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Showing posts from May, 2011

Opera concert: Handel's Ariodante

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To appreciate Handel's opera Ariodante, presented in concert form at the Barbican this week, I think you need to get into a baroque frame of mind. The trick is to appreciate the prettiness of it without falling asleep like the little woman next to me did. It was not too hard to get into this frame when an impressive cast headed by Joyce DiDonato and Il Complesso Barocco.

As the first half of the performance closed with the incredibly dramatic "Scherza infida" sung by DiDonato for someone not familiar with the work it was easy to wonder how that could be topped in the second half. It was sublime music with an eerie bassoon accompaniment. But by her final aria, Doppo Notte, there was more breathless breathtaking music making that the audience could not help but cheer and applaud, even if the epilogue was still to run.

There was some very fine music making here, which helps bring to life this piece. Even for a concert version, it was fairly dramatic. Costumes and scenery we…

Signs from outside Mansion House tube this week

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Originally uploaded by Paul-in-London
Taking a stand against the rivers of urine, it states:
Please note - this is NOT (much underlining) a toilet (just one underline) so don't piss up it (sic). Go before you leave the pub or wine bar (for the posh pissers). Thank you (your mother).

Opera Last Look: Werther

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If opening night was a sensation watching Rolando Villazon in the title role, closing night didn't disappoint either. At the curtain call Villazon was very excited and shouting like a very satisfied man. The audience was on its feet applauding. It was mutual admiration. Villazon's performance made Werther, a tragic story about a young troubled poet who falls in love with a woman committed to someone else, incredibly passionate and engaging. His act three aria was worth the price of admission alone. Even in the context of an incredibly melodramatic opera, you couldn't help but be drawn into this world. And at the curtain call I couldn't help but think he must be awfully fun at parties.

Opposite Villazon was Sophie Koch playing Charlotte, the woman who is his obsession sounded great too. But focus of the  opera is the tragic young poet. With Antonio Pappano in the orchestra pit, the music was incredibly lush and intense. All breathtaking stuff... It was enough to make y…

Theatre: The Cherry Orchard

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It was only two years ago when I last saw a production of The Cherry Orchard. Either I have seen too much theatre, or this play is a favourite in this town. It is probably a favourite given its subject matter of class and the property ladder. Now that is something everyone who goes to the theatre here can relate to. And I really don't get out and see that much theatre surely?

The last time it was at the Old Vic, this time around it was around the corner at the National Theatre, and in a new translation by Andrew Upton. The most discernible difference I could note about this new translation was that there are a few more potty-mouthed words, which in the context of the drama and its setting makes the performers come  across like they are frightfully naughty schoolchildren. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the characters in this play could be construed as being a little naughty I suppose (or at least incapable of making sensible decisions).

There is also the problem that this p…

Theatre: Fing's Ain't Wot They Used T'Be

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Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be is not so much a musical but a music hall revue of songs with a very loose excuse for a plot. It feels a little like a downmarket Guys and Dolls (or at least one transferred to the East End). There are busty prostitutes, gamblers, fights and a sissy male... But not much of a story. That is not to say that it is not rather enjoyable with the songs being a pastiche of music hall styles where humour and melodrama are more important than characterisations or  driving forward a plot. This current production at the Union Theatre has an energetic cast and is a slick production. It sounds good too, with a small orchestra that is supplemented by the actors playing instruments as well.

It is amazing to think that Lionel Bart had written this the year before Oliver! as this is not in the same league. But perhaps that isn't the point. This is much more of a sing along. It's tempting to sing along at times and I am sure @Johnnyfox was doing it every n…

Theatre: A Delicate Balance

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There was something odd about this revival of Edward Albee's 1966 play A Delicate Balance, which is playing at the Almeida Theatre.

It's not just being warned upon entering the theatre to switch off rather than silence your phones as the slightest noise will upset the actors. It is that almost without warning, the actors will emote at such intensity that things become so disturbing and painful to watch it feels like you are watching someone's mental collapse. At one point during Wednesday evening's performance a mobile phone went off behind me and I feared that suicide on stage may have been next.

It is a play about a respectable middle class couple, their family, friends and perfect life. Although naturally being an Albee play nothing is quite what it seems and there is a secret terror ripping at their lives. Despite the drama, this is also a very funny play with some incredibly witty lines. But all the while you are kept on edge as you are never quite sure when thin…