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Category Archives: opera

The Mix: Musicals! A bowl full of London theatre buzz #3

Welcome to the third edition of The Mix. This month I’m taking a look at the musical genre, and which productions are around over the next few months. Hopefully you will find something that will appeal from these selections, taken from across London’s theatreland.

Friendsical, Ute Lemper as Marlene, The Magnificent Music Hall, Fanny and Stella, Six, Little Miss Sunshine
Friendsical, Ute Lemper as Marlene, The Magnificent Music Hall, Fanny and Stella, Six, Little Miss Sunshine

Six the Musical continues at the Arts Theatre throughout 2019.

Fanny and Stella runs from 8 May – 2 Jun at Above the Stag. It is a play with songs by Glenn Chandler, music by Charles Miller, and it is directed by Steven Dexter.

At Alexandra Palace Theatre, The Magnificent Music Hall on 30 October brings a touch of The Good Old Days to London.

Over at Arcola Theatre in Dalston, Little Miss Sunshine ends on 11 May and Ute Lemper portrays Marlene Dietrich for a week in Rendezvous with Marlene from 14-19 May.

Ashcroft Playhouse at Fairfield Halls welcomes Angela’s Ashes from 24 September – 5 October, then Friendsical from 28 October – 2 November.

Jesus Christ Superstar, The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken, Yvette, Lipstick on Your Collar
Jesus Christ Superstar, The Tsar Wants His Photograph Taken, Yvette, Lipstick on Your Collar

Barbican has Jesus Christ Superstar from 4 July – 24 August.

Battersea Arts Centre has We’ve Got Each Other, a Bon Jovi musical, from 16 – 18 May.

The Beck in Hayes has Lipstick on Your Collar: the 50s and 60s Musical on 11 May, and the Beck Theatre Summer Youth Project brings The Wizard of Oz to life from 22 – 24 August.

Bloomsbury Theatre‘s Performance Lab puts on Kurt Weill’s The Tsar Wants His Photograph Taken on 4 May.

The Bridewell Theatre has A Little Night Music from 7 – 11 May (Geoids Musical Theatre), How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying from 15 – 25 May (Sedos), and HMS Pinafore from 5 – 8 June (Grosvenor Light Opera Company).

The Bush Theatre has Yvette, a new play with songs by Urielle Klein-Mekongo from 14 May – 4 June.

Drone, Home, Welcome to the UK, Amour
Drone, Home, Welcome to the UK, Amour

The Camden People’s Theatre, now in its 25th year, presents Drone, a live jam of sounds, visuals and poetry on the 2 May.

The Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice has a collection of new musical writing, Home, on 4 May.

Charing Cross Theatre has Amour, by Michael Legrand and Jeremy Sams, in residence from 2 May – 20 July.

Over at the Cockpit, Edgware Road, Borderline bring their satiric, humorous and musical show Welcome to the UK to the stage from 11 – 12 June.

Hot Crisps, Sweet Charity, The Marvelous Wondrettes, Three Emos
Hot Crisps, Sweet Charity, The Marvelous Wondrettes, Three Emos

The Donmar Warehouse continues to blaze a trail for the classic musical with Sweet Charity, until the 8 June.

The Etcetera in Camden hosts a night of sketches and songs with Hot Crisps on 14 – 15 May.

Upstairs at the Gatehouse says goodbye to the Marvelous Wonderettes on the 12 May but they reappear at the Theatre Royal Windsor from 16 – 25 May.

At the Greenwich Theatre Our House (a Mountview production) runs from the 26 April – 4 May, Smashing Mirrors Productions stop off with Three Emos on 12 May, and David Wood’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea visits from 26 – 28 May.

The Astonishing Singing Fish, Partenope, Blues in the Night, Vulvarine, Dead Dog in a Suitcase
The Astonishing Singing Fish, Partenope, Blues in the Night, Vulvarine, Dead Dog in a Suitcase

At the Jack Studio Theatre, Flying Dutchman showcase The Astonishing Singing Fish from 30 April – 4 May.

Jacksons Lane in North London welcomes Hampstead Garden Opera in a new production of Handel’s Partenope, a “sly take on opera seria”, from 17 – 26 May.

The Kiln Theatre welcomes a very busy Sharon D Clarke (fresh from the Young Vic’s Death of a Salesman), together with Clive Rowe in Blues in the Night, from 18 July – 7 September.

