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Showing posts from 2008

Hänsel und Gretel at the Royal Opera

Having  seen Hänsel und Gretel only a few months ago at Glyndebourne, I was looking forward to see how the Royal Opera will bring this fairytale opera to life.

Christian Fenouillat  pastoral set worked well. Like many operas with a small cast, he added a bounding box to reduce the size of the stage without losing perspective. Angelika Kirchschlager and Diana Damrau were believable Hänsel and Gretel respectively. Their stage acting (how they walked, jumped and cuddled) conveyed a real sense of innonance. Thomas Allen (their father) was on good form. The Dew Fairy (by Anita Watson) was fabulous with an orange duster and a yellow squirty spray cleaner. All in all, the creative team managed to strike a good balance between serious opera and fairytale. Colin Davis also did real justice to Humperdinck's lush Wagnerian score. It would be nice for this lovely work to remain in repertory around this time of the year to counter-balance the sickly sweek Nutcracker.

Le Contes d'Hoffmann

Rolando Villazón was ill, so Zvetan Michailov (Bulgarian) sang in last night's Le Contes d'Hoffmann. I was not sure how much notice Michailov had, but his singing was uneven and the diction was not great. Even Pappano's magic touch at the helm did not bring out the magic. Olympia (Ekaterina Lekhina), Giuletta (Christine Rice) and Antonia (Katie Van Kooten) made up for this otherwise lack lustre performance.

Elektra at the Royal Opera

From the moment Sir Mark stood on the rostrum, I was gripped by this most powerful Greco-Wagnerian opera by Strauss. Susan Bullock was a fearful Elektra, Jane Henschel was a believably deranged Klytemnestra. Charles Edwards used the same set design but tweaked the stage direction. All worked remarkably well. I came out feeling slightly drained.

A delightful lunch at The Hand & Flowers, Marlow-on-Thames

"I have got to eat before my friend's wedding." So it was my mission to track down somewhere nice to eat before the wedding in Marlow. Upon a friend's recommendation, my fellow wedding guests and I got a table at The Hand & Flowers.

Although it looked like an ordinary pub on the outside, when you stepped in it felt more than your olde worlde public house. The tables have side plates, napkins and cutlery laid out. My glass of house merlot (I was gasping for a drink) was smooth and flavourful. The carte was a lot more exciting than the typical pub lunch menu.
I ordered the home cured sardines on chopped capers (see picture above), onions and shallots on a toasted slice of bread. The slow cooked Oxford beef (Oxfordshire being a short distance away) came with bone marrow bread pudding (yum). All very tasty. My friend's parfait of foie gras looked velvety, though his wife's red snapper soup was apparently a bit too salty. We had no time to do pudding (shame) an…

Will the swish looking Princi become the hottest thing on Wardour St?

This site on Wardour Street in Soho had seen many bars and restaurants come and go. The latest occupant is Princi, an up market Italian bakery brought to London by Alan Yau (of Hakkasan, Yauatcha fame). Natural stones, polished brass and water reflections dominate. The long communal tables (de rigeur for any Soho eatery), leather upholstered chairs and perfect lighting make this a stylish choice for a slice of cake (made from organic "00" flour) and a caffé machiato from the Italian barista (yes he is, I talked to him in Italian). They seem to have an alcohol licence - so perfect for an early evening spritz, or a late evening caffé correto.

The downside is that this is a self-service joint.  While everything is stylishly done, all eating implements are disposable. So never mind the side plate.

Mignon cannolo at Zanarini in Bologna

Right, back in Bologna. One more place worth mentioning is Zanarini. It's off the posh via Farini (though there aren't many posh shops - it appears that the Bolognese eat and don't shop). The coffee is devine and their selection of paste mignon were fantastic. Perfect any time of the day!

