We have seen them at work before with Acante et Cephise (Rameau), a colourful work which became known as the ‘pink opera’ due to their stunning costumes (see a photo here). This time, set in what appears to be a dark post-apocolyptic world the colours are dark, grey and torn: a ‘brown opera’. This complex story of love, loss, revenge and redemption was performed with power and emotional energy by the four leads (see below). The University College Chorus did a beautiful job adding stage movement with a warm eery sound, a timbre that was quite mesmerising. Charles Peebles did a fine job as MD with a large and conscientious orchestra.
Thanks UC Opera for a great night. Full details below.
Amadis De Gaule (An opera in three acts), Bloomsbury Theatre London, March 28th 2015, 19:30
2014 is the 250th Anniversary year of this fabulous French composer, and this is a rare and great chance to hear the beautiful motets: ‘In Convertendo’, ‘Quam Dilecta’ and ‘Deus Nost Refugium’. These three works are based on the Psalms and are performed by some of the world’s leading Early Music Performers.
You can hear them preview their work on BBC 3’s In Tune with Sean Rafferty on Tuesday 18th. It will be available to hear, here.
As regular readers will know, we love intimate venues. We’ll take a smokily lit pub over a 3,500 seat theatre any day. This evening the scene opened at the King’s Head Theatre, a theatre pub since 1970, with Verdi’s La Traviataset in the opulent and glamourous inter-war 1920s USA.
Produced by Opera Up Close, the five-strong cast (full cast list below) did a fantastic job enveloping us in the tragedy of a dying woman who gives up everything she treasures for her love. And love is the theme. In writing this we found that many of our adjectives describe the heart, so do forgive our repetitiveness.
Louisa Tee in the lead role of Violetta has us hearing her every heartbeat and she sung with heart-wrenching passion the words of a woman who has lost and sacrificed all. Lawrence Olsworth-Peter as Alfredo was heartbreaking. Olsworth-Peter’s Alfredo, a somewhat shy and love-smitten man at the start manages despite this to shine beyond the sparkles of a lavish party and profess his true love for Violetta. His duets with Tee were beautiful and sensitive, with the voices matching and intertwining seamlessly.
With the perceived betrayal of Violetta, Alfredo responds the only way he can think how, ‘becoming’ an angry revenge seeking hedonist. The deeply sad bitterness that came across in this was a frightening contrast to the naive love filled Alfredo we had seen. When Alfredo realised that Violetta does still love him it was a weight lifted off his shoulders and he returned to the pure and honest heart he truly has. Tee and Olsworth-Peter were the bright lights of the opera, effortlessly absorbing us into their world.
Flora McIntosh as Flora (!) brought fabulous comic relief with great timing and a relatable reality, which had the whole theatre chuckling (what lady after all, doesn’t fiddle around with her necklace and pretend it’s a moustache?). McIntosh’s strong and rich voice rang out, especially alongside Dario Dugandzic and Christopher Jacklin (the Baron and German respectively). Jacklin showed us the over-bearing, controlling though ultimately repentant father with flair and control, whilst Dugandzic brought a much darker, yet beautiful flavour to the complex narrative.
The orchestration (a new one, by Harry Blake) was very much appreciated by this listener. Reduced to piano, cello and clarinet, the music was realised with lyricism, character and astute attention to detail. Verdi’s beautiful dovetailing lines between orchestra and voices was picked up by the clarinet (Sarah Douglas) and Douglas did a fine job playing with delicacy, precision and warmth.
And to those behind the scenes – we applaud you too. The costume design was sublime: flappers, fur, watches, waistcoats, heels and bling. The staging and lighting simple yet detailed: deco drinks cabinet, gramophone, chaise long with a beautiful striped throw, large windows and curtains.
Thank-you Opera Up Close – we cried and went through it with you. A great evening and a humble reminder of why we really do love music so much.
A shot from Achante et Cephise, extracts of which will be performed on November 22nd. (Anna-Louise Costello, Katherine Blumenthal & Lawrence Olsworth-Peter. Photo: Chris Cowell)
Tell us a little bit about this new project, the International Rameau Ensemble. Where did the idea come from?
