Monday, 29 November 2010

Julian Anderson 'Heaven is Shy of Earth' at the Barbican

When I head 'Heaven is Shy of Earth' at the 2006 BBC Prom, it already sounded good. The vast space of the Royal Albert Hall was atmospheric for the naturalistic sound world that Anderson was creating, and Angelika Kirchschlager was fine with the role. But the revised version of the work premiered last Friday by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus gave the work a new and improved hearing. Susan Bickley took up the soprano role this time - her timbre and motherly voice really suited the work. The new 'Gloria' was tightly sang by the BBC Symphony Chorus. Oliver Knussen gave the whole work balance and shape - all somehow felt more complete.


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Adriana Lecouvreur at the Royal Opera

It was nearly a century ago when the Royal Opera staged Adriana Lecouvreur, so that's no surprise that I hadn't seen it before. Angela Gheorghiu was ill and pulled out of her performance (no surprise) so I had the delight of hearing  Ángeles Blancas Gulín for the first time. Her voice and presence really suited the title role. Her top notes were slightly on the wobbly side (nerve may be) but otherwise she was superb singing opposite Jonas Kaufmann as Maurizio who gave his very best both in acting and voice. Michaela Schuster was also superlative in the bitchy role of Princess of Bouillon.



The stage design was subpstuous, of the period and intricate - no expense spared given it's going to be shared by FOUR opera houses. Signs of the time I am afraid. David McVicar's direction was also marvellous. Nothing OTT, but just enough to effectively create the right dynamics between the characters.

Mark Elder was superlative at bringing the score to life, always keeping the orchestra balanced with the singers on stage.


Thursday, 18 November 2010

The small but perfectly formed Dinings serves up good sushi

I recently found myself working in Marylebone on the edge of the A4 (i.e. the road to Heathrow Airport). So to my big surprise I discovered Dinings just around the corner from the office. It's so small if you didn't know it existed or like me kept enjoying the view of the Swedish church, then you will miss it. And there is no walk in - even the sushi counter has to be pre-booked. So, I rang ahead and got myself a place at lunch time. I only had about 30 minutes so I ordered the "squid two ways" sushi and their chef's sashimi lunch.




The two pieces of sushi were nicely presented. The sushi rice had a slightly sweeter taste than normal. The squid was well grilled. The "two way" referred to the slightly different condiments on top - both were delicious and subtle.




The sashimi lunch was not bad. A very fresh selection of sea bass, tuna, salmon, and even the cooked prawns were quite tasty. Miso soup was of the kelp variety. Rice was proper Japanese grain. So all was washed down with much enjoyment. Though I must try the more interesting creations next time - there were all kinds of rolls and sushi that deserved more time to enjoy.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Roméo et Juliette at the Royal Opera

Piotr Beczala was amazing as Roméo at the revival of Carlo Tommasi's design of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. He partnered really well with Nino Machaidze (as Juliette) - in terms of acting, voice, and rapport. Daniel Oren took extra trouble to ensure the rich sound from the orchestra did not overwhelm the voices on stage.  The chorus was also superlative - from the big crowd scenes to the tender prayer moments. Fab.