‘Sensational Butterflies’ is the Natural History Museum’s exhibition which has bought together hundreds of tropical butterflies and moths from six continents, including Africa, South America and South East Asia, and situated them in one butterfly house for all to see. Luke Brown, manager of the butterfly house, was pleased with the diversity of butterflies that had flown in from all over the globe and hoped that it would give people a chance not only to immerse themselves in butterflies but, also, learn more about the butterfly’s way of life.
Last night (May 20th) saw the live broadcast of Richard Eyre’s production of ‘La Traviata,’ which celebrates its 20thyear at the Royal Opera House. Viewers from all over the globe could stream it online from their Ipad while several open-air locations throughout the UK broadcasted it live to the public. Since 2000 ‘BP Big Screen Live’ has been providing opera broadcasts due to its success of encouraging first-timers to opera and experiencing it for free. Despite the warning of potential rain, Trafalgar square was a full house.
Violetta was casted by Ailyn Pérez who has built a strong relationship with the Royal Opera House. She was Liù in this year’s production of ‘Turandot’ where she received a grand applause for instilling tenderness and sorrow in her role – tonight was no exception; in fact, her performance was better. Following the shambled première of ‘La Traviata’ (1953), its composer, Verdi, wrote to his friends that Violetta required a highly talented coloratura soprano who encompassed elegance, charm and beauty whilst embracing her shortcomings as a high-class prostitute dying from consumption. Pérez managed to maintain her vocal strength after missing a couple of notes at the end of ‘Sempre Libera’ ;it was in Act 3 this was forgotten and she managed to gain the audience’s undivided attention and make some cry – Trafalgar square became silent.
Stephen Costello, who plays Alfredo, is Pérez’s husband off-stage which provides a twist to their on-stage relationship. He imparts a refreshing illustration of Alfredo’s character in comparison to others; Alfredo does not pretend to be an aristocratic alpha male but a naïve man susceptible to intense emotions as he shows us tears and remorse for embarrassing Violetta in front of society. One can imagine that the couple’s cleverly crafted depiction of Violetta and Alfredo is based on their countless practice sessions together at home; resulting in, no other than, a stunning performance.
Germont (Simon Leenlyside) was a passionately aggressive father scrunching up letters and hitting his son (only once) who, unfortunately, did not provide enough conviction or sympathy for suffering Violetta. However, the dance choreographies from the gypsy girls and manly matadors were exciting. This was a combination of flamboyance, flamenco dancing, musical stamping and radiant smiles, which Trafalgar square enjoyed; some even hummed the song in the intervals.
In addition to the sumptuous costume, the set design by Daniel Dooner follows the success of 20 years through the use of large spaces for the scenes of high society versus the small intimate spaces for the lovers, which gives the production a sense of juxtaposition that Verdi wanted the audience to see. An example of this is when the full-of-life carnival song ‘baccanale’ takes place outside Violetta’s home and large silhouettes overshadow her lonely and critically ill state. Dooner’s stage and Eyre’s direction is a reminder of the private; feeble nature of Violetta, versus the public; realism of 19th century values that Verdi wanted to undermine for his own artistic purposes.
The next BP Big Screen Live showing takes place on the 15th July of Puccini’s ‘La Boheme.’
Who would have thought that talented opera voices, in this case Opera Erratica, a repurposed recording of an English audio course and a socially polite orgy, could work together simultaneously and make an audience chuckle. This comes as the comedic and middle part of the three sections that make up ‘Triptych’ named ‘A Party.’ Its composer Thomas Smetryns attempts to prove how socialisation depends on the language we use and does this with panache. The singers, stroke, performance artists, hold cheeky smiles and mischievous twinkles in their eyes that lead to a silly yet playful performance of throwing clothes in the air, whistling, reversing and slowing down the tempo of voices (which amusingly mimic foreign languages) and conclude with a group synchronised sexual climax from a 1950s LP repeating the verb, ‘to come’ in the background.
‘Triptych’ which is showing at the Print Room, is a fresh contemporary opera that experiments with various mediums including visual art, voice, fashion, performance art, projected images, electronica and video. Gavin Turk, international contemporary artist designed the set as a ‘fake’ art gallery securing physical focal points for the singers which was adaptable for all three parts: a comedy, tragedy and a story about nuns which echo the musical mastery of opera composer, Puccini and his Il trittico. However, besides this distinction, there is no resemblance to the 19thcentury classical opera in any shape or form.
The first part, ‘Reunion’ by Christian Mason is a sacred ceremony that is sung mercifully in the name of God in tandem with an interview with a would-be nun talking to her ex-lover of past and present experiences. All singers of Opera Erratica (Kate Symonds-Joy, Lucy Goddard, Oskar McCarthy, Callie Swarbrick and Catherine Carter) show off their true operatic prowess by letting their voices describe the sorrow and holiness of the convert’s sacrifice. The execution of light humming that build up to a vocally strenuous and highly concentrated harmonisation from all voices give an audience a hefty performance which puts church choirs to shame. This, and interesting backdrops of moving dots which float in parallel to the voices as well as Swarbrick’s zoomed in pretty face develops the visual senses and heightens the intensity of the opera. However, Swarbrick needlessly stands naked with her back to the audience, which is an artistic device that was pointlessly added. ‘Reunion’ is a multi-layered piece of voices which although intriguing only warmed to the audience half way through its performance.
The last piece is Chris Mayo’s ‘The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered’, which goes back to 1972 reliving the mysterious life of Richard Nickels and his fascination of Louis Sullivan architecture. Electronic music creeps in and large projections of moving blue prints of these building glide across the set, however a lot of questions are left unanswered. Singers start a sentence and pass the words to each other to create a cleverly constructed musical collage – and creative collaboration – that make up bits and pieces of Nickel’s character. Yet, still it was hard to appreciate all part of Mayo’s piece but the music.
Opera Erratica’s director Patrick Eakin Young has introduced a stylish mish mash of what hasn’t been done before. Smetryns’s piece is the favourite, which interestingly enough has the least opera, proving that there is still a lot more Opera Erratica can offer. There is potential when there’s an open-minded audience willing to see new opera merged with art, which deconstructs the norm. The insights are endless.
(Production dates: 17 May – 7 June 2014)
Pamela Schermann, international opera and theatre director has teamed up with the young and diverse theatre company, Time Zone Theatre, to produce Christoph Willibald Gluck’s most popular and reformed opera, Orpheus and Eurydice at the Rose Theatre, which also celebrates Gluck’s 300th anniversary.
The dark excavated area of the Rose is taken fully advantage of by the singers, Green and Mimi Doulton (Eurydice) who although positioned far from the audience, and the quartet close by, gives vocal clarity and sharpness which resonate from both directions. Doulton has a robust voice and when confused of her husband’s actions sings unrelentlessly and provides a heart-wrenching feast. The soprano Olivia Doutney despite having a small choir part proved to have potential as well.
This production has ended but please click Here for more information on the Rose Theatre.