At the King’s Head, HMS Pinafore continues until the 11 May, and then The Worst Little Warehouse in London runs from 21 – 26 May. In the summer, Vulvarine: The Musical arrives from the Edinburgh Fringe and runs from 11 June – 6 July, with Tickle: The Musical running from 14 – 26 October.

The London Coliseum has another high-profile musical with Man of La Mancha, which runs for six weeks from 26 April. The leading male roles are played by Kelsey Grammer and Peter Polycarpou, and the leading female role is shared by Danielle de Niese and Cassidy Janson.

The Lyric Hammersmith presents Kneehigh Theatre and Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) from 21 May – 15 June.

Operation Mincemeat, Evita, Pilgrims, Sexy Lamp, Broken Wings
Operation Mincemeat, Evita, Pilgrims, Sexy Lamp, Broken Wings

At the New Diorama, SpitLip (a new musical theatre collaboration between three members of comedy troupe Kill the Beast, and glam-punk composer Felix Hagan) “mix Singin’ in the Rain with Strangers on a Train” in Operation Mincemeat, which runs from 14 May – 15 June.

The New Wimbledon Theatre is home to Amelie: the Musical from the 22 – 25 May, before the show tours across the UK and in Dublin.

The Omnibus Theatre in Clapham presents Sexy Lamp, a one-woman comedy with songs, from 9 – 11 May.

In Regent’s Park, the Open Air Theatre‘s big summer musical is a revival of Evita, which runs from 2 August – 21 September.

The Orange Tree in Richmond has Elinor Cook’s new play Pilgrims, which mixes folk songs, war and women, from 5 – 11 August.

The Other Palace welcomes a workshop performance of Broken Wings this Sunday, Kath Haling’s new musical Sunshine runs in the Studio on 21 May, 200 Years Later – Jane Austen’s Sanditon goes rock in the Studio on 26 July, and a major revival of Falsettos opens on the 30 August.

Fame, Pelleas and Melisande, Side Show, The Rocky Horror Show
Fame, Pelleas and Melisande, Side Show, The Rocky Horror Show

The Peacock plays host to a revival of Fame from 11 September – 19 October.

The Playground, Latimer Road, presents Opera on the Move’s Pelleas et Melisande on 8 and 10 May.

Ealing’s Questors Theatre will have Gloc Musical Theatre’s production of Side Show (about the Siamese twins the Hilton Sisters) from 15 – 18 May in the Playhouse, and The Brit Youth Theatre’s production of High School Musical from 21 – 25 May in the Studio.

Richmond Theatre showcases Les Musicals on 10 May, and welcomes back cult favourite The Rocky Horror Show from 25 – 30 November.

At the Rose Theatre, Kingston, Stagecoach presents The Sound of Music from 16 – 17 August. Friendsical stops off between the 9 – 14 September, and Six brings the Tudor Queens into residence from the 12 – 16 November.

The Song Project, Ubu, The View UpStairs, Soho Cinders
The Song Project, Ubu, The View UpStairs, Soho Cinders

The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court presents The Song Project, a collaboration between nine artists, with co-creators Chloe Lamford, Wende, Isobel Waller-Bridge and Imogen Knight, and words by EV Crowe, Sabrina Mahfouz, Somalia Seaton, Stef Smith and Debris Stevenson. It runs from the 12 – 15 June.

Kneehigh show up at Shoreditch Town Hall between 5 – 21 December with Ubu: a sing-along satire.

The Soho Theatre presents Max Vernon’s new musical The View UpStairs, “a rainbow rollercoaster” inspired by the true story of the 1973 arson attack on the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans. It runs from 18 July – 24 August.

The Southwark Playhouse is currently playing host to Ain’t Misbehavin’, which runs until 1 June. Alongside that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on the film, runs from 15 May – 8 June, and The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Bridge Company, and the British Theatre Academy present What Was Left (15 – 29 June) and My Son Pinocchio (26 July – 14 August) respectively.

At the Stockwell Playhouse, Stiles and Drewe’s musical Soho Cinders, presented by Artsed Sixth Form Musical Theatre Company, runs between 22 and 23 May.

Noye's Fludde, Summer Street, Dido, Elegies, Seven Deadly Sins
Noye’s Fludde, Summer Street, Dido, Elegies, Seven Deadly Sins

Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde marks the first collaboration between Theatre Royal Stratford East and English National Opera, and runs from 1 – 13 July.

The Unicorn Theatre presents Dido, a reimagining of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, from 11 May – 2 June.

The Union Theatre has a revival of the marvellous Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens, which runs from 15 May – 8 June.