Gnocchi of chestnut flour at dei Paccagnella in Padova

My friends wanted to go to Basilica San Antonio in Padova. So we hopped on the Trenitalia Eurostar from Bologna. The church was a bit of a blur. The weather was miserable as it rained non stop - and thanks to the portici we weren't too drenched. We found a table at Trattoria dei Paccagnella. It's a quiet establishment with a narrow entrance - if you didn't look you would have missed it.
OK, we were no longer in Bologna, but the food was still fabulous. I pinched my friend's deep fried baby cuttle fish - every mouthful was "melt in the mouth" delicious (OK I only had one as I wasn't allowed more). My gnocchi was made of chestnut flour sitting on a bed of cream of baccala. Somehow, all the tastes really worked well together.

Velvety mousse of mortadella at Trattoria Gianni in Bologna

Bologna is featured in my copy of "52 Week-ends en Europe" (Editions Assouline), therefore, it must be doable over a weekend. That's exactly what we managed to organise  at fairly short notice. Of course, it has a lovely square (Piazza Maggiore) and one of the oldest universities in Europe. But it is also located in the Po Valley and within easy reach of Parma (raw ham), Moderna (vinegar) and loads of other places that form the food bowl of Italy. Never mind the scenery, we cut to the chase and focused on munching our
way through this perfectly sized city.Trattoria Gianni was the first
eating place we went to. It was along a dark alley way (early evening)
off Via Clavature. At 7:30pm, it was fairly empty. But after my
utterance of "siamo quottro", the waiters frowned a little, discussed a
little, and eventually decided to sit us at a table by the door. Our
scepticism was soon proved unfounded when our food arrived - a lovely
velvety mousse of mortadella (that famous s…

Matilde di Shabran at the Royal Opera

Imagine Juan Diego Flórez being the bad guy - angular beard, leather trousers, mock military jacket. Of course, that didn't last long as Corradino fell in love with Matilde (Aleksandra Kurzak) when the latter turned up at the castle (comprised of a raised stage and a double spiral staircase that spun around). The 2-hour long first act didn't feel long as the plot moved along nicely. Juan Diego Flórez sang his part with gusto.

The second act started marvelously chaotic with the poet Isidoro (sung by Alfonso Antoniozzi) and ended with some coloratura pyrotechnic from Aleksandra Kurzak in true Rossini style. Some would say Matilde out sang Corradino, but I think they both sang fantastically.

A feisty Carmen at Glyndebourne Touring Opera

As I didn't get the chance to see David McVicar's production of Carmen at Glyndebourne first time round, I jumped at the chance of seeing it on tour at Glyndebourne. Katherine Rohrer was a feisty Carmencita with acting skills to match. Yonghoon Lee made a powerful Don José, though he could work on his tender passages and acting skills a bit more. Needless to say, David McVicar's direction brought the drama to life - the "dinner" between Carmen and Don José in Act 2, the barren yet atmospheric Act 3 and the final stabbing scene were all riveting.

Don Giovanni Musical Chairs at the Royal Opera

There were many last minute cast changes on Tuesday night's performance of Don Giovanni. Half of the cast were replacements. There was some miming on stage and singing from the pit. Don Giovanni and Laporello looked so similar (voice, acting, style) which made it very confusing. Pappano kept things going in the pit and did his best out of a bad situation.

Tear jerking La Fanciulla at the Royal Opera

What a change from La Calisto last night: Puccini's lush score and lyrical writing for La Fanciulla del West was made for the grand stage at the Royal Opera. José Cura once again assumed the role of Dick Johnson with much gusto and masculinity. Eva-Maria Westbroek's Minnie was not bad, though at times she lacked power in the middle register and was overwhelmed by the fat sound from the pit. Pappano as usual did a fine job pacing the action and milking those tear jerking moments (especially in Act III).

Not sure what to make of La Calisto at the Royal Opera

It was the first ever performance of Cavalli's La Calisto at the Royal Opera. I was glad to have seen it. The set design was psychedelic, costumes  were fantastical and stage acting amusing. The music was superbly played by members of the Monteverdi Continuo Ensemble and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

But I don't understand Seventeenth Century operas. I have opened my mind. I listened. I watched. I was not moved.

