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Classical music in 2013 - Many happy Returns

A year full of anniversaries has a lot to offer.

The classical calendar next year is dominated by three composers celebrating landmark anniversaries: Verdi, Wagner and our own Benjamin Britten. Where better to go to commemorate the Suffolk boy Britten’s 100th birthday than the Aldeburgh Festival, whose satellite projects this year include a complete performance of Britten’s Canticles by Britain’s finest singers. A more quirky homage comes from the cellist Matthew Barley. He will be undertaking a year-long tour of the UK, performing 100 concerts in cathedrals, cafés and even woodlands, of new and classic works inspired by Britten. The Royal Opera House will mark the anniversary with a new Richard Jones production of the composer’s Elizabeth I opera, Gloriana, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s War Requiemalso promises to be a highlight.

Wagner dominates the opera houses, with a new Siegfried from Opera North continuing its ongoing Ring Cycle this summer, and Scottish Opera taking its first plunge into Wagner for a decade in a production of The Flying Dutchman with Peteris Eglitis in the title role. If the composer’s bicentenary seems enough excuse to venture to the annual Bayreuth Festival, then you will find a rare opportunity to see his earliest complete operas – Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot and Rienzi – performed in collaboration with Oper Leipzig.

Closer to home, Welsh National Opera will mount the UK stage premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s opera Wagner Dream – a gorgeous musical and biographical fantasy by one of Britain’s finest living composers.

Verdi’s 200th birthday is also well served, both on a grander scale with Peter Konwitsch - ny’s new Traviata for English National Opera this February and with an intriguing Simon Boccanegra from English Touring Opera, who will hope to bring unusual intimacy and clarity to Verdi’s tale of political scheming.

Anniversaries aside, 2013 will be an especially rich year for opera in general and the often neglected 21st-century repertoire in particular. This summer will bring the first performances of Philip Glass’s much-anticipated new work The Perfect American at ENO, exploring the life and work of Walt Disney and, earlier in the year, the world premiere of Michel van der Aa’s Sunken Garden (with a libretto by the author of Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell) is also worth putting in the diary. A welcome revival of Harrison Birtwistle’s iconic The Minotaur at the Royal Opera House is one for contemporary neophytes to take a risk on; and for hardened enthusiasts there’s the exciting prospect of Berg’s modernist tragedy Lulu in a new production by David Pountney for Welsh National Opera.

If 2012 was all about Beethoven, in 2013 the orchestral repertoire will be venturing further afield, in part thanks to the Southbank Centre’s The Rest Is Noise. Based on Alex Ross’s bestselling book, this festival will offer a year-long introduction to 20th-century music, including performances of milestone works such as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Early music gets a rare showcase at the Royal Albert Hall for Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s 70th birthday, which will be marked by a 12-hour Bach marathon on Easter Monday, featuring the Mass in B minor and the St John Passion as well ass smaller works. Bach is also the focus of a year of events at Kings Place, spearheaded by the resident Aurora Orchestra, with the period violinist Rachel Podger and the experimental violinist Pekka Kuusisto offering their distinctly contrasting takes on his chamber music.

This article first appeared in the 07 January 2013 issue of the New Statesman, 2013: the year the cuts finally bite