Midlands Roundup

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					Midlands Roundup
Christopher Morley
       varied summer began with a trip away           Idamante and Anna Dennis an appealing Ilia.
A       from the Midlands, when I returned to
Drottningholm just outside Stockholm for a
                                                      As the baddie, chavvy Electra, Donna Bate-
                                                      man was disappointingly squally.
second visit this year. The first time, on 3              The National Children’s Orchestra of
June, I had seen Haydn’s Il Mondo della Luna          Great Britain made two visits to Birmingham
in this historic, “period-staging” theatre, an        in celebration of its 30th anniversary: Town
opera chock-full of glorious music but totally        Hall on 23 August, Symphony Hall on 31
moribund dramatically. My second visit                August, each concert joyously exhibiting the
introduced me to Florian Gassman’s brilliantly        immense wealth of talent (and dedication of

                                                                                                                                                                Photo: Marco Borrgreve
satirical backstage opera L’Opera Seria on 6          teaching) associated with the NCO’s many
August 6, and the second instalment of                ensembles.
Drottningholm’s cycle of complete Monteverdi              Between these two events came the 26th
operas, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria on 7 August,    Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts. My                                       Andris Nelsons
in a production which had a wonderfully ironic        colleague Rian Evans reviews many of the
lightness of touch and which made charming            concerts of these six days of joy on the
use of the authentic stage-machinery.                 previous page, but it is my pleasure to mention       described the Presteigne Festival as “the best in
     What was disturbing and disappointing            the opening concert on 21 August, when fest-          the country”.
was the emphasis put in two of these operas           ival director George Vass conducted the rem-              Finally, the end of September brought
upon sado-masochism. Evidently the Swedes,            arkably adept Presteigne Festival Orchestra in        Andris Nelsons’ first pair of concerts as music
who have influenced us so much in terms of            a resourcefully constructed programme.                director of the CBSO, attended by enthusiastic
political correctness, have a lot of growing-up           We began with Bartok’s Romanian Folk              crowds and performed by players as pleased as
to do here.                                           Dances (the oldest work on the menu) and              Punch. September 17 opened appropriately
     Returning to base, I found myself on 12          ended with Rudolf Barshai’s powerful string           with Wagner’s Rienzi Overture (written in
August in a disused factory, on the banks of          orchestra arrangement of Shostakovich’s String        Riga, Andris’ home town where he is director
one of Birmingham’s many canals, for Birm-            Quartet no.10. Between these two came the             of Latvian State Opera, and beginning with a
ingham Opera Company’s first offering after           premiere of Lost Lanes – Shadow Groves by             long-held trumpet note – Nelsons used to be
its financial rescue by an egg-on-face Arts Council   James Francis Brown, a seamless four-move-            an orchestral trumpeter). It continued with a
England, which had made such a mess of its            ment concerto for 
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