A delightful Hänsel und Gretel at Glyndebourne

Fairytale + Opera = Lots of fun. The cardboard box house, the scary forest littered with rubbish and the fabulous sweet-house stacked with colour boxes of treats. The set designer Barbara de Limburg Stirum did an amazing job at bringing the story to live on stage. The witch-cum-flying-broom sequence was particularly funny!

Jennifer Holloway was a boyish Hänsel and Gretel was sung by Adriana Kucherová. The acting was superb - at a distance they were believable young and delinquent! The LPO under Kazushi Ono delivered a robust late German Romantic sound while never drowning the soloists on stage. I was not familiar with Englebert Humperdinck’s music, the warmth
and lush orchestration really grabbed my attention: strangely I could
hear a lot of Hoenegger too. All in all a delightful evening in the countryside.

Easy brunch at the Brunch Club, Hong Kong

As I was walking along Caine Road, I thought "where is this brunch club"? Anyway, past Shelly Street was Peel Street and there it was - an inconspicuous eatery on this otherwise quiet street in the Hollywood Road area.

The menu has everything you would want for a Sunday brunch - croque monsieur, mixed grill, continental breakfast. Like many places in Hong Kong, the orange juice was freshly squeezed (rather than just squeezed in big factory hundreds of miles away).

Simple food, nicely done.

Pierre Gagnaire cooking at "Pierre" in Hong Kong

Monsieur Gagnaire was in Hong Kong presumably checking up on his name sake restaurant "Pierre" at the Mandarin Oriental, and in the process offered a "menu d'été" for the locals to enjoy.The summer degustation menu included many delightful dishes - the champagne sole chaud froid and apricot leaves, jellied fennel infusion with cuttle fish and green olives sorbet, etc. While the eight-course menu had many interesting textures and tastes, it was interesting to note previous few ingredients were local - was it because monsieur Gagnaire wanted to deliver consistency by sticking to European ingredients, or was it because there was no time for him to visit local food markets to see the wealth of local and regional produce? Hard to tell. And "Pierre" should definitely invest in some sauce spoons for punters to savour the delicious sauces.

A private and intriguing dinning experience at the Krug Room, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

It seems most top hotels in Hong Kong can offer a private dining experience where precious guests are cocooned in a hermetically sealed environment served by attentive waiting staff. The Mandarin Oriental cannot just have any old private dining room: it has created the Krug Room which is adjacent to the "central kitchen" of the hotel where all manners of gastronomic delights are concocted right in front of us (well actually the room faces the "hot" kitchen: there is a "cold" kitchen round the corner).

The Krug Room offers the "expect the unexpected" menu - dishes that are created using scientific and unusual techniques, many of which had derived from Herald McGee and his followers. The classic 'blackened cod' was juicy and succulent (which incidentally is also available on the Grill Room menu). The results were a series of delightfully flavourful dishes sometimes combined with unusual textures. Let's hope more locals are able to expe…

Fabulous The Rake's Progress at the Royal Opera

It was to be a fun evening. Director Robert Lepage and designer Carl Filion gave glitz and glam to the Royal Opera's new production the Rake's Progress. Charles Castronovo sang the part of Tom Rakewell wonderfully - with the acting skills and look to match. John Relyea was Faustian in his portrayal of Shadow. Tom Ades conducted the show with much precision, though the orchestra could have been a wee bit more rhythmic.

A very wet RHS Hampton Court Flower show

The Met Office said the sun will come out a 19:00. Looking out of the train window at 18:30, I could only see a menacing cloud with rain pounding the carriage. After a mad dash from the train station to the show entrance, my friend and I took refuge in one of the floral marquees. We were treated to some sensuous roses and lots of fabulous looking carnivorous plants.

