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Showing posts from May, 2007

Skylon at the Royal Festival Hall, London

It must be nerve wrecking for any maitre d' top open a restaurant's doors for the first time to the public. It must be doubly so on a freezing cold, wet and windy day at the end of May. The reservation desk of Skylon called me in the afternoon to say their heating has broken down!!!

Unfazed by the potential chill, it was a delight to arrive at this new Conran restaurant in pristine condition - sympathetic lighting and a soft colour palette made the austere interior of the 50s space welcoming. Soon after we sat down, the waiters brought a round of mulled wine to warm us up!

The menu contained many egg dishes - so I tried the Egg Skylon (kind of Egg Florentine with Cornish crab meat). My main course was pan fried lemon sole topped with grey prawns. It was also entertaining to watch the staff trying various ways to warm the large space - all with a good sense of humour. Let's hope such high spirit will carry on through to the re-opening night of the Royal Festival Hall on 11 J…

Fidelio, Royal Opera

Karita Mattila stared in Fidelio at the Royal Opera's new production (co-produced with the Metropolitan Opera) was fantastic. Mattila has made such an epic transformation from Musetta in La Boheme in the early 90s to the demanding and dramatic role as Fidelio. Beethoven's score is demanding and Pappano ensured the drama moved at a progressive pace.  Endrik Wottrich made a convincing Florestan and Eric Halfvarson as a humanistic Rocco. This was backed by an enlarged opera chorus which made the prisoner and final crowd scenes emotive.

A matter of life and death, National Theatre

I don't think I have ever seen the original film "A matter of life and death" by Powell and Pressburger. So it was quite interesting for me to see the play at the National Threatre on its own terms. It was a delight to watch such creative and exciting theatre - where nurses on bicycles were mimicking the Lancaster Bombers, or the Tarantino-esque slow motion tennis sequence on stage!

Takacs Quartet and Stephen Hough, Queen Elizabeth Hall

While I do hate the Queen Elizabeth Hall as a venue for the symphonic orchestra (it was never intended, plus cramp back stage facilities), it is a suitable venue for chamber concerts. It was a delight to hear the animatic Takacs Quartet play string quartets of Dvořák (No 12)  and Shostakovich (No 11). Then Stephen Hough joined the Takacs to perform the mammoth Brahms piano quintet - so much energy  and  lyricism.  It was a delight.

On The Town, English National Opera

It's not as good as when it was staged back in 2005. The production still sported three convincingly rampant sailors. But somehow the magic was not there. The rowdy numbers like New York New York and Gabey's Comin' were great, but the whole show just felt a bit flat.

Barrafina in Soho, London

Tapas in Soho is nothing new. There are plenty. Barrafina, which opened earlier in 2007, offers a posh venue for eating tapas. The sherry menu was good value. The food menu is well chosen - and all the dishes were well presented without being fussy. The place comprises a long bar with stools and standing places behind does not encourage punters to stay too long - which is good - though it could have a few more standing places for those who are merely passing through.

Britten, Anderson and Walton, BBC Symphony Orchestra

OK, two concerts in a row of relatively modern music in a week!

The baby-face Edward Gardner conducted Britten's A Charm of Lullabies and Phaedra with Sarah Connolly singing. The narrative was free flowing with drama. This was followed by Anderson's Symphony - the opening rustling (produced by back of bows scratching along the strings) was atmospheric with wonderful evocation of nature and felicity.  The concert concluded with Walton's Symphony No 1 - not my favourite work: I still prefer him going crazy with strings, percussion and voices (i.e. Belshazzar's Feast). But hay ho, can't have everything.

Hear and Now, St Luke's on Old Street

Once in a while it's nice to be dragged along to hear works that one would otherwise avoid, miss out or neglect. So it was a welcome change after a long day at work to go to a concert of works by contemporary and living composers (i.e. Gerald Barry, Michael Finnissy, Ian Vine).

All the works were exciting and fun to listen to. Richard Baker was at the helm of the London Sinfonietta with the requisite decisiveness. I particularly enjoyed how classical musical instruments were making new textures and sounds that one would not expect. Perhaps I should listen to more contemporary works.

Macbeth, Glyndebourne

Not having read any reviews, I had no idea what to expect at this new production of Macbeth at Glyndebourne Festival Opera.

Was I shocked, disappointed, annoyed? Words fail me here. The music was fine - Jurowski commanded the LPO with usual eloquence and fire. The soloists and chorus were on good form too (though the latter had had one or two wayward moments). The problem appeared, alas, when you opened your eyes. As the witches came out of the caravans (trailer-park analogy) it was comical. But when the whole stage design was around some undecipherable social-psychological coding, it became enormously hard to form any understanding between the visual and the audio - the stage was the distraction. Glyndebourne played a crucial role in bring early Verdi operas back to the UK - it was ever more disappointing to see a production of such poor quality.