach. This year we’ve seen eighteen players from NYO2 go on to join NYO-USA. That’s having an impact on the National Youth Orchestra and will ultimately have an impact on what musicians look like who progress to music colleges and into America’s orchestras and ensembles. Virtually everything we do here in education is free. We want these youth orchestras to be based on the ability to play not the ability to pay.” Sean Jones says Amen to that. The trumpeter describes jazz as the sophisticated representation of American popular music, an artform that has touched and influenced

27 Jul · Carnegie Hall, New York 31 Jul · The Apex, Bury St Edmunds 1 Aug · Cadogan Hall, London 2 Aug · Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 5 Aug · Usher Hall, Edinburgh 8 Aug · Kongress Palais, Kassel 10 Aug · Konzerthaus, Berlin

so many others. “Humanity is evolving,” he suggests. “Walls are being broken down. The internet, although it can be a terrible thing at times, has brought people together and helped them share ideas. The folks we chose were not chosen just because they’re great players; they were chosen because we felt they reflect the dynamic of what America is all about, the true melting pot of people coming from different places and backgrounds, going through varying struggles. We wanted to make sure that the best of what this nation offers is represented on this tour. To stand in front of those amazing young minds and help them become the best human beings they can possibly be, is one of the greatest challenges of my life. I can’t wait for us to start work.”  Andrew Stewart is a classical music journalist who has written for a variety of magazines, including BBC Music Magazine, Classic FM, Classical Music, Music Week and Gramophone among others.


Meet the team New series of interviews with the AH team, beginning with Assistant Artist Manager Alice Wright

I provide administration support to the artists in their work and daily schedules.

children performed live in Belfast zoo for the Cultural Olympiad in 2012. It rained most of the time…

What do you like most about your job?

Surtitling my first main stage opera at the Royal Opera House, it was a nerve-wracking and wonderful experience!

Working so closely with such a great and inspiring group of musicians.

Who would you invite to your ideal dinner party, living or dead?

Favourite live music experience? / Favourite musical memory?

Barack and Michelle Obama, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Judi Dench, David Attenborough and Stephen Sondheim.

This is tricky! I’ve narrowed it down to three – Daniel Barenboim’s Ring Cycle at the BBC Proms, the musical Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and singing in Bach’s St John Passion for the first time. Favourite food Homemade pizza Mastermind specialist subject Musical theatre Most underrated composer Percy Grainger Achievement (professional or personal) you’re most proud of?

© Jamie Wright

Tell us a little about your day-today role at Askonas Holt?

Best professional advice received? Do what you love. Favourite quote or saying? “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C. S. Lewis. And when you’re not at work…? Going to the theatre and opera, knitting, watching films, yoga, travelling, cooking, baking sourdough, and anything involving cake…!

Two very different ones, but:

What change would you most like to see take place in classical music?

Working on an outdoor production of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde with over 100

For it to feel increasingly open to everyone.

Alice joined Askonas Holt in 2017, after three years in the Artistic Administration department at English Touring Opera. She works with Cédric Tiberghien, Emmanuelle Haïm, Franck Ollu, George Benjamin, Imogen Cooper, Jian Wang, Louis Langrée, & Ludovic Morlot

Spring 18 Askonas Holt Magazine 23


Multi-talented Pianist and avid photographer Yevgeny Sudbin shares some of his favourite photos

Luxurious Accommodations. I often get sick of staying in hotels as it becomes a very repetitive and bland experience. I took a detour after one of my recitals and went straight to the Lake District where I found a secluded spot by the lake. June 2017, Buttermere, Cumbria. Survival Instincts. I was following a mother leopard with her three cubs (who were also followed by a clan of hyenas) to a safe location where she put all her resources towards protecting her offspring. The other two cubs managed to climb up the trees; this cub was already injured and

