These four examples represent a snapshot of Academy life in terms of range of idiom and quality of performances. Two of them are sections of rehearsals which led to memorable concerts at the Royal Festival Hall (RFH) and Royal Albert Hall (RAH) in 2017 and 2019. The other two are wonderful examples of how the Susie Sainsbury Theatre has raised the game for students on our Opera and Musical Theatre courses.

Do you remember the sweltering heat of London in June 2017? This was when we had an astonishing period of intensive study with one of the great living maestros, Semyon Bychkov, our Klemperer Chair of Conducting, leading to an unforgettable interpretation of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony in the Royal Festival Hall. This final section of the final rehearsal in the Duke’s Hall, before transferring to the RFH, was part of a complete performance – and you can smell the tar on the tyres (we were still building the theatre so all the air conditioning in the Academy had been disabled) as the choir and orchestra reach the peroration of this most overwhelming of symphonies. This was recorded on a single microphone and static camera but I cannot believe the Duke’s Hall has witnessed a sound quite like this in its 106-year history. The RFH concert was a sold-out triumph and is still considered to have been one of our institutional high-water marks of recent years.

Semyon Bychkov conducts the Academy Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony no 2, ‘Resurrection'

Semyon Bychkov conducts the Academy Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony no 2, ‘Resurrection'

Almost exactly two years later, in July 2019, we joined our long-term partner, The Juilliard School in New York, in the third of our joint Proms concerts. There was a lovely symmetry to the protagonists: it was conducted by Academy alumnus and Charles Mackerras Chair of Conducting, Edward Gardner (appointed Chief Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra a week later), who is also a Juilliard visiting professor; and the Britten Violin Concerto was played by James Ehnes, Juilliard alumnus and Academy visiting professor. The orchestra was represented by 34 different countries and attracted four- and five-star reviews, not least because of an especially visceral and pagan Rite of Spring! This excerpt gives you more than an idea of what was in store for the players and audience. There’s quite a lot packed into those three minutes…

Royal Academy of Music and The Juilliard School Orchestra - The Rite of Spring

Royal Academy of Music and The Juilliard School Orchestra - The Rite of Spring

Almost two years ago to the day, we put on Handel’s Semele, directed by visiting professor Laurence Cummings, in a delightful production by Olivia Fuchs. ‘Myself I shall adore’ is such an uproariously Handelian observation of hubris as the princess, Semele, becomes more and more beguiled by her own beauty (yes, there’s a mirror). Alexandra Oomens – singing here – and Lina Dambrauskaitė took the roles alternately in one of our most musically satisfying productions in the new theatre since its opening in March 2018.

‘Myself I shall adore’ from Semele

‘Myself I shall adore’ from Semele

The final entry is not really a playlist item but a compressed trailer for This is the Hour – a celebration of our distinguished Visiting Professor of Musical Theatre, Claude-Michel Schönberg. I couldn’t resist including it because it reveals what our new Susie Sainsbury Theatre can deliver in every respect that it couldn’t before – encouraging individuals and ensembles to project the essence of the score transparently, to dazzle with their acting and communicative talents, to find a balance with the orchestra and to be able to project music with acoustical control in all frequencies and all volumes, at a standard of execution which is palpably impressive in this little film. All credit to the students, above all, but also to director James Powell and our inspirational Head of Musical Theatre, Dan Bowling.

Academy Musical Theatre Company presents ‘This is the Hour’

Academy Musical Theatre Company presents ‘This is the Hour’