Mark Tatlow and Susanne Ryden bring the sounds of Sweden to Birmingham
Aug 27 2010 By Christopher Morley
Christopher Morley talks to two artists bringing the work of the ‘father of Swedish music’ to the city.
It’s always a thrill to return to the opera house right next door to Drottningholm’s Royal Summer Palace just a few miles out of Stockholm, and the loveliest way to approach it is by boat, threading its way through the archipelago while you enjoy a gourmet meal on the upper deck.
There was an extra purpose to my trip this year, anticipating the visit of Wolverhampton-born music director of the Drottningholm Palace Theatre Mark Tatlow and soprano Susanne Ryden to the Barber Institute at the University of Birmingham in November as part of the Birmingham Early Music Festival.
A major part of their programme will be devoted to the Swedish baroque composer Johan Helmich Roman.
The opera I enjoyed at Drottningholm’s exquisite mid-18th century theatre, with all its original stage-machinery still in slick working order, was Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
Under the heat of Swedish television’s cameras (and this performance was being broadcast live on Swedish Radio), Tatlow’s orchestra delivered miracles of articulation (wonderful strings and woodwind) and roaring brass sonority.
Johanna Garpe’s direction was intelligent and thought-provoking, and in fact the whole production brought revelations that I, who thought I knew this opera inside-out, had never realised before.
I met Mark and Susanne over breakfast in the centre of Stockholm, just around the corner from the Konserthuset which is the home of the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the CBSO’s previous music director Sakari Oramo at its helm.
Susanne explained how the invitation to the Birmingham Early Music Festival came about.
“I met Mary O’Neill (one of the guiding lights of BEMF) a few times in Basel during my studies, and we kept in touch with each other,” she replies. “She was intrigued by the idea of a Swedish connection, and the link between Handel and Roman, known as the father of Swedish music.”
As we sit chatting, there seems to be a wonderful chemistry between Susanne and Mark, as they intermingle Swedish and English phrases in their conversations so naturally.
“We have worked together a lot,” Mark explains. “It began in the early 90s, when we did a production of a puppet-opera called Girello. And it involved so many young student singers,” adds Susanne.
“And then we did a programme up in Scotland, in Glasgow,” Mark continues.