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Christmas Mysteries: A Sherlock Carol @MaryleboneTHLDN

A mash-up of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes would seem an unlikely pairing. Yet it provides a surprisingly fun Christmas-themed adventure. These two Victorian tales (albeit separated by about 40 years) provide the basis for an inspired adventure at Christmastime that just also happens to turn out to be a murder mystery as well. With lavish costumes, a few spooky set pieces and some good old-fashioned stage trickery with lights and a lot of smoke machines, it is hard to resist. It returns to the Marylebone Theatre for Christmas after a run there last year.  The premise is that after Holmes sees off the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, he is left adrift in London. People thought he was dead, and he might as well be. Disinterested in the misdeeds of other Londoners, Holmes has even given up on his friend Dr Watson. It's almost as if he has become a Scrooge. Or half a Scrooge, moping about shouting, "bah" in respon

Opera Opera (and more) Opera

It has been a a summer of opera for me. And a very enjoyable one as well. After catching Renée Flemming in La Traviata earlier in the season, I caught the opening night performance of The Barber of Seville. This production has to be a highlight of the year and one of the best productions I have seen. While Joyce DiDonato's fall in the first act gathered the headlines, what really was sensational about this production was how great the cast was. Particularly DiDonato, Pietro Spagnoli and of course, Juan Diego Flórez as the Count. Flórez in the final fifteen minutes of the opera was simply amazing, even more so after reading DiDonato's account on her blog, where he was holding her up... Literally. After his final aria, the audience couldn't stop cheering, stamping, hollering (you name it). It is moments like this that you remember why you go to the opera.

The other moment of high drama in this opera was when DiDonato fell in the first act. I thought it was those chunky shoes... They looked great but didn't seem that practical or sensible for a set that moved around a bit. Then when a man walked on stage before the start of the second act, I was bracing myself for bad news. Collectively the audience also held its breath. While we didn't realise that she must have been in excrutiating pain, we all cheered when he announced she was going to carry on (albeit with NHS issue crutch). It was taking suffering for art to a whole new level. And she still kept wearing those chunky shoes.

One trip to Corsica later I was back at the opera again. This time to see Tosca. This production of Tosca I was looking forward to a little more than usual. Deborah Voight was cast in it initially but had to drop out... To be replaced by Angela Gheorghiu, who originated the role in this production a few years back. At the time of the first run of this production I saw the B cast and missed her interpretation. And I will have to wait a little bit longer to see her interpretation as she missed the Thursday performance due to illness. Amanda Echalaz covered the role. Now while some commented Echalaz did an amazing job (and stepping in at short notice to cover an opera in a way is an amazing feat in its own right), it isn't quite the same. Still you can't help but want to root for someone who has been set such a task and come curtain call she got a huge cheer. I particularly liked how she missed her spot for the dramatic finale in the final act (which sent her dress shimmering perhaps a little more dramatically over the edge).

Finally I caught the opening night of Janáček's Káťa Kabanová at Holland Park opera. Not familiar with either the opera or the venue, I found both to be a real treat. The cast and orchestra sounded great and the staging quite effective, in this drama of doomed love and infidelity.

Some may have thought it was a pity there was an intermission as it disrupts the flow, but I was glad for the break. Not only as it gives you a chance to go to the bathroom (it can get a little chilly at Holland Park), it provided a break from the intense drama. Interval also enabled two drag queens to come up and say hello. Drag queens at the opera I thought was quite a novel thing. I hope it starts a trend in future on the proviso that the wigs don't look so cheap (girls you need real hair taken from impoverished Russian villages to look the part). A night at the opera. It can be cruel to cast an audiences... Káťa Kabanová runs until August 7.

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