Thursday, 30 August 2012

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic at the BBC Proms

On the evening of Thursday 23rd August 2012 I returned to the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms to see the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko in Prom 54. There had to be a Shostakovich Symphony and with violist Tasmin Little playing Delius's Violin Concerto this was always going to be a brilliant BBC Prom.

The programme consisted of Symphony No.9 - Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Violin Concerto -Delius and Symphony No.10 in E minor - Shostakovich. Thelma Hardy was Leader of the Orchestra at this wonderful concert.

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's Ninth Symphony is dedicated to HM The Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. The piece is one continuous movement divided into two parts. Full of fanfare flourishes to mark this special year, this was a great opening from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

This year is the 150th anniversity of the birth of Delius and with Tasmin Little being one of his most ardent champions it seemed appropriate that she should play his Violin Concerto's first appearance at the BBC Proms for over 40 years. Tasmin Little played brilliantly to light up the Royal Albert Hall.

Shostakovich's Symphony No.10 was his first symphony to emerge after Stalin's death and with it's mix of furry and sorrow this piece shows his complex relationship with his homeland. This is one of Shostakovich's most highly rated symphonies and Vasily Petrenko with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra made sure we experienced it at it's best with a wonderful performance.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Carousel at The Barbican

On Thursday 23rd August 2012 I was back in London to attend the Opera North performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at The Barbican Theatre. On the train in the morning I received a text saying that I could have my seat upgraded. After a lunch of vegetable burritos, spicy tomato salsa sauce, grated cheese, sour cream, guacamole and tortilla chips at The Barbican Food Hall I made my way to my seat in the stalls for the matinee performance.

Voted best musical of the 20th century by Time Magazine, Carousel features breathtaking dancing and wonderful music including the songs If I Loved You, June is bustin' out all over and You'll Never Walk Alone. Set on the New England coastline, Carousel is a story of true love, loss and feelings left unspoken. Following the ill-fated love affair between bad boy Billy Bigelow and trusting Julie Jordan, this classic musical is deeply touching and heartwarming.

This production featured an outstanding cast including Katherine Manley as Julie Jordan, Sarah Tynan as Carrie Pipperidge and Michael Todd Simpson as Billy Bigelow. Carousel was directed by Jo Davies, with designs by Anthony Ward and choreography by Kim Brandstrup and Kay Shepherd. James Holmes conducted a large orchestra which helped to take us on a magical journey.

This was a wonderful afternoon to be at The Barbican Theatre as Opera North put on a brilliant and glorious show of this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. I really enjoyed everything about this production. The singing and the music played by the orchestra was of the highest quality. An emotional experience was had by all who were in attendance. Carousel was absolutely brilliant.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Shostakovich Leningrad Symphony at the BBC Proms

On the evening of Tuesday 21st August 2012 I attended Prom 51 of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall which featured the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andis Nelsons with Laurence Jackson as Leader of the Orchestra. It was brilliant to be back in London at the BBC Proms for another concert of wonderful music.

The programme consisted of Rusian and Lyudmila Overture - Glinka, Calculus of the Nervous System - Emily Howard and Symphony No.7 in C major Leningrad - Shostakovich. This was a varied programme with delights for everyone as young Latvian conductor Andis Nelsons and the CBSO gave us a night to remember.

Glinka's rousing overture to his Pushkin-derived opera raised the curtain, paying tribute to a composer revered as the founding father of Russian nationalism. This was the UK Premiere of Emily Howard's Calculus of the Nervous System, a piece that is inspired by the work of Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Byron and a prophet of the computer age.

Dmitry Shostakovich composed the Leningrad Symphony mostly in the city itself as it came under siege from Germany in 1941. This piece's wider aim was a protest against brutal regimes worldwide. This was the highlight of the evening for me as Andis Nelsons lead the Orchestra in a rousing and emotional performance of this epic symphony. This was an amazing 75 minutes at the Royal Albert Hall as we were treated to this extraordinary Shostakovich Symphony which at times sounds like a film score.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Chicago at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

On the morning of Saturday 18th August 2012 I caught the early Norwich to Nottingham train. After a morning spent at Nottingham Castle I made my way to the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall to attend the matinee performance of Chicago. Murder, greed, corruption, exploitation, adultery and treachery...all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.

This musical is based on real life events back in the 1920s when nightclub singer Roxie Hart shoots her lover and along with Cell Block rival, double murderess Velma Kelly they fight to keep from death row with the help of smooth talking lawyer Billy Flynn. With an amazing soundtrack which includes All That Jazz, When You're Good to Mama and Razzle Dazzle this was a sensational afternoon's entertainment.

Ali Bastian starred as Roxie Hart while Tupele Dorgu thrilled as Velma Kelly. Billy Flynn was played by Stefan Booth on an afternoon that raised the temperature at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. Adrian Kirk's Ragtime Band were permanently on stage during the performance bringing us all the musical numbers. With this Musical coming to the end of it's run in London's West End this was the perfect opportunity for me to catch the magic of this Bob Fosse show.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Play Without Words at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Saturday 11th August 2012 I attended the matinee performance of Matthew Bourne's Play Without Words at Norwich Theatre Royal. This sultry dance drama is set in Chelsea in 1965, it shows how the lives of a man of the house and his wife are turned upside down by the arrival of a new manservant.

