Yes, that's the great Dame Felicity Lott as our Opera in Depth end-of-term lunch guest last term, before she went on to talk with her usual natural charm, wit and insight on Britten (we were covering A Midsummer Night's Dream over five Monday afternoons, using the Peter Hall Glyndebourne DVD in which she plays an appropriately tall Helena. Yesterday she was a very impressed onlooker at the celebrations of the great director's life). There are, incidentally, many more of us than you see in the Frontline club room shot above.
For the coming term, which starts next Monday, I'll be covering Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress and Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, two operas which climax in a crucial game of cards. Pikovaya Dama, to give it the proper Russian name (Pique Dame, incidentally, is nonsensical) will be staged at the Royal Opera in Stefan Herheim's Tchaikovskycentric production; having reviewed the DVD of its Dutch incarnation for the BBC Music Magazine, I can say you're in for a treat, a concept that's actually followed through, so let's forget that dramatically abysmal Pelléas et Mélisande at Glyndebourne.
Vladimir Jurowski will conduct The Rake's Progress at the Royal Festival Hall (no idea yet how semi-staged it's going to be). He made such poignant and light-of-touch work of it at ENO years back, in a quirky production by Annabel Arden with a profoundly moving Bedlam scene. Back to the Garden of Eden below in the recent British Youth Orchestra production I found so effective: Pedro Ometto as Trulove, Samantha Clarke as Anne and Frederick Jones as Tom Rakewell (image by Bill Knight).
Meanwhile, a Rake extravaganza linked to the above has already taken some shape for our last class on 17 November. As the Frontline Club flummoxed me a couple of months ago by telling me that they regard the 'run-up to Christmas' as including the whole of November, when they hope to make more than the substantial amount I pay them for my weekly two hours, I've had to find other homes for the last three Mondays. Which, it now seems, will be St James's Church Sussex Gardens, with its avowedly fine audio-visual set-up - I'm going to check it out on Monday - and its new Steinway Boston Concert Grand.
The idea for the proposed event took shape quickly after I'd been to see the BYO Rake. FLott, as Madame la Patronne of BYO (as she is of the Poulenc Society), had recommended I go, and I'm glad I did. So she has agreed to preside, a lovely connection back to the famous Hockney-designed Glyndebourne Rake in which she sang the role of Anne Trulove, happily preserved on DVD (the Bedlam scene above with Leo Goerke). Samantha Clarke, already a world-class Anne, will, we hope, reprise the aria.
Nicky Spence - who sang Tom Rakewell for BYO a decade ago, pictured above - will join with his pianist partner Dylan Perez, and Susie Self, a hairy-chested Baba the Turk for Opera Factory back in the 1990s, has agreed to come along too.
Students for the term will have this as part of their package, but we hope others will come along too, to help us raise money for BYO. A unique event - put it in your diaries, and leave a message here with your contact details (I won't publish it) if you want to join us either for that or for the entire term.