Susan Maclean at the Tonhalle, American Song Book at the Opera House

Susan Maclean meets a few of the RhineBuzz Community in the Tonhalle
Photo: ©Susanne Diesner

We had a wonderful evening last Friday at our first event at the Tonhalle, a group of over 20 RhineBuzzers enjoyed the concert with the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra and American mezzo soprano Susan Maclean

©Bernd Ahrens Photography

For nearly all RhineBuzzers it was the first time in this spectacular concert venue and of course they were enchanted by the dome and its blue lighting and the fabulous acoustics. After the concert we were invited to meet mezzo soprano Susan Maclean who is joining the German Opera on the Rhine and will be moving to Düsseldorf in a few months time. She was most welcoming to the techies amongst us who were keen to ask questions about performing in such an amazing and unique space. Susan on the otherhand, seemed genuinely happy to know that such a diverse group of new friends were awaiting her when she moves to the city.

©Bernd Ahrens Photography

preparing for a concert in the Tonhalle

Today I also took my first tour of the Tonhalle and am so looking forward to bringing you the first tours in English as soon as I can. What a treat to be working in such a historical place of music, I'm delighted at this opportunity. Thank you Meike Knoche at the Tonhalle, we are really looking forward to many more such great events.

Tuesday March 1 at 7.30pm there is a real treat in store in the foyer at the Opera House in Düsseldorf with Great American Songbook with soprano Lisa Griffith and music editor of the Rheinische Post Wolfram Goertz on piano, presenting work from Gershwin, Ellington and Bernstein.
I'll be there with American base John Deslauriers, who blew guests away with his version of "Ol Man River" at the recent 'New York comes to RhineBuzz' event and so we can look forward to his all American impressions of the evening later in the week when he writes for us.
Tickets are just €10, there were some still available today.

The Merry Widow

©Hans Joerg Michel

This was FABULOUS!
Highly recommended, on for six more dates until July 16.


The next RhineBuzz at the Opera event is on March 2 for Franz Lehár's "The Merry Widow".
A production of pure eye candy and spirited melodies, this is an excellent piece especially for new opera goers who are uncertain if the opera is for them or not.
There's youtube footage of it here

A favourite at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, it always plays to a packed house, so I'm especially happy to have secured a small number of discounted tickets for the RhineBuzz community.

We have seats in the stalls and second tier, and very special prices for students and au pairs, please email for details.

©Hans Joerg Michel

The Tonhalle

The Tonhalle is one of the most well known icons of our wonderful city. Sitting by the Oberkasseler Bridge on the banks of the Rhine, the round dome is familiar to nearly everyone, although not all know that this beautiful building is actually a concert hall.
When describing the locations of the museums people often look at me blankly, I mention the Tonhalle at the top of the Ehrenhof where the museums and concert hall are and nearly everyone nods.
Built in 1926 as one of the world’s first planetariums, and Germany's very first planetarium, it was remodeled into a concert hall in the 1978.
Since then the who’s who of the music world has played there - from The London Philharmonic Orchestra to Sting, from Jessye Norman to Nigel Kennedy, Dizzy Gillespie to The Buena Vista Social Club to Hilary Hahn.
The audience can enjoy being right up close to the stage and I learned just yesterday that the Tonhalle is one of just three totally circular concert halls in the world; Düsseldorf has a real gem here!
Musicians enjoy playing here as the atmosphere is intimate and most unique.
The Tonhalle is also home to the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra.


Following the recent piece in the Rheinische Post about RhineBuzz the Tonhalle contacted us and asked if we too could work together. I was delighted as I had wanted to bring them into the RhineBuzz programme for quite some time.
Not only will we be bringing you events and the occasional special from their very varied programme but I will also be giving the first tours in English of this incredible building!
I can’t wait to be interacting with you all again in such a way. The tours at the NRW-Forum introduced us to such a diverse audience, and so very many of you tell me how much you miss these, so I’m happily confident that the Tonhalle tours will fill a gap.
A date for the first is a little off yet, but this is a top priority for me, despite a mad Eurovision Song Contest influenced schedule right now (more of that to come soon!), I’ll let you all know when it will be as soon as I can. Promise!

So now we are thrilled to be bringing you our first event at the historic Tonhalle with a concert with American mezzo-soprano Susan Maclean, described by the music press as "phenomenal".
This evening will include pieces by Bach, Mahler and Bruckner.
The RhineBuzz community is invited to the Premiere celebrations in the beautiful Green Archway that is part of the Tonhalle, after the performance on 25th. There will meet Susan Maclean and have a chance to ask her any questions we might have
Opening special with the Tonhalle: discounted tickets in the stalls will cost just €28.00.
We also have a fabulous deal for au-pairs and students. Please email for all payment details.
Deadline and payment for seats is February 18th.
We really look forward to seeing you there. This will be some evening!


I had the privilege of taking a peek at the new museum kunst palast exhibition 'Important Art NRW' which opens on Saturday February 12 at 6pm.
This annual show is important to the citizens and artists of Düsseldorf alike as city and state artists are represented here and the work can be purchased. Most unusual for a museum exhibition.
The show also judged on two levels, an prize is granted for the best artist by his contemporaries, this year it will be presented to is judged by a panel of specialists in the visual arts, both artists and Horst Egon Kalinowski.
There is another prize given for best emerging talent; this is announced on the opening evening in a ceremony in the robert schumann hall.

It was refreshing to be hit by beautiful, fresh colours and a very 'happy' feel. I know Professor Kuhna will approve, the Grosse Kunst NRW prize winner from 2010. I met him last year in the Town Hall and was totally at one with him when he asked in his speech "why do artists have to hit us with their tragedy and sadness all the time ...?"
You will leave this exhibition with a smile on your face.

If you'd like to see the folks supporting the arts in the city go along to he opening on Saturday and for a view of what is happening in local studios do go along to the show which is on until March 6.

RhineBuzz Photography Workshop with Emil Zander

Jean Claude Bourgueil
©Emil Zander

Photography is an important part of RhineBuzz, many of our community are keen photographers, they enjoy the numerous exhibitions around the city enormously. 

I have often been asked if we can set up a workshop so voilá, here it is! And this is not just any workshop ...
I have managed to recruit the talents of Emil Zander, one of the city's best known photographers. Emil works for numerous agencies and publications and has photographed great personalities such as Peter Ustinov. The above portrait is of the great chef Jean Claude Bourgeil, awarded the much coveted Michelin star twice and owner of Düsseldorf's Zum Schiffchen restaurant in Kaiswerswerth.

The first RhineBuzz photography workshop in English will cover lighting, this most vital subject in photography. Places are limited to just four, so you will be guaranteed individual attention. 
Two places have already been booked.
This first class workshop will take place at Emil's studio on Oststrasse from 10am until 5pm, on Saturday March 26. Cost is €120.00.
Please email to reserve one of these places. 

There is currently an exhibition of Emil Zander's photographs at the Main Court in Düsseldorf running until April 29.
It is open to the general public from 7.30am until 3pm Monday and Tuesdays and until 2pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. 
Cecillienalle 3
40474 Düsseldorf 

RhineBuzz in the Rheinische Post

A little while ago I had a call from Sonja Schmitz at the Rheinische Post.
"We've had you and RhineBuzz in the newspaper quite a bit recently - the Opera Scouts project, International Children's Jury at KiKiFe, etc, but what is RhineBuzz, who is Caroline West?
Can we do an interview?"
And so I called Marina Schuster at museum kunst palast and asked if we could do the interview there. She was of course delighted to agree!
There Sonja Schmitz and I spoke for a good hour. The piece has come out today and WoW! What can I say? The phone and email lines are very busy! Hits on the site are way up and all this is GREAT news for you the RhineBuzz community. We already have a wonderful new partner, another very prestigious house in Düsseldorf!
All this means we will be able to offer you an even more varied programme with great treats and specials.

Things are more than crazy currently, we are working on some great long term projects, and so my only dilemma is I just need to figure out where I will find the time to work on this all this wonderful stuff  ... but believe me, I will find the time, of course I will!
Thank you so very much Sonja Schmitz, it was a wonderful to meet you!

Wine Tasting with RhineBuzz

So many wines, so little time!
Or as some Americans may remember, “We will sell no wine, before it’s time.”
Did you know about VIF Weinhandel Düsseldorf right near the Zoo and Schillerplatz stops?
They regularly hold wine tastings from regions around the world; they are typically held on back-to-back weekend days e.g. Friday evenings and Saturday days.  Mr. Sistermanns, part owner, speaks English if you think you are too shy to try. Visit their site and get on their mailing list for the tastings. The emails are in German, but the dates and times should be clear and there is always an attachment listing the wines that will be on offer.
Their next big events include a “tour” of the Piedmont region, on Friday 18 February from 20:00-22:30 hrs for €22.00  
and on Saturday 26 March at 18:00h where vintners from five world-class wineries will present their lineups from South Africa, Italy and Germany for €15.00
That means, there should be some English in there somewhere. 
If you buy €75 or more of wine, the entrance fee is rebated.

Stay tuned for a great RhineBuzz “Wine with Music” event!

Thanks to Krista Terhune for contributing this piece

AIDS Benefit Gala Deutsche Oper am Rhein

Mein ist dein ganzes Herz
©Paul Esser
It's been a crazy few days for me at the Opera House recently.
Hänsel and Gretel, two performances of Platée and on Saturday night, the AIDS Benefit Gala.
This was my third gala at the Opera House and my, what an evening it was!
Absolutely stunning! The atmosphere was wonderful, all came dressed up in beautiful gowns and accessories, there was a really festive feeling in the air. The foyer and bar were full of politicians, economic movers and shakers from the city, representatives from the German AIDS Foundation and sponsors who were making this fantastic evening possible and so it was with great anticipation that we took our seats in the auditorium. A group of 20 RhineBuzzers joined me.
The Gala began with the regular welcoming speeches. Especially touching was Frau Piras, general manager of the jewellers Bucherer 1888, who were a main sponsor of the event and who supplied the gold AIDS ribbons that have been on sale on the Königsallee since last December. She emotionally said a few words about what it meant to her to be part of the evening, particularly her sentiment that "Düsseldorf is a city in which we can and do live very well in, but there are those less fortunate than ourselves here too and we can't just sit by and let someone else help. We have to be active ourselves" rang many bells for me. Frau Piras was close to tears as she handed over the cheque for €40.000 from her company, this was made up of sales from the AIDS ribbon and company donations.
As she took her seat next to us, we smiled and told her she done a great job. She was happy to hear this and relieved to be sitting down. The stage was quite obviously a little overwhelming for her. 
And so we were then treated to a spectacular programme. Caroline Hobbs, cello student at the Robert Schumann Music School and our young Opera Scout, will write more detail about the musical part of the evening, suffice it for me to say that the performances were fantastic! Tenor, Stefan Pop was my personal favourite of the evening. His voice just touched me in a way that was special beyond description. Incredible. Having just googled him I see he won a very prestigious opera prize, founded by Placido Domingo, for young musicians last year. I do hope we will be treated to more from this very young man, at some point here in Düsseldorf.
Annett Fritsch
©Paul Esser
The entire programme was beautiful, Annett Fritsch was stunning in a gorgeous golden gown, with the serene feel of a Greek goddess and the voice and presence of American soprano Takesha Meshé Kizart was just spellbinding. A keen favourite with the audience, who made her debut at The Met last year, she writes on her blog "instead of always looking for a miracle, you can BE a miracle." 
How very true.
Takesha Meshé Kizart
©Paul Esser
The finale, when all the soloists sang together the German piece ''Mein ist das ganzes Herz" was a moment you know you were privileged to be part of. The entire house gave the performers, the choir and the Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra a much-deserved, extended, standing ovation.
At the press conference in December we were told that the programme would be spectacular and indeed the audience left the Opera House with a feeling that they had witnessed something very special and most worthy.
The RhineBuzzers hit a city cocktail bar after the Gala. All in a fine mood and singing the praises of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein.
Thank you to the Opera House for the seat allocation for RhineBuzz to this marvellous event that raised €140.000 for the German AIDS Foundation, in particular for the DREAM project, for last night alone. We were proud to be a part of it. With added donations this total will rise.
If you wish to help, you can donate here. Thank you.


©Hans Joerg Michel

Caroline Hobbs and I visited the Premier of Platée on January 28, 2011, at the Düsseldorf Opera House as Opera Scouts.
'Pure Eye Candy!' is how I described the production to the journalist with the Rheinische Post after the performance of this light-hearted and very colourful opera ballet by Rameau. I just loved it - the baroque music sweeps you along the story of the Greek gods beautifully and the set, my goodness, the set was breathtaking! Vibrant costumes, shrill props and a fantasy stage set. My idea of heaven ...
My full review will be found on the Opera House website soon.

There are just a 5 performances of Platée, ending February 12, so don't take too long to decide if you'd like to see this or not.
I'm going again, that's how much I enjoyed it! 

Caroline Hobbs is a cello student at the Robert Schumann School of Music, this is her review:
As the ‘Neue Düsseldorfer Hofmusik’ began the overture I knew I was in for a fantastic evening of music making.  Playing on period instruments under the baton of Konrad Junghänel, the ensemble performed with such vitality and purity of sound that can only be achieved by musicians of high calibre, well versed in the stylistic aspects of early music and who derive great pleasure from it’s performance.
Having just being coaxed in to sound world from a bygone era I was anticipating period costumes to compliment the baroque music and was hence quite taken aback when the curtains opened on to a depiction of the underbelly of modern day society. When this group of misfits was suddenly shooed off stage by a bustling group of smartly dressed businessmen and women seemingly celebrating the launch of ‘Jupiter’ a new alcohol product I started to wonder if I was in the right opera theater as I was expecting an opera based around Greek mythology.
After my initial shock at this juxtaposition of two seemingly contradictory worlds wore off I found myself quite enjoying the paradox, which for me, added even more spice to this whimsical opera and made it more readily accessible. Subsequently I found myself being drawn in to the drama unfolding onstage and despite already knowing the general plot I found myself on the edge of my seat eager to find out how a troupe of antiquated greek gods would manage to be assimilated in to this modern day setting (I even fell off my seat at one point while trying to keep an eye on Platée and Jupiter who ran off stage and in to the audience).

©Hans Joerg Michel

I found the set design and costumes very creative and original and there seemed to be dynamic vibrancy to the whole production, with impassioned and sassy dance routines adding extra zing to an already spirited evening.  For me, however, the show stealer was undoubtedly Anders J. Dahlin with his interpretation of the hapless character Platée, the central figure around whom the gods device their cunning plans.  Not only does Anders J. Dahlin have an amazingly agile and powerful voice but everything from his ever changing facial expression down to his pidgeon toed stance seemed to embody the luckless and wretched Platée.