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Twenty minutes ago in Lichfield we had a hailstorm. Now it looks like this:017

I’ve given up trying to wrap my head around the seasons because this month it’s been pretty much non-stop scribble scribble scribble, as George III supposedly said to Dr Johnson. I’ve had reviews in The Spectator for Birmingham Conservatoire’s Anglo-French triple-bill and the RAM’s May Night, reviewed a new opera and a Shakespeare celebration for The Birmingham Post and taken the road to Buxton to cover English Touring Opera’s spring season (well, 2/3 of it) for The Arts Desk. Not that I need much excuse to visit Buxton Opera House: this has surely got to be Britain’s best drive to work. Bit of RVW on the stereo: magic.

A515 Buxton

And last night I heard the UK premiere of a masterpiece – also for The Arts Desk.

On top of that, I’ve been working with The Philharmonia, Performances Birmingham, the CBSO and Warwick Arts Centre on their 16-17 season brochures. It’s a privilege to see what’s coming up next season but a couple of things are so exciting that it’s been quite hard to bite my tongue. And programme notes for two great festivals: four heavyweight programmes for Salzburg – any chance to write about Mozart is always a pleasure – and a whole raft of really wonderful English music, including some real favourites of mine, for the Three Choirs (it’s in Gloucester this year, btw).

Those came courtesy of two great colleagues, Gavin Plumley (he’s got a Wigmore Hall debut coming up and knowing the care and expertise he brings to everything he does, it should be superb) and Clare Stevens, who’s currently blogging the story of her grandmother’s experiences in the Easter Rising of 1916: a really remarkable piece of family history. I’ve also written about a couple of fascinating programmes for the Wigmore Hall and the Barbican and an article on Verdi’s Falstaff for the CBSO’s in-house magazine Music Stand. And did you know that Arthur Bliss wrote a Fanfare for the National Fund for Crippling Diseases? Don’t ask…

And that’s not to mention my most exciting project so far for Gramophone: a reassessment of Carlos Kleiber’s classic 1976 recording of Die Fledermaus, co-written (to my astonishment and awe) with one of the greatest living experts on operetta, Andrew Lamb. A huge privilege and actually enormous fun; I think it’s being published in the July edition, though meanwhile Gramophone has been keeping me busy with everything from Johann Strauss and Balfe to Cecil Armstrong Gibbs. Full list here. They know me too well already…

Anyway, tonight it’s Mark Simpson’s new opera Pleasure at Opera North (for The Spectator); the next few weeks of opera-going will take me to Guildford, Cardiff, Wolverhampton and Glasgow, so if I’m quiet again for a bit, my apologies.

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