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Photo: Marc Haegeman

Tchaikovsky rules over Swan Lake at the National Ballet

You can see it right from the first portrait prominently displayed on the front screen during the prologue. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky looks towards the audience like a czar of ballet music, exactly as choreographer Rudi van Dantzig and master designer Toer van Schayk intended. Here is a man who struggled with his identity, his desires and the obligations that his... 

Conductor Elim Chan: 'I can't walk away from the music.'

'When I unexpectedly had to conduct the "Dies Irae" from Verdi's Requiem Verdi, I felt how raw and impactful music could be. I knew immediately: I can no longer run away from music.' Elim Chan is moving like a rocket and will make her debut with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra on 17 January. In 2014, Elim Chan (Hong Kong, 1986) was the first female... 

A Christmas Carol by Carl Davis and The Dutch Don't Dance Division

A deep bow for Gesamtkunstwerk A Christmas Carol by Carl Davis and The Dutch Don't Dance Division

So this: 'It is not easy to compete with YouTube, Netflix and other entertainment giants lying at our fingertips...' Wise words from Jiří Kylián in the foreword to the programme booklet of A Christmas Carol. The renowned choreographer sees The Dutch Don't Dance Division at the Zuiderstrandtheater creating something magical with their latest production: with limited resources in this multimedia... 

'I decided to make an unabashedly grand romantic gesture and blow people away' - Mathilde Wantenaar writes new piece for Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra

Being creative on demand? That's impossible, you would think. Yet it is the reality for composers and artists who work on commission. Mathilde Wantenaar (1993) therefore got acute choice stress when the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra asked her for a new piece. She was just working on a commission from De Nationale Opera. 'I felt like a rabbit in the... 

Season 2018-19: Concertgebouw picks up women's hand that Concertgebouw Orchestra leaves behind

Joel Fried, artistic director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra visibly startled for a moment. I asked him if there is really only one female composer scheduled in the 2018-19 season. Indeed, during the presentation on Monday 26 February at the Concertgebouw, I only heard the name of Lotta Wennäkoski. Indeed the Finn appears to be the only one to defend the honour of composing women.... 

Dutch Reisopera 2018-19: We're waiting for the curtain to rise!

We're sitting in the opera house; We're waiting for the curtain to arise With wonders for our eyes; We're feeling pretty gay, [...] A feeling of expectancy, A certain kind of ecstasy, Expectancy and ecstasy... Sh's's's's. "Curtain!" With the above words, Charles Ives sang of the excitement of a child going to the opera for the first time. A similar enthusiasm shows... 

Ton de Leeuw by Groot Omroepkoor & RFO brass ensemble: music of 'being' versus music of 'becoming'

At the end of the nineteenth century, Western music gradually began to come apart at the seams. Composers used more and more dissonances so that the familiar tonality hardly fitted into its shell. From a constant desire for even more expression, the orchestra was expanded with ever-newer instruments. This led to monster productions such as Gustav Mahler's 'Symphony of the Tausend', with more than a thousand... 

Composer Victoria Borisova-Ollas: 'Music has no nationality'

The most recent achievement of Russian-Swedish composer Victoria Borisova-Ollas (b. 1969) is Dracula. This opera based on Bram Stoker's book of the same name premiered at Royal Opera Stockholm in October 2017. A 'colourful and highly atmospheric musical score', it included 'one of the most emotional scenes in the history of Swedish opera', wrote one critic. Seven years earlier,... 

The Britten Youth String Orchestra is 10 years old. Conductor Loes Visser: 'I'm still learning every day'

Already during her studies, Loes Visser (1959) formed the Alpha Chamber Orchestra. In 1990, she initiated the Adamello Ensemble and, seventeen years later, she founded the Britten Youth String Orchestra, with which she is now celebrating its second anniversary. What drives her and what are her best experiences? Chamber orchestra "I founded the Alpha Chamber Orchestra because there was a need",... 

Choir and orchestra are the true stars in Pique Dame #HF16

The biggest applause at the end of Tchaikovsky's opera Pique Dame went to the choir of the National Opera and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on Wednesday 15 June. And rightly so: choristers and orchestral musicians brought the highly varied score to sound flawlessly, without once getting out of sync with each other. Dynamics, rhythm, phrasing, empathy, everything was solid. A performance of stature rarely seen in the Stopera. The vocal soloists were somewhat pale in comparison.

