“It’s evocative of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, that sense of foreboding and drama..”
We caught up with mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly in between rehearsals for tonight’s concert which features Berlioz’s dramatic song cycle ‘Les nuits d’été’.
Sarah Connolly’s Nights of Summer
Monday 20 February, Royal Festival Hall, 7pm
John Elliot introduces a rarely seen instrument – the Ophicleide, and talks about its role in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.Read More
Way back in October 2014 we performed works by Berlioz, Beethoven and George Onslow. This Royal Philharmonic Society pre-concert talk, entitled Beyond Beethoven, looks at whether music history is unjustly dominated by the greats by focusing on lesser-known composers of the Classical period.Read More
Last night we made our first outing this season at the Royal Festival Hall, flying the flag for the rarely heard composer George Onslow with his first symphony, alongside the overture to Beatrice and Benedict by Berlioz, and Beethoven’s great Eroica Symphony.Read More
“Berlioz wanted it to sound pretty rough and ghastly – so we do our best to provide that”
John Elliot introduces the Ophicleide, and its role in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique – filmed while on tour with the piece last year.Read More
Last autumn we went on tour with our Emeritus Conductor Sir Roger Norrington, with some pretty unusual repertoire for us – Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Indeed, this was only the second time we have ever programmed this piece. Here’s a clip of the Orchestra and Sir Roger Norrington rehearsing the piece at the Palais des Beaux-Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels ahead of performances there, and in Warsaw and Helsinki.Read More
We chased down the wonderful Victoria Simmonds; aka Flamel in our up and coming concert performance of Offenbach’s Fantasio, to talk about some of the finer things in life (books, opera, Brad Pitt, that sort of thing…)Read More
The tail end of the summer saw us reunited with our Emeritus Conductor Sir Roger Norrington for a very special project – a 3 concert tour of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. As you can imagine, this is not a piece the OAE performs very frequently.Read More
To freak us out a bit on this ‘All hallow’s eve’, we thought we’d hunt down those chilling classical pieces that have sent shivers down our collective spines at the movies…
Prepare to be spooked!Read More
Still eeking out the pictures from our Romeo & Juliet project! Here’s a selection from the performance at the Royal Festival Hall. We don’t often photograph our concerts and rehearsals but this was such an unusual and important projct for us we really thought we should. It’ll be a long while before we play this piece again!
Pictures by Matt Wreford.
Taken us a while to put these up…but cast your mind back about 2 months and we were playing Berlioz’s huge Romeo & Juliet. Here are some pictures of us in rehearsal with OAE Principal Artist Sir Mark Elder at the Royal Festival Hall, on the morning of our evening performance there ( inbetween the Philharmonia gave a family concert, it was quite a busy day for the Festival Hall!). All pictures are by Joe Plommer and you can view the entire set over on our Flickr profile.
Last month saw one of the most ambitious projects in the OAE’s history come onto the Royal Festival Hall Stage: Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet, conducted by Sir Mark Elder and with over 200 performers, Orchestra, soloists and choirs.
We caught up with the audience after the London performance to find out what people thought of it.Read More
Our performance of Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet at the Royal Festival Hall was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday and is now available on the BBC iPlayer until next Sunday, 4 March. Enjoy!
Listen to Romeo & Juliet on the BBC iPlayerRead More
It’s Valentine’s day (well it was when I wrote this….). It can be a rather grim, over-commercialised affair, but in an attempt to redress the balance, I thought it would be worth taking a look at the romantic trials and tribulations of Hector Berlioz, one of the nineteenth century’s great composers. He was a man whose deep-seated love for the Irish actress, Harriet Smithson, coloured his adult-life with both ecstasy and tragedy, and this is reflected in some of his finest works, including his ‘symphonie dramatique’, Roméo et Juliette.
Shakespeare was a fundamental influence on Berlioz all his life – it was in his plays that Berlioz discovered ‘the meaning of real grandeur, real beauty, and real dramatic truth’. However, it was also through Shakespeare that Miss Smithson was revealed to him. He wrote that he could not compare the effect ‘produced by her….dramatic genius, on my imagination and heart’.
He first saw Smithson perform at the Odéon Theatre, Paris in 1827 as the ‘fair Ophelia’, and some months later he beheld her in Romeo and Juliet. Contrary to Berlioz’s own recollection of seeing her as Juliet, it was reported in the Illustrated London News that on seeing her he exclaimed, ‘I will marry that woman! And I will write my greatest symphony on that play!’
