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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

Swimming upstream: Hero & Leander, Or, I Love You, But Everything's Underwater @southbankcentre

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Jack Dean & Company landed at the Southbank Centre's Purcell Room for one day with their gig-theatre retelling of the Greek myth Hero & Leander. Songs that mix folk, country, electronica and the odd sea shanty tell the story of the tragedy of Hero and Leander.  In this version of the tale, Hero and Leander are from two towns but meet at a dance and continue to see each other. But their towns are separated by a narrow strait, and when the ships stop sailing between the towns due to a conflict, Leander swims across the strait to meet Hero, guided by the light of the lighthouse where she lives. And being a tragedy, this doesn't end well.   The staging is simple, with just the musicians on stage. Jack Dean and Siân Keen are engaging as the ill-fated lovers and various other characters in the story. It's incredibly inventive and evocative with its fusion of musical styles and sensibilities.  The storytelling is brisk and sometimes feels like it could benefit from expans

Cure for all ills: The Paradis Files @graeae

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The Paradis Files takes you back to the salons of 18 century Vienna. Albeit briefly There, Maria Theresia von Paradis is a star composer and pianist. World-famous in Europe, a pupil of the composer Salieri and possible lover of Mozart, if one believes the gossip. And there was one other thing about her. She lost her eyesight at a young age.  This new chamber opera by Errollyn Wallen uses opera to convey the story of Paradis, both her triumphs and humiliations. She was an object of desire and experimentation. This short piece sets out clearly that she had a colourful life. Being the daughter of Joseph Anton von Paradis, Imperial Secretary of Commerce and Court Councillor to Empress Maria Theresa, undoubtedly helped. But as the family sought to remedy her blindness, she was subject to various “cures” by quack doctors.   Wallen doesn't confine the musical style to any particular period. There are elements of classical music mixed with jazz and percussion. And as a chamber opera, there

I know what you did last summer: Last Orders @ORLTheatre

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The Old Red Lion Theatre during the summer months is hot and oppressive at the best of times. But theatre troupe The Knock Knock Club decided to hold a seance and a ghost hunt at the venue to see if there was any truth the number of hauntings that people have reported. There's been a pub on the site of the Old Red Lion since 1415. Over the years, there's been reported sightings of spirits of the non-alcoholic kind.  There are enough witness accounts of a ghost on every floor of the venue. There's the ghost who likes the drama (but not lost Arthur Miller plays) on the theatre floor. There's the ghost at the bar level that wants to fling glassware and frighted the resident dog. And below the bar at cellar level, there's something like the gateway to the underworld that freaks everyone out. The show is part documentary about what the troupe did over the summer and part unearthing bizarre facts about the Old Red Lion. It's funny and intriguing as the te

Hairography: Vanities: The Musical

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  The secret of lasting friendships is really about having the correct fitting wig. Well, I think that's what it is after catching Vanities: The Musical. It's a musical valentine to soap opera dramatics and retro hair styles currently playing at  Trafalgar Studios . The show is given a heavy injection of talent with the performances by its three leading ladies. While this makes it very watchable, you are left wishing there was just something more in the material.