Rodney Milnes

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Rodney Milnes Blumer OBE (26 July 1936 5 December 2015) was an English music critic, musicologist, writer, translator and broadcaster, with a particular interest in opera. [1] He wrote under the professional name of Rodney Milnes.


Life and career

Born in Stafford, where his father was a surgeon, [2] He learnt the piano as a child, to the level of playing the early Beethoven sonatas, and later recalled accompanying a fellow Oxford student in Winterreise at the Holywell Music Room. [3]

Stafford county town of Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of England

Stafford is the county town of Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of England. It lies approximately 16 miles (26 km) north of Wolverhampton, 18 miles (29 km) south of Stoke-on-Trent and 24 miles (39 km) north-west of Birmingham. The population in 2001 was 63,681 and that of the wider borough of Stafford 122,000, the fourth largest in the county after Stoke-on-Trent, Tamworth and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote his 32 piano sonatas between 1795 and 1822. Although originally not intended to be a meaningful whole, as a set they compose one of the most important collections of works in the history of music. Hans von Bülow called them "The New Testament" of the piano literature.

<i>Winterreise</i> song cycle composed by Franz Schubert

Winterreise is a song cycle for voice and piano by Franz Schubert, a setting of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller. It is the second of Schubert's two great song cycles on Müller's poems, the earlier being Die schöne Müllerin.

Milnes attended Rugby School and studied history at Christ Church, Oxford University. [1] He was a member of the Oxford University Opera Club, taking part in The Fair Maid of Perth in 1955 (with Dudley Moore among the first violins and David Lloyd-Jones in the chorus), [4] and Smetana's The Secret in 1956, which featured the debut of Janet Baker as Panna Róza, both conducted by Jack Westrup. [3] He also sang Ko-Ko in a concert performance during his Oxford days. [4]

Rugby School independent school in the United Kingdom

Rugby School is a day and boarding co-educational independent school in Rugby, Warwickshire, England. It is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain. Its re-establishment by Thomas Arnold during his time as Headmaster, from 1828 to 1841, was seen as the forerunner of the Victorian public school. It is one of the original seven Great Nine Public Schools defined by the Clarendon Commission of 1864. Total enrolment of day pupils from forms 4 to 12 numbers around 800.

Christ Church, Oxford constituent college of the University of Oxford in England

Christ Church is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England. Christ Church is a joint foundation of the college and the Cathedral of the Oxford diocese, which serves as the college chapel and whose dean is ex officio the college head.

University of Oxford Collegiate research university in Oxford, England

The University of Oxford is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second-oldest university in continuous operation. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the University of Cambridge. The two 'ancient universities' are frequently jointly referred to as 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

He undertook National Service after Oxford, serving in the Education Corps in West Germany, and finishing with the rank of sergeant. The years also enabled him to hear opera around Germany. From then during the 1960s he worked in several publishers. [3]

The Royal Army Educational Corps (RAEC) was a corps of the British Army tasked with educating and instructing personnel in a diverse range of skills. On 6 April 1992 it became the Educational and Training Services Branch (ETS) of the Adjutant General's Corps.

West Germany Federal Republic of Germany in the years 1949–1990

West Germany is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany in the period between its creation on 23 May 1949 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. During this Cold War era, NATO-aligned West Germany and Warsaw Pact-aligned East Germany were divided by the Inner German border. After 1961 West Berlin was physically separated from East Berlin as well as from East Germany by the Berlin Wall. This situation ended when East Germany was dissolved and split into five states, which then joined the ten states of the Federal Republic of Germany along with the reunified city-state of Berlin. With the reunification of West and East Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany, enlarged now to sixteen states, became known simply as "Germany". This period is referred to as the Bonn Republic by historians, alluding to the interwar Weimar Republic and the post-reunification Berlin Republic.

Milnes was the opera critic for Harpers and Queen (1970–90), opera critic of The Spectator (1988–90), Evening Standard (1990–92), and Chief Opera Critic The Times (1992–2002). [5] He was associate editor of Opera from 1976, deputy editor from 1984, and editor between 1986–99. There he honed his reputation as a "trenchant and entertaining writer, with a strong background in literature and theatre, and wide musical sympathies". [1] In his final editorial for Opera, Milnes wrote:

<i>The Spectator</i> British weekly conservative magazine on politics, culture, and current affairs

The Spectator is a weekly British magazine on politics, culture, and current affairs. It was first published in July 1828. It is owned by David and Frederick Barclay who also own The Daily Telegraph newspaper, via Press Holdings. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture. Its editorial outlook is generally supportive of the Conservative Party, although regular contributors include some outside that fold, such as Frank Field, Rod Liddle and Martin Bright. The magazine also contains arts pages on books, music, opera, and film and TV reviews.

