Tag Archives: Edinburgh International Festival

Gallery

Francesco Piemontesi

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The Arts Journal Three Stars Date: 28 August 2012 / Venue: Queen’s Hall Though not yet 30, pianist Francesco Piemontesi has scooped up numerous prizes, played with some of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, and appeared on famous stages … Continue reading

Gallery

The Nutcracker

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The Arts Journal Four Stars Date: 25 August 2012 / Venue: Usher Hall For music which has brought joy to audiences across the globe, The Nutcracker was written amidst a good deal of heartache. When the choreographer Marius Petipa handed … Continue reading

Edinburgh Festival 2012: Ylva Kihlberg – ‘I used to wish I didn’t have to go on’

The Daily Telegraph 11 August 2012

Ylva Kihlberg appears in Opera North’s production of The Makropulos Case at Edinburgh Festival 2012

As someone who confesses to having battled with “devastating nerves”, Ylva Kihlberg doesn’t believe in making life easy for herself. The Swedish soprano makes her British debut at the Edinburgh International Festival this month, as Emilia Marty in The Makropulos Case, arguably the most complex role ever written by Leoš Janáček.

The enigmatic seductress is such a demanding role, and one on which the whole opera stands or falls, that Kihlberg might be tempted to call in the sports coach who helped save her career with a programme designed for elite athletes suffering from performance-crushing nerves.

“There’s no quick fix, I have to keep working at it. I’d find myself waiting to go on and wishing there would be a fire so I wouldn’t have to,” says the flame-haired singer candidly between mouthfuls of chicken salad. Dressed casually in cropped jeans, a gipsy blouse and a close-fitting grey jacket, the singer is taking a break from rehearsals at Opera North’s HQ in central Leeds.

Nothing, Kihlberg insists, could have prevented her from taking on the lead in The Makropulos Case, a role she has coveted since she played a smaller part in Janáček’s penultimate opera early on in her career. “It’s a challenge musically. The music is quite hard to learn. It doesn’t sound as complicated as it is. But it’s a dream role. I love Emilia. She has so many sides.”

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Gagaku: Imperial Court Music and Dance of Japan

The Arts Journal, 23 August 2012

Four Stars

Gagaku is the world’s oldest living orchestral tradition

The court music of Japan is an art form dating from the 5th century, performed in the Imperial Palace by a select group of musicians, many of them descended from families with centuries of musical heritage. Ritualised, decorative, strictly choreographed and austere in its execution, Gagaku is a living, unbroken musical tradition.

Wednesday night offered a rare chance to experience a programme of music and dance performed by the Musicians of the Imperial Household Agency, the Tokyo group’s only performance in the UK.

The capacity audience at the Festival Theatre might not have known in advance what to expect from Gagaku which translates as “elegant music” but they looked on in silent wonder as the musicians, dressed in burnt orange robes and sitting cross-legged on a green silk carpet, plucked, struck and scraped an intriguing mixture of ancient musical instruments, including a bamboo mouth organ, and a four stringed lute strummed with a large plectrum.

If the music and movement of Gagaku and the accompanying Bugaku dance can be austere, the stage was a feast for the eyes, festooned with embroidered silk hangings and large, elaborately decorated ceremonial gongs.

The static but hypnotic instrumental pieces of the first half gave way to a series of elaborate and tightly choreographed dances after the interval. Dressed in silk pantaloons, masks and fringed tunics, the dancers performed traditional dances representing mythical creatures including a phoenix and dragons. Japan’s martial history was referenced in the final dance, Bairo, traditionally performed before battle, in which the dancers staged an elaborate clash of halberds, shields and swords.

If one of the purposes of the Festival is to expose audiences to art forms which emerge from radically distinct artistic traditions, then the strange, ritualised world of Gagaku succeeded in presenting a powerful impression of a complex and self contained artistic world.