It didn't take too long to find the show garden by my friend Philippa Pearson. It's a fab "Room with a View" double-decker garden with lovely flowers (don't know what they are called). And while we were there, a Silver-Gilt Medal was presented to Philippa!

Figaro at the Royal Opera

The current revival of David McVicar / Tanya McCallin's production of Figaro delivered much lighthearted entertainment for the end of the current Royal Opera season. Ilderando D'Arcangelo's voice,  acting skills and dark hair Latin look really suited the Figaro role. Aleksandra Kurzak also made a wonderfully playful Susanna. Barbara Frittoli was just too matronly for the role (and that wide vibrato didn't help).

Charles Mackerras, an octagenarian, continued to inject energy into this tried-and-tested work. Tempi were varied enough to give the performance variety - and he clearly refused to let any of the soloists to wallow in it ... good for him!

One funny Albert Herring at Glyndebourne

Britten is not renowned for his comedies (Wagner being the other one), so I was a wee bit skeptical about Glyndebourne's new production of Albert Herring - a comic story about a May King?

The production turned out to be great - the set and costume gave a realistic portrayal of an English household, the corner shop and the village fayre. Allan Clayton sang a believable Albert Herring (probably would make a good Billy Budd). Gwynne Geyer was a fabulously bossy Lady Billows. The LPO "chamber group" delivered an intimate and dynamic sound. Gérard Korsten brought the whole team together. It was, surprisingly, a fun evening out.

The rapturous Ariadne returns to the Royal Opera

I have always loved Ariadne auf Naxos - though cannot quite believe tonight was only the 45th performance at the Royal Opera House. The set is a wonderful two-tier contraption showing the upstairs palace and downstairs servant quarter. Singers all wore rather colourful costumes.

Gillian Keith was a svelt and vixen-like Zerbinetta with an acrobatic voice to match. Deborah Voigt as a not-so-svelt Prima Donna / Ariadne brought poise and power to the role. Sir Mark Elder moved the tempo along nicely - pulled out the dramatic tension where it was needed in first half and tenderness in the second half. There were fantastic moments throughout - with a piercing duet (Ariadne / Theseus) which bring it to a rapturous end.

Vlad getting into the groove at the Royal Festival Hall

Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra (plus London Adventist Chorale and Southbank Voice Lab) gave the world premiere of EXCITE! - a work celebrating the richness and diversity of London. While the gerne may not be Jurowski's home turf, he got into the grove and led the huge force on the platform of the Royal Festival Hall to deliver an exciting, groovy and rich performance. Perhaps Excite! should open the 2012 Olympic Games.

A grand Don Carlo returns to the Royal Opera

After nearly 12 years of absence, Don Carlo returned to the Royal Opera on Friday night with grandeur. An all star cast with Pappano at the helm ensuring the drama followed with the necessary intensity.

The geometric set gave sufficient hints to the locale of the plot. Period and sumptuous costume added visual richness. Simon Keenleyside's Posa was fantastic. Roberto Vilazon's Don Carlo gave a fine performance. Furlanetto's Philip II gave the character real development. All in all, it was a fantastic evening at the grand opera

Eugene Onegin at Glyndebourne

This revival of Eugene Onegin at Glyndebourne features a strong cast - Ales Jenis as Onegin, Maija Kovalevska as Tatyana, Massima Giordano as Lensky and Maria Gortsevskaya as Olga.

All the voices are well matched and balanced - nobody was sticking out, nor any one underpowered. In a word, it has the hallmark of Vladimir Jurowski - poised and controlled. The best was Tatyana's letter scene which was fantastically sung. Onegin came across, as expected, cold in Acts I and II. Somehow his passion failed to show in the last act - thus dampening the dramatic tension between the two lead characters. The minimalist stage worked worked well with the bold costume - though I was not convinced by the somewhat contrived choreography of the St Petersburg ballroom scene. Despite of these shortcomings, it was nonetheless an entertaining evening in the country.