24 The Green Room Spring 2018

stayed close to her. August 2008, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Afica. Dark Side of the Moon. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning to observe the total lunar eclipse from the roof of my house which was a breath-taking experience. During the eclipse, the moon can take various shades of red, orange or gold and this photograph is from a series of photographs, towards the end of the event, when the shadow of the earth (umbra) is just beginning to ‘uncover’ the moon. 28 September 2015, London. Prague Nights. The best time to take

photos of a popular city is in the early morning hours. I tend not to sleep after a performance and usually spend the night walking down the streets with my camera to get a real sense for the place. March 2014, Prague. Reflections. I caught the light reflections on the wall coming through one of the many wonderfully crafted stained glass windows, during a stroll through the majestic Cathedral of St. Vitus. March 2014, Prague. Elephant’s Trunk Nebula. I’ve always been fascinated by space and often wondered how the images of the cosmos using the


Hubble Telescope were taken. Taking photographs of the deep space is a very steep learning curve. This is one of my early attempts of the Emission Nebula IC 1396. It is a collection of interstellar gas and dust located at the very end of the outer spiral arm of our Milky Way, approximately 2,400 light years away. I was using special narrowband filters in order to pick up the light emitted by the hydrogen within the nebula. February 2016, London. Montana Deer. I love waking up early and exploring with no-one about. That’s when the light is most special and when you have the most unexpected encounters with nature. I accidentally walked into a herd of deer who froze still for a millisecond when they saw me. Daydreams. One of the many artworks, scattered around the 10,260 acres of privately owned land, this structure (Daydreams) was built by artist Patrick Dougherty, using local willows. July 2016, Tippet Rise, Montana, USA. Long Away from Home. I took this

All photos © Yevgeny Sudbin

photograph towards the end of my tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The last two performances took place at the Sydney Opera House which you can see just behind the Harbour Bridge. October 2014, Sydney, Australia. Between the Pitons. Overlooking the Jalousie Plantation on the (between two volcanic spires, the Pitons). This breathtaking view was used as a background setting for many movies (including Christopher Reeve’s Superman). This picture really takes itself. December 2013, Saint Lucia, Caribbean. Lobtailing. I had a few days between concerts during a tour with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra so I took a short expedition from Kairoura to go whale watching. The weather was difficult; it was raining and the water was choppy, but we did manage to find a couple of sperm whales who put on quite a show. May 2015, Kakoura, New Zealand. You can see more of Yevgeny’s photos on his website: www.yevgenysudbin.com

Spring 2018 The Green Room 25


20 years of Spannungen


© Giorgia Bertazzi

Jessica Duchen speaks to Lars Vogt about his festival in Heimbach, which began in 1998

How did Spannungen begin? The first festival was held in 1998 and the planning for it started two years earlier. At the time I still lived in the area between Cologne and Aachen, just where the Eifel Mountains start. I had been to several of the famous chamber music festivals of the time – Lockenhaus, Risør, Stavanger – and I always loved being part of them. I thought that maybe one day I’d do a festival myself, trying to find the essence of the things I liked most about the others. I was careful to drop the idea of a festival somewhere in the Eifel region to the person who at the time ran the local cultural association of the city of Düren. Soon he was ringing me up every two months to say, “When shall we go and look for a place?”

26 The Green Room Summer 2018

How did you settle on Heimbach and the power station? Our special place had to have the right performance venue; it needed the right infrastructure; and it had to be a nice place, somewhere the musicians and their families would like to go! My colleague suggested first a castle in Heimbach, which the cultural association often used. It’s a beautiful place, and we have our rehearsals there, but it isn’t really big enough for the concerts. Next, we considered a church in Heimbach with old and new sections; we thought we could do concerts involving the different parts of the building, and I started inviting some artists – but it turned out that the church didn’t want any nonreligious music, so suddenly we had no venue! Then someone mentioned the power station.

