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14th June 2018

The Beautiful Game in the Theatre of Dreams

There’s a real treat in store for classical music fans this summer at the Grand Opera House, with fabulous new productions of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Verdi’s Rigoletto. Apparently there’s also a football competition taking place in Russia this summer, and that started us thinking…if we had to pick a team of composers to take on the world, who would make the squad? Here’s our team – who would be in yours?

The Grand Opera House World Cup Squad of Composers 2018

Goalkeepers, it is often said, are a breed apart – just that little bit different. Antonio Vivaldi certainly fits this mould: a fiery, red-headed priest who would run from the altar in the middle of mass to scribble down a good tune if it came to him. Wrote a cracking Gloria too, which could come in handy when the team lifts the World Cup in Moscow.

At wing-back we have two of the most pacey and creative composers of the Romantic era. Johannes Brahms and Maurice Ravel have the grace and skill to come forward and support the attack when they can, but also the grit and steel to mount an able defence. In the centre we have two giants – the mighty and irascible Ludwig van Beethoven, and the hulking man-mountain Modest Mussorgsky, whose Night on Bare Mountain alone would put the fear of God into any opposition attacker.

No World Cup would be complete without Brazil, and Heitor Villa-Lobos is the man to carry his nation’s dreams in Russia. The best-known South American composer of all time, Villa-Lobos has the freedom to roam forward as the Maradonna-esque spearhead of this midfield trio. Giuseppe Verdi is the energetic and ludicrously creative box-to-box dynamo with an ear for a good tune and an eye for a good ball. His membership of the Italian Senate also makes him the ideal team captain. The looming figure of Richard Wagner anchors the midfield. A composer of immense vision with an ego the size of Siberia, his ability to read the game and yield to no one makes him the Roy Keane of this talented squad.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is selected to lead the line on account of his creative genius, audacity and popularity on the team bus. If you’re looking for someone to chip the opposition ‘keeper from 30 yards or skip past five defenders before coolly slotting the ball home, young Wolfgang’s your man. Sadly, his love of the good life means he’ll also be found in Moscow’s trendiest nightclubs at 3am on the morning of the semis. Either side of Mozart are the kings of Russian romanticism. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninov have the pace, vision, and dribbling wizardry to cause any defence problems, and will relish playing on home soil.

Johann Sebastian Bach (GER) is the ideal manager. Universally respected by other composers and in many ways the father figure of Western classical music, Bach’s German heritage would also guarantee that the team wins any penalty shoot-out.

George Frideric Handel (GER / ENG): Great to have off the bench when you’re defending a one-goal lead with 10 minutes to play. Also wrote the UEFA Champions League theme tune.
Osmo Tapio Räihälä (FIN): His 2005 orchestral work Barlinnie Nine is dedicated to Everton striker Duncan Ferguson, suggesting he’d be an ideal man to bring on when a plan B is needed. You can often hear Bach shouting to his coaching staff “Throw on the big lad Räihälä, and tell Beethoven and Mussorgsky to hoof the ball forward to him”.
Dmitri Shostakovich (RUS): Utility defender able to play across the back four, and a huge football fan in real life. Would often abandon his composing retreats to go and see his beloved Leningrad Zenith play.
Giacomo Puccini (IT): The classic super-sub, able to change the game in its closing stages. Proved his value to the team by writing Nessun Dorma – the theme tune to the 1990 World Cup in Italy.


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