A dark Theseus / Oberon at the Globe's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

It's always a joy to see the fruit of a creative company such as Shakespeare's Globe. This production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was full of wonderful character portraits and playful direction. The fairies' costumes were off-landish in contrast with the more classical fineries that the rest of the actors wore. It was also a pleasant surprise to see Siobhan Redmond as Hippolyta / Titania who was such a great trolley-dolly as "Shona" in the sitcom The High Life.

Beautifully played Monteverdi Poppea at Glyndebourne

Not being a big early opera fan, I was not entirely sure what to expect at this new production of L'incoronazione di Poppea at Glyndebourne.

While I found the drama difficult (a somewhat benign plot), the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Emmauelle Haim provided the much needed fluidity from scene to scene. Danielle De Niese sang Poppea wonderfully, though the opera / production does not played to her flamboyant style (unlike Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare a couple of seasons ago). Nero was well portrayed by Alice Coote. May be I should listen to more Monteverdi in order to get more out of this work.

Fabulously well sung Rosenkavalier at the English National Opera

With a cast like Janice Watson (Marchallin), Sarah Connolly (Octavian), Sarah Tynan (Sophie) and John Tomlinson (Ochs), one would naturally expect a great performance.

My expectations were met when I sent to see the new production of Der Rosenkavalier at the English National Opera last Saturday. The set was plain with enough props to indicate where the action was taking place. The stage production / direction was great - as one would expect when David McVicar is in charge. Edward Gardner maintained the momentum of the drama well. The duet in the opening of the second act and the trio at the end were brilliantly sung and well balanced. Tomlinson added the right amount of loutishness. All in all a great performance.

Simon Boccanegra lost his voice at the Royal Opera

Verdi's Simon Boccanegra got a new set by John Gunter  with slanted columns, doors and floor depicting a wonky period of Genoan history.  John Eliot Gardiner's tempi were  brisk and incisive  in the crowd scenes, but somewhat lacking in lyricism in the solo and duets.

Ferruccio Furlanetto stepped in as a replacement for Fiesco which gave the show much needed presence. The Royal Opera chorus was great - which gave the show the grand opera feel.  Natalie Ushakova's Amelia was neither here nor there - the voice seemed too unsteady in quiet moments and strained in the big arias. Lucio Gallo had a good start as Simone, but his voice sounded pushed and strained - only to lose it in the final scene when Marco Vratogna (who gave a fantastic performance of Paolo and had just been beheaded off stage) stepped in to sing the most moving scene at the end.

It was altogether an unsatisfying experience of Verdi.

A surround experience of Luigi Nono's Prometeo at the Royal Festival Hall

The composer Luigi Nono took great care in specifying how his Prometeo should be performed by musicians placed in different parts of the performing space. The end result, as those who went to these first UK performances at the Royal Festival Hall discovered , was a spatial experience that defies conventions (that being performers on stage and the  audience on the other side) - with various soundscapes swirling above our heads. Diego Masson and Patrick Bailey conducted the various chamber orchestra, singers and actors with much precision.

Welser-Möst conducts Der Rosenkavalier with the Zurich Opera House at the Royal Festival Hall

The last time I saw Franz Welser-Möst he was conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir while I was on stage (being a member of the aforementioned choir) belting out Verdi Requiem. That was 1996. He was then a young and energetic conductor at the helm of an orchestra that knew what it liked and what it didn't. All that reminded me of today's Vladimir Jurowski.

Fast forward 12 years and last night I saw a not-so-young Welser-Möst on the rostrum of the refurbished Royal Festival Hall directing the Zurich Opera House in Der Rosenkavalier. He has still maintained his style - energetic with a rich repertoire of gestures that informed the responsive orchestral players of his intentions. I thought they made a good match.

The performance of this famous Strauss opera was in general good. Nina Stemme as the Marchallin gave the role  a strong stage presence; Michelle Breedt a nimble Octavian while Laura Aikin a convincing Sophie. There were many beautiful passages - starting…

An arresting Salome at the Royal Opera

It has been over 10 years since the Royal Opera staged Salome (the last time I saw it in 1997, it was Bryn Terfel as John the Baptist and Catherine Malfitano singing the title role). One forgets how hard it is to stage this work - no overture, run time of just over 90 minutes, with not a lot of action on stage except the dance.

