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Isolation Arias: Antony Hermus

Antony Hermus is Principal Guest Conductor at Opera North. He made his debut with the Company in 2018, conducting an electrifying new production of Tosca, and returned earlier this year for The Marriage of Figaro.

Next year, he conducts a revival of Puccini’s great ‘western’, The Girl of the Golden West. This is his selection of essential listening for social isolation.

Listen to the Spotify playlist »

1. Schubert: ‘An die Musik’

This Schubert song stole my heart from the very first moment I heard it, because it embodies my whole personal relationship with music.

In France, I often conduct the Orchestre de l’Opéra de Rouen. Many of their musicians go twice a month to the university hospital to play music for the patients. On a few of my conducting visits, I have joined them and played the piano. On one occasion, we played this song for a patient who was, a few minutes later, about to undergo a serious operation, and it gave her such good energy and power. That’s what music can do, and I never saw it more clearly than in this moment.

2, Mozart, Don Giovanni: ‘Don Giovanni! A cenar teco m’invitasti!’

For me, Don Giovanni is the opera of operas: a ‘dramma giocoso’ in the perfect sense! Dramatic D minor, diabolic sounds, diminished chords …

It doesn’t matter if I’m listening to it in the audience or if I am standing in the pit – in this scene at the end of the opera, when the Commendatore comes knocking on the door and Don Giovanni is taken to hell, I always get goosebumps.

3. Orff, Carmina burana: ‘Tempus est iocundum’

Having been Music Director in several German opera houses, I started a tradition of ‘Scratch Concerts’: singalongs, put together in one day. We start rehearsing in the morning and in the evening, whatever happens, we sing a concert!

I was happy to lead several of these concerts, most of them with more than 500 people singing, and they were always an incredible experience and a huge joy. One of my favourite pieces for these occasions is Orff’s Carmina burana. At this moment, everybody involved is singing and ‘It’s a joyful time!’

4. Dvořák, Rusalka: ‘Líbej mne’

One of the operas I love so much! I conducted it this season in Strasbourg and was rehearsing it for ENO until coronavirus forced us to cancel.

A piece about the difficult transformation process of the water nymph Rusalka, with the glorious music of Dvořak. The end of the opera, especially, touches the heart.

5. Wagner Die Walküre: Wotan’s farewell

As Music Director in Dessau, I had the privilege of conducting two full Ring cycles, and everybody who has watched the great Opera North Ring knows what a profound experience that can be.

One of my favourite moments is the end of Act Three of Die Walküre: Wotan’s farewell to his beloved daughter, Brünnhilde.

6. Bizet/Horowitz Variations on a theme from Carmen

When I was 14 years old, my piano teacher took me to a piano dress rehearsal, to turn the pages for him. What I remember is that I turned only five pages! For the rest of the time, I was looking intently at the stage, fascinated by the magic of opera.

One of my absolute favourite pianists is Horowitz, because of his fantasy and the risk-taking of his playing. Here he plays his own virtuosic variations on Carmen.

7. Puccini, Tosca: ‘Te Deum’

Tosca was the first piece I was invited to conduct for Opera North and I remember it as if it were yesterday: the incredible collaboration with our director Edward Dick, all our wonderful soloists (including Giselle Allen as Tosca, Rafael Rojas as Cavaradossi and Robert Hayward as Scarpia), the Chorus, and of course our fantastic Orchestra.

One of my favourite moments at every performance was when Rob started to sing the ‘Te Deum’. Mighty music for the Chorus, the organ suddenly appearing in the orchestral sound, all highly demonic. Incredible!

8. Verdi, Falstaff: ‘Tutto nel mondo è burla’

This moment marks the end of Verdi’s career as a composer of operas.

One of the finest fugues ever written, the words translate as ‘All the world is a joke’. It corresponds with my personal life slogan: You should take everything you are doing extremely seriously, but … don’t take yourself too damn seriously! Try to involve your ego as little as possible, but work with as much dedication as you can for the things that you are passionate about.

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