A group of thousands collectively held our breath
I was a big fan of Pavel Kolesnikov’s recording of the Goldberg Variations, and it was a pleasure to be once again part of a reasonably big, focused Proms audience to hear him play the work, the same yet different, in the Royal Albert Hall. I had missed the feeling of being part of a group of thousands collectively holding our breath. Yet what’s been more striking than seeing big events return is the way in which some smaller ones have seized their chance: events such as the Oxford Lieder festival, which kept going with a huge programme including some exciting new commissions, efficiently delivered to online audiences and those in the hall. Facing the double whammy of Covid and Brexit, the resilience of the music business even in the face of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s cancelled meetings, cack-handed press releases and general indifference has been quite something. Erica Jeal
Operatic comedies felt like balm for the soul
Italian operatic comedies, understandably perhaps, felt like balm for the soul as we emerged from lockdown. Rossini was prominent, with Glyndebourne offering a dazzling new production of Il Turco in Italia by Mariame Clément, while Garsington gave us Cal McCrystal’s deliriously camp take on the wonderfully ribald Le Comte Ory. A beautiful staging by Julia Burbach of L’Amico Fritz, Mascagni’s sweet, gentle romcom was Opera Holland Park’s choice, a perfect summer night’s entertainment from a company that found a well-nigh ideal solution to social distancing, with their open-sided auditorium and movable seating. Once full audiences returned, however, the absence of clear Covid guidelines resulted in confusion, with venues operating different policies with regard to issuing paper tickets or e-tickets, printed or downloadable programmes, and – until recently – whether the wearing of masks should be mandatory or optional. We really could do with greater consistency. Tim Ashley
Wonderfully ribald … Le Comte Ory at Garsington Opera. Photograph: Robbie Jack/Corbis/Getty Images
Nicola Benedetti made a dynamic advocate for music education
In a year that has seen both misery and exhilaration on a sometimes epic scale, it would be too easy to overlook the heroes of classical music’s day-to-day running. Alongside the administrators who’ve made performances possible in a world of ever-changing legislation and you-be-the-judge guidelines, we should celebrate the teachers who continued to enthuse musicians of all ages through masks and isolation, across dodgy wifi connections and multiple time zones. Few high-profile artists have shown more practical commitment to the cause than Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti: during lockdown her Benedetti Foundation “virtual sessions” involved more than 7,000 participants and she remains a dynamic advocate for the vital importance of music education. Is it a coincidence that in July the Scottish government announced free musical instrument tuition for all school pupils in 2021-22? Perhaps. But Westminster could certainly …….