This week sees a remarkable event in Beijing: the Chinese premiere of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Peter Grimes‘ at the Beijing Festival in the year that marks the centenary of his birth. And Askonas Holt artists are making their mark once again in making almost a clean sweep of the main roles. Amanda Roocroft sings Ellen – a role she has sung at Covent Garden, Salzburg and English National Opera; Jane Henschel brings Auntie into her vast repertoire having sung the role under Sir Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic; Mark Stone and Malin Christensson appear as Ned Keene and First Niece having made their debuts in the roles in London last week and Rebecca Bottone sings Second Niece. Jennifer Johnston sings the waspish Mrs Sedley and Graeme Broadbent sings Swallow, both for the first time, and Robert Murray reprises Bob Boles – a role he last performed in Aldeburgh last summer. And then last, but by no means least, Andrew Staples takes on the mantle of singing the great title role for the first time. The orchestra is the Hangzhou Philharmonic and all are performing under the baton of wunderkind maestro Duncan Ward; who will go on to conduct the Britten birthday concert starring Ian Bostridge at the Kammermusiksaal Berlin with members of the Berliner Philharmoniker later this year.
So Askonas Holt at its best: a mixture of seasoned and burgeoning talent combining in a major first performance on the other side of the world of one of England’s major 20th century masterpieces.
Another highlight of the Beijing Music Festival sees Tatiana Pavlovskaya, John Mark Ainsley and Hanno Mueller-Brachmann perform Britten’s War Requiem. Performances will be given in both Shanghai and Beijing with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra under Charles Dutoit as part of this year’s Britten Jubilee celebrations. All are internationally renowned performers in the work: Tatiana recently performed the soprano soloist at the Tonhalle Zurich also under Dutoit and this season includes performances for her with the Chicago, Boston, and Danish National Symphony Orchestras and, looking into the future, with the Orchestre National de Lyon and the Gulbenkian Orchestra Lisbon. Hanno made his debut as the baritone soloist with the European Union Youth Orchestra under Ashkenazy in Aldeburgh. Most recently he took part in a performance with the CBSO under Andris Nelsons at Coventry Cathedral. This performance was a celebration of the famous first performance 50 years ago under the composer and was followed by a European tour which also included the Frauenkirche in Dresden. John Mark, recognised as a truly world class exponent of Britten, recorded the ‘War Requiem’ earlier this year with the Gabrieli Consort which he then followed with performances with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle, under Tate at the Bergen Festival and in Novosibirsk under Rubikis. He also performed the ‘Nocturne’ in Turin under Tate and the ‘Serenade’ with both the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Edinburgh and the London Sinfonietta in Milan and Turin under George Benjamin. Later this month he sings the ‘Serenade’ with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Pablo Heras Casada and in November returns to the the ‘War Requiem’ with the Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, also under Dutoit.