I didn’t take it seriously at first, but when we went to check it out I discovered that it’s an astonishing building, Art Deco from 1904; it looks a bit like a cathedral of the industry of the time, and it’s by a lake with a mountain behind it. There’s plenty of room to put up the stage between the old turbines and make it into a concert hall. The acoustic needed some work, as the floor is tiled. I did a test recital and we put in a carpet; it was soon clear that the atmosphere was unique and it could be beautiful. We had to experiment before the first festival, with curtains and carpets, but now the acoustics are something special. I always enjoy it when I bring new artists and they see this astonishing power station for the first time.


The title ‘Spannungen’ refers to more than the power station…? Spannung means ‘electric voltage’, but Spannungen also means ‘tensions’. I wanted a title that would reflect that we are there about the art and the truth: we want to dig deep and not offer people just superficial entertainment.

We want to play the great works of chamber music because they’re there for a reason, but we also want to discover unknown and new works. That’s why we always have a composer-in-residence who’s there with us and writes us a piece. We’ll always deal with new music and get to know a composer. At the time we started Spannungen I was 27. Now I’m 47 and I’m keen to bring in the next generations. Thanks to some very generous donors, we give scholarships for younger musicians who can be there, play with us and be welcomed into the chamber music family. Alongside my ‘Rhapsody in Schools’ projects – taking music into schools in Heimbach and playing to the children – we always do a concert one morning just for schoolchildren. The whole power station fills up with 500 kids. Your line-up of musicians seems to mix old friends and new? Some people have been constant presences from the beginning, like Christian Tetzlaff and Antje Weithaas. Gustav Ravinius is here frequently now, as are Tanja Teztlaff, Sharon Kam, Isabelle Faust and Tatjana Masurenko. I try to mix this “family” with people who come once in a while, and with bringing in new people so that we don’t always ‘cook in the same juice’. Sometimes our musicians are those with the bigger names, but often they aren’t. We want to find new musicians who fit in with a chemistry of music-making in which strong personality is welcomed, but ego


What is your approach to programming?

must take a step back: everything is about the group result. This year’s newer faces include the violist Timothy Ridout and, here for the second time, the violinist Gergana Gergova and the double-bassist Charles DeRamus, among others. And I enjoy bringing very young musicians in to play with us so that we’re challenged by a new generation. What are you most looking forward to this year? My 16-year-old daughter Isabelle is performing with me, reciting Schumann melodramas. She’s very serious about becoming an actor. I’ve worked a lot before with actors and I thought we could do these melodramas, especially as they’re spooky and wonderfully horrible! I also enjoy particularly mixing the different forms: for instance, to have first a duo, then a bigger group, then something with a narrator. We have Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale again this year, which we have not done since the second festival. Why have you chosen Russia as the 2018 theme? A local politician is planning to host some meetings and talks between Germany and Russia and suggested we could do something reflecting this. We’ve played a lot of Russian

music before, but we’ve never focused specially on this country. I’ve always been attracted to the culture, the language and the music, ever since childhood. I speak Russian, my first wife was Russian, my wife now is half Russian, so there’s a deep link. We will have works by not only the most famous figures like Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Stravinsky, but also Glière, Arensky, Ustvolskaya and our composer-in-residence, Sergei Newski. His music is very experimental, and I’ve been impressed with how fearlessly he speaks out for human rights in Russia. My thought particularly was to show that even if we disagree on quite a lot of political issues, we still absolutely love and believe in the country and the culture. And there’s a whole lot of great music to discover.  Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and author of several novels and plays. Her writing has appeared in titles including The Independent, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, BBC Music Magazine and Opera News. She wrote the libretto for Roxanna Panufnik’s opera Silver Birch, and her latest novel Ghost Variations featured in the The Daily Mail’s Best Books of the Year 2016 www.jessicaduchen.co.uk

Summer 2018 The Green Room 27


US Orchestras Askonas Holt has a distinguished history of touring and presenting America’s top-flight orchestras, which continues to this day. We are also passionate about supporting the next generation of great musicians, showcased by the nation’s premier youth ensembles. Here, we take a look at past and future plans




Askonas Holt has presented the BSO in London over the course of nearly half a century, under such celebrated conductors as William Steinberg and Seiji Ozawa. More recent highlights include memorable performances under Conductor Emeritus Bernard Haitink at the Edinburgh International Festival and at the BBC Proms, where the orchestra will return in Summer 2018 under current Music Director Andris Nelsons.

