Standing at the apex of our culture, the operatic art form remains the supreme test of any composer — as I know from experience
It isn’t every day that one attends the UK première of a Bach Passion, least of all one thought to have been lost forever. Admittedly, this work is not by Johann Sebastian Bach, but Carl Philipp Emanuel, the most important of the four Bach sons (he had 20 children by two wives, of whom ten survived into adulthood) who were professional musicians. In the 300 years since C.P.E. Bach was born in 1714, his reputation has fluctuated wildly. In his lifetime it rose steadily until his death in 1788, by which time he had outshone his father. Haydn learned from him, Mozart performed him and Beethoven revered him. Then, with Mendelssohn’s revival of Johann Sebastian’s St Matthew Passion in 1829, Emanuel Bach suffered almost total eclipse until the 1960s.
Don’t miss Tony Palmer’s searing thump-on-the-head of a documentary on the Wagner family, screening as the first in the last-ever series of the South Bank Show on Sunday night. Here’s a very short piece I wrote about the film for today’s Independent. ITV should be ashamed of itself for dropping the single best series it has ever done. It’s a scandalous, miserable and pathetic choice of the axe.
Despite the name, television drama The Sopranos has nothing to do with opera – or does it?