He pursued Smithson for five years. She never met him in this time, and never wrote a line in reply to his voluminous letters. She first set eyes on him in another of her performances as Juliet. Berlioz, so moved, ‘gave a loud cry and rushed out of the theatre, wildly wringing [his] hands.’ She was undoubtedly somewhat disturbed by this fit, and asked fellow actors to ensure he was kept at a distance, as ‘she did not like the look of [his] eyes’. Her troupe removed to Amsterdam, leaving Berlioz to wallow in dejection, saying that, ‘even Shakespeare has never painted the horrible gnawing at the heart’ that he felt.
Berlioz’s friends long suffered his ravings about Harriet. They complained that on walks through Paris he would ‘fill the unsympathetic boulevards and the adjacent streets with his love laments.’ Girard, a conductor and friend, wrote that ‘if it were anyone else, I would show him the door’. Berlioz’s letters to friends betray his almost delirious state – ‘today it is a year since I saw HER for the last time. Oh! Unhappy woman! How I loved you….trembling I write, HOW I LOVE YOU.’
Finally, in 1832, after hearing Berlioz’s Lélio, whose monologues make it clear the piece was intended for her, Harriet granted him an audience. It took further months to convince her of his love – at one point he obtained a passport, threatening to quit Paris forever and move to Germany. In a rather more extreme gesture, he staged a suicide attempt, the effect of which was to leave him vomiting for two hours owing to the quantity of opium he had ingested. Nevertheless, after overcoming opposition from their families, they were wed in 1833. Berlioz remembered that ‘on the day of our marriage she had nothing in the world but debts, and the fear of never again being able to appear to advantage on the stage. My property consisted of three hundred francs, borrowed from my friend Gounet, and a […]Read More
It’s time for the latest packed edition of the OAE podcast, this time with added snazzy intro music. In this edition we speak to Sir Mark Elder about Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet, chat with Laurence Cummings about Bach, talk to composer Sally Beamish and writer Melanie Reid about Spinal Chords, a new piece for the OAE as part of the London 2012 celebrations, plus there’s a chat with OAE Digital Content Officer Zen Grisdale about his role at the OAE (including how he like his tea…) and lastly we talk on the phone to Double Bassist Cecelia Bruggemeyer about her top CD picks. Phew!
The podcast can be streamed or downloaded below and will also be available on itunes from tormorrow.
Full details of all our performances
OAE Podcast February 2012 by OAERead More
We’re very excited to announce that The Night Shift will be returning to the Roundhouse in Camden as part of their 2012 Reverb festival on 24 February 2012.
After a sell-out performance at Reverb 2010, The Night Shift returns to the Roundhouse to open this year’s festival with one of our most ambitious projects to date. The 90 piece Orchestra conducted by one of the legends of the classical music world, Sir Mark Elder, will recreate the raw and revolutionary sounds of 19th century Paris in Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet. All in the radical and contemporary atmosphere of The Night Shift– classical music: minus the rules.Read More
Enrique Mazzola can’t stop smiling. In a clutch of impressive debuts coming up this season – including the Oslo and New Japan Philharmonics and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra – the young Italian conductor is particularly thrilled by the prospect of working with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with whom he will make his debut at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in November. ‘They are full of passion and life,’ he enthuses. ‘They really know what they want.’Read More
Well, our Prom on Sunday was a bit of an event. It’s not every day you get the OAE playing Berlioz and Wagner, and also not often that you get over 85 OAE players on stage! Plus, the Royal Albert Hall was packed to the rafters. If you couldn’t be there then you can still listen to the performance online, until this coming Sunday. Listen to it here.
The critics were out in force and here’s what they said
Tom Service Guardian Blog
Classical SourceRead More
Here’s a few pics we took while in rehearsal at the Royal Albert Hall for our BBC Proms performance last Sunday. In the last couple you can see our Melgaard OAE Young Conductor Eduardo Portal on the podium – he probably took over for a bit so that Sir Simon could check the balance further back in the hall. On the night Eduardo conducted the off stage horns in Tristan and Isolde.Read More
SO – two weeks, six countries, nine cities, fifteen train journeys, five flights, nine coach journeys, one car journey, seven hotels, twelve concerts, twenty four symphonies, thirteen overtures, six Christmas markets, far too many chocolates, undisclosed quantities of beer and wine…and we’re on our way home.
Yesterday in Paris, the day was grey and damp. A huge box of heavenly chocolates greeted us as we stumbled into the murky gloom backstage. This semi darkness is typical of many backstage areas in concert halls all over the world, and at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees there was much entertainment to be had falling over lengthy clumps of cables, negotiating one’s way around scaffolding towers dripping with theatre lights, avoiding unstable stacks of chairs plonked at random in the dark and searching for a surface or floor space on which to place an instrument case.