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Hansel und Gretel at the Royal Opera

On entering the auditorium, I saw a detailed and realistic image of a valley (presumably concocted from photographs of German or Austrian countryside) projected onto the stage. I had high hopes that this new production of Hansel und Gretel will have staging that relates to the story (the last time the Royal Opera staged this, a 60s trailer and a ghastly morgue were inflicted on us). I was not to be disappointed - Anthony McDonald gave us a realistic design, with the first act set in a cosy house with barren shelves. The forest scene in Act 2 was magical - there were trees, mist, forest creatures - not to mention characters from other Grimm tales during the dream sequence. Act 3 started with a innocent and inviting looking gingerbread house, but on rotation a large cauldron (presumably for turning fat children into gingerbread) was revealed!



Hansel and Gretel were sung by Hanna Hipp and Jennifer Davis respectively. They looked the part and sounded fresh - all helped to convey two misch…
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Hagen Quartet, Wigmore Hall

Yes, the legendary Hagen Quartet playing at the Wigmore Hall.

The Schubert String Quartet in G minor sounded rough, with problematic intonation from the first violin. The whole piece sounded like a play through. Not a good start. The playing of the Webern pieces (Five Movements / Six Bagatelles) could not be more different. They got through the grittiness and bleakness of these concise pieces with precision and poise.

The second half of the concert was Haydn String Quartet in Bb (Op 55 N 3). The playing was warm, coherent with the kind of interplay between the quartet members that one would expect. Good tempi choice. This warmth was naturally conveyed through brilliant acoustic of the hall.

Porgy and Bess, English National Opera

I quite forgot the first number in Porgy and Bess is Summertime! Beautifully sung by Nicole Cabell as Bess. On a whole, the chorus number was better sung than the solo numbers - where the diction was generally inadequate. The set (Michael Yeargan) was three-dimensional and worked really well with the many scenes in this work. John Wilson was in his elements in the pit and the orchestra responded with a rhythmic boisterous sound - the best part of the evening.

I'm Not Running, National Theatre

David Hare's new play about a more-or-less accidental politician in the Labour Party seem contemporary at the time when politicians are about the parties, rather than the people. Siân Brooke's portrayal of the protagonist Pauline Gibson was strong and nuanced - especially when there were flashbacks to her doctor training days and a difficult mother. Alex Hassell's Jack Gould was equally effective at delivering a main stream process-focused politician.

At times, some dialogues seem too contrived, too many pauses. It's definitely a play of the moment. Perhaps David Hare will write one for a yet-to-be-fathomed post-Brexit England.

Les Huguenots, Opéra Bastille

I don't know why so few Meyerbeer operas are staged in London. In order to see his grandest grand opera, I traveled to Paris to see Les Huguenots staged at Opéra Bastille.



The star of the show was Lisette Oropesa who sang Marguerite de Valois - she got the warm yet regal tone for the role, her delivery of the emotions was fantastic. Yosep Kang, a late replacement for Bryan Hymel, was passable. His rendition of Raoul de Nangis could do with a few more rehearsals. And his voice strained a little at the higher register (there was one gasp in the audience when we all thought he was going to crack!) His love interest Valentine, sung by Ermonela Jaho, was good - a more youthful if pensive voice.

The male chorus was a little agricultural in act 1 - untidy and lacking in focus. Luckily, the men were saved by the women (again) when the ladies of the court sang lusciously while frolicking along a real stream.

Where was the BALLET???

The set design had modern lines and shades - a Parisien c…

Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Royal Opera

Once every few years, the Royal Opera stages Wagner's Ring Cycle. Nowadays, only the big houses have the budget to mount such mammoth undertakings. So I count myself a lucky one to be able to sit through these four operas at one go.

Das Rheingold. I never liked the messy set, or even the clever vertical stage movement. John Lundgren was a reasonable Wotan, though a little on the tame side. Sarah Connolly's Fricka had depth.

Die Walküre. Hunding (Ain Anger) was pretty angry and good - especially when he first met Siegmund (Stuart Skelton). Nina Stemme - is she the Brünnhilder of the moment? Definitely. The last act was pretty magical as Wotan put her to bed.

Siegfried. Stefan Vinke appears to be the only heldentenor who can sing the part of Siegfried right now (he is to appear at The Met's Ring Cycle in 2019). His voice takes a lot of getting used to - it sounded like he was wearing a orthodontic retainer in his mouth. His diction, for a German, had room for improvement.…

Joyce DiDonato sings Berlioz at BBC Proms

Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique started this BBC Proms concert with Le corsaire - it was tightly played and a sonorous sound. I wonder whether this was due to the whole orchestra standing up while playing had anything to do with it. It sounded good.

Joyce DiDonato first sang La mort de Cléopâtre - her performance was mesmerising due to her dramatic delivery of text and the wonderful lines. Sir John was ever sensitive to the flow of the music. Dido’s death scene was short, yet no less powerful with DiDonata's breadth of emotions. Some may moan about her over dramatic delivery at the expense of pitch accuracy - but that's just nitpicking.

The second half of the concert was Harold in Italy - a whimsical and eclectic piece that's interesting to listen to - but I wonder whether this should have been played in the 1st half of the concert.