Michael White’s classical news: The Golden Cockerel; Cosi fan tutte; Sheku Kanneh-Mason

Thursday, 3rd March — By Michael White

Così fan tutte 2014 photo Mike Hoban

The Road to Coney Island? Cosi fan tutte returns to the Coliseum. Photo: Mike Hoban

THERE’S a nervousness right now about presenting Russian repertoire and artists on the world stage, which is understandable but needs to be examined. Most performers known to me from that part of the world are as appalled by Putin as the rest of us. And as you can’t hold Shostakovich or Rachmaninov responsible for the atrocities last week, you certainly can’t ignore Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel which English Touring Opera bring this Saturday, March 4, to Hackney Empire.

Written in 1908 after Russia’s disastrously ill-advised war on Japan, the piece turns a fairy tale by Pushkin into a thinly disguised satire on Russian imperialism and expansionist conflict. It has charm but with a barbed edge that caused Rimsky (an outspoken liberal) prolonged grief with the governmental censors of the time. And though it didn’t reach the stage until a year after his death, he called it the favourite of his 15 operas – which adds to its curiosity as something that rarely gets done in the UK.

This Hackney staging won’t deliver the full force of Rimsky’s luxuriant orchestration: of necessity it’s been reduced down to fit the resources of a touring company. But the reduction has been made by Iain Farrington, a pianist/composer with a genius for this sort of thing. So expect magic. And go with an open mind. hackneyempire.co.uk

There’s an element of magic in the production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte returning to the Coliseum on March 10. Made for English National Opera by Phelim McDermott, it relocates the action to Coney Island in the 1950s and plays like a laugh-a-minute period romp that begs the presence of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. In other words, it’s entertaining. But it skims the surface of a piece that looks into the darkness of relationships and find more there than easy jokes. Continuing to March 22. eno.org

• Two of the more glamorous young stars on the classical circuit sweep into the Festival Hall on successive nights during the coming week. On March 9 it’s Sheku Kanneh-Mason, leader of that sprawling tribe of musically impressive siblings, playing Shostakovich’s 2nd Cello Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Edward Gardner. And the following night it’s the Chinese-Canadian Bruce Liu who attracted worldwide attention last year when he won the high-profile Chopin Competition in Warsaw: an indisputable victory that got him an immediate contract with Deutsche Grammophon and a lauded debut recital disc. At the Festival Hall he plays Tchaikovsky with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and it should he a hot ticket. southbankcentre.co.uk

Other events to note include the not so young but eternally youthful clarinettist Michael Collins celebrating his 60th birthday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, March 4 (southbankcentre.co.uk). But also be aware of the new Spotlight concert series running from March 8 at Cecil Sharp House –separately featured this week on page 21. It’s a north London event of Londonwide significance; so don’t dismiss it for being on the doorstep!

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