<i>The Times</i> British newspaper, founded 1785

The Times is a British daily national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register, adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers, since 1981 a subsidiary of News UK, itself wholly owned by News Corp. The Times and The Sunday Times do not share editorial staff, were founded independently, and have only had common ownership since 1967.

Opera is a monthly British magazine devoted to covering all things related to opera. It contains reviews and articles about current opera productions internationally, as well as articles on opera recordings, opera singers, opera companies, opera directors, and opera books. The magazine also contains major features and analysis on individual operas and people associated with opera.

"Thank you to all of those who have written in outrage cancelling their subscriptions, and then not done so. Thank you to all readers for being so patient with my bêtes noires. I know I’m wrong about surtitles (like hell I am) and they’re here to stay. So are sponsors and their lordly, impertinent ways. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t really feel that a century that starts with Lilian Baylis and ends with Chris Smith is one that has seen a lot in the way of progress". [6]

Milnes translated various operas under his original name, including Rusalka , The Jacobin , Osud , Don Chischiotte, Pollicino, Undine , Giovanna d'Arco , Die drei Pintos and Tannhäuser .

<i>Rusalka</i> (opera) opera by Antonín Dvořák

Rusalka, Op. 114, is an opera by Antonín Dvořák. The Czech libretto was written by the poet Jaroslav Kvapil (1868–1950) based on the fairy tales of Karel Jaromír Erben and Božena Němcová. A rusalka is a water sprite from Slavic mythology, usually inhabiting a lake or river. Rusalka is one of the most successful Czech operas, and represents a cornerstone of the repertoire of Czech opera houses.

<i>The Jacobin</i> opera by Antonín Dvořák

The Jacobin is an opera in three acts by Antonín Dvořák to an original Czech libretto by Marie Červinková-Riegrová. Červinková-Riegrová took some of the story's characters from the story by Alois Jirásek, "At the Ducal Court", but devised her own plot about them. The first performance was at the National Theatre, Prague, 1889. Červinková-Riegrová revised the libretto, with Dvořák's permission, in 1894, notably in the last act. Dvořák himself revised the music in 1897.

<i>Destiny</i> (Janáček) opera by Leoš Janáček

Destiny is an opera in three acts by Leoš Janáček to a Czech libretto by the composer and Fedora Bartošová. Janáček began the work in 1903 and completed it in 1907. The inspiration for the opera came from a visit by Janáček in the summer of 1903, after the death of his daughter Olga, to the spa at Luhačovice. There, Janáček met Kamila Urválková, who had been the subject of an opera by Ludvík Čelanský, Kamila, where she felt that Čelanský had falsely depicted her personality. After learning that Janáček was a composer, Urválková persuaded Janáček to write another opera to counteract Čelanský's portrait of her.

Milnes contributed entries on Massenet and his operas in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians . He was consultant editor for the Viking Opera Guide, and revised and updated A Concise History of Opera in 1987. He was a contributor to Opera on Record Vol 1 ( Carmen ), Vol 2 ( Thaïs and Don Quichotte ) and Vol 3 (The stage works of Weill).

For BBC radio he was a regular contributor to the Building a Library feature in Record Review; in Just the part [7] and In Repertory [8] he talked to opera singers about particular roles they have made their own, and in 2001 introduced a 14-part series Performing Verdi .

Milnes was a Knight of the Order of the White Rose; in January 2002 he was awarded an OBE for services to journalism and music. He spent his final years in Gloucestershire to live near his sister. He was unmarried. [2]

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  1. 1 2 3 Rodney Milnes. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera . Macmillan, London and New York, 1997.
  2. 1 2 "Rodney Milnes, opera critic - obituary". Telegraph. 2015-12-07. Retrieved 2015-12-12.
  3. 1 2 3 Wheatcroft, Geoffrey. Rodney Milnes, 1936-2015. Opera , Vol 67 No 2, February 2016, p140-145.
  4. 1 2 Rodney remembered (letters). Letter from Mary Bamford with reference to Opera Club programmes. Opera, April 2016, Vol 67 No 4, p404/406.
  5. Adam, Nicky (ed). Milnes, Rodney. In: Who's Who in British Opera. Scolar Press, Aldershot, 1993.
  6. Editorial "Ring in the new". Opera, December 1999, p1387.
  7. Radio listings for Just the Part series Accessed 29 May 2011
  8. Radio listings for In repertory series Accessed 29 May 2011