The auspicious occasion of Bernard Haitink’s 80th Birthday led to the first collaboration between Askonas Holt and the CSO in 2009, with concerts in Berlin, Lucerne, Vienna and Paris also marking the end of Maestro Haitink’s four year tenure as Principal Conductor. Since that time, we have worked together on two extensive tours to Asia with conductors Lorin Maazel, Osmo Vänskä and current Music Director Riccardo Muti, as well as a major European tour when the CSO became the first international ensemble to perform at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. Future plans include a tour to Asia.

Our first tour with the Cincinnati Symphony in 2017, under the leadership of Music Director Louis Langrée, held particular significance since it marked the orchestra’s first international engagements in eight years. The six-date tour included performances in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, and was swiftly followed by a European tour that included debuts at the BBC Proms and Edinburgh International Festival.



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cincinnatisymphony.org Photo credits: Boston © Marco Borggreve, Chicago © Todd Rosenberg, Cincinnati © Cincinnati Symphony, LA © V Evans, NYO-USA © Chris Lee, NY © Chris Lee, San Francisco © Bill Swerbenski, Cleveland © Roger Mastroianni, Courtesy of The Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia © Philadelpia Orchestra Association




Under the leadership of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, The Cleveland Orchestra has become one of the most sought-after performing ensembles in the world. The 2017/18 season marked the Orchestra’s 100th year of concerts, and the beginning of a Second Century of extraordinary music making. The Cleveland Orchestra has a strong history of touring, with recent visits to Japan and Europe, which included the first staged opera in history at Vienna’s Musikverein with director Yuval Sharon. We are thrilled to be working with The Cleveland Orchestra for the first time, on a touring project to China in 2019.

Another relationship of many years standing is with the New York Philharmonic, with appearances in London under a succession of major conductors. In 2007, we presented two concerts at the Barbican Centre under then Music Director Kurt Masur, thus beginning a series of residency projects that continue to this day. Further highlights include performances at the BBC Proms, Copenhagen’s Konserthus, and in Beijing, while future plans include a return to China. nyphil.org

NATIONAL YOUTH ORCHESTRA OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA We began touring the NYO-USA in July 2015, with an extensive sevendate China tour. Since then, we have taken the orchestra to Europe and Latin America. This summer the orchestra makes its debut in Taipei and South Korea, plus return performances in Shanghai and Beijing with Michael Tilson Thomas. The 2019 tour marks a return to Europe for a major summer festival tour – conducted by Antonio Pappano, the orchestra will be joined by Joyce DiDonato. This summer NYO Jazz – a 24-piece big-band – launches with vocalist Dianne Reeves and trumpeter Sean Jones. Further reading: “Living the American Dream”, our introduction to NYO-Jazz, page 20




LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC We first worked with the LA Philharmonic in 2011, arranging the orchestra’s first European tour under new Music Director, Gustavo Dudamel. Subsequent highlights have included an extraordinary Mahler cycle, bringing together the LA Phil and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra for performances in both the US and Venezuela, while future plans include an Asian tour. www.laphil.com

Askonas Holt has managed tours for the San Francisco Symphony for over a decade, including numerous visits to the BBC Proms, the Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican Centre, plus European main season and summer festivals tours. In addition, two Asian tours, in 2012 and 2016, included concerts in Seoul, Taipei, Shanghai, Beijing, Osaka and Tokyo. Currently in planning is a future tour of Europe. It has also been a great pleasure to work with the SFS Youth Orchestra, considered one of the finest in the world. Starting in 2008, we have embarked together on summer tours to some of Europe’s most prestigious venues, including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Smetana Hall in Prague and the Berlin Philharmonie. www.sfsymphony.org

