"Shhhhhh..." Says Antonio Pappano from behind his big, shiny piano. "But I haven't even sung a note!" protests Dame Anne Evans. "Yes!" replies Tony, "But I know that when you do, it will be too loud!"
Anecdotes like this really float my boat, so I was in my element at Opera North's 'I Saw the World End' last week, a Q&A session and masterclass with Dame Anne at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds. I would imagine that it would have floated any Wagner fan's boat to be honest, as the legendary Wagnerian soprano (who is a consultant on the Opera North Ring Cycle) was focussing on her portrayal of Brünnhilde in the Daniel Barenboim/Harry Kupfer Ring at Bayreuth in the early 1990s before taking two of the Das Rheingold cast members (Yvonne Howard and Giselle Allen) through their vocal paces.
I've reviewed the evening for Bachtrack here if you fancy getting the full picture, but I wanted to use the blog to draw your attention to all the wonderful Wagner that is about to occur...
Das Rheingold itself is doing the northern rounds (Birmingham Symphony Hall,The Sage, Leeds Town Hall and the Lowry). If you haven't got a ticket yet, it promises to be a visual as well as a musical delight (have a little peek at Richard Farnes discussing it on the video below) but there are a couple of events happening alongside the opera which are worth opening your ears for. Firstly, on the 25th of June, there's 'The Cross in the Mountains: German Choral Music in the Age of the Ring.' This is a great opportunity to hear ON's wonderful chorus perform some stirring German Romantic music including Weber, Marschner, Lortzing and Nicola. They've promised terror, beauty, humour and errr... lots of horns.
Secondly, if you're going to Das Rheingold when it opens in Leeds on the 1st of July, you might want to book a (free) ticket for the pre-show talk, which will be taking place in the Albert Room in the Town Hall. It's a special edition of the 'Inside Opera' series, and will feature Opera North's Head of Music Martin Pickard and singers Kathryn McGuckin, Sarah Estill and Hazel Croft.
Finally (and this is rather special) Opera North have commissioned film maker Matthew Robins to come up with a visual response to a piece of Wagner's music. The result is Mein Lieber Schwan- a beautiful animated short inspired by the aria from Lohengrin. A crackly, atmospheric recording of the piece featuring Hermann Jadlowker is brought to life by Robins' unusual little puppets, and if you like sparkly swans, it'll be right up your street. Enjoy!