Category Archives: Opera & classical

Kiss Me Kate, WNO

 

I am a woman who is rarely lost for words. I have no idea where to begin on this one.

So, let’s go with my first thoughts:

I witnessed an opera audience splutter and stutter into laughter and whoops of delight as a show became progressively funnier and livelier and more and more colourful.

My dear, this isn’t opera… it’s, um, a musical.

Shock horror! The Welsh National Opera does musical all right. It’s borderline panto.

It is singing, talking, dancing, ballet, tap – it is Baltimore, it is Shakespeare, it is Cole Porter.

We rush from dusty backstage to technicolour onstage with a rapacious love for the piece which infects everyone in the building.

There is even a stuffed mule.

Not funny, dear.

Oh it is. It is carry me out of here laughingly funny! It is a showcase for this multi- talented cast and how much they seem to enjoy their moments in the spotlight. Revelling in the bawdiness, the burlesque and the slapstick.

Asses seem to have quite a prominent role, one way and another.

It reminds me at times of The Good Old Days, vaudeville at its finest, people laughing at themselves in the story, in the audience. I fancy we should all be wearing doublets and bodices. A round of the Old Bull and Bush at the end wouldn’t go amiss, such is the atmosphere.

Well, I wasn’t expecting that!

Kate sings the songs of the wild and sexy and shrewish, Petruchio was an operatic twinkly eyed pirate, the gunmen do one of the best duets since Michael Ball and Les Dennis in Hairspray; and Bianca and Lucentio are utterly joyous in both song and dance.

It is obscenely good entertainment.

We come out to Christmas trees and misty cold, buzzing with that warm fuzzy feeling you get from a performance well done.

But this is Cardiff, a city, like many others, with a dark underbelly. There, under the lit arches of the Wales Millennium Centre, is a man completing a broadsheet crossword. I give him the change I find in the bottom of my bag – it is a paltry amount but it is the only cash I have. I apologise for my meanness. He smiles and calls me back.

Look at this, pretty lady.

My friend and I turn back and he shows us a magic trick with a 20p coin and wishes us a Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Event:              Kiss Me Kate

 

Seen:               06 Dec, 2016

Reviewer:        Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:          06 Dec – 10 December 2016

Cost :               Tickets: £7 – £43

Running time: Approximately 2 hour 50 minutes with one interval

 

Links:               https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/KissMeKateDec16/

 

5 stars – spectacular

 

A Welsh National Opera production, sung in English

Conductor                              James Holmes
Director                                  Jo Davies
Set & Costume Designer       Colin Richmond
Lighting Designer                   Ben Cracknell
Choreographer                      Will Tuckett

Fred Graham / Petruchio      Quirijn de Lang
Lilli Vanessi / Katherine        Jeni Bern
1st Gunman                            Joseph Shovelton
2nd Gunman                          John Savourin

 

Music and Lyrics                      Cole Porter
Book                                        Bella and Samuel Spewack
Critical Edition                          David Charles Abell and Seann Alderking.

The Launch of Creative Citizens Cymru

15241272_10154900415385649_8697963156259473394_n

Get the Chance recently organised a morning of creative conversations called Creative Citizens Cymru. The event was funded by the Arts Council Wales Sharing Together. “A strategic initiative to encourage the development of networking opportunities.”

The event took place at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Participants shared their views on a variety of issues including, the on-going relationships between arts critics, venues, producers and artists, critical responses to Welsh venues’ work as well as new and existing collaborative working methods. Get the Chance (GTC) is a social enterprise that supports members of the public to access and respond to sport and cultural provision. GTC was specifically interested in generating conversation relating to ways to support the development of Creative Citizens acting as critics, ambassadors, volunteers, advocates, promoters, workshop leaders and more.

Representatives from a range of organisations discussed some of their work in this area including,

Geinor Styles Artistic Director, of Theatr na nÓg and Ani of the Ambassadors discussed their Ambassadors scheme.

13901376_1121772997879022_6477814749832655751_n

“The Theatr na nÓg Ambassadors scheme started in January 2016 in order to support and mentor the new generation of theatre professionals.

