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Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

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At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s

Its all about Audra: Audra McDonald @lsqtheatre

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It is fair to say that Audra McDonald with her multiple Tony awards and unique voice and personality is a living Broadway legend. You shouldn't miss any opportunity to see her on stage and she is in town for few days performing at the Leicester Square Theatre . She'll be back in London in the summer is reprising the Billie Holliday role in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill. As her West End debut this is shaping up to be a a much anticipated event. It was due to happen last year but had a postponement as she and husband Will Swenson were expecting a baby. Now these Leicester Square Theatre concerts will add to the buzz. Now the baby is backstage it's time to get down to some fine music making. What is exciting about her is not only her musicianship and personality but her ability to champion new music. This has always come through in her recordings (of which I seem to have collected all of them - which probably makes me a bit of a fan). The format of these shows

Singing out: Alexandra Da Silva @pizzapheasantry

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Alexandra Da Silva returned last week with her show La Petite Divatante at the Pheasantry in Chelsea . For a little lady she has a big voice and the show is an opportunity to show off her musicality. And make a little fun of her height. She sings Part of Your World  from The Little Mermaid with new lyrics by Christina Bianco about being too short to enjoy the sun. But it is her reflective ballads linger with you. Her vocal, which at times has a country feel, gives these pieces extra emotional pull.

It’s not where you start: Songs for A New World @St_JamesTheatre

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Twenty years after it first premiered Off-Broadway, the song-cycle / revue Songs For A New World at the St James Theatre serves as a useful introduction to composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown’s early work. It’s initially exciting to watch four accomplished performers (mostly) handle his vocally demanding work. But the effect of 90 minutes of his music straight through makes you feel as if you are trapped in a world that is a bit repetitive. It starts out spectacularly with the opening number “The New World”, a song about starting over. And then there is a song about endings, another about loss, and another about new beginnings. By the half way point, the limitations of the music become apparent.

The importance of being earnest: The Dreamers @St_JamesTheatre

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The Dreamers is more a semi-staged music piece than a piece of musical theatre, but once you get over that (and the feeling you are watching an important and earnest history lesson), it is a fascinating story about Capt Reggie Salomons, who died while trying to save his men at Gallipoli in 1915. With original words and music by Kent-based musicians James Beeny and Gina Georgio, this production which originated in Tunbridge Wells last year and is now at the St James Theatre .

Songs of love war and death: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living In Paris @CharingCrossThr

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The songs of Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel are given a slick and lively treatment in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, currently playing at the Charing Cross Theatre . Brel may be dead for nearly forty years, but under the direction of Andrew Keates and with a terrific cast comprising of Eve Polycarpou , Gina Beck , Daniel Boys and David Burt , Brel's complex songs are given a fresh new perspective and lease of life. Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris is a musical revue that dates back to the late sixties. It was an opportunity to present to English-speaking audiences the world of Brel with translations by Mort Shurman and Eric Blau, which are considered to best capture the spirit of Brel. There is no particular story that holds the songs together; the performers move about the stage and amongst the band without saying anything. But over the course of the evening you become acquainted with Brel's song (each are complicated enou

Endless banter: Just another night with Lady Rizo

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Lady Rizo is making her London debut playing downstairs at the Soho Theatre and amusing and enthralling audiences with her mix of incredible vocals and offbeat humour. She tells the audience frequently that she is a chanteuse, and it is her singing rather than her comic ability which is what you should see her for. She is more mildly mischievous than funny. Her banter last Wednesday tended to get in the way of the music... Even if it involved a fascinating discussion with a lady in the front row who disclosed she raped a man at a heavy metal festival when she was sixteen, it still was very mildly risque fare.

Cabaret: Karen Akers at The Crazy Coqs

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The Brasserie Zedel, run by restauranteurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin (of The Ivy, The Woolsey fame) which opened this summer, has given new life and a touch of French glamour to a formerly unloved hotel just off Piccadilly Circus in the heart of the West End. Their cabaret room, The Crazy Coqs is a beautiful art-deco space that is a great way to sample an evening of cabaret. The last time I saw Karen Akers we were bemoaning that Pizza on the Park was shortly to be closing. But change isn't always a bad thing. Akers act was the same act (or possibly shorter) but in a smaller, classier space with a sensible cocktail it seemed all the more enjoyable. Akers has finished her run but there is great line up of acts running throughout the autumn with shows at 8pm and 10pm (I have also made a mental note to catch Miss Hope Springs some Sunday evening in the not too distant future). Either timeslot allows for a quick bite at the Brasserie Zedel before or after the show. Th

Music: Australian Chamber Orchestra with Dawn Upshaw

An opportunity to see the Australian Chamber Orchestra should not be passed up as they thrilled audiences at Cadogan Hall over the weekend. It was a varied concert that included ACOs artistic director and leader Richard Tognetti's composition Caprice on Paganini Caprices (featured above) and songs by Schumann, Schoenberg and Schubert performed with American Soprano Dawn Upshaw. Dawn Upshaw's arrival in the second act was warmly received but the star of the show were the musicians or the ensemble of soloists as they are sometimes known, who were full of such passion, precision and energy.  An evening of very fine music making, with an ensemble that moved as one providing a incredible sound. Keep an eye out for future tours via their website.

