June 2009 Archives

The current revival of La traviata at the Royal Opera House could easily have been one of the great performances ever staged there. Richard Eyre has returned to direct his 1994 production, with its staggeringly wonderful, lavish sets by Bob Crowley (the sight of the elaborately grotesque yet beautiful décor of Flora's Act II scene 2 salon alone is worth the price of a ticket)  and magical lighting by Jean Kalman. Moreover, Alfredo is sung by the Maltese tenor, Joseph Calleja, who makes the transition from chest to head voice and back again so smoothly that there is not even a hint of gear-changing. Thomas Hampson sings Germont père at Covent Garden for the first time, and is a total wow, handsome both to look at and to hear. Violetta is a genuine diva, Renée Fleming.

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Flora's salon in Act II, Scene 2
June 28, 2009 11:19 AM | | Comments (0)
 (photo Nobby Clark)

Chip off the (solid oak - he's Peter Hall's son) old block Edward Hall leads Propeller, an all-male company dedicated to performing the works of Shakespeare. I try to see all their productions; they're usually superb, and never less than exciting - every one I've seen makes you think again about a text you know well, and the revelations generally come thick and furious. 
Hall and his troupe approach Shakespeare with fundamental honesty; they do not try to sugar-coat the bitter pill. So their 2006 The Taming of the Shrew was tremendously funny, but there was the strong black espresso of brutal misogyny under the froth of comedy. Now they've returned to A Midsummer Night's Dream (their first production of it was in 2003) and have paired it with The Merchant of Venice.
June 24, 2009 2:34 PM | | Comments (0)

We've forsaken sun and sand for chilly June nights and picnics in the shelter tent. Summer opera festivals are increasingly prevalent, ever more fun, and gaining in cultural weight. We've recently seen a pair of operas that would not have been possible, or at least very difficult,  to stage in the context of a normal season, Garsington Opera's Mirandolina by Bohuslav Martinů and Glyndebourne Festival Opera's The Fairy Queen by Purcell.
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June 23, 2009 5:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Recently I've detected something curious happening in the dramatic and lyric theatre, a tendency to clarity, to narrative simplicity and straightforwardness. In a way it's the opposite of the Konzept school that has so long dominated performances in Europe, with directors of East German origin pushing their weight around the stages of the West. What we're seeing is a drive to tell the story using only - or mostly - the words provided by the playwright or librettist, to make the tale clear and lucid. lulu[1].jpg
June 15, 2009 3:40 PM | | Comments (0)
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Do all artists have a "late period," in which they exhibit power coupled with exuberance, occasionally even surpassing some of the work they made when younger? Or is this venerable fireworks display only achieved by great artists? The list is familiar (and assembling it a trivial pursuit) - Picasso, Rothko, Rembrandt, Titian, Poussin,  the Verdi of "Falstaff." On  the evidence of his latest show, my friend Howard Hodgkin, qualifies. 

June 5, 2009 3:40 PM | | Comments (1)


For those interested in the arts, the metaphor for being in London this summer  is what? - a kid in a toy shop or sweet shop? Or maybe a religious trope is more appropriate - a believer finding himself in heaven or paradise (and with no shortage of virgins at the British Museum's newly opened exhibition, Garden & Cosmos)?
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June 3, 2009 12:41 PM | | Comments (0)

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