THE PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA Askonas Holt’s collaborations with the The Philadelphia Orchestra include many UK performances at the Barbican, the Royal Festival Hall, BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival. We have also arranged the orchestra’s debuts in Hong Kong (2016) and at Seoul’s Lotte Hall (2017), both under the baton of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. www.philorch.org

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On Tour Alina Ibragimova © Giorgia Bertazzi

Upcoming projects organised by our Tours & Projects department

EUROPA GALANTE Return to Warsaw for Chopin and his Europe Festival 17 & 24 August · Lutoslawski Concert Studio, Polish Radio YOUTH ORCHESTRA FOCUS I, CULTURE Orchestra, Artistic Director Kirill Karabits & Nemanja Radulović 24 Jul · Opéra Berlioz, Montpellier 26 Jul · Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 29 Jul · Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America with Michael Tilson Thomas and Jean-Yves Thibaudet 24 Jul · National Concert Hall, Taipei 27 Jul · Shanghai Symphony Hall 29 Jul · National Centre for Performing Arts, Beijing 1 Aug · Lotte Concert Hall, Seoul 3 Aug · Daejeon Culture & Arts Centre NYO Jazz inaugural tour with Sean Jones & Diane Reeves 31 Jul · The Apex, Bury St Edmunds 1 Aug · Cadogan Hall, London 2 Aug · Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 5 Aug · Usher Hall, Edinburgh 8 Aug · Kongress Palais, Kassel 10 Aug · Konzerthaus, Berlin

BERGEN PHILHARMONIC & EDWARD GARDNER Summer festivals tour with soloists Alina Ibragimova, James Ehnes & Leif Ove Andsnes 19 Aug · Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (Robeco SummerNights) 21 Aug · Royal Albert Hall, London (BBC Proms) 22 Aug · Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg (Elbphilharmonie Sommer) 23 Aug · Moniuszko Hall, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw (Chopin and his Europe Festival) DEUTSCHES SYMPHONIEORCHESTER BERLIN, ROBIN TICCIATI & VILDE FRANG 4 Sept · Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg 9 Sept · Queen Elisabeth Hall, Antwerp SWEDISH RADIO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA & DANIEL HARDING 15 Sept · Anima Mundi Festival, Pisa

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© Dan Breckwoldt / shutterstock.com

21 Aug · Royal Albert Hall

Winterreise in Taichung © National Taichung Theater


The Berliner Philharmoniker performs at the Proms for the first time under Chief Conductor Designate Kirill Petrenko

Netia Jones’ fascinating production returns to Asia following performances in Taichung in 2016, presenting two performances in Shanghai

1 & 2 Sept · Royal Albert Hall

8 & 9 Sept · Shanghai Grand Theatre

3 Sept · Soloists of the Berliner Philharmoniker perform at Cadogan Hall


Boston Symphony Orchestra return to the Proms with Music Director Andris Nelsons 2 & 3 Sept · Royal Albert Hall

Ian Bostridge © Sim Canetty-Clarke

Bergen Philharmonic and Edward Gardner, in a concert that marks the orchestra and its Chief Conductor’s first Proms performance together, joined by violinist Alina Ibragimova

19 – 23 Sept, Théâtre du Léman, Geneva 25 – 30 Sept, Theater 11, Zurich 4 – 6 Oct, Dubai Opera View all projects at www.askonasholt.co.uk/tours

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© Askonas Holt 2018 15 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1BW +44 (0)20 7400 1700 info@askonasholt.co.uk 32 The Green Room Summer 2018 www.askonasholt.co.uk


Profile for Askonas Holt

The Green Room Issue 2 Summer 2018 : USA