Co-op Opera: Don Giovanni

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In a week when Prince Harry's buttocks and a rowdy party were the topic of discussion, the opportunity to see young opera performers in an English modernisation of Don Giovanni cavort and brag about conquests seemed rather relevant. This Don Giovanni may not be royalty but he is a bit of a lad and the women he seeks look like they could be found at a Vegas pool party. It is probably a little too faithful to the Mozart's original which does tend to be confusing, but things move along at a pace you find yourself not minding it too much. Helping things is the energy and enthusiasm coming from the cast of young opera singers. The Co-Opera Company is made up of members and associate members who wish to pass on their expertise to the next generation of performers. The company exists to provide aspiring artists a start in their career on stage, in the orchestra or behind the scenes. They are into their fourth season and they manage to do with no outside funding. While perhaps after

Damp June Nights: Liza at the (Hampton Court) Palace

As more than one person noted after Thursday evening's downpour, there was not a dry seat in the house at the end of Liza Minnelli's concert at Hampton Court Palace . Opening the Hampton Court Festival , the steady rain or hour long wait for the train home did not deter fans from jumping to their feet even before she sang. Minnelli being from the old school of singing yourself hoarse does not have much of a high register anymore. While she seems like she sometimes tries to coax some sound out using sheer bloody mindedness, her signature songs don't sound like they used to. Of course her fans probably can't hear like they used to either so that might explained the high ovation quotient from the audience... But it is a shame that she either feels she has to sing them or her fans demand them from her. What is more interesting about her voice now is her incredible lower range. And when she calmed things down and performed songs just with her regular music director Billy

Theatre: Master Class

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A passion for life (and music) is certainly a message loud and clear from this revival of Master Class , Terrence McNally's play about the original opera super star Maria Callas who is running a master class for aspiring opera singers. Inspired by the classes she ran at the Juilliard School in New York in the early 1970s, she alternates between being repulsed and intrigued by her students and then caught up in how their performances evoke memories of her past glories. The play is an opportunity to see Tyne Daly on stage and she delivers a commanding performance as the no-nonsense diva. Dominating, witty with impeccable timing and occasionally vulnerable, her performance is something to be savoured. And it distracts you from being too bothered by some of the other quirks of the material such as occasional overlong scene and superflous characters. Naturally anything about Callas is going to bring out her groupies en masse (including a variety of homosexual types), but you don'

Concert: New York Philharmonic at the Barbican with Joyce DiDonato

It is easy to appreciate the music of Berlioz, Ravel, Stravinsky and English Born composer Thomas Adès when it is the New York Philharmonic performing. Part of their residency series at the Barbican , Friday night was an opportunity to be wowed by some impressive musicianship and a passion for music. You know you're in for something a little bit different when you notice that after taking your seats you're surrounded by various members of the brass section. This was for Adès piece Polaris which had its European Premiere and was a joint commission with the Barbican and New York Philharmonic. It was an intriguing and hypnotic piece, although depending on your proximity to the off stage brass may have swayed your views on it (as no doubt you would not have heard much else). The above video shot for its premiere in New York gives some context to it The rest of the programme featured Joyce DiDonato in Berlioz’s song cycle Les nuits d’été which gave a delicate and light touch to

Events: Snow Patrol at the O2

One of the great things about London is the range of sensible and not so sensible events on offer at any time of the year. All you need is a decent London Guide to start planning things. A frosty Saturday evening seemed very appropriate to catch Snow Patrol's second of three sellout concerts at the O2. Snow Patrol are best categorised as an alternative rock group from Northern Island via Scotland (where they originally formed), but they have evolved to be firmly in the mainstream fare and ensuring mega stardom. That isn't such a bad thing as an audience of 15,000 singing (surprisingly in tune) the chorus of their song Run is certainly an experience to take in. It is also amazing to see the glow from hundreds of camera phones across the venue recording footage like the clip above. Given you can't smoke indoors anymore, they are the modern equivalent of the lighter wave .