 Aimed towards 16-25 year olds, the scheme offers full access to the company where you will learn by observation and get hands-on experience at rehearsals, on productions and events. The Ambassadors have already supported na nÓg in our production of ‘TOM’ at the Wales Millennium Centre, performed as cast members on ‘The Amazing Adventure of Wallace and Bates’ at Cardiff Museum and the Eisteddfod as well as supporting the production of ‘The Ghost of Morfa Colliery’ at the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea.

 We want to work with as many young people as possible through the medium of both Welsh and English and by offering our support and resources, we hope to contribute to the development of new skills that they will be able to use at na nÓg and elsewhere in the industry.”

 http://www.theatr-nanog.co.uk/na-nóg-ambassadors

Nia Skyrme Freelance producer/promoter

Nia works with local community representatives to support marketing opportunities for touring productions. Shanon Newman was local promoter on a recent production supported by Nia.

“My name is Shannon and I am currently an ‘on the ground promoter’ working on Motherlode’s The Good Earth. That means that I am helping to spread the word to as many people as possible about this show which tours Wales in September.

Motherlode’s tagline is Tireless New Theatre, Made in Wales. I saw the last run of rehearsals for ‘The Good Earth’ at Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy a few weeks ago. I feel extremely lucky to be working to engage people in the Cardiff area and to have got the chance to watch the performance just before it went on tour to New York. I’m delighted to help spread the word about this production; the themes that it touches on evokes awareness on what has affected Wales as a country in the past and its reaction to moments of hardship. It is an important message of strength and unity, especially during a time when we seem to be so divided.

‘The Good Earth’ echoes concerns over the threat to the Welsh identity and community with its close relation to the Aberfan and Tryweryn tragedies. The play made me feel nostalgic about situations I’ve never personally experienced, and empathetic for the characters’ cause to maintain the integrity of their way of life. It reminded me of Wales’s role in modern Britain, and how drastically that has developed over the years. It was the backlash against apathetic and unjust authorities that helped to fuel the surge of Welsh nationalism that we see today.

The singing, though not appearing to be its fundamental feature, significantly intensified the mood of the play. It had a meditative effect. Kudos to the actors for managing to convey the emotions of deeply relevant issues in many Welsh communities. I am so excited to see the show alongside a Welsh audience when it returns from NYC.”

Peter Gregory and Hilary Farr from Arts Council Wales, Night Out Scheme.

Peter and Hilary gave us all a brief overview of The Night Out Scheme

umdumo_351x251

“The Arts Council of Wales’ Night Out scheme works in partnership with the local authorities to help groups of volunteers across Wales bring the arts to the heart of their communities. 

 Community groups (known as Promoters) can choose from a huge range of great professional performers and put them on in community or village halls and other non traditional venues across the country.  If you want information on how the scheme works and promoting events visit the Become a Promoter Section.

  Each year close to 600 shows are booked through the scheme by nearly 350 different community groups. Alongside the main scheme we also run the Noson Allan Fach  scheme which offers small shows for member led organsiations such as WI or Merched y Wawr.

 Working in conjunction with the local authorities of Wales, the Night Out team operates a guarantee against loss for events where we pay the performer fee and the community promoter pays back ticket income made at the door. 

 We never take more than the performer costs so as a promoter you will never be worse off by using the scheme. The more money promoters make back the more funds we have available to say yes to another request. 

 Our promoters are free to book a wide range of professional artists. Many come to Night Out for advice on appropriate high quality shows suitable for small community venues.”

Sophie Mckeand and Christine Smith are Night Out Young Promoter Coordinators and talked about their work in this field.

“The award winning Young Promoters Scheme works with groups of children and young people taking them through the process of becoming the promoters for an event in their community. You can  download an information leaflet  here 

 “The whole scheme was very straightforward. Everything was clearly explained. The support we had from the Arts Council staff team was superb …The young people were extremely proud of what they had achieved. They have grown in skill and confidence and can’t wait to do it again”  Sharon Campbell  Colwyn Bay Youth Centre

 The Night Out Young Promoters Scheme is an ideal way of giving practical skills to children and young people and improving the relationship between young people and their schools and their local community.

 Operating since 2005, the scheme has worked with hundreds of children and young people aged between 7 and 18 throughout Wales, giving them the unique experience of organising and enjoying a performing arts event in their local hall. Projects involve a facilitator, working alongside a teacher or youth leader to enable a group of young people to experience the “behind the scenes” work that goes into organising an event.  Though a series of workshop sessions groups are taken through aspects of Box Office, Front of House, Stage Management and Marketing / publicity and Sponsorship.  The Young Promoters get to make all the decisions – and do all the work!

