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Villa-Lobos, Ravel Correspondence, Iestyn Davies, Boulevard Solitude

Tom Service explores the life and music of Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos, looks at the correspondence between Ravel and Vaughan Williams and talks to countertenor Iestyn Davies.

Tom Service explores the life and music of Villa-Lobos ahead of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's Total Immersion day on the Brazilian composer. As Radio 3 prepares for its Ravel Day on Friday, Tom visits the British Library with musicologist Stephen Johnson to look at the correspondence between Ravel and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He talks to countertenor Iestyn Davies during rehearsals for English National Opera's new production of Handel's Rodelinda and travels to Cardiff to review a rare production of Henze's opera Boulevard Solitude at Welsh National Opera.

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45 minutes


  • Iestyn Davies

    Duration: 09:20

  • WNO: Boulevard Solitude

    Paul Griffiths reviews WNO's new production of Henze's 'Boulevard Solitude'.

    Duration: 09:19

  • Villa-Lobos

    Guests include guitarist John Williams, musicologist Simon Wright&conductor Celso Antunes

    Duration: 14:22

  • Ravel's letters to Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Stephen Johnson looks at the letters Ravel wrote to Vaughan Williams.

    Duration: 10:04



Arguably the leading British countertenor, Iestyn Davies is known for his roles in operas from Handel to Thomas Ades, and on the recital stage in repertoire from Porpora to Nico Muhly. In a break during rehearsals for Handel’s Rodelinda at English National Opera, Iestyn talked to Tom about his almost-career in a pop band, how he learnt to be a soloist through his training with the conductor George Guest in the choir of St John’s College, Cambridge, his love of comedy and how that influences what he does on stage and his views on the current state of classical music.

More information:

Iestyn Davies

ENO's production of Handel's Rodelinda

Rodelinda broadcast live in Opera on 3 on Saturday 8th March at 17.50pm

Photo: ©Benjamin Ealovega



Hans Werner Henze’s 1952 opera Boulevard Solitude is a modern retelling of the Manon Lescaut story. Manon and Armand are in love – but can their love survive when a world of sex, drugs and crime intrudes on their happiness? Henze’s opera is a vision of post-war Europe combining jazz, 19th century operatic and 20th century musical styles. Tom travelled to Cardiff to see the first night of Welsh National Opera’s new production and reviews the opera with the critic Paul Griffiths.

More information:

WNO's production of Boulevard Solitude tours until 3rd April

Boulevard Solitude broadcast in Opera on 3 on Monday 7th July

Hear more of Henze's music in Hear and Now on BBC Radio 3 at 10.30pm on 29th March

Photo: Sarah Tynan as Manon Lescaut © Johan Persson



On Saturday 8th March the BBC Symphony Orchestra celebrates the music of the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos at the Barbican Centre in London. Villa-Lobos was thrown out of the Paris Conservatoire twice and took as much from his experience as a café musician as he did from his beloved Bach. His music blends birdcalls, church bells, Brazilian folk songs and European classical music. Tom assesses Villa-Lobos’s musical legacy with the composer’s biographer Simon Wright, the Brazilian conductor Celso Antunes and the guitarist John Williams.

More information:

Total Immersion: Villa-Lobos at the Barbican, London - Saturday 8th March

Total Immersion recordings broadcast in Afternooon on 3 - Week commening Mon 17th March

John Williams and Friends at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London



In 1908 Ralph Vaughan Williams spent three months in Paris studying with Maurice Ravel. Ravel was so impressed by his pupil that after Vaughan Wiliams’ departure he actively sought to arrange performances of his music in France, and the two composers became close friends. The British Library is home to a collection of letters from Ravel to his English counterpart (any correspondence the other way is yet to be discovered) which reveals their musical and personal relationship between 1908 and 1919. Tom looks at the original letters with the musicologist Stephen Johnson, and discovers a French side to the composer viewed so often as quintessentially English.

More information:

BBC Radio 3's Ravel Day - Friday 7th March

The British Library


Role Contributor
Presenter Tom Service
Interviewed Guest Stephen Johnson
Interviewed Guest Iestyn Davies


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