Friday, 31 July 2009

Sevva, a belated find in Hong Kong

Friends have mentioned it. Magazines and websites have reviewed it. Yet I have never been to Sevva until tonight. Well, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the roof top terrace, the buzz, and the service. Then again, there was the view of Statue Square, the live DJ and saxophonist and the (self) select crowd. Perhaps this is the perfect place for a post-work-hook-up-with-friends place in Central (if you don't mind the inflated bills).

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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Monsieur Pierre Gagnaire said hello to our table at Pierre at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

It was lunch en famille at Pierre today. When we walked in at 12:30 I was the only man: the rest of the restaurant was decorated with ladies-who-lunch. That "man alone" situation was quickly rectified by other business men and my dad arriving just before 13:00.


The lunch menu offered a good variety of dishes. I had the bouillabaise gelly which was rich but just right for this hot climate. My pork loin was topped with peanuts and a jus that was well balanced in taste and texture. The cheese dimsum was a bit strange. The wilted tomatoes and spinach was also tasty. Dessert was  old-fashioned marshmallow with a modern twist - pink marshmallows floating on a milky pannacotta with a light strawberry sorbet. Monsieur Gagnaire was en residence and said hello to us (well, actually each and every table).



TEN YO SHI, a decent tempura joint in Causeway Bay

On the 9th floor of Henry House in Causeway Bay is where one finds this tiny Japanese restaurant TEN YOSHI. At best it could probably sit 30 people. When I got there at 12:30 it was already well populated. The specialty of the restaurant was tempura - deep-fried battered seafood and vegetables. The menu offers the classic tempura - prawns, vegetables, and squashes. But it was the seasonal seafood that were delectable. We had tempura of thinly sliced abalone (a slight crunch and taste of the sea), Hokkaido oysters (supple) and small whole boneless fish (melt-in-the-mouth softness). There was a great variety of texture and taste. We also had amazing sashime delivered from its sister restaurant on the 11th floor. Definitely worth squeezing into this tight space.



Friday, 17 July 2009

Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Royal Opera

The Barber were to be the last work I saw at the Royal Opera this season - and it was a memorable one for all the right reasons. Joyce DiDonato, who sang the role of Rosina, broke her leg earlier in the run but carried on with the rest of the performances by singing from a wheel chair. Well, one doesn't see a wheel chair on stage often, but for a lead character to sing, act and dance in a wheel chair was simply phenomenal. She didn't lose any of her vocal agility nor acting prowess - and managed to deliver a first rate performance on the night.

Of course, DiDonato was paired with Juan Diego Flórez who delivered one vocal pyrotechnic after another with bounteous youthfulness. Figaro was played by Pietro Spagnoli who gave the role flair and humour. Ferruccio Furlanetto as Dottore Bartolo was a joy to watch. With Antonio Pappano at the helm of the orchestra, sounderous sound came from the pit. All in all, this production brought a memorable finale to this season at the Royal Opera.


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Tosca, Royal Opera

I went to tonight's performance of Tosca at the Royal Opera with trepidation. First we were told (a few weeks ago) Deborah Voigt pulled out due to illness and Angela Gheorghiu replaced her. Then Marcello Giordani got ill and was replaced by Massimo Giordano a few days ago. So, will Bryn Terfel put in an appearance tonight?   Thank goodness there were no more cast changes. The orchestra played the opening chords with unusual umph. Massimo Giordano was a gallant Cavaradossi. Bryn Terfel was his usual fantastic self where a lot of care went into his portrayal of Scarpia - less on the voice and more on the drama. The real transformation was Angela Gheorghiu. When I saw her in the premiere of this production (design Paul Brown, director Jonathan Kent) a few years ago I thought her Tosca as an attention seeking school-girl which looked ridiculous across from the very deep and grown up Scarpia (Bryn Terfel). In tonight's performance she was full of fire with a greater breadth of emotions and tone, where a few of her top notes rang throughout the auditorium. My guess is the revival director Stephen Barlow made the school girl grow up. So tonight's Tosca turned out to be exceptional.


Monday, 13 July 2009

Rusalka at Glyndebourne

Operatic fairytales are not easy to stage - they will have to retain that magical quality while meeting the expectations of the grownup audience. The opening act of Rusalka at Glynedebourne met both of those - the lighting had that ethereal quality, the nymphs frolicked, and the first big aria of Rusalka (sung by the fantastic Ana María Martínez) was sensational. Her voice had a pure yet urgent quality - perfectly suited to the role, which was well matched by Brandon Jovanovich who sang the Prince. Mischa Schelomianski as Vodnik was in an inflated body suit that was both comical and scary!

Rae Smith's design for this production took on a dark turquise / blue tone for the opening act, the castle scene in the second act was decorated by singers in stylised yet glamorous 30's costumes. Rick Nodine, who directed the movements, brought about the suspended nymphs, rolling Vadnik and free-spirited doe.
Needless to say, the LPO played Dvorák's rich score wonderfully to the direction of Jirí Belohlávek.


Sunday, 12 July 2009

L'Amour de loin

It was my first time encountering the music of Kaija Saariaho last night at the English National Opera's new production of L'Amour de loin. I went with a very open mind - this being a contemporary opera. I was pleasantly surprised by the production. The cast was strong - Roderick Williams as Jaufré Rudel,  Joan Rodgers as Clémence and Faith Sherman as the Pilgrim - delivered seemingly impossible vocal lines. The music was a sound world that was rich in texture, though some of the emotions escaped my attentive ears. With xylophones and glockenspiel galore in the pit, Edward Gardner kept a tight reign at the helm of a much enlarged orchestra.

Credit must go to Daniele Finzi Pasca for the circus / acrobatic "theatrical landscape" that made the whole production stunning. The lighting, the mime theatre, the dancers and acrobats all added a lot of magic and colours to a work that only had three soloists. The final scene with Jaufré and his alter egos suspended in mid air whilst the chorus held up mirrors to reflect narrow light beams across the auditorium was a fitting end to a dreamy and imaginative evening.


Thursday, 2 July 2009

Un ballo in maschera

It seems the mundane but essential announcement of "Please switch your mobile phones off" has been replaced by the "Tonight's XXX role will be sung by YYY" kind with alarming frequency at the Royal Opera lately (Deborah Voight to be replaced by Angela Gheorghiu in Tosca). Sometimes we are in for a surprise: other times a nasty one. Robert Aronica who replaced Ramón Vargas as Riccardo in Un ballo in maschera was not half bad.


This is a full-blooded opera with lots of powerful duets. Roberto Aronica's strength was well matched by Angela Marambio (as Amelia): though a bit more tenderness would not go amiss. Dalibor Jenis also gave a find performance of Renato. The chorus sang magnificently throughout.  Those who have not seen this production (designed by Sergio Tramonti) were awed by the ball scene in the last act (well, they clapped!) This was a fine Verdi night out.


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Renée Fleming as Violetta in La Traviata

When I first saw this production of La Traviata, it was Angela Gheorghiu as Violetta and Sir Georg Solti in the pit. There had been a few more notable performances since, but none so more than the current run with Renée Fleming as Violetta. Last night she was absolutely sensational - the amazing thing was that she was able to portray such a complex character - from the frivolous and introspective in Act I, to vulnerable and stoic in Act II, through to the hopeless dying Violetta in Act III. That it was all very believable on stage.
Joseph Calleja and Thomas Hampson as Alfredo and Giorgio recpectively added fizz to the drama. Pappano was milking every moment of this Verdi score - without wallowing or sentimentality. This La Traviata will stick in my mind for years to come.