Groups are able to have fun as part of a creative learning process and to develop personal, social and work related skills. When run in schools, the scheme can be utilised to deliver specific  elements of the national curriculum since it includes aspects of literacy, ICT, mathematics, numeracy, art and design and event management.”

 Kai Jones, Gig Buddies Coordinator, Accessible Information Officer, Learning Disability Wales.

Kai discussed the new Gig Buddies initiative.

“Making choices about how you live your life is an important part of being independent. We want to make sure that people with a learning disability can choose to stay up late and go to gigs. A gig is another name for a music concert.

We know that many people with a learning disability love music, but don’t ever get the chance to go to gigs and see their favourite bands live. To help change this we are starting a new project, called Gig BuddiesThe project will match people with a learning disability with volunteers who share the same music tastes so they can go to gigs together.”

 https://www.ldw.org.uk/information/news/2016/10/gig-buddies-survey.aspx#.WDlPhjc42lY

Anne-Marie Lawrence, Senior Project Manager, Spice Time Credits, South East Wales.

“Time Credits make a sustainable difference to a range of organisations across the community, housing, health, care and school sectors. They are proven to increase the number of people involved in the community and are able to help sustain that involvement over time, bringing about a range of transformative outcomes.

Time Credit systems work on a simple hour-for-hour basis: for every hour you give to your community you earn one Time Credit, which you can then spend on an activity of your choice.

You can give time in ways that match your skills and interests, and spend your Time Credits with our diverse range of fantastic partners across the UK who offer everything from swimming to learning a language.”

Much of the morning was spent working as a large group sharing learning opportunities and informal networking.

During the second half of the morning the group were tasked with further developing some responses to questions which developed from the initial conversations and areas Get the Chance wanted to focus on. Some of the responses can be seen in the images below.

15170860_10154900431830649_4213430697974366671_n

15181423_10154900431865649_5940016617408659903_n

15219503_10154900431885649_8547975260905390173_n

15241844_10154900431875649_3792347594195415717_n

An online survey was also created to continue this conversations. The survey is till live and we invite anyone interested to complete it.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/W27RC3Q

Get the Chance has another event planned in North Wales in the spring of 2017

Guy O’Donnell the director of Get the Chance organised a similar event a few years ago and a blog post on this event can be found at the link below.

http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profiles/blogs/critical-feedback-to-the-response-event

unknown

unknown-1

unknown-2

Review Macbeth/Merchant of Venice WNO by Helen Joy

wno-macbeth-main

3 Stars3 / 5

Macbeth – an operatic trip

I saw, no, I experienced, no, I what? I tripped. A singing trip through Shakespeare’s tragedy.

I have no idea where to start. What words can do justice to this bizarre and jarring production. This crippling tale of the power of suggestion, the excuses of politics.

The women. Boy. What women.

Lady Macbeth: opulent, passionate, the voice of an angel with the presence of a god. ‘I wouldn’t mess with her’ I overhear. I wouldn’t. Magnificent. An audience is besotted.

The witches: awful, writhing, peculiar, calling like sirens; sexy, funny, raunchy. Wonderful choral singing. Quite wonderful.

The men don’t come close. With Macbeth simpering at his wife’s side and Duncan striding around in turquoise, they were a motley crew. Hard roles to sing, emotionally challenging to act and in unusual surroundings; but then there is a duet between Macduff and Malcolm to die for.

Visually, this is a difficult work to like. Colours clash. The period is unclear. The costumes ugly. Elements are comic – are they supposed to be? Those around me in the audience aren’t sure so the odd titter at an odd moment feels inappropriate. This is Macbeth after all.

The lady next to me closes her eyes. This is a beautiful opera to hear. To see? I’m not so sure. It is very, um, challenging.

I chat with others afterwards: we agree that whilst it has been a most peculiar evening, we expect we will remember it for a long, long time; it has been an entertainment. What are we here for, if not to provide entertainment? So, a huge thank you to all involved for something quite exceptional.

