Tag Archives: music

4 of the best: Opera baddies

No matter how much they doth protest, everyone loves a villain really, don’t they? Life would be exceedingly dull if it was all puppies and roses from beginning to end and, certainly, nobody would bother going to the opera if Carmen was a demure, sweet girl who brandished flowers instead of knives and who didn’t have such wanton ways.

To honour the baddies of opera (predominantly male, since the baritone lends itself particularly well to the expression of humanity’s dark side and female characters tend to either lose their marbles or die), we’ve compiled a list of our six favourite blackguards, who we really do love to hate.

1. Baron Scarpia from Puccini’s Tosca

What would this opera have been like without the devious chief of police? He’s never happier than when he’s busy playing mind games with the (rather easily fooled) Tosca, out and about doing a spot of torturing here and there or sentencing people to death quicker than you can say “Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt”. Even though he meets a sticky end at the hands of a very desparate woman, Scarpia has the last wicked laugh in the end, with all his quarry finding themselves six feet under when the final curtain falls. A solid seven on the evil protagonist-o-metre.

2. Nick Shadow from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress

When it comes to being very, very bad indeed, the nefarious Nick Shadow shows all the others of his ilk how it’s done properly (although he does have a bit of an advantage, what with being the devil and everything). If there were medals available for being a bit of a cad, Nick would be right at the top of the podium, shaking hands with the judges and accepting his award with glee. He certainly deserves a pat on the back for seeing his very ambitious plans through to fruition. It can’t have been easy to convince someone to marry a bearded lady going by the name of Baba the Turk or that he is in possession of a machine that turns stone into bread and could prove the saviour of mankind. Hats off to you, Nick Shadow. You’ve scored a very well-earned eight on the evil protagonist-o-metre.

3. Don Giovanni from Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Wine and women, women and wine, that’s what the rather misogynistic Don Giovanni’s all about, dividing his time fairly equally between chasing anything in a skirt and partying hard, with a spot of murder thrown in for good measure. He does a pretty good job of evading suspicion and apprehension for the most part – using his manservant in ways probably not included in the job description – but is eventually bested by a statue of the man he killed and dragged down into hell. An interesting character, but perhaps not as villainous as others in opera, so peaks at five on the evil protagonist-o-metre.

4. Iago from Verdi’s Otello (boo, hiss…)

There’s nothing like an accomplished puppet master to really get an audience’s blood boiling and Iago is a true dab-hand at the art of manipulation. He gets the captain of the navy so drunk he loses his job, convinces his boss that his wife is cheating on him and almost gets away with murder. Even though his plan goes a bit belly up at the end and he has to hotfoot it out of Cyprus because half the cast is dead and it’s all his fault, Iago’s canny ability to get everyone to do what he wants with apparent ease scores him an excellent eight on the evil protagonist-o-metre. Congratulations, Iago.

Who’s your favourite operatic baddie and why?

Two Moors Young Musicians Platform winners revealed

Earlier this month, the Two Moors Festival held its annual Young Musicians Platform competition, with the 2012 event receiving a record number of applications from talented musicians from all over the south-west. The standard was higher than ever before as the 17 who made it through to the second round battled it out for a place in the top four and a spot in a concert in Ashburton on October 13th as part of the festival’s main two-week event.

The judges have conferred, the votes are in and the winners can now be revealed. They are:

– Singer Lucy Bray, 18, from Exeter School

– Clarinetist Laura Deignan, 16, from Devonport High School for Girls

– Flautist Katie Roberts, 17, from Wells Cathedral School

– Recorder player Jacob Warn, 17, from Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School, Bristol

Festival artistic director Penny Adie had this to say about this year’s group of winners: “[They] exceeded expectation. Gifted and possessing that rare quality of inner musicianship, all four showed themselves to be at one with their instruments and each thoroughly deserved their awards. Recorder player Jacob Warn excelled himself with his slick command of the recorder, while Laura Deignan, (having entered previously), proved what a fine musician she is with a beautiful sound on her clarinet. Katie Roberts also produced a strong rich tone. Lucy Bray, the young soprano, came equipped for a professional performance. Already with a solid technique and at one with Lieder, she gave a beautiful performance.”

You’ll be able to see these four play in concert in October as part of the festival’s main two-week event, so keep your eye out for the soon-to-be-released brochure and the opening of the box office.

Keep an eye out for the Olympianist

If you’re out and about between Land’s End and John O’Groats this merry month of May, then you really should keep your eyes (and ears!) very well peeled indeed for the Olympianist, who’s zipping from one end of the country to the other by bicycle and giving impromptu piano concerts for charity along the way.

The Olympianist is actually internationally renowned pianist and keen cyclist Anthony Hewitt, who pedalled away from Land’s End on May 9th and gave his first concert that day in Truro at Penair School. So far, he’s hopped off his bike and whipped out his piano (which is following behind him in a van) at The Old Chapel in Calstock, Exeter Cathedral, Market Square in Newbury and St Lawrence’s Church in Lechlade.