I needn't to have worried - this new production by David McVicar , design by Es Devlin and conducted by Phillippe Jordan was arresting from start to finish. The two-level stage with a posh upstairs and a lavatorial downstairs gave much visual interest. The cast had lots of exciting new blood who gave a fantastic performance: Michael Volle sang John the Baptist and Nadja Michael sang the title role viscerally, with Duncan Meadows as the naked adonis-executioner. David McVicar's production let the inter-character dynamic and underlying psychological tension unfold along with the music. Phillippe Jordan kept the pace and excitement going through out in the…

A cosmopolitan crowd at Azure, LKF Hotel in Hong Kong

"Let's meet at the lobby of LKF Hotel" was what my friend told me. OK, I turned up promptly in white Nike trainers, Diesel jeans, white t-shirt and a Prada top (i.e. desperately looking casual) not sure what to expect. We got into the lift. The lift attendant (why are there lift attendants in Hong Kong?) pressed "29". And up we went.

The lift doors opened - swish - and I was at the lower level of this chic yet somewhat bohemian joint Azure. The decor had that Soho House look - complete with a pool table in the middle. A generous curvy staircase led us to the upper floor with a double height ceiling offering a roof-top vista of Central and the Lan Kwai Fong area. The music was an eclectic mix - though we were all pretending not having heard any of those 80's tunes in order not to give our age away!

Chanel Mobile Art - is it art?

One never misses the chance to admire Zaha Hadid's architecture. So when I landed in Hong Kong in mid February for the Arts Festival, I was pleasantly surprised to find a piece of Hadid architecture being constructed on top of an old car park (see picture below). Well, the exhibition opened in early March and I took the opportunity to check out  Chanel Mobile Art.

Each visitor is given his / her own headset which plays for 30 minutes - the time that will complete a tour. This approach ensured all visitors had a multi-sensual experience of the show - with a gentle voice drawing you into one work after the other. So it's a nice way to spend 30 minutes looking at contemporary art. But then again, was it art? The entire show poked fun at the iconic Chanel quilted handbag. Some of the works were provocative (handbags made with tattooed pigs skin, with the said stuffed pigs nearby ...) It's a tough balancing act when a show like this is sponsored by a big fashion house. I think …

A no-nonsense bakery churning out yummy goodies at Brouke Street

TimeOut Sydney rates it as the best bakery in town. Monocle speaks well of it. So when a contact suggested brunch at Bourke Street Bakery, I was most intrigued to check the place out. Well, you could definitely smell it from a block away (I walked down from Crown Street to Bourke Street). And the 5-8 person deep queue outside the bakery was a good sign.

The praline danish was very tasty, mixed fruit muffin was moist and my Australian chicken pie  had a balanced mixture of chicken, vegetables and gravy. Yum. The place was no-nonsense - with three tiny tables inside and a few metallic low chairs outside - so nobody could ever be pretentious coming here! There was this unmissable sense that everyone was enjoying the goodies coming out of the oven.

Unexpectedly good brunch at Fratelli Paradiso in Sydney

Having met up with a few friends and discussed all things lifestyle related, there is evidence to suggest that Sydneysiders don't cook! Not even breakfast!!! Although allegedly Australia has the highest number of recipes printed per capita per annum in the world,  everyone I have talked to really enjoys their food all hours of the day away from home.