Running time: Approximately 2 hour 55 minutes with one interval

10, 15, 17 & 24 September 2016

Conductor Andriy Yurkevych
Director Oliver Mears
Set & Costume Designer Annemarie Woods
Lighting Designer Kevin Treacy
Choreographer Anna Morrissey
Video Designer Duncan McLean

Macbeth Luis Cansino
Lady Macbeth Mary Elizabeth Williams / Miriam Murphy
Macduff Bruce Sledge
Banquo Miklós Sebestyén
Lady-in-Waiting Miriam Murphy

Sung in Italian with surtitles in English and Welsh.

Co-production with Northern Ireland Opera.
Supported by WNO Partners.

ne619_wno-birmingham-web-images_1800x900_merchant-990x495

Merchant of Venice – an operatic orgy

4 Stars4 / 5

This Edwardian extravaganza of a strong story is sung with passion, grace and wit.

Shakespeare would have loved this epic play revived with such clarity and lust for life.

He would’ve loved the stylish eroticism, the flirtations, the overt sexuality of characters hard-pressed against the rugged back of trade. The wimpish Antonio, the love-lorn Bassanio, the women running rings around their men again and again.

Shakespeare’s reputation for relaying the crudeness of man losing to the manipulation of women intact. Portia and Nerissa transforming from girls in town to legal hotshots, the real heroes of the piece. Swapping their dresses and hairpieces for robes and wigs, they must resemble men to use the intelligence of women!

Portia is clear, her voice rings out and we hang on her words. Antonio sings like a bird, beautiful, girlish, self-denying. He lends his money selflessly, he offers his flesh willingly. The scales glisten invitingly.

Shylock is a world apart. He is arresting. He is pathetic. He is the Shylock I see in my head when I read the play. He carries his faith on his shoulders like a giant and he falls under its weight.

This is a difficult tale to tell. Shakespeare forces us to see the trouble caused by bigotry and racial hatred; Tchaikowsky makes us hear it.

This is a sumptuous performance. It is a romp, an orgy and a lesson. ‘My first opera’ says a friend, ‘I love it, it makes me think, it makes me gasp’.

So, what do these productions have in common?

Opera often convolutes and exaggerates a storyline but here, it finds a way through the morass of Shakespeare which is clear and refreshing. It brings characters to life with a pathos I had not expected and with a love for the complexities of the human spirit. Italian for Macbeth, English for Merchant of Venice: the language of the sung word gives depth and feeling where the spoken word cannot.

There is humour, colour and vivacity throughout. The men sink into the shadows of the women as perhaps Shakespeare intended. His leads are visceral, deadly, massive: Lady Macbeth and Shylock are the meat on the bones of these tales.

They contrast and whilst Macbeth often feels disjointed, ugly, unhappily humorous in parts; Merchant of Venice is a comely blend of the bawdy, the raw and the difficult.

See them both, see what you think.

Donald Gordon Theatre

Welsh National Opera:
The Merchant of Venice

André Tchaikowsky | UK Première

16 Sep – 30 Sep 2016

Tickets: £7 – £43 (£8.50 – £44.50*)

Running time: Approximately 3 hours 10 minutes (including 1 interval)

16 & 30 September 2016

Conductor Lionel Friend
Director Keith Warner
Designer Ashley Martin-Davis
Lighting Designer Davy Cunningham
Movement Director Michael Barry
Associate Director Amy Lane

Shylock Lester Lynch / Quentin Hayes
Antonio Martin Wölfel
Lorenzo Bruce Sledge
The Duke of Venice Miklós Sebestyén
Bassanio Mark Le Brocq
Solanio Gary Griffiths
Salerio Simon Thorpe
Gratiano David Stout
Jessica Lauren Michelle
Portia Sarah Castle
Nerissa Verena Gunz

Sung in English with surtitles in English and Welsh.

Supported by the Getty Family as part of British Firsts.

Co-production with the Bregenzer Festspiele, Austria, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Polska Music programme & Teatr Wielki, Warsaw.

