Take Agatha Christie, Opera and a whole heap of comedy, slapstick and ridiculous antics and what do you have? A wild night on the Express G&S.
With minimal and moveable staging that sets us up on an entire train from cabins, to the lunch cart and so on, we undertake a short story that introduces characters, develops a plot and comes to conclusion, in quick and concise succession, something that Christie’s mysteries take so long to do. The scenes are able to change, giving one stage the ability to become all parts of a moving vehicle. And these are not just normal staging and set changes, but they are enhanced by the performers to create comedy and to ignore any pause that may come from such changes.
With a cast of 4, we are introduced to our “Poirot” and our accompanying pianist, but leaving the other two to chop and change between the “murder suspects”. With the slight change and addition of costuming, changes in persona and physicality, both performers are able to change effectively, creating more and more hammed up characters which make us laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Then we come to the Opera – almost like an operatic Disney movie, there is little space for spoken text but instead this is continuously sung. There is no underestimating the talent of these performers, with such extraordinary voices. However, I think it was unfortunate for them that the acoustics of the stage were not in their favour, sometimes dulling their sound or drowning them below the piano. This is of no fault of the cast or the venue, however looking at their tour, something like an outdoor venue which they are booked to perform at may help elevate the sounds.
One of the best parts of this production is its references to well known Operatic and Musical songs, ones that even if you are not familiar with either genre, you may have heard along the way, and their ability to change this to fit the play. The narratives are changed into hilarious, parody version, so while you’re tapping your toes, you are also splitting your sides not only at the lyrics but how effortlessly they have changed well known songs.
Express G&S is for all ages and a great deal of fun – enjoying it myself, I felt that for sure this would have been something my parents would have enjoyed, as murder mystery fans and its subtle mickey taking of Poirot.
In the article below members of the Get the Chance team share why the work of Get the Chance is important to them and their lives.
You can make a donation to support the work of Get the Chance here
Guy O’Donnell, Volunteer Director
Hi my name is Guy O’Donnell and I am the director of Get the Chance. In this short article our team share with you how vital Get the Chance is to them and their lives. If you can support our work, please donate at the link above.
Get the Chance is a social enterprise based in South Wales. We are Wales based with an international outlook. We work to create opportunities for a diverse range of people, to experience and respond to sport, art, culture and live events. We use our online magazine website as a platform to showcase our members activities. We provide a fantastic opportunity to develop cultural critical voices and ensure that people from certain groups of society, people that are often forgotten or unheard, are given a platform to share, review and discuss their lives and critique work in a public platform.
Not only have we supported conversations about the arts and culture in Wales, but we’ve also broken-down barriers and asked questions about who actually gets to critique art. It is this democratisation of criticism that is crucial to a healthy and thriving artistic community that listens to everyone. Thank you.
Gemma Treharne-Foose, Volunteer Director and Critic.
Hi, my name is Gemma Treharne-Foose. I’m a board member and volunteer with Get the Chance. We’re a community of volunteers, activists and enthusiasts dedicated to expanding the reach of arts, culture and sports in Wales. At Get the Chance, we exist to create a space and a platform for people to participate, engage in and respond to theatre, arts and culture. In particular, we help people who are perhaps traditionally hard to reach and support them to access and experience these spaces.
Part of the work we do with our community is to encourage and support them to build up their skills, responding to, vlogging about, and writing about their experiences accessing arts, theatre and culture, and also helping them access particular schemes and initiatives with partner organisations.
At the moment the arts and live event industries in Wales are hurting and they’re struggling right now as they try to access support and gain audiences in these uncertain times. I believe this is an arts emergency and I want part of my work with Get the Chance to support the industry to get back on its feet again and to get audiences enjoying live events and theatre again.
If you also want to support and highlight Welsh theatre, arts and culture then I’d encourage you to get involved. Let’s shine a light on the amazing work happening right now in Wales. The show must go on!
Barbara Michaels, Volunteer Critic.
As one of the most senior reviewers who has known Guy O’Donnell for many years, I can’t stress enough how important it is that Get the Chance continues to support the youngsters who want to become involved in the arts, many of them with the aim of a career in the media.
During the time over the years I’ve been reviewing, I’ve been really impressed by the young people who are coming up into the ranks, who have become very knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about their involvement with theatre. Unless we get some financial support, it’s going to be so difficult to continue with an organisation like Get the Chance which does so much good, giving opportunities to young people who wouldn’t have them.