Composer Marie Jaëll: French flair, Russian drama

Had her name been Marc, Marie Jaëll (1846-1925) was undoubtedly considered one of the important French composers of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. But then again, she was once a woman - so unimportant. Praised during her lifetime by none other than Franz Liszt, she was soon forgotten after her death. At most, she lived on in the by... 

Conductor Han-Na Chang: 'Music never offers just one answer'

'She is the embodiment of the incredible lightness of existence, agile, alert and precise on the beat.' So says one critic about Korean-American conductor Han-Na Chang (Suwon, 1982), who led just about every major orchestra after her debut in 2007. In 2014, she scored highly at the renowned BBC Proms with her fresh interpretation of the Fifth Symphony.... 

Princess Christina Competition 2016: varied repertoire at a high level

Even before the welcome applause has died down at the Zuiderstrand Theatre on Saturday 23 April, pianist Manuel Sanguino begins Bach's Partita BWV 826. Crystal-clear runs sound in his right hand, while his left hand shapes the contrapuntal counterpoints just as smoothly. Even the faster passages are beautifully phrased and distinguishable note by note. Sanguino is one of the... 

Dying Swan (Rinus Sprong), photo Studio Oostrum

Even with eyes closed, DEDJDD's Ballet Blanc is a beautiful evening

The Zuiderstrandtheater in The Hague premiered Ballet Blanc on 8 March. It is the new full-length performance by The Dutch Junior Dance Division. The young dancers tour the country with a collage of fifteen short pieces. Blanc is the unifying factor in a fresh mix of classical and modern ballet, with tragedy, poignancy and humour. The juniors... 

Holland Festival 2016: urgent, challenging and inviting

Never before has the Holland Festival placed itself at the centre of society as it is today. The 2016 programme is steeped in the turbulent times in which we live. The Netherlands holds the presidency of the European Union this spring. Artistic director Ruth Mackenzie has taken this fact unflinchingly to give 'Europe' a wide place in the programming. In presenting... 

Unsuk Chin: 'Holland is more open to new music than other countries'

In 1985, Unsuk Chin (Seoul 1961) won the Gaudeamus Music Prize with Spektra for three cellos, six years later she made her breakthrough with her Akrostichon-Wortspiel for soprano and ensemble composed for the Nieuw Ensemble. In 2004, she won the Grawemeyer Award, the world's most prestigious music prize; in 2007, she made a deep impression with her opera Alice in Wonderland. Tomorrow, Thursday 22 October. 

Rotterdam's Gergiev Festival delivers a brand new masterpiece

'Rachmaninov's melodic gift is impressive and makes the composer very popular'. This is how Valery Gergiev pithily sums up the quality of Rachmaninov's music. The Gergiev Festival that centred around this composer this weekend emphatically sticks to the popular works: the piano concertos and symphonies . Yet it omits many compositions that could have given these works more framework.... 

Where did Rachmaninov's success come from?

Actually, Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) was a bit of an oddity, an anachronism. He bit into the composition style of his great example Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who died in 1893. When contrasting Rachmaninov with some of his contemporaries (Dmitri Shostakowich, Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Strawinsky and overseas Charles Ives, George Antheil and Edgard Varèse), it is only right to notice... 

Joseph Calleja shines in Concertgebouw

For the second time, tenor Joseph Calleja performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on Monday night 22 June, accompanied by the Gelders Orchestra conducted by Frederic Chaslin. A native of Malta, Calleja (b. 1978) is a world-renowned top singer. His timbre evokes memories of the finest voices of yesteryear: the controlled vibrato of Jussi Björling and the crystal-clear, powerful pitch of... 

Der Schatzgräber II: Van Hove exposes core and weaknesses

"That fairytale world has never been my world," director Ivo van Hove declared before the premiere of Schreker's fairytale opera Der Schatzgräber. Remarkable, as Van Hove and his regular scenographer Jan Versweyveld were previously responsible at De Nederlandse Opera for Tchaikovsky's Iolanta and Janáček's The Makropulos Case - also fairy tales rather than grand dramatic works.

Tchaikovsky's last opera is all about Princess Iolanta. Everyone knows she is blind, but keeps...

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