Review Macbeth WNO by Barbara Michaels

macbeth9-less350kb

All photographic credits Patrick Redmond

4 Stars4 / 5

Reviled by many as one of Shakespeare’s more unpleasant plays, and referred to by thespians as ‘The Scottish Play’ because of its reputation for bringing bad luck to performances, Macbeth was described by Verdi himself as ‘One of mankind’s greatest creations.’ Oliver Mears’ gripping modern day production for Welsh National Opera, in conjunction with Northern Ireland Opera, holds its own, opening up a huge range of interpretations on account of its deep psychological reference.

macbeth-1

For those unfamiliar with the play on which it is based, Macbeth is a soldier whose wife’s aspirations of greatness are his downfall, leading to his ultimate death. Returning with his friend Banquo after a successful battle, he meets a coven of witches who predict that he will become firstly Thane of Cawdor and then King of Scotland, but that it will be Banquo’s children that subsequently inherit. On arriving home, Macbeth tells his wife who informs him that Duncan, the present King of Scotland, will be visiting and staying the night. Duncan duly arrives and announces that he is bestowing on Macbeth the title of Thane of Scotland. Not content with that honour, Lady M. sees this as the perfect opportunity to kill him and thus make the second part of the witches’ prophecy come true. She easily persuades Macbeth to murder his monarch while he is asleep, but the killing doesn’t stop there.

macbeth-20

A balletic opening with the witches grotesquely portrayed as shaven-headed mannequins, and grey-haired humpbacks gets the action started before Spanish baritone Luis Cansino appears in battledress as Macbeth. The appearance of Lady Macbeth in Scene 2 leads into the first murder, followed by the duet which Verdi himself described as being of major importance. The justly renowned chorus of the WNO are increased in number with extra singers in order to cope with different guises which include not only the witches’ coven, but ghostly apparitions, and others, including in the final act refugees from the havoc caused by Macbeth’s widespread killings of those he sees as threats to his rule.

macbeth-6

Sung by American soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams, this Lady M is a ballsy, modern woman, sexy even at her desk and displaying her thighs with calculated intent. This is a power-crazy female who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Williams has the demanding role to a T, fully in control from start to finish; not until the final act do we see the cracks in the surface which reveal the deep underlying psychological problems as lady Macbeth sleepwalks, rubbing her hands to rid them of the bloodstains no longer there and singing broken phrases opening up into great arches of song. Musically, Williams is superb, with a soaring soprano that takes the breath away, both in breath-taking solo arias and duets with Macbeth.

macbeth21-less350kb

Set and costume designer Annemarie Woods has created a minimalist Scottish castle and a wood that moves, plus costumes with swinging kilts. There are, however, two provisos – Duncan’s costume of bright blue jacket, knee-length white socks topped off with a gilt crown is a tad pantomimic, while the dark kilts and gilets worn by the chorus in the final act are reminiscent of school uniform.

Runs: September 15, 17 and 24th; October 12th; November 2, 9 and 23rd.

Macbeth Welsh National Opera at Wales Millennium Centre

Opera in four Acts based on the play by William Shakespeare

Music: Guiseppe Verdi

Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave

Director: Oliver Mears

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

 

 

Verdi’s Requiem, by Matthew Salisbury

VERDI’s REQUIEM

ST DAVID’s HALL CARDIFF 

The conductor, Owain Arwel Hughes’s gesture at the beginning, dedicating the performance of this requiem to those who had died in the Nice atrocity was well received by the audience. It was a fitting and gentle reminder about what a requiem is about.

There is no doubting that this performance of Verdi’s Requiem ticked all the boxes for magnificence and grandeur. The orchestra of Welsh National Opera, the Cardiff Polyphonic Choir, Cardiff Ardwyn Singers and the Llandaff Cathedral Choral Society, superbly conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes, performed with immense energy and gusto.

There was no doubting too that the soloists, soprano Rebecca Evans, bass Jason Howard and the tenor who replaced Dennis O’Neill, were resplendent in their roles, with contralto Kate Woolveridge out doing the others in the expression of the majesty of the music.

Kate, when she is rehearsing the Forget Me Not Choir, is forever telling its members to show the meaning of the words in their expressions. She led the way in this performance, seeming to put that little bit extra into her singing.

Comparisons one imagines are odious, but it was interesting to listen to Faure’s Requiem, performed by Kings College Choir in the Albert Hall the following day. In St David’s Hall the choir and orchestra often drowned the soloists. Also it was difficult to follow. The Kyrie and Agnus Dei were identifiable, but the succession of ‘’ operatic overtures’’ were not requiem like, full of grandeur though they were. Faure’s Requiem is more my idea of a requiem, with more of a religious character. Verdi interspersed magnificence with some gentle passages, and this did in some way convey the sense of launching somebody across the Styx.

