“Barbara Hannigan, Wonder Woman in Wonderland” – Reviews from Ojai Music Festival 2019


Four Days in Ojai, a Musical Utopia

The New York Times, Joshua Barone, 11 June 2019

“First there’s Barbara Hannigan the singer, a fearless soprano who’s more likely to give a world premiere than step into a repertory staple. Then there’s Barbara Hannigan the conductor. She’s even done the two jobs at once. So what’s one more?
Meet Barbara Hannigan the curator. She programmed this year’s Ojai Music Festival — a utopia where open-minded audiences welcome adventurous works presented against a backdrop of green hills, bird song and Pixie tangerines — with the help of Thomas W. Morris, the festival’s outgoing artistic director. And she came up with a well-balanced meal: four days of concerts, talks and screenings that went down easily, without bloat or arduousness.”

“Ojai was at its best any time Ms. Hannigan sang — head-spinningly agile in “Jumalattaret,” frightening in “Quatre Chants” and charming in “Façade,” in which she, in Sprechstimme, recited unintelligible poetry at a sprint that would give Lin-Manuel Miranda a run for his money.

It was fitting that she closed her festival with “Girl Crazy Suite,” a Gershwin medley arranged by her and Bill Elliott. Here was Ms. Hannigan in all her polymathic glory: the impresario who commissioned the piece; the conductor whose persuasive authority demonstrated that it was no vanity project; and the alluring singer, bright and magnetic, who wasn’t above ending on a literal high note.

Who could ask for anything more?”


photo credit: Annelies van der Vegt


Ojai Music Festival witnesses Barbara Hannigan, Wonder Woman in Wonderland

LA Times, Mark Swed, 10 June 2019

“The Ojai Music Festival, four days of programming that can go from early morning to late night, has become a trial of endurance for its music director. This year that was the indefatigable Barbara Hannigan, for whom the festival became an ironwoman musical triathlon of exacting singing, vital conducting and inspiring mentoring. No music director of the 72 earlier festivals has had quite that combination of skills.”

“She is a rigorous perfectionist who could reach her level of accomplishment only through intense devotion, which is, of course, its own kind of spiritual activity.”

“As a singer Hannigan is simply an astonishment. Zorn’s “Jumalattaret,” which used Finnish texts from “The Kalevala” and was accompanied by pianist Stephen Gosling, was a series of vocal dares for Hannigan, each of which she scaled spectacularly. She proved funnily deft in “Façade.” She brought the house down with her Gershwin.
But it was only in Grisey’s “Quatre Chants,” for orchestra and electronics and superbly conducted by Schick, that you got a sense of her depth in this mystical evocation of weary civilization.
As a conductor, Hannigan throws herself bodily into her interpretations. She was at her best in Haydn, where every phrase danced to life. But she also caught the perfect Ojai moment in exotic “Lonely Child,” a gorgeous performance featuring the EQ soprano Aphrodite Patoulidou. We were left with magical gong vibrations of struck Tibetan bowl that managed to hang in the air long after the piece ended.”

Barbara Hannigan Ignites the Ojai Music Festival

San Francisco Classical Voice, Jim Farber, 11 June 2019

“Hannigan quite consciously works to create an ebb-and-flow with her audience and musicians that is totally infectious. She’s also not afraid to be silly. She even included a “now for something completely different” moment, performing William Walton’s modern-music satire Façade, with a cast that included Tom Morris and long-time festival commentator, Ara Guzelimian, that was Monty Python worthy.

To support the orchestral needs of her programming, Hannigan brought the European collective, LUDWIG. For the exceedingly diverse vocal programs, she showcased emerging talent from her mentoring organization, Equilibrium Young Artists (EQ).”

“it was Hannigan’s conducting that elicited expressive instrumental details and illuminated Stravinsky’s tastefully complex composite score.”

“If there were ever a piece to test the vocal range, technique, and stamina of a soprano, it’s John Zorn’s 2012 song cycle, Jumaletteret based on a legend from the Finnish Kalevala. Accompanied by pianist Stephen Gosling, Hannigan took on this nine-chapter tour-de-force that calls for every vocal styling imaginable and some that aren’t: rapid trills, multi-octave leaps, hand-flapping flutters interspersed with romantic, flowing melodies. This definitely was one of the festival’s “wow” moments.”

Sequenza 21, Paul Muller, 14 June 2019
“The 2019 Ojai Festival under Music Director Barbara Hannigan was, by all accounts, a great success. The variety and high artistic level of the music presented, combined with the masterful skill of the performers, extended the legacy of the Ojai Festival as an indispensable Southern California cultural event.”