Guy Dammann

The sound of Iceland

The lur is a horn, modelled in bronze after a number of 3,000-year-old instruments discovered at various archaeological sites across Scandinavia. Its unrefined yet distinctive sound — penetrating, direct and rough-edged — seems to rise up through the body rather than enter through the ears, like the stirring of a long-forgotten memory. The instrument, whose


Two things always strike me when I visit Vienna. The first is how easterly the city lies. This was more apparent last century, when on maps of Europe the silhouette of Austria poked itself like a swollen proboscis into the dark shadows of the eastern bloc. But even today, with Bratislava, Brno and Gyor as

Coming up for air | 30 November 2017

The musicians of Ensemble Grizzana are arranged in the usual way for their concert at St Paul’s Hall in Huddersfield. Another player, the percussionist Dmitra Lazaridou Chatzigoga, sits among them. The table beside her holds a small and rather beaten-up zither and a tray of the kind of objects you might find at the back


Prague. Prague. It helps to say the name at least twice as a countermeasure to the ridiculous ease of modern travel — especially when visiting cities of one syllable. Another countermeasure is to arrive by train, where the sweep of the landscape gives a better sense of Prague as the grand Bohemian capital than as

I can’t get no Satiesfaction

After peaking at around the tenth instalment, birthday celebrations get progressively less interesting, for their subjects at least. I remember the lunch we held for my great-aunt Winnie’s 100th birthday. It was a jolly affair and she received the toast with a fine speech of thanks. When the cheering subsided, she delivered the speech again,

Shtumming the spiel

London may cry foul over Hamlet’s misplaced to-be-ing and not-to-be-ing but Edinburgh is in raptures over a Magic Flute which ditches its spoken dialogue entirely. Directed by Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade, and first seen a couple of years ago on Kosky’s adopted home turf at the Berlin Comic Opera, the production turns Mozart and

Boo the knee-jerk reaction to William Tell not the rape scene

‘I blame Princess Diana’, was my guest’s response to it all. Certainly, there is much we might lay at the feet of our long lamented People’s Princess, but I struggled to see how the current situation was her fault. The situation in question was as follows: a sizeable group of offended opera goers sought, with

Country house opera

I stole a blanket last night. Rather a nice one, in fact. I feel bad about it, of course, but guilt is less inconvenient than pneumonia; and after trying to blow-dry my waterlogged dinner jacket with the winds howling through Garsington Opera’s ‘airy’ pavilion, it seemed like pneumonia or the blanket were the options. Forgive

Ways of hearing

‘What gives your lies such power?’ asks the bewildered Sicilian leader in Szymanowski’s opera Krol Roger. The question is addressed to a charismatic shepherd, on trial for propagating a lascivious new religion of unbridled sensuality. Roger’s wife, Roxana, has already converted along with many of his subjects, while the city’s conservative and clerical factions clamour