With the cost of seeing the performances of opera and ballet and theatre rising, and inevitably it is going to rise more, it is absolutely vital that we have some support both financially and in all aspects of an organisation like Get the Chance. Thank you.
Kevin B Johnson, Volunteer Critic
Hi my name is Kevin, I work in an office, I like long walks on sunny beaches and I’m Sagittarius. Apart from that, I’m a member of Get the Chance because I like seeing new shows, new films and sharing them with other people, bringing my discoveries to others and getting a chance to view them. I like to highlight what I love about the shows that I’ve seen.
Becky Johnson, Volunteer Critic
Hi my name is Becky Johnson and I’m a member of Get the Chance. I’m actually a freelance dance artist based in Cardiff and I’m a member of Get the Chance alongside that. So with my practice I tend to create work, I tend to perform and I tend to teach, and a big part of me being an artist is making sure that I can see as much work as possible and then also understand the wider perspectives, on not only dance but also the arts in general and the things that are going on in our current climate and our local area.
So with having Get the Chance alongside of it, it allows me to access these different things and to get opportunities to see these, which I wouldn’t necessarily financially be able to do otherwise. Also, it allows me to have that time dedicated to just look at these things analytically and also just to really try and understand what is going on in what I’m watching and what I’m seeing, rather than just watching it and acknowledging what’s happening. Writing with Get the Chance gives me an opportunity to use my voice to promote the things that I really care about and things I’m passionate about, the things I think need to be highlighted, whether that’s something that’s problematic that I see in a show or something that I think’s wonderful that needs to be shown more of and we need to see more of.
Another opportunity that I’ve had recently which has been amazing is the opportunity to interview people that I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to speak to and to be able to give them a voice to speak about their platform and what they’re doing. This is really important to me as a lot of these issues are very important and very close to home and I think it’s something that without this platform I wouldn’t be able to do.
I’ve always loved writing, it’s something that I did always want to pursue but by being a member of Get the Chance I’ve been able to continue my writing in a way that’s still linked with my practice. It means that I can find the balance of both of these feeding each other. I’m really grateful for having this opportunity.
Leslie R Herman, Volunteer Critic
Get the Chance has been one of the ways I’ve been able to maintain a connection to the arts and culture in Wales. I’m writing this message from New York City. It is mid-August 2020. I’ve been unable to get back to Wales due to the Covid pandemic and the global lockdown. Not only am I really missing Wales, I’m missing connection, to people, to places and to the arts and culture that I’ve grown to love and live for – arts and culture that have helped me thrive throughout my life.
At the moment it really feels like we’re all of us spinning in our own orbits and cyberspace is our most vital tool but if that’s all we’ve got, I’m afraid it’s way too nebulous for me. I need to feel more grounded.
Get the Chance really has given me the opportunity to get grounded and to connect to people, to the arts, to culture. It’s given me the opportunity to mentor young people and it’s given me the opportunity to extend and rebuild my own career. What’s marvellous about get the chance is its open and flexible approach to giving people a chance to connect to culture. Why don’t you give Get the Chance a chance?
Beth Armstrong, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name’s Beth. I’m 24, and I’m from Wrexham, North Wales, and I’m currently training to be a primary school teacher. I’m a member of Get the Chance because it allows me to watch a great range of theatre performances which I wouldn’t normally get to see due to financial reasons, and also allows me to see a really diverse range of different kinds of theatre which I think is great for expanding my knowledge and experience of theatre in general.
Having my work published online is a great opportunity for me because it allows me to have a wide audience for my writing, and it also allows me to engage with other reviewers and read their work as well, so it’s a really fantastic opportunity.
Samuel Longville, Volunteer Critic
When I left university, Get the Chance was a really amazing, creative outlet for me. I was able to see so much theatre for free which would have been really difficult at the time, having left university as a not very well-off student. I was working a quite tedious nine-to-five job at the time so Get the Chance really served as that kind of creative outlet for me, allowing me to see as much theatre as possible, and not only to see it but to think about it critically and write reviews about it. So it really let me utilise the things I’d learned on my drama course at university.