1461016758

4 stars

Event:              The Welsh Proms – Verdi’s Requiem

At:                    St. David’s Hall, Cardiff

Seen:               8pm, 16th July, 2016

Reviewer:     Matthew Salisbury for 3rd Act Critics

Running:          16th July, 2016

Links:              http://www.welshproms.com/verdi-requiem.html

Orchestra:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra

Chorus:       Welsh Proms Cymru Festival Chorus
Cardiff Ardwyn Singers
Cardiff Polyphonic Choir
Llandaff Cathedral Choral Society

Soprano:    Rebecca Evans

Mezzo-soprano:   Kate Woolveridge,

Tenor:            Robyn Lyn
Bass:               Jason Howard

Conductor: Owain Arwel Hughes CBE

 

 

Review An Evening with Bryn Terfel and Friends Festival of Voice by Helen Joy

Bryn-Terfel-Photo-credit-Mei-Lewis

Photographic credit Mei Lewis 

4 Stars4 / 5

I sat on a wooden seat I remembered well from school days, from weddings, from funerals; from happy, sad and scary times. The doors open to the green light and the bird song, to the passers-by and the church bells.

We are a congregation of grey hairs, crumpled linen and sensible shoes, mostly. Only a few lift their phones to film as the orchestra and conductor walk in but this is not the place for pop concert technology and they are gently reminded as such.

This is the place for the wet velvet voices of the truly gifted to fill these old bones of a building with the beauty of centuries. And I am lost – I have no notion how to describe the feelings inside me.

Bryn Terfel – always magnificent with the strength of the lion; Rebecca Evans – the exquisitely powerful song of the angel; Hannah Stone – enchanting us all with the magic harp; Gareth Jones – blooming with the pride of leading Sinfonia Cymru. Bach, Handel and Mozart would have been thrilled – although they may have shown it in different ways!

So how do I describe an hour in their company? I thought about Epstein and his Christ In Glory looking out and over us – the bold decision of a Bishop and his Dean and Chapter in 1950 to recover their cathedral and make her grand again after the destruction of war – and found these words by their architect, George Pace: Mystery should be veiled and vista should open upon vista..seemed to sum it up rather well.

 Type of show:         Opera selection, harp

(Bach, Handel and Mozart, including Brandenburg Concerto No.60)

Title:                           An Evening with Bryn Terfel and Friends
Venue:                       Llandaff Cathedral

Conductor:               Gareth Jones
Bass Baritone:        Bryn Terfel
Soprano:                    Rebecca Evans
Harp:                            Hannah Stone

Orchestra:                  Sinfonia Cymru

Date:                              7pm, Tuesday 7th June only
http://www.wmc.org.uk/WhatsOn/voice/

 

End

Review La Voix Humaine by Helen Joy

La-Voix-Humaine-main

voix

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Location: Her apartment, in Penarth

The party, the At Home invitation, the Do I know You routine

The glass of fizz, the canapé

The uncomfortable seating of the unknown faces

The nervous conversations, the couples chatting together apart

The admiring of the view from the windows

Lovely Weather. Yes.

Are we participants? Voyeurs? Witnesses to a woman collapsing in front of us.

Seeing her destroy herself. Hearing her pain.

Afterwards, What friends were we? We let her do it. We watched.

The clinical beauty of a voice heartbroken had sung out of the windows and over the water.

We left

Event:             La Voix Humane

At:                   A flat in Penarth

Production:         Wales Millennium Centre and Welsh National Opera for Festival of the Voice

Director:               David Pountney

Voix:                        Claire Booth

Music:                     Ricordi

Translation:        Richard Stokes

Seen:              7.45pm, 3rd June, 2016

Reviewer:      Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:        03 Jun – 11 Jun 2016

Links:               https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/Other/LaVoixHumaine5/

 

 

 

 

Review Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci WNO by Helen Joy

Cav_Pag475

4 Stars4 / 5

Before I say anything about the production, let me say a few deservedly kind words about the staff at the Wales Millennium Centre. Always prompt to reply to calls and emails, always delightful at the counter; and on this occasion, exceptionally welcoming, generous and professional. A special thanks for the glass of water at the bar and the seat at the back on my return after a sharp exit in the first half. Note to self: keep cough sweets in handbag.

