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WildKat PR offers a training fund to all members of staff to help them learn new skills, develop their interests, and also to bring something new back to the team. James Hardie returned to his home city of Edinburgh last month to attend International Festival Encounters. Read about his experience below:

I used my WildKat training fund this year to attend International Festival Encounters.  It is a week-long course run by the Edinburgh International Festival in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  The aim is to bring together artistic entrepreneurs with leading industry members and academics from all over the world.

It was truly ‘international’.  Amongst the participants were producers, writers, actors, programmers, and performers from Australia, America, Russia, South Africa, Denmark, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and the UK.  It was a wonderful melting pot of different perspectives and experiences from both young and old, all taking place under the watchful eye of Edinburgh Castle.

We were treated to five productions over the week, including dance, theatre, and opera.  My own highlight was seeing the Nederlands Dans Theater, who performed a show in three segments with scores by Max Richter and Philip Glass.  The middle segment—a haunting series of scenes as a dying man recalls his life’s regrets—was like watching a film; the way the dancers manipulated their bodies brought to mind ‘The Exorcist’.

After each performance, we were given the opportunity to reflect critically on what we had experienced.  After seeing Gianandrea Noseda conduct the Teatro Regio Torino in a somewhat confused production of Verdi’s Macbeth, Kate Molleson (music critic for the Guardian) guided us through our reactions, whilst also giving us a fascinating insight into the dual role of the music journalist as both critic and evangelist.

There were two ideas that have really stuck with me from the course.  Firstly, the idea that financial constraint inspires creativity.  This was most effectively expressed for me by a participant from Russia, who used the phrase, ‘the artist must be hungry’, encouraging enterprise from a position of deprivation.  The second idea concerned caring for and looking after an audience.  The creator of a particularly moving production called ‘Flight’ spoke about the audience leaving an incredibly intense and personal experience in the theatre, and re-joining the busy outside world, and the steps they took to ease this often difficult transition.

My fellow participants were a really inspiring bunch, and I learnt just as much from them as I did the experts.  I’m certain I will collaborate with them again in the future. The training fund is an amazing perk to have, available to us all here at WildKat once a year, and I’m very grateful to have been afforded this opportunity.

(Written on September 25, 2017 )

Everyone listens to music. We can surely all agree that music is a big part of our lives, whether that be listening to the radio or a Spotify playlist on the way to work, letting our hair down in a nightclub on a Friday night, or watching a visiting orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, music is something that everyone can relate to. So why are researchers warning of the extinction of music in secondary schools in England?

The government introduced the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) in 2010, with a goal to increase the take-up of ‘core’ academic subjects like mathematics and science. This move, however, has left the arts lagging behind. The Ebacc does leave space for students to take arts subjects and there is no solid evidence that the new syllabus has affected GCSE arts subject entries. However, in the New Schools Network report on the EBacc and the arts, it has been found that ‘schools have misunderstood the intention behind the EBacc, using its introduction to reduce funding for the teaching of the arts.’ This has therefore led to a decline in the number of qualified arts teachers, correlating with declining figures on music teacher PGCE courses.

The music industry contributes £3.5 billion to the economy, and it is well known that arts education improves job prospects by making young people more creative, tolerant and broad-minded. It is therefore strange that it is not taken as seriously as one of the ‘core subjects’ that the government view as most important to a child’s education. Catherine McKinnell stated in debates on arts subject inclusion and petition in February 2016: ‘I feel that the Government’s policy and approach at the moment fundamentally risks undermining the benefits that can come from that experience… at the most fundamental level, we need these skills for our economy. If we put off children and young people who can flourish in those areas even though they may struggle in some other ones, the evidence shows that that would be a worrying trend.’

Photograph: Newsteam

Not only does music enrich the economy, but it is also good for you. A study from the University of London’s Institute of Education ‘found that exposing children to classical music can aid in developing better concentration levels, self-discipline and social skills.’ Music is both valuable for the economy and for the individual and in Finland, teaching music and learning to play an instrument is the norm. It is, as stated by Stephen Moss in his article, Why not put music at the heart of education?, ‘the foundation of  children’s schooling (in Finland); it should be the model for us to follow.’

So what are we waiting for?

(Written on August 17, 2017 )

Italy, the country where opera was born around 1600, is home to more than 800 opera houses, many of which have been neglected. A combination of bad management and budget cuts under the Berlusconi government meant that opera houses were severely underfunded, resulting in musicians’ salaries being cut. In some cases, musicians weren’t paid for months on end; many protested and went on strike. By 2013, spending on Italy’s cultural heritage had dropped from €165 million in 2008 to €75 million.

Protests against cuts in Italy's culture budget outside La Scala, Milan in December 2010

Protests against cuts in Italy’s culture budget outside La Scala, Milan in December 2010

Italian opera houses have always relied on state and regional grants, making them more dependent on the state than their counterparts in the UK, which benefit from more private investment. This is however not the case for La Scala in Milan, or Il Teatro Lirico in Turin, as in larger Italian cities, opera houses tend to receive more corporate sponsorship. Opera in smaller cities, such as Florence, has therefore been affected most severely by the cuts in government funding.