I’m soon to start an MA in Arts Management at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and I think, without Get the Chance, my enthusiasm possibly could have wavered over the past year, and I still may be stuck doing the same nine-to-five job that I was previously doing. So I really can’t thank Guy and Get the Chance enough for all the opportunities they gave me over the past year.
Helen Joy, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Helen Joy, and I’m here to talk a little bit about my experiences with Guy O’Donnell and his extraordinary Get the Chance. I joined Get the Chance as a 3rd Act Critic when it started, which is a couple of years ago now, and I was a little less grey(!), and it has given me the most extraordinary opportunities that I would not have had the opportunity to take otherwise. For example, I was able to go to the Opera regularly, something I never thought I’d be able to do or that I would enjoy. I’ve been a keen follower of modern dance – ditto, never thought I’d do that – and it’s also given me the chance to really think about how I evaluate things.
So, for example, much more recently, I was given the chance to interview Marvin Thompson. I think this gave me one of the biggest challenges I’ve had for a long time. He, and the experience of planning and conducting an interview, and recording it visually and hourly on Zoom, made me really think about, not just how I wanted to react to him and to his work, but how I felt about it.
Often, I fall into a particular category: of the classic middle-aged, white, educated woman, where the opportunities are already ours, and we’re very lucky with that, but we’re also quite a silent group. People don’t really want to hear what we’ve got to say, which is why we tend to shout it from the rooftops I think; or why, equally, we disappear into the aisles of supermarket. This has given me and my colleagues tremendous opportunities to re-find our voices and to share them, to listen to what other generations have to say. It’s been a really important experience for me. Long may it continue. Thank you!
Barbara Hughes-Moore, Volunteer Critic.
My name is Barbara Hughes-Moore, and I recently completed my Doctorate in Law and Literature at Cardiff School of Law and Politics on Gothic Fiction and Criminal Law. So by day, I’m a scholar, a reviews editor, and a research assistant; and by night, I write longer retrospective pieces on film and television through a gothic and criminal lens on my personal blog.
I’m a member of Get the Chance because its mission is all about increasing the visibility of, and accessibility to, the arts for everyone. Since becoming a member, I have attended and reviewed numerous theatre productions at the Sherman Theatre, the New Theatre, and Chapter Arts Centre. I’ve been a featured speaker on the Sherman Theatre’s post-show panels. And, more recently, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing director Alison Hargreaves on her short film Camelot for the Uncertain Kingdom Anthology. Most importantly of all, Get the Chance has not only given me a voice – it has given me the space, the opportunity, and the confidence to use it.
Gareth Williams, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Gareth. I am 29 years old and I live in North East Wales, and I’ve been asked to say why I’m a member of Get the Chance, and I want to answer by slightly rephrasing the question in order to say what Get the Chance means to me. And first of all, it means having the opportunity to respond to the arts in Wales; to contribute to the discussion around arts and culture in Wales; and to engage with various art forms.
To that end, it is an opportunity to support and promote artists and organisations, particularly those that I’m passionate about. So for me, that looks like theatre, particularly the work of Theatr Clwyd in Mold; music – I’m a fan of country music, and it’s great to be able to showcase Welsh country music talent on the Get the Chance website – and TV drama. Welsh TV drama is going through a bit of a golden age at the moment, and it’s great to be able to be a part of that as somebody who critically reviews these shows as a writer.
I’ve always been much better at writing than speaking. I’ve never been very good at expressing an opinion though because of low self-esteem and confidence. But being a member of Get the Chance has given me an opportunity to express an opinion. It’s increased my self-esteem and my confidence to speak about how I feel about the things that I see and watch and listen to and engage with. And I think, for me, that is the most important thing about being a member of Get the Chance: that opportunity to express an opinion which, a couple of years ago, I would not have had the confidence to do.
Sian Thomas, Volunteer Critic
Hi! My name is Sian. The main reason I joined Get the Chance is because I love reading and I’ve always loved reading, and I really like having a definitive place where I can put down my thoughts on any piece of media and see people respond in so many different ways, and even the authors of the books that I’ve reviewed responding in so many different ways as well. It’s really lovely to have that kind of freedom of expression and I really value being a member.
Amina Elmi, Volunteer Critic
I am a member of Get the Chance because it gives me a platform where I can speak my mind . It allows me to give my opinion and being able to do so enables me to explore the media, the news and whatever preferred genre or medium of entertainment I want.