Waterloo East plays host to Aussie soap satirical musical Summer Street from 14 May – 2 June.

Meow-Meow and Laura Morera collaborate on a ballet chante by Weill and Brecht, Seven Deadly Sins, which plays at Wilton’s Music Hall on 8 May.

Happy musical theatre travels!

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Welcome to loureviews.blog!

About this blog

I started this blog in 2011 to report back on shows I have attended, mainly theatre but also some concerts and sporting events.

It has also become a vehicle for some film, television (current and archive), book reviews, and some more personal pieces.

About me

On a professional level I worked for twenty-five years as a librarian, and also am a published writer – academic articles, poetry, popular culture – and spent five years editing a journal for a major publisher. If you would like to know more, see my LinkedIn profile.

As of 2019 writing and editing has become my main job, and I am very keen to engage with productions, outlets, and arts organisations to expand my coverage and my reviews.

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Please feel free to browse through my work on here or via my Twitter feed (@loureviewsblog). I am also developing my YouTube channel | Pinterest | Instagram | Facebook and will be launching a sibling blog to this one to concentrate on DVD releases during 2019.

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You can contact me at louise@loureviews.blog and I will respond to you as soon as I can.


Opera North’s Ring Cycle (Royal Festival Hall)

Many opera companies would balk at giving a full Wagnerian Ring Cycle, but Opera North have been spending the time since April giving six Cycles as part of a tour, in an innovative concert format.

We caught up with this tour on its London stop at the Royal Festival Hall last week; and from tonight it makes its final stop at the Sage Gateshead and on Radio 3.

ring cycle

This was the first live Ring Cycle I had seen: and without props, sets or costumes to speak of, it really had to stand or fall on how well the acting and singing puts across the story.  In this the production is helped by textual matter projected on screens and taken from Michael Birkett’s ‘The Story of the Ring’, explaining what we are about to see.  This may be irritating to Wagner purists, but makes the four operas extremely accessible.

The ‘preliminary evening’ and the first, and shortest opera in the cycle, is Das Rheingold, which tells the story of how the gold in the Rhine was stolen by the evil dwarf Alberich, forged into a ring, and used to make an attempt to achieve world domination, and how he was tricked by the gods Wotan and Loge into giving up this power, only giving it up with a curse on whoever owns the ring.  Wotan’s greed almost causes the goddess Freia to be given up to a duo of giants, Fafner and Fasolt, but the eventual passing of the ring causes them to turn on each other and to cause the cycle’s first shedding of blood (in this version, by the dropping of a red necktie to the floor).

wotanalberichMichael Druiett and Jo Pohlheim, photo copyright Clive Barda.

This evening’s entertainment presented the first of three Wotans throughout the cycle, in Michael Druiett a rather dry old stick (no match for Jo Pohlheim’s superb Alberich, who is quite the star of this production with a glorious bass baritone voice).  Yvonne Howard was a decent Fricka, and Giselle Allen making the first of three different characterisations as Freia, bewildered by her misfortune in being exiled from the fruit gardens of Valhalla.  As Loge, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke was all flickering fingers and devious looks.

walkure

The second evening presented Die Walküre, which introduces not just the nine Valkyries, led by the vibrant Brünnhilde (played here in the first of three appearances by Kelly Cae Hogan, an excellent soprano and actress), but also the ill-fated twins and other children of Wotan (in his human guise as Walse), Siegmund and Sieglinde. 

Lee Bisset’s Sieglinde is beautifully sung, and her act one interaction with Michael Weinius’ Siegmund is one of the highlights of the piece, with their incestuous love so incensing Fricka (Howard again), goddess of marriage, that she sets in motion the tragic events which cause Wotan (Robert Hayward here, whose vocal deficiency at times can be forgiven when set against his moving final act) to cause his favourite child, Brünnhilde, to be cast out of the sight of the gods forever, and imprisoned in a wall of fire only a man without fear can penetrate.

haywardRobert Hayward, photograph copyright Clive Barda.

Hogan is again superb in both acts two (where she decides to defy her father and save Siegmund from his decreed death) and three (where she visibly reduces in stature as she is removed from her Valkyrie sisters – eight ladies with large voices and personalities – to face a life of eternal sleep until woken to live in mortality).  Meanwhile, Hayward’s Wotan causes the destruction of his beloved Walsung son, and affects disinterest in the offspring of the twins.

