Would you ever consider being an assassin to be the ‘easiest job in the world’? Well, for characters like Joss and Sol, it isn’t far from the truth given their years of leading double lives. Want the Moon is a new theatre company that has just finished touring at Brighton Fringe and are currently in London showing previews of their debut production, Other People’s Teeth before they head up to Edinburgh.
Review Written by Tony Watts
A veritable Valhalla of vocalism
Such was the glorious amplitude of Birgit Nilsson’s shining, sword-like soprano that one of her colleagues was moved to remark that the further away you were from her on stage, the closer she sounded! How fitting it is that Decca Classics has chosen to commemorate this great singer’s centenary with a boxed set of suitable size and splendour. An exceedingly grand total of no fewer than seventy-nine CDs and two DVDs encompasses the diva’s complete recorded output for the DG, Decca and Phillips labels, with several items which originally appeared on EMI included for good measure. A veritable Valhalla of vocalism featuring twenty-seven complete operas and any number of recitals and discs of excerpts. There are the famous Ring Cycles and Tristans conducted by Böhm and Solti, plus a disc’s worth of excerpts from the latter conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch. The finely-cast Leinsdorf Walküre is included, as is the late ‘sixties Tannhauser conducted by Otto Gerdes in which Nilsson sings both Elisabeth and Venus, no mean feat even if it is in the recording studio rather than the opera house. Nilson’s famous recordings of Richard Strauss’s Salome and Elektra naturally take their place, as does a live Die Frau ohne Schatten under Böhm though her best days were slightly behind her in the latter.
Confession time… I’ve seen Kasper Holten’s Royal Opera House (ROH) production of Don Giovanni before, but it wasn’t live at the opera house. In 2014, it was broadcast live to UK cinemas. I recall how fascinating the production was. Creative video designs and light installations lit up the stage while the set, itself, was plain white and, pretty much, empty. All became three dimensional when you saw Es Devlin’s all-white Escher-style mansion with its many endless stairs and rotating platforms. One could only guess that Holten had set his opera in a non-specific time or era. It’s a mix between the modern, with the Don’s fur jacket, and the Romantic period of Mozart’s (18th century) time through Anja Vang Kragh’s distinctively rich costumes.
Opera North’s talented and fun-loving production, comprising of eighteen characters, ten dancers and a large chorus, is now showing at the London Coliseum and it captures the hearts of many musical and opera lovers. This is Opera North’s second major revival following The Old Vic’s 2012 production of Cole Porter, Bella and Samuel Spewack’s Broadway masterpiece. Colin Richmond’s bright Elizabethan costumes and flamboyant set designs of Bianca, Kate and father Baptista’s stately home (based off the Shakespeare play) are impressive and ambitious.
Attending the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre for the first time last night, I had a sense that the outdoor, natural setting would make it difficult for other productions of Britten’s opera to compete. This is a collaborative project with the English National Opera (ENO), in hope of introducing dedicated members and regular attendees of the Open Air theatre to opera. And in many ways it succeeds.
I cannot even begin to tell you how uplifting it was to see three-time Academy Award nominee Laura Linney at the Bridge Theatre delivering Elizabeth Strout’s book, My Name is Lucy Barton, which was aptly adapted for the stage by Rona Munro. Tickets sold out fast for Linney and so far the Bridge Theatre has been receiving great reviews ever since its pioneering production, Julius Caesar (read my review here) was staged. I didn’t stop myself from booking a seat for the production after it, Nightfall (my review here) written by Barney Norris with cast actor, Ophelia Lovibond. And here I am again regaling my positive feelings for the Bridge Theatre.
I had the privilege of seeing Hampstead Garden Operas’ 1960s production of La traviata (my review here), yet I missed out on English National Opera’s alternative production that received mixed reactions from the critics. I was quite keen to see their version of Violetta lost in The Day of the Dead-style graveyard, having strange encounters with the licker man.
Last month, Opera Holland Park opened their 2018 season also with La traviata, yet their production went back to the classic and elegant 19th century, where the story had begun. There is not one controversial aspect about it, which does the production a huge favor in my humble opinion. Continue reading
Pamela Tan-Nicholson’s world premiere of TriOperas is now showing at the Peacock Theatre, and it is exactly what the name suggests. TriOperas reveals the stories behind three operatic epics under the names, Turandot, Butterfly, Carmen Reimagined. Having seen it, I can confidently say those expecting to see classical opera will be disappointed. Nevertheless, this ambitious show, which compresses Puccini and Bizet’s operas with operatic singing, kung-fu, breakdancing, ballet, tap, Chinese lion wushu, acrobatics and salsa, deserves credit for showcasing operatic works in a way that makes opera accessible to young theatregoers.
2018 marks the bicentenary of the birth of Marius Petipa, ballet’s greatest choreographer. Ever since the 19th-century, choreographers have been inspired by his work: his formal patterns, corps de ballet and pas de deux. For classical ballets that have been performed hundreds of times, the stakes are high for new, quality-made productions. Today’s choreographers have to think of innovative ways to retain Petipa’s classical techniques whilst, somehow, reinvent them. On the other hand, conductors and orchestras have to perform Tchaikovsky’s intricate score dramatically and poignantly, just as the composer would have wanted. For the English National Ballet’s (ENB) 2018 opening of Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty, many of its lead performers managed to sweep the audience off their feet. (Indeed, I was one of them.)