(Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)
Ashutosh Khandekar - Editor
From the current issue of Opera Now
So, farewell to the bicentenary anniversaries of Wagner and Verdi. If you didn’t know before 2013 that these two composers were the two colossal pillars around which 19th-century opera revolves, you will have had it hammered home by now (not least in pages of this magazine!).
I wonder whether the two composers could have imagined that, more than a century after their deaths, the opera world would still rely heavily on their creations as surefire box-office hits in an uncertain world. Given that both composers had, in their own ways, massive egos, perhaps they wouldn’t be so surprised at their enduring success.
During the course of the bicentenary year, Verdi and Wagner have between them given a financial boost to classical record sales, with a host of classic recordings retrieved from the dim and distant archives; specialist travel companies have devised tours in their name; festivals have programmed rarities and opera houses have undertaken epic new productions, setting a benchmark for a new generation of Verdi and Wagner fans.
Birth anniversaries can sometimes seem like spurious occasions for marking the achievements of great men and women. The world needs little excuse to highlight the achievements of Maria Callas, who would have turned 90 on 2 December this year, or Richard Strauss, whose 150th birth anniversary falls on 11 June 2014. Celebrating the birthdays of living artists, on the other hand, can be an eye-opener on a lifetime of creativity. So look out for Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th birthday on 15 July 2014. Birtwistle is among the most successful British composers of opera in recent years, if lavish productions and new commissions are anything to go by. His music is rugged, visceral and sometimes violent – you’re unlikely to come away humming a good tune; but he has a distinctive musical voice and a feeling for elemental drama that marks him out as a genius of our time.
Happy Christmas, and here’s to another uplifting, challenging and stimulating year of opera in 2014…
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