CavalleriaRusticana.DavidKempster(Alfio)andWNOChorus.Photocredit-BillCooper59

All production photographs credit Bill Cooper

Now, it is an interesting thing to change seats during a production. One minute I am gazing directly at centre stage and the next, I am at the back, looking side on. We forget how staging has accommodated us over the years and a 1970s repro set is a thing of beauty from the front; a thing of inconvenience from the side.

However, it is always a lovely thing. An old Victorian Christmas card has come to life in all its grandeur and its pathos. All bonnets and bayonets, Cavalleria rusticana is a comforting production. Camilla Roberts is cripplingly and sweetly intense, David Kempster is healthily robust and Gwyn Hughes Jones sturdily in control throughout.

Pagliacci.GwynHughesJones(Canio)andMeetaRaval(Nedda).Photocredit-BillCooper1291

It is dense and fat and fulsome – a wealthy work, confidently wrought.

Pagliacci is cloaked in the familiar faded colours but we are now in the 1940s, just a touring car for clowns and a troupe of singers keep us watching, listening.

Pagliacci.DavidKempster(Tonio)GwynHughesJones(Canio)MeetaRaval(Nedda)andCompany.Photocredit-BillCooper1395

A very funny cavalier play within a play becomes a tragedy within a tragedy; and we love it all. Meeta Raval is hot opera – sexy, winsome and hopeful, a tricky character well-played and so beautifully sung. Kempster and Hughes Jones give us opera on a plate – they sing a rich dish of verse and music designed to entertain and please as only the Italians can. It is superb.

Pagliacci.MeetaRaval(Nedda)TrystanLlŷrGriffiths(Beppe)andGwynHughesJones(Canio).Photocredit-BillCooper820

It is a production reminiscent of a period of flares and strikes but contemporary in its slick direction; popular pieces deserving of the magic touch of the Welsh National Opera.

Opera, Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci

Wales Millennium Centre

Mascagni & Leoncavallo

Welsh National Opera

Conductor            Carlo Rizzi

Director                 Elijah Moshinsky

Designer               Michael Yeargan

Lighting Designer              Howard Harrison

Seen:              7.15pm, 26th May, 2016

Reviewer:      Helen Joy for 3rd Act Critics

Running:        Birmingham Hippodrome 9 Jun – 11 Jun

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 26 May – 4 Jun

Links:               https://www.wno.org.uk/event/cavalleria-rusticana-pagliacci

Cavalleria rusticana cast

Turiddu Gwyn Hughes Jones

Alfio David Kempster

Santuzza Camilla Roberts

Mamma Lucia Anne-Marie Owens

Lola Rebecca Afonwy-Jones

Pagliacci cast   Canio Gwyn Hughes Jones

Tonio David Kempster

Nedda Meeta Raval

Silvio Gyula Nagy

Beppe Trystan Llŷr Griffiths

 

 

 

 

 

Review In Parenthesis WNO by Helen Joy

WNO In Parenthesis. Photo credit - Bill Cooper 925

5 Stars5 / 5

Remember me. The evening before I had sung those words when rehearsing with the Forget Me Not (dementia) Chorus. Haunting to hear them sung out again across the cavernous auditorium of the WMC by men in khaki uniform looking to their end in the First World War.

I am surrounded by men in uniform. Bearskins worn at the doors borne by giants amongst men. Soldiers in full dress, silver horn covers wedged in place with bits of blue cardboard and happy for a head scratch. Red carpet. ‘Busyness’ everywhere and the Centre comes alive to remember the dead.

The first half is hard going, like the waters of the Channel and the muddy war-torn ground Royal Welsh Fusiliers will tread on the Somme. Granddad Joy was injured out on the Somme. Joined up at 17, he would never talk about the war. Here we are, being entertained by it.

I wonder what the soldiers around me are thinking. The first act is removed from them by at least two generations, probably three. Soldiers on the stage sing their way into personalities of a different time.

Act two is different. The visceral consequences of a, by now, boring war. Surreal; trees engulf the men and pick them off one by one. The floral bonnets of the women are lain on the laps of the dead and they are commemorated, returning to the soil to push up new daisies, new trees.

I wonder how the men around me are feeling now.

The choral pieces, from both the male voice choir and the women’s, are gently discordant and hauntingly beautiful. David Jones’ words are spun through the air. The solos are clear and strong and tell the tale of men, old and young going to war. The women are left behind.