When it was introduced to me I was into writing and that has helped shape what dreams and ideals I have while also keeping my writing skills at a solid, good level. I am fortunate to be a part of Get The Chance because it has given me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.
Hannah Goslin, Volunteer Critic
I am a member of Get the Chance because theatre and the arts is what I eat, live and breath. To be able to connect with fellow performers, practitioners, critics and journalists is a wonderful chance to learn, be inspired and to network.
In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.
Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.
In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.
Capturing the Learning
These Zoom meetings will explore how we capture the learning from organisations and artists who are currently delivering projects. We’ll explore what methods are working well, what are we learning through this experience, and how we are adapting our working practices.
Kelly Barr, Arts and Creativity Programme Manger Age Cymru hosted the first Zoom participation meeting. The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Kelly gives an overview of the work Age Cymru has created to meet the challenges and the companies solutions to support the public and her service users in the current climate.
Hi can you tell me a little about yourself and your organisation?
Hi, I’m Kelly Barr, and I am the Arts and Creativity Programme Manager at Age Cymru, who are the national charity for older people in Wales. I have been working on participatory arts projects with all sorts of organisations for 6 years, including NDCWales, Earthfall and the Sherman.
The two main arts projects here at Age Cymru are Gwanwyn Festival, an annual celebration of creative ageing which happens in May each year, and cARTrefu, the largest arts in care homes project in Europe.
We also run other projects throughout the year that might try to tackle isolation and loneliness (like our Gwanwyn Clubs), stereotypes of ageing or representation of older people.
Your organisation is hosting one of the free Participatory Arts – Capturing the Learning / Beyond the Lockdown meetings. Why do you agree to support these events?
I am in a very fortunate position to still be working at this time, and I felt like I had a responsibility to support conversations within the participatory sector. I saw many people reacting wonderfully quickly and adapting their practice, but I also recognised that that isn’t always an option, particularly with the groups of people that I work with. I have always believed that we have much to learn from each other so it was an ideal opportunity to do my bit to support some good practice sharing.
What challenges has lockdown present to the delivery of your service?
Gwanwyn Festival has often been about bringing people together, many of whom are in the high-risk category at the moment, so we made the decision fairly swiftly to postpone the festival.
We had a duty of care to protect the people that might attend the festival events, and those that are running them.The creative ageing sector is very supportive so I have been lucky enough to have regular chats with colleagues across the UK and Ireland (Gwanwyn Festival was inspired by Bealtaine Festival), so that we can support each other to think about how festivals like ours might work moving forwards.
We also knew early on that it was going to be difficult to continue to deliver the cARTrefu project, as care homes were starting to close their doors in early March. We’re lucky to have supportive funders who we will be able to work closely with as things progress. We have multiple scenario plans but are very much being led by what care homes want and need right now.
What issues have your service users/participants faced?
I’m really proud to be part of Age Cymru, as they have been able to adapt really quickly during the pandemic to ensure that older people in Wales are supported. We run an Information and Advice line, which received a 200% increase in calls at the start of the pandemic; people needed advice on whether they should be self-isolating or shielding, where they could get support with food shopping and collecting prescriptions. People have also struggled to access their money, and needed support to find new ways to stay in touch with family members. I’m pleased to say that we have been able to help, in partnership with our local Age Cymru partners, Age Connects and other voluntary services across Wales.
What systems did you put in place to ensure delivery?
Many of us are well-used to working from home, but it’s been really important to find moments to connect with colleagues. Many of us are spending most of our day making calls to older people through our Check In and Chat service, so it’s not always easy to have online ‘meetings’ as often as we used to have physical meetings. So we’ve set up Whatsapp groups, we send voice-notes, have catch-up phone calls, send pet pictures (in my case, plants!) as well as whole team Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings. It’s ever changing and adapting!
With my specific work, it’s about being available to our partners and being flexible and open about the realities. We’ve been taking time as a team to think further ahead, and problem solve, and take any opportunities we can. We’re also keen to use Gwanwyn and cARTrefu Facebook, Gwanwyn Twitter and cARTrefu Instagram to promote creative opportunities for older people as far as we can.
Did you have any particular challenges or success that you would like to share?
