At the weekend, a friend was telling me how he thought last year’s Manchester International Festival was an all-round disappointment. Without pausing, I jumped to its defence, listing all the events I enjoyed (The Pianist, Il Tempo del Postino, Manchester Dines, The Rehearsal, the Monkey opera…) and adding that, personally, I thought it was a big success. The reviews were generally favourable too – and an independent report declared that it exceeded expectations.
So how will the festival’s second coming in summer 2009 compare? If the first three commissions – announced last Thursday – are anything to go buy, the scope will be equally wide, with MIF again taking arts to the masses:
J S BACH/ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS – Zaha Hadid Architects create a unique environment within Manchester Art Gallery for Bach’s solo works for piano, violin and cello; sublime music in a sublime space. Soloists are Piotr Anderszewski (piano), Jean-Guihem Queyras (cello) and Alina Ibragimova (violin).
EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER – A new theatrical experience created by acclaimed director Neil Bartlett with Simon Deacon and Struan Leslie. The Royal Exchange theatre becomes a Bingo hall, immediately familiar and strange. With added music, dancing and quite possibly a chance to win some cash…
PRIMA DONNA – Rufus Wainwright’s debut opera. A portrait of a fading opera singer; set in Paris and sung in French. Directed by Daniel Kramer, conducted by Pierre-Andre Valadé and designed by Antony McDonald. Soprano Janis Kelly takes the lead role, Madame.
The Wainwright opera was originally commissioned by New York’s Met Opera – but the partnership fell apart following his decision to write it in French and the company’s inability to schedule it during 2009. New York’s loss is clearly Manchester’s gain, and this promises to be one of MIF’s headline events.
It’s also great to see that the festival has ditched Ticketmaster and appointed The Lowry-based Quaytickets as its ticketing partner. All profits generated by Quaytickets go towards funding the venue, so at least those booking fees are staying in Greater Manchester this time round.
These three commissions are the first of 21, which will all premiere next summer. The rest of the programme will be announced in March 2009.
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