The third opera in the cycle centres on this child when he is fully grown – Siegfried, who has been brought up by the dwarf Mime, brother of Alberich.  We had first met Mime (sung by Richard Roberts) in Das Rheingold, but he has more to do here and successfully merges the evil with the comic (I loved the scene where Siegfried gains the power to read Mime’s thoughts, while the latter desperately tries to hide his true feelings), although some of his singing was lost in his early scenes, overpowered by the orchestra.

siegfriedLars Cleveman, photograph copyright Clive Barda.

As the ‘boy’ Siegfried, Lars Cleveman looked far too old but certainly had the lung power to carry the role after a shaky start, and his scenes when forging the sword Nothung from fragments, and combating the scary dragon Fafner (last seen as a giant, and sung powerfully by bass Mats Almgren), were excellent, as was his final act with Hogan’s still-stunning Brünnhilde.

In this segment of the Cycle, Wotan is disguised as the Wanderer, and in long coat and hat, Bela Perencz resembles a stylish lounge lizard.  He is the best singer of the three to take on the role in this cycle, and his scenes with Cleveman’s Siegfried and Pohlheim’s Alberich are well done.

There is no family feeling here, though, and by the end Wotan’s power is spent, his spear shattered in a mirror image of the destruction of Siegmund’s sword in Die Walküre.  (There are no swords or spears on stage, though, nor eye patches, armour, or anvils.  The audience has to imagine them all, although we do see the woodbird hovering around in the choir seats before her few lines of song).

gotterdamerung

Finally, we returned to the cycle for Sunday’s Götterdämmerung, in which the gods face destruction, and the happy lovers Siegfried and Brünnhilde, left within the fiery rock in the throes of passion, find their union threatened by spells, portions, and intrigue, all in the name of taking control of the ring and the Nibelungen treasure. 

There is a delightful scene at the beginning of act two which chills the blood as the sleeping Hagen (Mats Almgren, again, and exceptional) is visited by the slimy Alberich (Polheim again, outstanding) and goaded into hating anyone who is happy.

A change of casting as Siegfried brings the jovial Mati Turi to the part, and although I enjoyed his characterization, I felt his voice was more lyrical and less powerful than Cleveman’s.  I see that Tuti has played the lead in Siegfried in earlier performances, and would have been interested to see his interpretation, but here he is simply the easily-led fool, not the great hero his prior mastery of the sword and despatch of the dragon might suggest.

tutihogan

Kelly Cae Hogan and Mati Turi, photograph copyright Clive Barda.

His scene with the Rhinemaidens who warn him of the future is very good, though, and well-sung, and the trio (Jeni Bern, Madeleine Shaw, Sarah Castle) are just as cunning in trying to get the ring back as they were when teasing Alberich back in Das Rhinegold before he snatched their gold.

The orchestra have been superb throughout this cycle, led by outgoing Opera North conductor Richard Farnes.  He has led his company (including the Chorus in Götterdämmerung) through sixteen hours of drama, music and mythology, and rightly gained a standing ovation for both Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung.

ovation

The Opera North Ring Cycle broadcasts tonight, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings on Radio 3.


The Magic Flute (Budapest Festival Orchestra/Fischer)

The Royal Festival Hall hosted a one-night stop on the current international tour of ‘The Magic Flute’, performed in German with dialogue in English.  Ivan Fischer conducted the Budapest Festival Orchestra with flair, and it was good to see them all obviously enjoying making the most of Mozart’s dazzling score.

In a company of mostly young principals, the soprano Mandy Fredrich navigated the Queen of the Night’s fiendish arias and bursts of coloratura with ease, while Krisztián Cser‘s young and vital bass Sarastro gives a different frisson to his interaction with the imprisoned Pamina (Hanna-Elisabeth Müller).  As Papageno, Hanno Müller-Brachmann‘s bass-baritone fits perfectly with his ridiculous yet lonely bird characterisation, and the scene near the close with his Papagena (Norma Nahoun), leaves a smile on the face.

This is a semi-staged performance, but the use of a video storybook to display the characters as well as the translation.  Actors perform the dialogue for all the major roles and Bart van der Schaff was particularly amusing as Papageno.  The switch between languages worked well and made the opera rather more accessible than a fully German version would be.

Ultimately this is a glorious piece of work, even if the text is rather misogynous in tone, referring to the subjection and inferiority of women – although, as Pamina joins her true love, Tamino (Bernard Richter) in the trials of fire and ice, she would seem to be as strong as any man.