Back in April, I, like many people who are in a position to, wanted to offer out informal chats to anyone interested in running creative ageing projects, or having to adapt current projects. I had no expectations of what would come from this, only that it felt like the right thing to do, but it’s introduced me to new practitioners and individuals, which has helped to build up my understanding of what’s happening in Wales. Many people I might have struggled to physically meet pre-lockdown, due to being based in Cardiff, I have been able to connect with over the phone. I hope to continue to offer this out and to meet more people – digitally!
What are your plans for future delivery?
We’re exploring a range of options at the moment, but we’ll be working closely with our Gwanwyn Festival event organisers to look at how this might be possible. There may be ways to replicate events online, or using social distance rules. I have no doubt that our event organisers are already coming up with innovative and interesting ways to continue to connect to people and I’m looking forward to working together to adapt and learn!
With cARTrefu, we are ensuring that we are listening to care homes, and being led by their needs right now. We have developed a fortnightly e-newsletter that gives care homes low-resource activities to try, and links to lots of online performances and activities from Age Cymru (like Tai Chi classes, now on our website) and other organisations.
I’m aware that we’re now regularly speaking to people that are more isolated, some of whom who aren’t connected to the internet, so a lot of my thinking has been about how to stay connected to them and to provide interactive creative opportunities that are offline.
I’d like to highlight Age Cymru’s Friend in Need service that has launched this week, and direct anyone to it if they’ve been supporting someone who is self-isolating or shielding through lockdown. There’s lots of useful guides and resources, as well as details of our new Befriending scheme – Friend in Need
A range of organisations have worked to continue delivery of their art form during lockdown are there any that you would like to mention that you found either professionally or personally useful?
I’d love to highlight the wonderful speakers from our first Participatory Arts Capturing the Learning Event:
The perfect balance of accessibility and enchantment, Carmen
provides an in-between of West-end theatrics and operatic skill.
Carmen is one of the more renowned operas and this rendition
from the Welsh National Opera has been immensely popular, bringing it back for
their spring season. Unlike other opera’s I’ve seen, not all the text used was sung
but there was a split between spoken moments and song. This blend of
familiarity meant that Carmen provided an easily accessible route into opera,
especially for those that are already used to seeing musical productions. Carmen
bared various resemblances to musicals I’ve seen prior such as Miss Saigon;
this was both in setting and the dynamics throughout the show. Therefore, there
was more breath and pause from the mixture of song and text which meant that as
a whole, the opera felt much shorter to the audience watching (which I’m sure
we know from the Harry Potter films is extremely important).
Throughout the whole of the piece, the ensemble were extremely
invested in their own roles and their individual plots within the piece. This
gave substance to the main storyline and the audience could easily follow that
throughout. The children were incredible, taking their roles with maturity and
giving true investment into their parts. My only criticism, being that you
could notice when they were waiting for prompts which is no fault of their own
but due to a lesser understanding and experience of improvising to fill the
It was the moments in which the focus was on the ensemble
that stay with me from the performance. Examples being: The children, mocking
the guards in their barracks, bringing a whirlwind of my life and joy to the
stage, The women from the tobacco factory, with their relentless desire and allure,
The gun smuggling scene, hiding weapons within various props and what you saw
was completely different to that of the person sat next to you due to the
variety and depth of what was occurring on stage, And finally, the
light-hearted scene outside of the bullring, with street vendors and people
haggling for refreshments.
The use of sound coming from the stage during these moments
were wonderful. There were made by the ensemble to accompany the orchestra and
added a sense of true passion coming from the performers. When they stamped
stools, clapped and slapped their body parts, the full stage came alive
radiating towards the audience.
I found the main characters struggled with their realism,
especially within moments of intimacy. When Carmen kisses Jose, the kiss feels
distant as the characters aren’t close enough, I almost desired a real kiss to
fulfil those moments. It seems to be these moments between Jose and Carmen that
lacked their depth, another example being when Carmen hits Jose with a towel
but does it so softly that the anger doesn’t seep through in the way intended.
In opposition to this, Escamillo embodies his character wonderfully, portraying
himself in such a way that the audience dislikes his arrogance. However,
physically, when posing and using stronger gestures, he needed to be more over
the top and exaggerated to really stay true to his characters’ aurora.