The 2013 Italian opera crisis was exasberated by the  financial crisis, and only Milan’s La Scala, Teatro Regio, Turin and La Fenice, Venice were able to pay their bills on time. As a result opera became even less mainstream in the country of it’s birth.

So, how has Italy attempted to solve this crisis? Opera houses are now putting on more modern productions and technology, and social media is being used to show behind the scenes production, via live blogs. La Scala leads the way with translation screens in seats for non Italian speakers, in an attempt to make the art form more accessible.

In May, La Scala premiered ‘CO2’, a contemporary opera which aims to make us acknowledge our responsibility for the planet. It nicely coincided with Expo- Milan 2015, the theme of which was ‘feeding the planet, energy for life’. The opera featured quick scene changes and videos. It was well reviewed.

On a smaller scale, a crowd-funding campaign called ‘adopt a theatre’ has been established by a group of  European singers, to raise money to help bring Italy’s opera houses back to life. So far, the campaign has has resulted in residents of Bevagna, Perugia donating 8,000 to relaunch the Francesco Torti opera theatre. The campaign is now being exported around the country.

The stunning Teatro Francesco Torti in Perugia, saved by the 'adopt a theatre' campaign is launching three new operas.

The stunning Teatro Francesco Torti in Perugia, saved by the ‘adopt a theatre’ campaign is launching three new operas.

Further measures being taken to increase revenues involve opera houses sharing their stages with cinemas and dancers. La Fenice in Venice is adapting its programme to suit the tastes of the huge numbers of tourists who visit the city.

With minimal government support, opera houses in Italy have taken steps to save themselves from collapse, management is being reorganised and as in the UK, modern audiences are being targeted. Opera in Italy may well flourish again, thanks to innovative ideas and initiatives being taken, however these are only first steps, and funding is still short. Perhaps the future of opera houses, particularly those in smaller cities, is not secure just yet.

 

(Written on November 4, 2015 )

Classical News

In today’s news, Classic FM reports how heartbreak caused Tenor Stephen Costello to lose his voice just before going on stage, The Strad announces six finalists of the 2015 Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition, and Graham Keeley discusses unborn babies’ remarkable response to music

The Strad 

2015 Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition Hannover names six finalists

The violinists will each perform a substantial concerto on 8 and 9 October before the winner of the €50,000 first prize is announced

BBC Music Magazine

From Bach to Bakes 

Hilary Hahn and Alexandra Dariescu on the art of cake-making…

Classic FM

Heartbreak made this singer lose his voice moments before going on stage 

Tenor Stephen Costello found he was unable to sing moments before performing Verdi’s La Traviata in New York. It was a side-effect of his separation from his wife, Ailyn Perez

The Times

Foetuses can dance to music at 16 weeks

The soothing tones of Mozart or Bach and the operatic rock of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody make foetuses as young as 16 weeks “dance” in the womb, a study has found

Pizzicato 

New York Has A New Venue For Contemporary Music

The brand-new concert hall, a place for exploration and discovery has fulfilled the goal to be a place where emerging and established artists can share their music with serious music fans and casual listeners alike

KlassikAkzente

Er ist ein Mann des Understatements, der sympathischen Zurückhaltung. So gewaltig seine Gaben am Klavier auch sind und so sehr er das Publikum mitzureißen vermag, so still, besonnen und überlegt ist der Mensch Maurizio Pollini

Klassik-Heute

Edita Gruberova als Anna Bolena an der Wiener Staatsoper

Kammersängerin Edita Gruberova, die im Februar ihr 45jähriges Bühnenjubiläum an der Wiener Staatsoper feierte, kehrt am Freitag, 9. Oktober 2015 in der Titelpartie von Donizettis Anna Bolena zurück auf die Bühne des Hauses am Ring

El Pais

Santiago inaugura el primer museo dedicado a la cantautora y artista, creadora de himnos como ‘Gracias a la vida

Twitter

BBC Music Magazine: @MusicMagazine What is the best setting of poetry by a composer? #NationalPoetryDay

Arts Professional: @ArtsPro #APNews: New ‘Culture Zone’ to open at £22m conference centre in Cambridge

Arts Council England: @ace_national ICYMI: New Artsmark Award & website now open. Made by & for schools to deliver high quality arts & culture provision

Amalia Hall (New Zealand) The Strad

Amalia Hall (New Zealand)
The Strad

(Written on October 8, 2015 )

It is with great excitement that we introduce Helios Collective’s two upcoming events: Toi Toi and Formations masterclasses.

Helios Collective has earned a reputation for putting on bold projects and quality productions, working from the ground up. Founded in 2012, this company has continued to provide opportunities for young artists across a wide creative spectrum. Helios’s diverse programming caters for both people who appreciate high-quality productions, but also those looking for new experiences and hoping to explore music beyond the traditional canon. Working as a tight-knit operative, Helios achieves artistic excellence in every aspect, successfully inspiring and supporting people from diverse backgrounds

ella

Its founder, Ella Marchment, has wide-ranging experiences as both a director and designer, and has worked on over 50 productions internationally. Ella’s sublime leadership has been noted by many: Stephen Barlow – the artistic director of Buxton Festival – praised Ella for creating a ‘surprisingly invigorating and fresh event… [and] stretching the boundaries to breaking point between high art and accessibility’.

toi!