 

 


Review of 2015

This is the point where, now 2016 has started with the traditional fireworks and hangovers, we have a look back to the good (and bad) of 2015.

Theatre

In January I saw two productions, the frankly disappointing ‘Potted Sherlock’, and the excellent ‘Taken at Midnight’, in which Penelope Wilton excelled as a woman whose son was in the hands of the Nazis.

February brought a new Tom Stoppard at the National, ‘The Hard Problem’, which tried to mix academia with personal relationships, but didn’t really do either justice.

In March I enjoyed the revival of ‘Harvey’, starring James Dreyfuss, which stopped off at Richmond before a run in the West End, and I travelled to Hampstead for my first visit to the theatre there to see Zoe Wanamaker in the revival of ‘Stevie’ (a piece I know well from the Glenda Jackson film).

April brought three top-class musicals associated with Stephen Sondheim: first, the show on which he wrote lyrics, ‘Gypsy’, at the Savoy, which some of you will have seen and enjoyed when it was on television over the Christmas break, and second, the transfer of ‘Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ at the ENO, with Bryn Terfel, Emma Thompson, and the welcome return to these shores of Philip Quast.  Finally, the concert version of ‘Follies’, at the Royal Albert Hall, which was ridiculously overpriced but certainly star-studded.

In May, a silly but perfectly-pitched tribute to the Bonzo Dog frontman, Vivian Stanshall, who died twenty years ago, was on for one night only at the Bloomsbury.  ‘Radio Stanshall’ teamed old hands with a fun reboot of the Sir Henry at Rawlinson End tales.   Meanwhile, over at the Globe Theatre Jonathan Pryce impressed as Shylock in ‘The Merchant of Venice’, and on transfer from Stratford-upon-Avon, Antony Sher and Harriet Walter reteamed for the first time since the late 90s Macbeth for ‘Death of a Salesman’, which was a definite highlight of the year.

June at the Barbican heralded the Beckett International Festival, of which I chose to see the starry ‘Waiting for Godot’ with Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, and Philip Quast (again!).  I love the play, and this production seemed to polarise audiences, but I found it very good indeed.

In July, there was comedy at the National in ‘The Beaux’ Strategem’, and a major misfire at the Young Vic with a head-scratching version of ‘The Trial’, in which a conveyer belt set and Rory Kinnear were excellent but the translation was not.  Closer to home, Julian Clary headlined the Ealing Comedy Festival, while in town, David Suchet donned a dress for a hilarious take on Lady Bracknell in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.

August brought us one of the year’s total turkeys, at the Charing Cross Theatre, where the dreadful ‘Dusty’ had cast changes, delayed press nights and worse.  Back at the National, ‘Three Days in the Country’ was a new and truncated version of the Turgenev play, which had a bit of overacting from John Simm but a finely judged comic bit from Mark Gatiss.

In September, the delightful Rattigan play ‘Flare Path’ stopped by at Richmond, while ‘Mr Foote’s Other Leg’ did well at Hampstead before a West End transfer – I especially liked Dervla Kirwan’s delicate actress-whore.    And the month ended with the new version of the Bristol production of ‘Jane Eyre’, a high-energy adaptation which was a total joy to watch.

October saw a trip to the Bridewell Theatre for an excellent version of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ by the amateur Geoids Musical Theatre, an ensemble I would happily watch again.

In November the final piece of the RSCs King and Country puzzle fell into play with the showing of ‘Henry V’, which I liked a lot, and which, coming so soon after the Paris attacks, felt oddly relevant and very moving.

Meanwhile, December brought the undoubted un-highlight of the year, with the National’s jaw-droppingly terrible ‘wonder.land’.   I would recommend a trip to the National’s Shed instead to see the fun ‘I Want My Hat Back’, and New Year’s Eve brought the year to a sentimental close with ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’.

Concerts and live cinema relays

The Southbank Centre hosted a special ‘Friday Night is Music Night’ in February which I really enjoyed: with the Light Programme being represented with everything from Max Miller and Roy Hudd to Flanders & Swann and Gilbert & Sullivan.  The concert a week later in the same series, looking at post-1959 music, was fun, but not quite in the same league.

On Valentine’s Day the Berlin Philharmonic with their conductor Sir Simon Rattle was in residence at the Royal Festival Hall, with a programme showcasing their splendid rendition of Mahler No 2.   And on the big screen there was a live relay from the Royal Opera House of ‘The Flying Dutchman’, with Bryn Terfel, which was another of the year’s highlights: he really had made this role his own.

