Akademi tantalised Hounslow’s local community last Saturday with their multifaceted exploration of Dante’s Paradiso: Man’s Enduring Search for Perfection at Bell Square London, a free festival packed with dance and physical theatre performances. Paradiso is a poignant and highly moving piece of choreography. Following the inspirational conceptualisation of Akademi’s director Mira Kaushik OBE and choreographer Jose Agudo, Akademi instills Dante’s final stage of his narrative poem, written in1308-1321, The Divine Comedy, through a wide-range of contemporary and traditional Indian dance styles.
Summer warmth and longer days have finally arrived in London. This is the time to set up your calendar for an eventful summer filled with outdoor events. If you live in the Hounslow area, known for its all-week diverse and multicultural market stalls, why not take a seat at Bell Square (Hounslow High Street) for FREE to see amazing dance, theatre, acrobatic and circus-inspired performances?
Bell Square London launched in 2014 in the heart of Hounslow to bring performance art to the local community. Residents of Hounslow have returned each year to see exciting, international world-class acts which have toured at prime theatre venues. All first-timers to Bell Square London are welcome, and there is no age restriction. Whether you are a two-year-old or a ninety-year-old, there’s something for all audiences to enjoy!
This post is divided into Part I and Part II.
Part I – My thoughts on Keith Warner’s production of Otello at the Covent Garden, 2017.
Part 2 – My thoughts on seeing the opera at the Covent Garden, then seeing it again for the cinema Encore.
Part I : Othello versus Otello.
Before I begin, I want to make something clear. Othello is the original theatrical marvel written by the Bard (Shakespeare) in 1601. Verdi’s own interpretation Otello came along after, which he composed with Arrigo Boito in 1887 after seeing a production of Shakespeare’s play in England, 1847. Despite the English playwright’s influence on Verdi’s masterwork sitting in the opera house being armed with information about Othello won’t heighten your opera experience much. For anyone who is a big Othello fan (me!), they will know that watching Otello should be treated as a different reading entirely. For example, compared to the original play, Desdemona and Emilia say a lot more and unfortunately their characters don’t get the chance to develop as much in the opera. For some reason, Verdi plays down Emilia’s realism. In act 3, scene 4 of the original text, Emilia says to Desdemona, ‘Tis not a year or two shows us a man: They are all stomachs, as we are all but food…’ Not a dime of this shiny humour or wittiness exists in Boito’s libretto. Secondly, the ending is very different. Justice is not served. Iago gets away with creating the chaotic bloodbath without getting his hands dirty. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why Verdi originally wanted to call the opera ‘Iago’.
For the first time, our ‘dreamy’ tenor Jonas Kaufmann performs the lead role of Otello. This was, and still is, ‘the highly anticipated event’ of the year in the opera world. Known as Verdi’s most mature and highly orchestrated piece of work, composed during the final chapters of the composer’s life, the Royal Opera House has returned to the opera after 30 years’ absence with a superb cast sheet of performers including In Sung Sim (Lodovico), Marco Vratogna (Iago) Maria Agresta (Desdemona), Frederic Antoun (Cassio) and Kai Rüütel (Emilia).
Open curtain: it’s an office of cubicles with Bach’s Mass in B minor (Gloria) playing in the background. It’s a 21st-century office heralding the presence of an intern and a copy assistant. What is hell is going on in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins play Gloria now showing at the Hampstead Theatre?
I have a lot of things to say about Gloria mostly because of its content, or at least the first half of it, which is something many writers and media-type workers have to face every day. US playwright Jacobs-Jenkins has given us a sneak preview of a New York-based magazine where editorial assistants grab Star Buck lattes, tweet fake news, swipe for real-time news on their smartphones, handle the puke of their editorial managers and desperately cling onto their dreams of becoming an influential writer one day.
For us audience members, Jacobs-Jenkins describes one out of the zillion office-based careers where climbing the ladder, making a name for yourself and starting off as a low paid, or barely paid, intern is the mainstay for most competitive industries. For Gloria, it’s the soullessness of the magazine industry and the playwright should know given his three years at The New Yorker.
This year BP Big Screens will be showing The Dream / Symphonic Variations / Marguerite and Armand on 7 June, Verdi’s La traviata on 4 July and Puccini’s Turandot on 14 July. Hundreds of spectators can watch opera for free in the open at various venues throughout the UK including Trafalgar Square, Aberdeen, York and Newcastle. And with Jonas Kaufmann’s lead role as Otello being live streamed to cinemas from the Covent Garden on Wednesday 28th June (encore 2nd July), it may be a good time to rethink the value (or disvalue) of broadcasting opera on the silver screen, and whether or not it can develop new opera audiences.
