London, the birthplace of Punk, pop music and some of the most iconic rock and roll bands. This is what people think of when they think of the musical culture that surrounds Britain, a swirling mass of sixties, smashed guitars and psychedelia and in more recent times the beautiful harmonies of worldwide phenomenon Adele and Amy Winehouse. London hosts some of the best in popular music coming out of our country and inspires many others as well. There are many great venues and bars which show the best in up and coming new performers dotted around the city, and for a reasonable price as well, if not for free. These areas include Camden, Shoreditch and Brixton.
However the British are rarely considered to be amongst the classical greats. Although they are arguably less prominent than the likes of Beethoven and Mozart, there are still several who have stood out amongst the greats in classical music.
Benjamin Britten was a well renowned 20th century British composer. Born in Suffolk and the son of a dentist, Benjamin Britten is famous for such pieces as Peter Grimes, War Requiem and the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. His works spanned from writing the scores for film, theatre and radio dramas to orchestral pieces. Britten’s brilliant career spanned from the 30’s to the 70’s.
Elgar’s work spanned from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. His notable works include Land of Hope and Glory, March of Pomp and Circumstance and The Dream of Gerontius. Although he didn’t come to popular attention until middle age, Elgar was well known during the wartime years and brought him to wide acclaim.
Gustav Holst’s works spanned from the 1890’s to the 1830’s. His best known works include The Planets and he was heavily inspired by the works of Richard Wagner.
London Opera houses
These are not the only notable composers to come out of Britain. Other composers to have made a mark include Thomas Tallis, Henry Purcell and Frederick Dellius among many others. But where would the countries modest but diverse and powerful range of classical composers be without places to showcase their work? Although there are a scattering of opera houses and classical music venues across the country, many being located in the idyllic British countryside, we have collated a rundown of some of the best in London so that the more musically inclined guests of the Park Grand Lancaster Gate can hone in on the best of classic and contemporary orchestral perfection.
The Royal Opera house Covent Garden
The third theatre on the same site, the Covent Garden Royal Opera House is a house that combines music, dance and singing in its performances. The first theatre has been recorded to have performances since 1728 and rebuilding begun in the early 1800’s after which performances of Macbeth and Commedia Del’arte styled performances increased in popularity. After a fire, the theatre had to be rebuilt again and what was erected now acts as the main structure of the most recent Opera House.
In the modern day, the Opera House consists of several different performance spaces. One is the Paul Hamlyn Hall. This is a large iron and glass structure which was named the Paul Hamlyn hall after a donation of 10 million pounds from the estate of philanthropist and publisher Paul Hamlyn. The Linbury Studio Theatre is the Royal Opera House’s secondary space. Having been constructed below ground level, the space has a studio floor and a raised stage which can double up as a stage with orchestra pit. The room can hold up to 400 audience members. The space was constructed in the 1990’s as part of the Opera House’s redevelopment.
The space hosts a range of performances, from the royal ballet’s rendition of Jewels by George Balanchine. The dance uses three gem stones as starting points to explore Balanchine’s life and three different styles of dance and music. Another performance to look forward to this year is Mayerling, in which drama and tragedy meet ballet. The performance depicts the historic suicide pact between an Austrian-Hungarian Prince and his teenage lover, mixing dance and music with the pomp and grandeur of royal weddings to the intimate depiction of troubled love.
The London Coliseum was created by Architect Frank Matcham and was conceived to be a theatre, not only of musical acts, but theatre as well. Matcham wanted to combine performances of not just pure entertainment but of more thought provoking highbrow work. The theatre stage is large in scale, being 55 feet wide and 92 feet deep, meaning grand scale, layered performances can take place. The theatre can seat 2358 audience members and is now a grade II listed building.
The performances at the theatre included works W.S Gilbert, well known for his works of opera and musicals alongside Composer Arthur Sullivan. These include W.S Gilbert’s play The Hooligan. The English National Ballet perform regularly at the Coliseum Theatre when not on tour. The workls being performed at the Coliseum include Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, a comedic musical about a pirate ship. There is also the ballet Amore by award winning Russian Ballet dancer Svetlana Zakharova. There is also the Rodger’s and Hammerstein Musical Carousel having its first run at the Col;iseum this year. The play focuses on a Carousel Barker who takes his opwn life due to getting voer his head with an armed robbery. Fifteen years later he is given the chance to return, helping his troubled, now teenage daughter who is burdened by her father’s legacy. This performance is in partnership with the English National Orchestra. The musical is performed alongside their forty piece music accompaniment.
Sadlers Wells – 300 words
The current site of the Sadler’s Well’s theatre has existed since 1683, six different theatres having existed there since its creation. Richard Sadler found that there was a natural spring on his estate in Islington in the late 1600’s and claimed the water inside would cure several ailments. As aristocracy begun coming to the site to drink from its medicinal water, Sadler started providing music and entertainment. As more and more people congregated the theatre declined in quality until it was rejuvenated in the mid 1800’s with patriotic plays such as A Fig for the French. The current sixth theatre was built in 1998 and opened with a performance of Iolanthe, performed by the Rambert Dance Company. The theatre also holds the Breakin’ Convention, a national festival of hip hop and dance. This year, opera and classical music lovers can find a performance inspired by the life and works of contemporary dance creator Pina Basuch to a Kraftwerk inspired live score. The Pina Bausch season continues with her performance Le Sacre Du Printemps, with performers covered in soil and Beethoven’s piano Sonata No 29, Op 106 is performed alongside the dance.
The Sadler’s Wells theatre’s main auditorium can hold 1500 audience members whilst also having a secondary performance space called the Lilian Baylis studio. There are also extensive rehearsal rooms and several theatre bars where you can have a drink before and after performances.