Review of 2012: Classical

Northern Ireland Opera toured with the unsettling adaptation of the Henry James ghost story, and Simon Rattle thrilled us again

 

High notes

Let's start with a segue – that pin-drop moment at the BBC Proms when the last filaments of Ligeti's Atmosphères dissolved into six bars of silence, and those became a prelude to the Prelude of Wagner's Lohengrin. Opening the year's review with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker is something of a tradition here, but this was a season to savour.

From Sir John Eliot Gardiner's revelatory period-instruments reading of Pelléas et Mélisande to Christine Schäfer's enigmatic Pierrot Lunaire, trombonist Byron Fulcher's feisty re-creation of Berio's Sequenza V, Harry Bickett and the English Concert's faultlessly paced B Minor Mass, Paul Curran's witty Nixon in China with the BBC SO, and Daniel Barenboim's monumental Beethoven cycle with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Proms rivalled the Olympics in ambition. Gold for London? Yes. But Birmingham Opera Company's immersive production of Stockhausen's Mittwoch aus Licht in a former factory in Digbeth was the most flamboyant event of the summer.

Burning bright

Mao in Nixon, Achilles in Britten Sinfonia's King Priam and a deliciously louche Basilio in Michael Grandage's Le Nozze di Figaro for Glyndebourne, tenor Alan Oke excelled. Conductor of the same Figaro, Robin Ticciati delivered a Siegfried Idyll of delectable transparency with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, while Leonidas Kavakos's Berg and Christian Tetzlaff's Szymanowski confirmed a golden age for violinists. Cellist Tim Gill and pianist John Constable mesmerised in Messaien's Louange à l'Eternité de Jésus. Antonio Pappano and the orchestra of the Royal Opera House made the marathon revival of Keith Warner's Ring Cycle a pleasure. Yannick Nezet-Séguin's conducting of Rusalka was divine, Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito's production less so. Opera North had a sensation in the form of Annemarie Kremer, fearless leading lady in Christopher Alden's production of Norma, while all eyes were on Anna Caterina Antonacci's Cassandra in David McVicar's otherwise blurry Les Troyens.

Never mind the venue

Young talent emerged in pubs, clubs and car parks. Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Oliver John Ruthven and the continuo section of Musica Poetica London outclassed the singers in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. Laura Parfitt was a sassy Minnie as Puccini's West End Girl at the King's Head, while Igor Toronyi-Lalic and friends played Moondog, Howard Skempton and James Tenney in a south-London multi-storey, while Gerald Barry's The Importance of Being Earnest threw 40 plates and two megaphones at Wilde's masterpiece of triviality.

Opera hits

Northern Ireland Opera took Oliver Mears's unsettling production of The Turn of the Screw on tour, with Miles styled after the young Benjamin Britten. Anneliese Miskimmon's blackly comic Falstaff for Opera Holland Park was one summer highlight, Antony McDonald's dreamlike Queen of Spades for Grange Park Opera another. Jesus Leon's embittered Don Ottavio became the focus of Daniel Slater's topsy-turvy Don Giovanni at Garsington.

Festival fever

Wexford Festival honoured Delius with Stephen Medcalf's production of A Village Romeo and Juliet and Iford uncovered the terrible beauty of Handel's Susanna. In Aldeburgh and the Barbican, Claire Booth wore a wolf suit and Lucy Schaufer became a Sealyham terrier in Netia Jones's Oliver Knussen double bill. In Covent Garden, Marie-Nicole Lemieux and a horse called Rupert stole Robert Carsen's Falstaff.

Low notes

For excessive mutilation of animals, Michael Keegan Dolan's production of Julius Caesar. For misogyny and necrophilia, Frederick Wake Walker's Bow Down. For whimsy and hubris, Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach. For ignorance of kebab vans and urban dance, Judith Weir's Miss Fortune. For totally missing the point, Anna Meredith's body-popping National Youth Orchestra commission, Hands Free.

Closing chords

Composers Hans Werner Henze, Elliott Carter, Jonathan Harvey and Richard Rodney Bennett, pianist Charles Rosen, beloved baritone Robert Poulton and Lisa Della Casa, the sweetest soprano, and Russian star Galina Vishnevskaya.

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit