April 18, 2013 / 4:10 PM / 6 years ago

U.S. conductor becomes first woman to lead Britain's Proms finale

LONDON (Reuters) - American conductor Marin Alsop is to become the first woman in 118 years to lead the Last Night of the Proms, the grand finale of Britain’s leading classical music festival.

Details of the 2013 BBC Proms were unveiled on Thursday, with the festival involving 92 concerts over two months ranging from chamber music to television theme tunes and gospel choirs.

The festival will open on July 12, with Sakari Oramo conducting the First Night of the Proms as he starts his tenure as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

It closes on September 7 with American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and British violinist Nigel Kennedy conducted by Alsop, 56, the chief conductor of the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

The Last Night, broadcast globally, will feature pieces by Richard Wagner and Gioachino Rossini and, in line with tradition, end with the rousing trio of “Rule, Britannia”, “Pomp and Circumstance” and “Jerusalem” as the audience wave flags.

“From Wagner’s Ring Cycle to a celebration of urban music, it is a festival where there is something for everyone to enjoy,” said Roger Wright, director of the BBC Proms, in a statement.

In past years, hundreds of fans have queued for hours, and even overnight, outside London’s cavernous Royal Albert Hall to get hold of the coveted “promming tickets” that grant a standing place in front of the stage for as little as 5 pounds ($7.62).

Highlights of the 2013 Proms include Israeli Daniel Barenboim conducting Wagner’s complete four opera “Ring Cycle” and Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” played by genre-crossing violinist Kennedy.

Two evenings dedicated to music from the BBC’s popular sci-fi TV drama “Dr Who”, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and a Hollywood Rhapsody evening of Golden Age film music are set to attract non-classical fans.

Rap and soul will clash with orchestral showpieces as conductor Jules Buckley brings together urban artists with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in an evening featuring popular British singer Laura Mvula.

Punk veterans The Stranglers will perform with the London Sinfonietta in a late-night Prom.

Also breaking out from the Western classical canon, the Proms give a platform for artists from Azerbaijan and Mali as well as Grammy Award-winning Touraeg guitar group Tinariwen that started out in Algeria.

Apart from performances by various BBC orchestras, there will be appearances from top international orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic, Olso Philharmonic, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Tickets for the Proms go on sale from May 11.

($1 = 0.6564 British pounds)

Reporting By Shadia Nasralla, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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