Royal Albert Hall, South Porch © Marcus Ginns
Royal Albert Hall, South Porch
© Marcus Ginns
In London’s concert-going calendar, few things create such a tingle of anticipation as the opening of the BBC Proms in mid-July. You may be hoping to catch just a few concerts or perhaps you’re a regular prommer, for whom the daily routine of queueing for a spot in the Arena (or the Gallery) is an essential part of the Proms ritual. Either way, Friday 18th July will be marked on the calendar: Proms Opening Night!

In recent years, Opening Night has been something of a taster for the season ahead, with a variety of pieces scheduled. This year sees a return to the tradition of a choral blockbuster to get things under way. Sir Edward Elgar’s The Kingdom is the third of a trilogy of choral works composed for the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival. The Dream of Gerontius is the most famous of this trilogy, while The Apostles was last performed at the Royal Albert Hall two seasons ago. The Kingdom, in which the narrative of the lives of Jesus' disciples is continued, last featured at the Proms in 1999. Sir Andrew was the conductor then and he’s back on the podium again, with a fine quartet of soloists, the BBC National Chorus of Wales and the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra. The combination of Elgar and Sir Andrew will ensure the Proms are launched in fine style.

Of visiting orchestras in the opening week, the Zurich Tonhalle makes a welcome return with a programme including Dvořák’s lyrically sunny Violin Concerto. However, the first visit to the Proms of the China Philharmonic should be an early season highlight. A colourful programme, which concludes with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel’s orchestration), sees celebrated trumpeter Alison Balsom perform the UK première of Qigang Chen’s concerto Joie éternelle.

Tara Erraught (Octavian) and Kate Royal (The Marschallin) © Bill Cooper | Glyndebourne
Tara Erraught (Octavian) and Kate Royal (The Marschallin)
© Bill Cooper | Glyndebourne

Richard Strauss’ 150th anniversary is marked by three of his operas this year, kicking off with Der Rosenkavalier, fresh after its run at Glyndebourne. Shorn of Richard Jones’ trademark wallpaper, this semi-staging should still capture the essence of his quirky take on the opera. Anyone who saw Kate Royal’s youthful Marschallin, Tara Erraught’s radiant Octavian and Teodora Gheorghiu’s touching Sophie in the Sussex Downs will definitely be setting up camp outside the Albert Hall to catch this again. Although there is absolutely no dress code at the Proms, regular prommers like to dress up in formalwear to recreate that Glyndebourne experience!

Strauss-fanciers will also be keen to hear his Symphonic Fantasy on themes from his fantastical opera Die Frau ohne Schatten in Valery Gergiev’s Prom with the World Orchestra for Peace. The only danger is that it will leave you wanting to listen to the entire opera instead!

New works are a key feature of any Proms season. One of Sir John Tavener’s final works Gnosis is given its world première, featuring Sarah Connolly, is scored for alto flute, percussion and strings. David Horne’s Daedalus in Flight is given its London première. In this brief work, Horne explores themes of escape, flight and reflection to take the listener on what he calls “an imaginary aerial journey”.

Whatever you choose to attend, happy listening!