Here is an article I wrote back in September 2015, which I didn’t get round to publishing online. (If you want my bibliography or list of references, I’d gladly share them with you.) I’m playing a bit of devil’s advocate with my suggestions, but I hope it gives readers an idea of the ongoing debate on whether it is an effective way of developing new audiences for a genre that is suffering from smaller audience numbers and losing confidence, particularly in the UK, due to cuts to their arts aid in a digital era where “being there” isn’t as imperative as it used to be.
Special thanks to Gate Picturehouse, the Royal Opera House and BBC Proms for offering information promptly, including Tom Nelson and Miranda Keys for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts and experiences of live broadcast. Continue reading
Two shows written by the same writer are minutes away from each other. There’s the one that is super gripping, superbly written and witty called Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (review here) and then there’s the other one that will have people flinching within the first few minutes and rolling their eyes after the first hour.
As many theatre lovers will know, the theatre is that special place where there are no rules. There are no expectations, guidelines or laws to govern how the storytelling should go. The stage is a blank space where great ideas are discussed, audiences learn something new and grapple with concepts and subjects they wouldn’t come across in their day-to-day; perhaps it would be too inappropriate for the workplace or even the family table. Edward Albee’s Goat is a fabulous example of that – the limitless possibilities of theatre, which may involve provoking and shocking audiences.
At the Savoy Theatre, director-choreographer Michael Bennett sees his 1981 Tony award-winning hit get a UK premiere. Anyone who loves musicals and strong vocals shouldn’t hesitate to see Dreamgirls. It is without question that lovers of Motown and soul music will also be more than satisfied with what Dreamgirls has to offer.
Loosely based on The Supremes, Dreamgirls is a reminder of the struggles of the music industry during 1960’s America – a time when blues and jazz music were once described as ‘race music’, and only then had the uprising of the African-American Civil Rights movement just begun.
It was roughly around the same time last year that Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra visited the South Bank Centre to perform Mozart’s Magic Flute. It was fun and colourful for the younger audiences and enthusiastically performed by the orchestra. Two years prior to this performance (23rd May), the South Bank Centre had Charles Dutoit and the Royal Philharmonic perform Bartók’s one-act horror opera Bluebeard’s Castle (1911).
I consider it to be one of my favourite operas. The suspense, the intensity of the music and the terror emitted from the score alone is one of its kind. Even as a semi-stage, the music suffices in sculpting the erring castle of the Duke and his seven mysterious, blood-soaked doors.
It’s a bunch of firsts for the Hampstead Garden Opera and their new production of Claudio Monteverdi’s marvellous opera L’incoronazione di Poppea. Hosted at the Jackson Lane Theatre, it is the first time they are performing with surtitles and asking their 12 young soloists to sing the opera in its original Italian language.
To coincide with the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth, his masterful opera of power, greed, and lust seemed most apt, and it is to the delight of their impressive singers that the production doesn’t feel like an amateur’s feast, at least that is what I felt when I saw it on Friday night.
The soloists are also accompanied by musical director Oliver John Ruthven who strikes a balance between strong voices and the dedicated ensemble, Musica Poetica – a small orchestra of eight musicians with expertise in period instruments including harpsichord, theorbo, harp, viola da gamba, violins, and violone. Put together this makes for an exquisite evening for any Baroque devotee.
‘Better late than never’, as some may say or in my case, better to find out for yourself than depend on two-star reviews. The time came to see Ivo van Hove‘s production of Obsession with its lead protagonist performed by film and stage actor Jude Law, and one would think that given Hove’s international reputation and Law’s virtuoso acting the show would be a big hit, yet instead this is perhaps one production that meets a degree of anti-climax.
At the main stage of the Barbican Centre, theatrical technicalities and marvellous acting are worth the bite, yet the writing is basic, dry and stale. Yet, what creative device or person(s) do we blame for the production’s flaws?
Only £25 to go! Help us reach £15,000 in our #LoveOpera crowdfunder. Our performers who have experienced homelessness are putting on an opera at @Sage_Gateshead. Your donation will help change perceptions of what homeless people are capable of. Donate at crowdfunder.co.uk/loveopera twitter.com/StreetwiseOper… Retweeted by Mary Grace Nguyen