Terry Davies's Jazz score created just the right atmosphere as were were taken back to the swinging sixties and was played brilliantly by a quintet led by Michael Haslam. This is an adaption of Joseph Losey's 1963 film The Servant.

Anthony, Glenda, and Prentice, the man servant are each played by three people, often simultaneously. Sheila by two people. This made for an very interesting and visual show. This was London in the sixties and the spectacular dancing was a treat to watch. I had yet another amazing experience at Norwich Theatre Royal as Matthew Bourne and his dance company put on a very inspiring performance.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

When We Are Married at the Maddermarket

On Saturday 28th July 2012 I attended the matinee performance of JB Priestley's When We Are Married from the Norwich Players at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich. The play was written in 1938 but is set 30 years previously in 1908. When We Are Married explores attitudes to marriage at the turn of the 20th Century. 

When We Are Married is a classic farce set in Yorkshire when three long-married couples are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversaries, they discover that due to a bureaucratic quirk they have never actually been married. Laughs and surprises are abound in Priestley’s sparkling, classic comedy.

This was another wonderful afternoon at the Maddermarket Theatre as we were taken to the sitting room of Alderman Helliwell's house in Clecklewyke, a town in the West Riding. Home truths exploded and mayhem erupted in this eventful performance from the Norwich Players.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Barenboim, Beethoven and Boulez magic!

On the evening of Saturday 21st July 2012 I was back at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms for Prom 10 which featured the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim as part of their series of performing all nine Beethoven symphonies at this year's Proms.

The programme consisted of Symphony No.4 in B flat major - Beethoven, Dialogue de l'ombre double - Pierre Boulez and Symphony No.3 in E flat major Eroica - Beethoven. Jussef Eisa played clarinet on Dialogue de l'ombre double with Gilbert Nouno - IRCAM computer music designer and Jeremie Henrot - IRCAM sound engineer. Michael Barenboim was leader of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was created in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said as a workshop for young musicians from Israel, Palestine and various Arab countries of the Middle East seeking to enable intercultural dialogue and to promote the experience of collaborating on a matter of common interest. The orchestra are named after a collection poems by Goethe, West-Eastern Divan, a central work for the evolution of the concept of world culture.

This was a night when Daniel Barenboim and his youthful ensemble were able to relish the energy of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony and then perform Eroica which is one of the most influential pieces of music in history. The Third Symphony is where Beethoven remakes the Classical style on a much greater scale with radical new techniques.

Between the two Beethoven Symphonies was Pierre Boulez's Dialogue de l'ombre double in which the audience were thrilled by Jussef Eisa's clarinet and the clarinet's electronic double which becomes more real then the soloist physically present. This is the conversation of the double shadow that proved to be progressive in the search for new sounds.

This was a brilliant evening to be in attendance at a packed Royal Albert Hall as I witnessed this concert from my seat in the Circle. It was a great decision to combine the music of Beethoven and Pierre Boulez at this series of concerts from the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The Beethoven Symphonies are some of the best music of all-time while Pierre Boulez is such an innovator who pushes the musical boundaries. You can't get much better then that.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

I'm Singin' in the Rain at the Palace Theatre

On Saturday 21st July 2012 I attended the matinee performance of Singin' in the Rain at the Palace Theatre, London. This Musical is based on the classic MGM film starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds with screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

It’s the roaring Twenties and silent movie stars are the biggest names in the world. Don Lockwood has it all, a string of hit films and a studio-engineered romance with the most beautiful actress in town. But with the new phenomenon of the talking picture on the way and a chance meeting with a talented young chorus girl set to steal his heart, things are about to change for Don and for Hollywood forever.

With all the charm, romance, comedy and tinsel town glamour of one of the world’s best-loved films, Jonathan Church’s brand new production features a glorious score including the classics Good Morning, Make ‘em Laugh, Moses Supposes and the legendary Singin’ in the Rain.

Starring Adam Cooper, Daniel Crossley and Scarlett Strallen this West End Production is truly magical especially in such an historic venue as the Palace Theatre. Those sitting in the front rows were advised to wear raincoats as the cast sang Singin' in the Rain. This is such a feel good show with lots of fun and laughs. I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain. What a glorious feelin' I'm happy again.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Desdemona at The Barbican

On the evening of Thursday 19th July 2012 I attended the performance of Desdemona by Toni Morrison, Peter Sellars and Rokia Traore featuring Tina Benko at Barbican Hall in the City of London. This event was part of the World Shakespeare and London 2012 Festivals.

Written by Toni Morrison and directed by Peter Sellars, this project was inspired by the fourth act of Othello, in which Desdemona, facing death, sings Willow Song, taught to her by Barbary. This allows an exploration of Desdemona's fascination with Africa, for monologues on women, love, race, relationships and war, for discussions in the afterlife with Othello himself, and between the mothers of Othello and Desdemona. All the voices were provided by Tina Benko.

Between the spoken narratives Malian singer Rokia Traore sang a set of powerful songs with the lyrics translated on a background screen. She is one of a new generation of African women who's music has moved beyond the World Music category. This was an amazing night to be at The Barbican with this moving and visual performance. We danced together, our bodies moving in such harmony it was as though we had known each other all our lives.