In April Daniel Barenboim was at the Royal Festival Hall with the Staatkapelle Berlin, playing Elgar, and it was an honour to be there, especially to see him awarded the Elgar Medal which he dedicated to his late wife, Jacqueline du Pre.   This month also saw a live musical accompaniment to a little-seen Lillian Gish film, ‘Annie Laurie’, at the Barbican.

In October, the London Literature Festival gave us both Terry Gilliam (with a video retrospective of some of his films), and Tom Jones (who sang, and by heck, is he still good).  The end of the month had a return visit to the Royal Festival Hall from Randy Newman, who with just a piano, was rather marvellous.

December was the month of NT Live screenings, with the Broadway production of ‘Of Mice and Men’ and the Barbican ‘Hamlet’ (which I didn’t add here for some reason, but which can be seen in my review over on Letterboxd).  We ended the year in concert mode with the professional gloss of Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra at Wembley Arena.

Film

Letterboxd (where I post as loureviews) tells me I watched 451 films – including shorts and miniseries, in 2015.  Eight of those merited a full, five-star score, and all were rewatches: Mary Poppins, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lifeboat, I Know Where I’m Going, Guys and Dolls, Witchfinder General, Rebecca, and The Snowman.

There were, however, some four and a half star films I had seen for the first time, so these are my picks of the year: Night Will Fall (2014), Laughter in the Dark (1969), Her (2013), Maxine Peake in Hamlet (2015), Mr Axelford’s Angel (1974), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), Contempt/Le Mepris (1963), Shylock’s Ghost (2015), Night and Day (2015), and Tony Benn: Will and Testament (2014).

The turkeys of the year, the true stinkers, number ten: Carry on England (1976), Happy Hooligan (1903), Ride Along (2014), Sherlock Holmes (2011 – and it isn’t the Asylum one), The Other Woman (2014), Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), The Nut Job (2014), Annie (2014), Bed and Breakfast (1938), and The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978).

Tributes

I marked a trio of anniversaries this year.  Twenty years since the death of Vivian Stanshall, thirty-five years since the death of AC/DC frontman Bon Scott, and twenty-six years since the death of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman.  You can find links to all these in the ‘Index to tribute profiles’ at the top of the page.

Exhibitions

In January, the London Transport Museum was the venue for ‘Goodbye, Piccadilly’, which I loved.  Later in the year, the Hayward Gallery hosted the thoughtful ‘History is Now’, which was odd but engaging.

 


Royal Opera Live: Der fliegende Holländer, 2015 – ★★★★½

Without having the ready money to spend on seeing a live production at the Royal Opera House, I decided instead to do the next-best thing, and watch the relay to cinemas for the final performance of Wagner’s popular opera of ‘The Flying Dutchman’.

Tim Albery’s production is now on its third revival, and the role of the Dutchman was played by Wales’ finest bass-baritone, the marvellous Bryn Terfel, who has really grown into this part over the years: one might say it is one of his signature roles.

Here his dour and dark captain, doomed to sail his ghostly ship through inhospitable waters for eternity, was complemented by Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka. She is in her fifties, but managed to convey through her acting and singing a portrait of Senta, a young girl in obsessive love with a legend, with her toy ship and the stories she tells her co-workers about the pale seafarer and his need for redemption.

Some of Albery’s choices might be suspect to Wagnerian purists – the ending has lost the sense of the dramatic (instead of Senta plunging into the icy waves she instead collapses holding her ship while her friends look on), and there is a lot of water (using what resembles a shower curtain to throw water against before curtain up to convey the storm, and having various characters paddling in the stream where the toy ship is anchored).

No sound problems at the Westfield London’s Vue, though, although some were reported at other screenings. The staging and presentation was quite cinematic – I like to see close-ups and be in the thick of the action. Interestingly, the most melodic and memorable pieces of the score are not those sung by the Dutchman, but rather those by Senta, and by the Steersman and the crew.

The crew’s party was jarringly modern, with a feel of Newcastle on a Saturday night with short-skirted ladies and hard drinking men, but the appearance of the ghostly crew of the Dutchman’s ship was effective. I also liked the line of sewing machines at which Senta and her friends dreamed and sang.

Peter Rose as Daland might have been a little below par (we were warned before the start that he had a heavy cold) but the pro came out in decent voice and did well to make it through to the end. No harm done there.

Great production, and I’d heartily recommend these live relays for anyone not sure about opera, as well as those, like me, who have seen these pieces before and just go along to enjoy them in a different setting.

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews


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