In this programme
John Tavener is one of Britain's best-loved classical composers. After his music was used at Diana's funeral in 1997, a stream of high profile pieces followed, most notably, his eight-hour The Veil of the Temple. His latest commission is from Prince Charles: a setting of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah in the Koran. It's going to be performed in Westminster Cathedral, the seat of the Catholic Church in London, and it's already caused controversy. Tom Service met John Tavener at rehearsals for the piece where the composer explained how the work is an expression of the interconnectedness of all major religions. It's a colossal concept to take on musically, but Tavener reveals the private, inner vision that underpins his grand, universal statements.
You can hear The Beautiful Names live on next Wednesday's Performance on 3 from Westminster Cathedral, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and tenor John Mark Ainsley.
Elephant and Castle
A new opera, Elephant and Castle, directed by Tim Hopkins, takes over the Snape Maltings concert hall next week and not just its auditorium, but its outside spaces as well. Not one but two composers, an architect and theatre designer, a writer, a librettist, a director - and a reed bed - have all come together for this mix of the urban and the pastoral. The opera incorporates elements of everything from film and theatre to installation, and, of course, music, to tell a contemporary version of the Hansel and Gretel story, set in the Elephant and Castle shopping centre in South London. Tom met up with Tim Hopkins, librettist Blake Morrison, designer Pippa Nissen, and the two composers working on the project, Tansy Davies and electronic artist Mira Calix to see how this mix of disciplines combine amongst the reed beds.
Elephant & Castle is at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Aldeburgh at 9pm on Wednesday June 20th and Thursday June 21st.
John Fisher has been General Director of Welsh National Opera for a year now, but he's an opera administrator with some unusual credentials.
Not many people in charge of today's opera houses are as good at the piano as they are at management reshuffles, but Fisher started his career as a repetiteur with WNO, working on their Opera for All project. His career has taken him to La Scala and La Fenice - where he was the first non-Italian to run an opera company in the country - and the Met in New York. In Cardiff, he's had a challenging year: not just turning the company round to his vision of the future, but also dealing with the departure of Musical Director Carlo Rizzi after his on-off 15 years with the company, stepping in to help out when the young Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev walked out in 2004. Fisher explains how he will use his musical background in his role as General Director and how he will approach working alongside his new Musical Director.
Radio 3 will be broadcasting Welsh National Opera's production of James Macmillan's :The Sacrifice on October 13th
The Blair Legacy
In a recent speech at Tate Modern, Tony Blair claimed that the last ten years of his tenure have been 'a golden age for the arts'. From the embarrassment of 'Cool Britannia' to accusations of philistinism from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, this has been a government who many have seen as disconnected from high culture and whose musical interests appeared to extend little further than rock and pop. So - what have the Blair years done for classical music? Former Culture Secretary Chris Smith, The Times' journalist Richard Morrison, and lecturer at Goldsmiths University of London Richard Witts come into the studio to discuss just what Blair has done for British music since those heady days in 1997 when he promised us that 'things can only get better'.