Despite a fin-de-siecle feeling, London remains the performance capital of music

If 1997 marked a year of mixed fortunes for London's music scene, the prospects for 1998 might seem equally hazardous. Opera in crisis, the five Symphony orchestras and innumerable visiting ensembles slugging it out for audiences; and perhaps with a fin-de-siecle feeling in the air that the classical music bubble of a few years ago has burst. That said, it's very much business as usual, as on a day-to-day concert and opera per square inch basis, London goes on to prove it's still the musical capital of the world.

At the Barbican, a massive multi-media series entitled Inventing America dominates the centre all year. The LSO is scheduled to give no fewer than 18 American-themed events, beginning with a concert performance of John Adams's Nixon in China; and ending, in December, with Leonard Bernstein's Candide, with both operas conducted by Kent Nagano. In the interim, Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Ives, more Bernstein, Copland and Rouse; Andre Previn wields the baton over programmes of his own music and that of Schuman, Barber and Gershwin; and Pierre Boulez presides over a 90th- birthday tribute to modern master Elliott Carter. Also in the pipeline is a new music theatre piece from Philip Glass (right), to be directed by Robert Wilson. The LSO will also look east, giving under Rostropovich all 15 Shostakovich symphonies.

More Carter comes from the London Sinfonietta at the South Bank. That dynamic new ensemble also amazingly celebrates its silver anniversary this January by reprising the first piece they ever played - John Tavener's The Whale, alongside new compositions. Indeed, much music at the South Bank has an exciting now look: the BBC Symphony Orchestra's "Sounding the Century" project continues apace; Sir Simon Rattle and his CBSO's "Towards the Millennium" series reaches the Seventies in February, featuring Lutoslawski, Birtwistle, Messiaen, Takemitsu and more (Takemitsu is granted a festival of his own in the autumn). In April, the oeuvre of Mark-Anthony Turnage is spotlighted, including the opera, Greek; and John Peel is artistic director of this summer's "Meltdown".

The Royal Festival Hall also plays a large part in the Royal Opera's schedules, with intriguing concert performances there of operatic rarities, including Tchaikovsky's The Enchantress, Boito's Mefistofele, Wagner's Parsifal (with Placido Domingo) and Strauss's Egyptian Helen. Four exciting new productions should glitter at the London Coliseum from ENO, of Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, Puccinile's Trittico, Massenet's Manon and Gavin Bryars' long-awaited Doctor Ox's Experiment.

In February, the new Opera for Europe company gives the young Mozart's Lucio Silla at the Shaftesbury, whilst a potentially vintage summer at Glyndebourne includes the long-awaited revival of Strauss' Capriccio, Peter Hall's new Simon Boccanegra and Handel's Rodelinda, conducted by William Christie.

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