Part of the reason, I think, is that eating out is relatively inexpensive, sometimes the food can be of surprisingly good quality and eateries are conveniently located. I ate brunch with a couple of friends at Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Point. The name suggested a certain Italian heritage, but I don't think I will ever find anything like this in the whole of Italy - fried egg on organic sweet cure bacon on top of a brioche like bun complete with slices of Swiss Emmental

The sweetness of the brioche bun (probably of North Italian heritage?) brought out the saltiness of the bacon, and the cheese added complexity. Probably just too …

Wholesome Aussie nosh at Bill's

It was a weekday afternoon (3-ish) and I was starving. Having wondered around the Darlinghurst and Surry Hills areas, I was in need of something nourishing and wholesome. I remember Bills on Crown Street adjacent to the famous Aussie Chinese restaurant Billy Kwong - so I thought I'd pop along for a quick bite.

The staff was friendly, my Wagyu beef burger with Swiss cheese and diced beetroot just hit the spot. I am not a Wagyu beef fan - too fatty and lacking in flavour - but somehow the beetroot really made the whole burger really tast. It came with fries (fresh out of the fryer) with homemade barbecue-ketchup. Really scrumptious.

What's the fuss about IvyBar in Sydney?

It seems Syneysiders get excited about any new opening in town. A local friend took me to IvyBar (on George Street near Martin Place) on Friday. The sign "No hard hat required" next to a building site did not fill me with confidence ...

We duly climbed the stair case to the venue - essentially a large bar counter attached to an ex-office atrium. Was it stylish? It was hard to tell. Was the crowd fabulous? Hardly - everyone tried to look so cool it was painful. And the music and noise boomed right up and down the atrium which made it loud rather than atmospheric.

What's the fuss? I couldn't work it out. The drinks were of box standard selection and quality. The bar staff didn't really care - no smile. Yet when we left, the queue (see below) went round the block! The only deduction I could make was NEW = HIP.

Longrain serves up decent Aussie Thai

Longrain is a short trot away from the Sydney CBD, and it's well worth the journey. Its long shape dining room is matched by long rectangular tables and benches with a long bar and seating area. When I walked in, I was surrounded by the smell of decent Asian cooking.

Recognising my singularity, the waiting staff helpfully recommended a few dishes for me to sample - deep friend soft shell crab on a bed of green papaya, slow roast beef shin and diced prawns on bental leaves. The Red Dragon cocktail (chili, coriander, cranberry juice, vodka)  went very well with the whole meal. I finished it off with a scoop of their very aromatic coconut sorbet.

Andreas Scholl sings Handel and mock Baroque in Sydney

The last time I was in a concert hall in Australia, I was a performer on the stage of Perth Concert Hall. So it's nice for a change to be front of house at the relatively new City Recital Hall at Angel Place yesterday evening. It has the look and feel of Symphony Hall in Birmingham - except it's about 1/3 smaller. The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra started the evening with a Sinfonia by Brescianello - which showed off the acoustic quality of the hall - resonant and bright, not sloppy at all.

The star of the evening then appeared to sing a setting of Stabat Mater by Marco Rosano (an Italian film and TV composer). The work by and large had an alla breve quality with mostly slow movements. The writing was probably best described as mock-Baroque. While the work showed off the voice of its dedicatee Andreas Scholl, the music became tedious quite quickly - somehow it lacked the richness of musical styles or architecture that one expects to find in a genuine Baroque work.


La Cenerentola on a big stage at Covent Garden

Having seen La Cenerentola at Glyndebourne this year, I was naturally intrigued to see how Covent Garden does it on a big stage. Christian Fenouillat, the set designer, gave a nod to Jonathan Miller by presenting a neutral (read bland) stage with hints of a dilapidated castle / grand princely household. The space was cavernous though a few strategically placed walls helped bounce the sound off to the auditorium.

A septet of strong singers helped the drama and music along - Toby Spence gave an almost convincing account of the prince Don Ramiro. Angelina (La Cenerentola) was sung by Magdalena Kozena who had a strong voice. The best performance came from Alex Esposito as Alidoro with strong acting skills and a well tuned basso profundo voice. I did feel the conductor Evelino Pido probably took the tempi a notch too fast - where on several occassions the coloratura singing fell behind the beat.