Michael White’s classical news: Proms; City Music Foundation; Grimeborn; Jess Dandy

Thursday, 28th July — By Michael White


The Proms continue – but maybe take a fan!

TIME flies: the Proms are in their third week, with the Albert Hall hopefully cooler than it’s been of late. It does have temperature control, but in an auditorium that holds 5,000, things can still get sticky – which is why the Hall is telling prommers to bring battery-driven fans if needed.

Only problem: on a hot night you won’t hear the quieter repertoire for what will sound like several thousand buzzing bees. So you might want to go for higher-impact music like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring which plays July 31.

Or the Beethoven 5th Symphony that the Aurora Orchestra play twice, on Aug 2 (evening) and Aug 3 (11am).

The big sell with Aurora is that they play from memory, which most orchestras never do. It makes a difference. And so does the fact that they preface the performance with an introduction explaining what to listen for. What’s more, the Wednesday show is a “relaxed” one, designed for people unused to the formalities of concert-giving – so you can run your battery fan with a vengeance.

Another Proms highlight this week is a concert performance of Puccini’s short, punchy and gory opera Il Tabarro: a tragic tale of crossed love and revenge starring the wonderful Welsh-born soprano Natalya Romaniw, with the Halle Orchestra under Mark Elder.

And there’s a last-minute addition you won’t find in the printed Proms guide: an appearance by the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra which has been hastily put together by Ukranian musicians from around the world to spotlight their country’s suffering. It’s been squeezed into a morning slot, July 31. Expect a good display of blue and yellow flags. Details for all this at bbc.co.uk/proms

And if you can’t get to the Hall, everything is broadcast live on Radio 3.

For the bargain of the week check out the City Music Foundation “residency” at the Wallace Collection, Manchester Square. Running August 1-5, it’s a series of lunchtime concerts showcasing the invariably fine young artists on the CMF scheme in programmes that reflect the pictures in the Collection: expect Venetian Baroque, arias by Handel, and French/American repertoire prompted by a special, Disney-related exhibition running at the Wallace right now. And they’re free – though if you wanted to support the Foundation’s work, I don’t suppose it would refuse your money. Details: wallacecollection.org/whats-on

• The ultimate urban alternative to summer opera festivals, Grimeborn is up and running with its 15th annual season at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston, and I flagged last week its staging of Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea which continues to July 30. But also showing August 2-6 is a Spanish zarzuela – a kind of operetta, although not so light in terms of mood – called Black, the Clown. Written in the 1940s, it’s set during the Spanish Civil War. Which means it’s no laughing matter. Details: arcolatheatre.com/grimeborn

Real contralto voices are uncommon, and a standout on the UK circuit these days is Jess Dandy who once sang in Hampstead Parish Church Choir but is now to be heard in the grandest venues. On July 29 she has a Wigmore Hall recital with the pianist Martin Roscoe, all German song, and likely to be distinctive. Wigmore-hall.org.uk

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