There were moments of confusion throughout the piece for the
audience, especially in regards as to what was being sang by whom. The subtitles
didn’t repeat, even when a character did. Also, when two characters were
singing a call and response section, this failed due to them both singing both
parts combined with the lack of captions above. In order to fix the problems
within the call and response between characters, it could require something as
simple as just spatial re-alignment. By moving the characters to different
parts of the stage, the audience would be forced to look from character to
character and therefore, from one side to the other which would ensure the
audience understands the conversations being had.
To conclude, I think Carmen is the perfect gateway between a
musical and an opera. With song, dance and text, the audience is immersed
throughout the performance and is moved alongside the storyline with the
characters. However, I feel this rendition needed more work with the small
details, those that change a performance into excellence. By working on the
physicality of the main characters and fine tuning on key moments, the whole
storyline would become easier to follow to the audience.
A magnificent experience from start to end; if you haven’t been to see a live orchestra, I cannot recommend the experience enough, especially a performance by the BBC National Orchestra.
For the annual “Dydd Gwyl Dewi” by the BBC National Orchestra and chorus of Wales, a celebration of all things Welsh occurred. The event marks the start of a partnership with Orchestre Synphonique de Bretagne and was conducted by Musical Director Grant Llewellyn. This collaboration showcased performances from the National Youth Orchestra and the orchestra’s partnership with the Welsh folk band Calan.
The performance began with the string section and wow! The bows leaped and danced in bounds of rhythm and movement with each other. Mesmerised by the spiralling and winding of the violinists, the sound echoed both visually in front of us as well as audibly, surrounding our senses. It was only in the moments of rest in which the musicians once again became human. Otherwise, you were entranced by the bountiful immersion occurring on stage.
Whilst conducting Llewellyn, would dance (although often like a dad whilst making dinner in the kitchen) with the music taking over his physical being which would emit onto us, the audience. There were moments which were Matilda-esque, playing with the electricity between the different musicians.
Flickers of imagery from time to time would overwhelm my
thoughts, either that of memories of children playing in fields or of the roaming
hills I would often watch through a train window. I felt at peace.
Each piece within the performance held its own providing a
new stimulus for us to focus on. The second was more heavily percussioned. Again,
the musicians danced, but this time it was those playing the Glockenspiel that
lead the way, bouncing from note to note. My only questions being that once the
choir was introduced, does the orchestra take a backseat? As the audience, both
parts seemed equally powerful and important so I questioned whether one should
be a lesser superior component.
With the third piece, there was also this playing of power. The soloist, Angharad Lynddon, sombre in tone but beautifully delicate with accent, teased between the everchanging balance between the orchestra and herself. This teasing continued into the fourth piece, with a sense of non- competitive play in rolling waves of triumph.
The fifth, probably my favourite of the day, balanced the
old and the new in the most magical way. It balanced the factors of delicate
comedy with moments that were boisterous with power in such a way we were
enchanted by the relentless percussion.
This continuation of a modern fusion with the more classical
was profound in the second half of the show. There was an explosion of life
with odes to all elements of traditional welsh culture, with references from
Caws to clog dancing. However, I do feel with the introduction of Calan, both
the orchestra and choir became neglected. The percussion was replaced by the
rhythmic plucking of the guitarist and the focus was turned more towards the
band. I desired a more equal balance between the components, whether this could
have occurred spatially, with the band in the centre of the orchestra or if it
was something musical that needed to be altered. Although, it was incredible to
watch Llewellyn conduct both the orchestra and the band, with the relationship
between the three was clearly evident.
To conclude, the whole experience and atmosphere was a magnificent experience from start to end; if you haven’t been to see a live orchestra, I cannot recommend the experience enough, especially a performance by the BBC National Orchestra.
We are both saddened to see the vast array of cultural cancellations over the past day and proud to see so many companies putting the health of their staff, participants and audiences first.
The arts are an important part of many of our lives, and we’re also excited to see so many isolation friendly options arising. We’ve started a list of online dance and yoga classes, digital only festivals and a huge array of dance, opera, theatre, museums and CPD activities you can do from home – including full NDCWales performances. Please share this resource and let us know of other fab things we can add to it.