Music and Advertising: Millbank Tower

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In case you missed it, Millbank Tower earlier this week served as a showcase for a light show and performance by Deadmau5 to mark the launch of the new Nokia Lumia smartphone . Maybe this landmark building is getting a new groove (albeit through a phone and operating system that is a bit boxy)...

Music: Matthew Morrison

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Matthew Morrison somewhat exploded onto the stage last night at the Hammersmith Apollo. Well there was a lot of bass noise anyway. In fact, it was hard to pass any judgement on the show given the bass drowned out his vocals most of the evening. The ladies shouting for him to get his shirt off seemed more audible. The technical problems were not just with the base but also with late pick ups, cameras in the way, projections running on a laptop that was low on batteries. Still, Matthew Morrison couldn't be accused of being low on batteries however as he sang / danced / bounced on stage for almost two hours. It was a great performance and Morrison is a very likeable performer. Highlights included a medley of songs from West Side Story accompanied by bongos, which thankfully someone recorded and sent to Perez Hilton (above). There were also a number of tracks both from Glee and his new album Summer Rain  that were a treat, including Somewhere Over the Rainbow. The show lasted t

Music: Michael Feinstein

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I caught Michael Feinstein's final concert at the Leicester Square theatre and he is sounding as good as ever. The last time I saw him he was performing with a big band at the Palladium. There was much gushing and gratuitous cameo celebrity appearances. This time around things were much smaller scale and far more enjoyable... The programme included a selection of songs from the likes of Gershwin and Porter, which is now classified as " The American Songbook " A rather generic label for any song that is old (in danger of being lost), with a pleasant tune, and lyrics that are usually well written.

Music: Andreas Scholl and Philippe Jaroussky

Purcell - Philippe Jaroussky, Uploaded by midu92 . - See the latest featured music videos. An evening with two countertenors might be one thing, but when they are Philippe Jaroussky and Andreas Scholl it makes for quite a night (albeit an androgynous one) at the Barbican . The countertenor is the twentieth century response to the castrati performers of past. But the arrival of some very talented (and rather good looking) men such as Scholl and Jaroussky has put this singing onto a whole other level. I'm assuming the above video from a previous performance was posted on the internet by one of Jaroussky's groupies , who travel the world to see him perform (and reportedly go weak at the knees and post loads of clips on Youtube). The fan base is probably too sophisticated to throw knickers on stage at the end of the concert, but at Tuesday night's sold out performance there were plenty of fans of both men there, and they showed their appreciation instead through raptur

Music: Caroline O'Connor

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Continuing a season of performers in their prime that have seen Wonder Woman and others grace the West End, it could also be known as "Old broads at the Garrick", I caught the second night of Caroline O'Connor with Johnnyfox and others. Caroline O'Connor, while being world famous in Australia, has also been in a number of West End productions, including the ENO's production of On the Town and Bombshells. This time around it is her on stage with a terrific band and some real nice young dancers. Its a bit cabaret and a bit performance and all brass  class. I realised it has now been ten years since I first saw Caroline O'Connor and she doesn't seem to have changed much at all... She still looks and moves pretty well and still sounds good (if you overlook those occasionally suspect high notes), and is full of such energy and life you can't help but enjoy watching her perform. In the first half of her show she talked about life growing up in Australi

Music: Maria Friedman singing Sondheim...

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After taking a break from the cultural life of London during July, last Friday I found myself watching Maria Friedman singing Sondheim . The last time I saw her it was a bit of a mixed bag, and the person next to me fell asleep. This time around she seemed a lot better and nobody was asleep. Maria may not be the best singer around, but her voice is suited well to Sondheim's music, which after listening to for an entire evening, you realise is not necessarily always music... Maria was able to convey the right amount emotion, whether it was humour, anguish or tears and for a Sondheim song that's often more important than hitting the right notes... The programming choice was a little odd at times. I don't recall ever seeing a recital opening where the singer walks out cloaked in black as if she is channelling Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke . She then proceeds to sing a series of songs from the obsessive compulsive musical Passion , which out of context was a bit of a downer

Music: Out of the Piano

It's been a busy week with Seven Deadly Sins at the Roundhouse , but in amongst all the rehearsals I did get a chance to see the third Tim Williams Award for musical composition . It is a competition that presented 21 news compositions to lyrics taken from classical or established text, performed by various West End and sensible professionals... While 21 new compositions are bound to be a mixed bag, there were a few rough diamonds in here... The winning song by Christopher Hamilton called Burn and performed by Diannne Pilkington was one of those rare moments that just surprised the audience and had us bursting with laughter. There is a full podcast of the show on Musical Talk , or just some silly post show banter (much shorter too) from Audioboo... The next awards are in October. Here's hoping there are more comic songs... We can do with the laughs... Listen!