He’s already suffered one puncture (but was rescued by two locals, one of whom donated £5 to his cause), cycled his way through a lot of mist in Land’s End and is no doubt getting very used to giving concerts dressed head to toe Lycra as he aims to raise £20,000 for music and children’s charities.

“I am very excited about this Herculean task,” Anthony says. “It embodies the spirit of the ancient Games, which incorporated musical competitions into sporting events for normal citizens.”

Music-lovers will be treated to a very varied programme, with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Schubert’s Impromptu in Eb, Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 all to receive an airing either out of doors or at a pre-arranged venue at one of Anthony’s many stops along the route. Composer Steven Goss has also been commissioned to write a new work, Piano Cycle, which will be premiered on May 19th at Swaledale.

The Olympianist’s Route:

Get in touch if you’ve seen the Olympianist on your travels. You can also follow him on Twitter here.

Schubert the Sheep: Our plucky little mascot

Schubert is no ordinary sheep. Although born and bred on the wilds of Exmoor, he has eschewed the fields and pastures favoured by the others in his flock to pursue a more cultured existence, free from sheep dips, the shearing pen and collies snapping at his hooves.

In 2001, he found his way to Barkham at the height of the foot and mouth crisis and was adopted by the Two Moors Festival as its official mascot. Since then, Schubert has travelled all over the south-west, meeting and greeting hundreds of musicians and classical music-lovers and helping to make the festival a success wherever concerts take place.

Whether he’s climbing up to sit in the church pulpit at a concert, doing a love duet with Cardiff Singer of the Year Marius Brenciu or attending a talk at a local rotary club, Schubert is never happier than when he’s out there supporting the festival.

Here are just a few photos of him in action over the years:

If you see Schubert at any Two Moors events, snap a picture of yourself with him and email it in for our readers’ gallery.

Send your pictures to: sadie054@googlemail.com

Introducing…New Two Moors chairman John Willan

John Willan

It’s all change here at the Two Moors Festival. At the beginning of the year we waved a solemn goodbye to acting chairman Des Belam (who remains involved as deputy chairman) and said hello to his successor, John Willan, a former chorister at Magdalen College who read music at the University of Edinburgh and has a diploma in piano from the Royal Academy of Music, where he is also an honourary associate.

John is certainly more than qualified to assume the role of chairman for the festival, a post he is really looking forward to sinking his teeth into. Working as a classical producer for EMI in the 70s and 80s – alongside the likes of David Munrow, Domingo, Argerich, Gavrilov and Levine, to name but a few – John became managing director of the London Philharmonic in 1985 and was approached by the BBC in 1995 to build a music division for BBC Worldwide.

In just three years, he established the BBC Legends label and BBC Music Publishing, leaving the company in 1999 to join the board of music agency Hazard Chase. In 2006, he was appointed chairman of the International Artist Managers’ Association and, in 2009, was made a governor of the Royal Academy of Music.

John had this to say about joining the Two Moors Festival as chairman: “Who could resist such an offer? A beautiful part of the world, excellent music-making in wonderful surroundings, such energy and imagination from the artistic and administrative team and a real attempt to involve young people. A festival in every sense of the word, which I hope to support in every way I can.”

Penny Adie, artistic director of the festival, is just as thrilled to have John at the helm, steering the charity onwards and upwards. “I am hugely excited at the prospect of his chairmanship of the festival as, with his global experience of the arts, he will take it further forward in its development as a key arts organisation in the south-west.”

With a roster of past artists that includes outstanding musicians like Yevgeny Sudbin, Julian Lloyd-Webber, Andreas Haefliger and Mark Padmore, the festival can only go in one direction – up! – now that John is involved. Here’s to 2012 and beyond.

Welcome, classical music fans!

Hello and welcome to the official blog for the Two Moors Festival, Classic FM’s festival of the south-west.

Those of you already familiar with the Two Moors (and its dapper mascot Schubert the Sheep, who can be spotted out and about enjoying the Devon air and excellent music at many a festival event) will know that the communication hub of the company – an old farm in the middle of a charming Exmoor valley – has had its issues with 21st-century technology over the years.

It was only connected to the mains electricity grid in 2001 – the year the festival was launched, in fact – and has only just managed to get broadband in the last month. Barkham is no longer a communication black hole, gone are the days of dial-up, and – although mobile phone signal remains very much a pipe dream for anyone within a two-mile radius of the farm – it seemed only fitting that the arrival of a super-fast internet connection be celebrated in style.

To that end, the festival is now working on modernising its website and will be running this blog to help keep you Two Moors fans up to date with what’s going on down in deepest, darkest Devon throughout the year. So if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of festival and country life, as well as the classical music world, make the Two Moors Festival Official Blog your first port of call.

Hope to see you here again soon.

– Sarah

Blog editor