______________________ Mae’r ddau ohonom yn drist iawn o weld yr ystod eang o ddigwyddiadau diwylliannol sydd wedi cael eu canslo ers ddoe ac yn falch o weld cymaint o gwmnïau yn rhoi iechyd eu staff, cyfranogwyr a chynulleidfaoedd yn gyntaf. Mae’r celfyddydau yn rhan bwysig o fywydau sawl un ohonom, ac rydym hefyd yn teimlo’n gyffrous i weld cynifer o opsiynau y gellir eu gwneud wrth hunan-ynysu yn codi.Rydym wedi dechrau rhestr o ddosbarthiadau dawns ac ioga ar-lein, gwyliau digidol yn unig a llu o bethau yn seiliedig ar ddawns, opera, y theatr ac amgueddfeydd, a gweithgareddau y gallwch eu gwneud adref – gan gynnwys perfformiadau CDCCymru llawn.
Rhannwch yr adnodd hwn a rhowch wybod i ni am bethau gwych, eraill y gallwn eu hychwanegu ato.
NDCWales P.A.R.A.D.E. including choreography by Caroline Finn, Marcos Morau and Lee Johnson, in collaboration with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rubicon Dance and Vertical Dance Kate Lawrence; filmed by The Space Arts. https://vimeo.com/248459479
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The latest WNO’s production of Carmen is engaging and well executed though still a little too traditional. The excellent cast, choir, and orchestra make this Carmen spirited, colourful, and vibrant. Julia Mintzer as Carmen is pure energy and grit. This is a great improvement from last year’s production, which lacked tension and teeth. Mintzer has stage presence and a voice to match it. She is a credible Carmen who never falls into stereotype. She’s sensual and defiant. She defies her murderer but also fate. Carmen is a woman who does not want to be confined to a role, not even the role of outsider. It is her stubborn individuality that leads her to her death. She does not flee nor does she accept to be under the authority of a man. She is not a victim.
Elin Pritchard as Micaëla is superb. She has a beautiful tonality and conveys Micaela’s pure love and compassion with dignity. Mintzer and Pritchard complement each other beautifully in their acting and their singing. Peter Auty is an impressive Don José. Giorgio Caoduro seems at ease performing Escamillo and much more convincing than he was in Les VeprêsSiciliennes. All the members of the cast give strong performances. The choir is, as ever, powerful. The children, in particular, are formidable. The dance is captivating and well integrated in the scenes.
I remain unpersuaded by the setting in Brazil’s favelas and the grey brutalist scenario; yet the much improved acting and movement on stage help make this more relevant. The intent is to stress class as well as gender, but it feels too traditionalist and conventional. I would have preferred the production to be bolder. In recent years, there have been women protesting against femicide and rape in Latin America, Europe, and India. They have often used theatre and song to do so. There have been women protests against draconian abortion laws in the US, where women have donned the red cape and white hat from The Handmaiden’s Tale. Yet there is no anger in Jo Davies’ WNO production. It could be objected that opera is for a traditionalist and bourgeois elite, but I sat surrounded by many young women in their early twenties. Carmen can speak to those women. There should be not fear of being over the top. Being over the top is what Carmen is all about.
The WNO’s powerful choir and masterful conductor Carlo Rizzi excel in this disappointing production of Verdi’s Les VêpresSiciliennes. A challenging opera, Les Vêpres, is let down by voices lacking the sufficient power required by Verdi’s music and an ill-judged set design. In contrast, the short but effective dances, choreographed by Caroline Finn of the National Dance Company Wales, add an extra dimension to the unfolding of the story.
The cast overall lacks voices that can match and rise above Verdi’s score, with the exception of Jung Soo Yun, who interprets Henri and has sufficient presence throughout the opera. The soprano Anush Hovhannisyan, interpreting La Duchesse Hélène, underperforms in the first part of the opera. She lacks coloratura, but her more spinto voice excels in the second part. The WNO have a strong Verdi repertoire. The choir is as strong as ever and so is the orchestra, conducted by Carlo Rizzi. The production is let down by the self-indulgent aestheticism of the set design by Raimund Bauer that falls for misogynistic forms.
Les VêpresSiciliennes refers to the massacre in 1282 by Sicilians of the Angioine lords who had taken possession of Sicily from the Spanish Aragonese. Sicilians rise up in response to the rape of ‘their’ women. One need not be an anthropologist to know that women and their bodies have always been taken as the symbolic and spatial boundaries of the nation. Rape continues to be a weapon of war because of its symbolism. Women are owned by men. The enemy takes possession of land and power through rape. This includes the raping of men who are, in this instance, feminised.