The first of Helios Collective’s innovative upcoming events is Toi Toi, which will stage opera as you’ve never seen it before: in a nightclub! Leave your suit and tie behind and let the Helios Collective take you on a unique 2-day musical safari from London to Jamaica, and from Finland to Brazil. Toi Toi returns to the heart of Peckham, offering an exciting evening of electric opera, mixed with rock, bossa nova, pop-fusion, jazz, reggae and more.

Through this experimental event, Helios hopes to demonstrate the relevance of opera to modern audiences, making it accessible for new generations. Join them on 28th and 29th October at CLF Art Café for an opera experience like no other. Click attending on the Facebook Event to get the latest information, and remember to bring your dancing shoes for the after-party on the final night!

heliosformations
Helios Collective’s second exciting upcoming event, Formations masterclasses, gives you the opportunity to contribute to a new opera production. Take part in a six-day masterclass programme from 6th – 13th November, and share your ideas with top UK classical music influencers and emerging artists. The programme will end with a triple-bill performance at the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square on 13th November, in front of a panel with Kasper Holten, Stephen UnwinStephen Barlow and Bettina Bartz. Formation masterclasses offer a unique chance to be part of the opera community, and take part in workshops on opera composing, directing, conducting and singing, led by top classical music figures.

The Formations masterclasses will also feature three new opera commissions: Glasstown – composed by Leo Geyer, words by Martin KratzThe Exile – composed by Solfa Carlile, words by Gillian Pencavel, and IO Transfigured – composed by Daniel Chappell, words by Dominic Grove. Get your tickets here!

heliosFor more information, follow the Helios Collective on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to check out their website for more information on these fabulous upcoming events!

(Written on October 7, 2015 )

Classical News

The Times

Adamski: The rave DJ who’s taken up waltzing

The cool dance of old Vienna has inspired DJ Adamski as pop stars turn to classical music for ideas, says Will Hodgkinson

Opera transforms victims’ final texts into a requiem for 9/11

The September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001 are the inspiration for a controversial work by English National Opera that opens next week.

The Telegraph

Alice Sara Ott: meet the hottest new talent in classical music

Alice Sara Ott gets a lot of attention for her looks and her quirks – but it is her unique musical personality that will keep her at the top

At Easter, the voice of Bach becomes the voice of God

The great composer offers a sense of solace to all those who seek out his Matthew or John Passion at this time of year

Classical Music Magazine

Obituary: Peter Katin (1930-2015)

Peter Katin, who died on 19 March at age 84, belonged to a generation of virtuoso pianists who tackled concertos as well as the sotto vocesalon intimacy of romantic keyboard works.

Frankfurter Allgemeine

Jeder ist ein Medienkritiker

In den letzten Tagen konnte man den Eindruck gewinnen, dass die Medienwelt den Verstand verloren hat. Und obwohl die Erregungsmaschine in erwartbarster Weise funktionierte, wurde man doch das Gefühl nicht los, dass hier etwas ganz Neues passierte.

Die Welt

Rettet uns vor dem Kurator!

Frank Castorf soll noch bis 2017 seine Berliner Volksbühne leiten. Dann könnte nach dem Willen von Staatssekretär Tim Renner Chris Dercon, gegenwärtig Direktor der Londoner Tate Modern, übernehmen.

pizzicato

Ein ‘Tosca-Engel’ von 25 Metern

Ein Bühnenbild der Superlative entsteht zurzeit im Steinbruch St. Margarethen (Österreich) für die Aufführungen von Puccinis ‘Tosca’ im Sommer. Ein 25 Meter hoher Engel wird das Bühnenbild beherrschen.

Concert Simulator Helps Musicians To Combat Stage Fright

The Royal College of Music, Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana (Lugano), London-based creative design consultancy Studiohead, and Skyline Whitespace, one of the leading providers of custom modular stands in Europe, have developed a new performance simulator, complete with realistic back-stage and on-stage areas as well as an interactive virtual audience and audition panel.

The New York Times

Russian Theater Director Fired for Offending Christians

MOSCOW — In the latest skirmish between the Russian Orthodox Church and the cultural elite, the culture minister on Sunday fired the director of a Siberian theater who included a controversial interpretation of the life of Jesus in the Richard Wagner opera “Tannhauser.”

Twitter

Tarisio ‏@TarisioAuctions : Lots begin closing in 2 hours, at mid-day, for our March 2015 London Auction. Place your bids!

Royal Opera House ‏@RoyalOperaHouse : Student booking for Summer is now open via our site: http://www.roh.org.uk/seasons/2014-15/summer … Let us know if you need any help ^C

Handel House Museum ‏@HandelHouse #OnThisDay in 1697, the famous Italian diva, Faustina Bordoni, who sang for Handel was born in Venice, Italy

Bach News 30th March Bach. Photo: Alamy

(Written on March 30, 2015 )