There is some humour amongst the pathos – in the back-chatting amongst the men – but not many of us laugh. We all sigh with the joyful relief of recognition when our lads sing Sospan Fach but we are only half way through. We sigh again over the filthy battlefield of Mametz and hope for them.

The sets are clever and simple – the inscribed grey wall slides down and the floor rises and soldiers are in a bunker, crawling away from safety and towards the light of fire.

We leave and push out into the red light of the commemorative installation outside the doors of the Centre. We have been entertained by war. It has been magnificent and dreadful and mad.

Type of show: opera

Title: In Parenthesis

Venue: Wales Millennium Centre

Dates: May 13 to July 1, 2016

Composer: Iain Bell

(Libbrettist: David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins – after David Jones)

Conductor: Carlo Rizzi

Director: David Poutney

Designer: Robert Innes Hopkins

Lighting Designer Malcolm Rippeth

Cast includes:

Private John Ball Andrew Bidlack

Bard of Brittannia/HQ Officer Peter Coleman-Wright

Bard of Germania/Alice the Barmaid/The Queen of the Woods Alexandra Decorates

Lieutenant Jenkins George Humphreys

Lance Corporal Lewis Marcus Farnsworth

Sergeant Snell Mark Le Brocq

Dai Greatcoat Donald Maxwell

The Marne Sergeant Graham Clark

Performances start at 7.15pm, except Royal Opera House on 29 June and 1 July at 7.30pm

Running time: approximately two hours and 30 minutes including one 20 min interval

Sung in English with subtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff)

See more at: https://www.wno.org.uk/event/parenthesis#sthash.6q0pYOy8.dpuf

Review by Helen Joy

www.theblockhouseblogger.wordpress.com

ENO Season Launch 16/17 by Hannah Goslin

https://d2ae1n566nbglo.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/04191332/2-Season-400x300.jpg

ENO

[English National Opera]

Season Launch 2016/2017

Audio file of written text is below

It’s been a tough year for the ENO.  Over a year ago Arts Council  England warned the company that unless they were to figure out their business plans then they would face cuts to their funding. And so it did. A 5 million pound cut was issued on the company. If this wasn’t enough, several resignations have caused a threat to the future process of the ENO.

Lucky enough to be invited, I attended the season launch where the management team aimed to not only excite us on the upcoming year but also to eradicate any lack of confidence in the company after such detrimental events. The new artistic director, Daniel Kramer – from what it would seem, a veteran in directing through theatre, musicals and predominantly Opera in the last year, made an appearance to instil confidence in us. His passion of the industry and positive attitude to overcoming the past year or so gave a smiling safety jacket to industry interest.

One brilliant aspect that I found interesting from the season launch was the company’s ethos in their target market. Ballet and Opera is forever known as a white middle class past time. The company has released a scheme which, while not new, they insist is tried and tested from previous years. 500 tickets per performance for £20 or under to bring in the masses who find the West End and London theatre difficult to purchase. Ticket prices can be off putting – and the knowledge that those who can afford high prices are possibly those who you would not normally associate with. By making performances more accessible, this clever idea is appealing to the unusual Opera goers. But this does not stop there; ENO are producing performances that artistically are not the usual Opera. The production of ‘Lulu’ really stood out to me – as one who is used to the proscenium arch, heavy costumed and heavy make upped performers in Opera, video footage of this performance with its avant-garde noir set and visual effects appealed to me immensely. Kramer also insists his eagerness to bring musicals to the ENO – purely to show the company’s versatility and bring in a different audience who would not have even entered the building previously.

And the ENO has not stopped there. With a large period where the in house orchestra and performers will not be residing at the Coliseum, outside companies will be hiring the space. Another nod to their expansion in audience interest.

 Where will the company be during this long time? The ENO are bringing themselves to the larger horizon – Hackney Empire, Southbank Centre, and all the way to Blackpool Winter Gardens. The company’s insistence to open up to the masses cannot be ignored, and seems they will not stop till they are acknowledged by diverse groups.

A slight novice to this niche part of the arts industry, my lack of knowledge is not for want or for avoidance – but due to a lot of issues raised on price, market audience and general Opera stereotyped culture. These business implements, to me, seem an intellectual idea and one that has immensely appealed to my curious yet ‘common’ interests.