In this production, the rape is conveyed by parading a dinner table displaying lavish food and naked women. This is followed by a woman with red marks on her naked back strapped sensuously to red strings. It is disturbing that in this day and age, one should remind directors that the glamorisation of violence against women is misogynistic. It is the same aesthetic indulgence seen in the film Nocturnal Animals by Tom Ford. Directors should stop making women into beautiful objects and beautiful victims. In contrast, the dance telling the story of the rape of Henri’s mother and his birth is powerful and tasteful. It is choreographed with subtlety and a touch of humour.
In Verdi’s opera, Sicilians rising up to the foreign conquerors is more than a nod to the Italian Risorgimento but also to the popular sentiment against despotic landowners. Yet the nationalistic references to dying for one’s country feel uncomfortable today, at a time of nationalistic nostalgia. The libretto cannot be changed but the set consisting of a series of black frames and an over indulgence in silhouettes makes for an oppressive atmosphere. The aestheticism of this production fails to grapple with the issues and to support the interpretation on stage.
Produced by the Welsh National Opera, Les Vepres Siciliennes,
stands as one part of the trilogy released this spring term. This was my first
experience of an opera, only previously dabbling my toes in with WNO’s
collaboration with National Dance Company Wales in Parade. I felt like
something which utilised dance in which I’m more familiar would act as a great entry
to the world of opera. And in that, I was correct.
Before the performance began, both at the very beginning and
after the interval, the orchestra gave an instrumental opening. This
transcended us into the themes of the piece, providing context and a gateway for
what we were being propelled into. These were incredible and whisked you in and
out of your own thoughts, trying to make sense and pre-empt what was to come.
As the curtains raised, a simple, stripped back set emerged.
A rectangular frame which was lit with a box light, formed a storyboard
backdrop in which the piece would take place. The set remained as one of my
favourite components within the piece, it really made the performance more
modern and with the constant re-arranging of various frames, kept the audience’s
attention focussed. The frames allowed the audience to see difference upon the
stage and engage in different perspectives, that of memories of the past and
the difference of location in the present. However, one concern from the set is
that due to its’ abstract nature, it reduces the accessibility of the piece.
For those with hearing difficulties, the lack of a definitive nature within the
background provides no context and makes the plot hard to follow. Also due to
the thickness of the frames, your view is restricted regardless of positioning
of seat which means at times you can’t see key moments of what’s occurring on
Also, along the terms of accessibility, the placement and structuring with the subtitles was problematic. It was severely difficult to see the stage and read the subtitles at the same time so often important moments of the plot were missed (both in context from the subtitles and in performance on the stage). It also became confusing when two characters were holding a conversation as there was no way to see difference within the text as to who was stating what and whether the text was in time with the vocals or not. I would propose maybe matching a colour to a performer and from there more of an understanding could be built.
The imagery throughout the piece was beautiful in its
simplicity. It played with shadows and outlines and how people fell into and
out of the light using silhouettes to make powerful, thought provoking
statements. The use of darkness created the ambience for the work but was
broken by bright coloured costumes which created contrast from the otherwise
A piece of imagery that still resonates with me now is that of a gold table being dragged around the stage with the dancers limp and naked, draped over the table like meat at a banquet dinner. This embodiment from the dancers really added depth to the performance throughout and I often found the moments in which the dancers were included provided the much-needed breath for the performance, often bringing a sense of lightness to what would be an otherwise dark stage. The involvement of such an abundance of dance within the opera was a brilliant decision as added the much needed movement and transitions onto the stage. This also provided light-heartedness and a more intense context for what was happening within the storyline.
I felt the performers, both ensemble and main cast, otherwise lacked the embodiment of their characters which was needed. They sang and performed beautifully but the small details such as the realism of touch and emotion seemed absent. For example, at times of compassion, hands were resistant from those whom they were compassionate towards. These moments were both when the performers were acting and responding to what was being sang. This intention would normally provide clarity into the storyline of the piece and without investment from the characters, the emotional plot of the story became difficult to follow.
In Summary Les Vepres Siciliennes provided a perfect gateway
for me into the world of opera. The mixture of dance, choreographed by Caroline
Finn, and opera made it a lot more accessible for me and with such beautiful
imagery throughout I was enchanted and engaged.
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