Thursday, 11 July 2013

Proms budget misdirected

Like Pliable, I believe that the level of spending by the BBC on real music is about right. However, he does a public service with his continuing campaign against the slice of the budget going to star performers (and of course the fees going to their powerful agents). He cites in particular the passing over at this year's Proms of a high-quality home-grown production of Wagner in favour of an expensive import.

But I would go further. In this bicentenary year of both Wagner and Verdi, why is the Proms programme so weighted in favour of the former, when it seems that performances of The Ring cycle have been everywhere in the last few years? Giuseppe Verdi is represented only by The Force of Destiny towards the end of the season and one chorus on the last night. I cannot believe the excuse offered by the organiser, that there are too few Italian tenors available. Presumably there is a glut of Wagner singers.

It is ironic that in this period of revolutions around the Mediterranean, Verdi, who became the artistic figurehead for revolt against the Hapsburgs and also wrote an Egypt-based opera, has been passed over in favour of an apostle for the Reich. (Though Richard Wagner was a socialist firebrand in the earlier year of revolutions, 1848, something he conveniently forgot in later years.)

Would it not have been better if the Proms, traditionally a combination of the popular and the unfamiliar, had introduced some of the lesser-known works of Wagner instead of The Ring and, if there really is such a shortage of appropriate singers in the Italian tradition, performances of Verdi's (admittedly slim) chamber music catalogue?

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