I like getting people together for projects and I am also passionate about theatre. Creating the International Rameau Ensemble was as much about building relationships and creating opportunities, as it was about the music itself.
Having said that, I also started this project to share how extraordinary Rameau’s music is and to spread it outside the ‘informed musical elite’. His music is still relatively unknown in the UK although over the last couple of years major opera companies have been trying their hand at it. With the 250th anniversary of his death next year this is the perfect opportunity.
So do you think today’s modern audiences will respond to a rather unknown old French composer?
The thing that drew me to Rameau’s music when I was first introduced to it at music college was its flamboyant risk taking and sense of pageantry as well as the ability to pull on your heart strings so tenderly with gorgeous scrunchy harmonies. It is the capacity to move the human spirit which makes it appealing to any audience!
Give us a teaser for the concert on November 22nd…
Our inaugural concert will follow the theme of ‘Amour’ which is so prevalent in Rameau’s work and will include interwoven scenes from some of his most wonderful characters such as a cynical fairy, a jealous tyrant, gods and separated lovers. All the players and singers play at the highest level around the world and have kindly agreed to donate their time for the love of this music. There will also be a drinks reception afterwards.
Thanks Lawrence! We’re looking forward to it, and you’ll see a review up here shortly afterwards… ~BF
But you know what? It was just fantastic. There was an audience sing-a-long for ‘We’ll meet again’ (I went with three singers, we loved it, don’t tell a soul!), with the rest sung beautifully by Laurie Ashworth. Another great soloist, Pianist Victor Sangiorgio performed Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto with unhindered dexterous flyingly fast fingers.
The Walton (Henry V: a Shakespeare Scenario), complete with fabulous British actor Samuel West, was all an over eager audience member could want. A ridiculous (that’s a positive thing) brass section, a massive and fabulous percussion section, and something wonderfully novel: melodies you could hum afterwards. West was effortlessly musical in his role as narrator with such timings, slight nuances and charm that had an audience, who only moments before had been singing joyfully along, in silent awe, wrapped in the words of prayer to God, with thanks of a battle won.
The Hertfordshire Chorus sung well and Keith Lockhart was master at the reigns – bringing every cymbal crash, tuba blast and string vibrato line together with delightful energy.
If you’d like to listen, the concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in ‘Afternoon on 3’ on Tuesday 25th June at 14:00. (This was announced. Programme suggested broadcast date of 24th)
John Ireland: Epic March for Orchestra
John Ireland: Music While You Work medley (March ‘Calling All Workers’ Eric Coates, Bank Holiday from ‘Cockney Suite’ Albert Ketèlbey, Waltz ‘Nights of Gladness’ Charles Ancliffe, Merrymakers’ Dance from ‘Nell Gwyn’ Edward German)
Songs made popular by Vera Lynne: The White Cliffs of Dover, Yours, We’ll Meet Again.
Clifton Parker: Seascape from ‘Western Approaches’
We’ve come across the Merry Opera team before. Their Magic Flute, a great dove-tailing of narratives between Schikaneder’s plot and Mozart’s life, was a visual and aural delight. Great performances from tenor Lawrence Olsworth-Peter and mezzo Gemma Morsley.
MO’s staged Messiah was once again very well sung – with thought provoking staging and dress. As characters from every walk of life surrounded us before the show had even begun: a stressed out business man, a pious church cleaner, a girl from the council estate; we knew we were in for something a little different.
Roderick Morris‘ “He was despised and rejected by men” was particularly poignant. Beautifully sung, the whole cast, now dressed in black, turned their backs to Morris, a reminder of how each one of us, whether a business man, a church lady, or a young girl has turned our backs to Jesus.
The final transformation to white (seen above) was a vivid reminder of what the crucifixion accomplished: sin being taken away, paid for on the cross so God no longer sees us covered in sin, but pure white.
Fabulous organist Chad Kelly deserves mention: he made the never-ending baroque lines flow with ease alongside astonishing accuracy. Mezzo Kate Symonds-Joy, the ‘girl from the council estate’ also stood out, singing with depth and passion. Quite a wonderful surprise when the girl in the hoody turned around and showed us what she was made of!
Rumours abound that more dates are to be added around Autumn 2013. Great news for a great show.