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Showing posts from May, 2010

La fille du regiment at the Royal Opera

I went to see the revival of La fille du régiment at the Royal Opera. It was as good as I saw it last time. There were a few tweaks to the production but the two big stars - Juan Diego Flórez and Natalie Dessay were splendid once again!

Hix on Brewer Street - worth it?

Went to Hix on Brewer Street last night for dinner. Not impressed.We were made to wait an extra 20 minutes for our table in the bar
downstairs which was dark and loud. The cocktail list was interesting -
but the lighting condition didn't encourage reading nor exploration. The main
restaurant was overwhelmingly noisy - a harsh nosiness rather than
buzzy noisy. The waiting staff was slightly disorganised. As a starter, I had the battered monk fish cheeks. It sounded good on the menu. I have eaten many fish cheeks before and they definitely were not cheeks - more like medallion of monk fish fillets. The tartar sauce was nice though. My venison salad was disappointing - served in a wooden bowl (why?) the venison was tough and bordering flavourless.  The beetroot chunks were good though. Desserts improved somewhat - I had a taste of my friends' chocolate tart and Bakewell pudding which were both rich and decadent.So I cannot understand what the fuzz is about this place. Perhaps there i…

A splendidly masculine Billy Budd at Glyndebourne

It's always special going to a first night - well in this case first afternoon performance of the new production of Billy Budd at Glyndebourne. John Mark Ainsley as Captain Vere was centre stage and spot-lit at the opening - accompanied by a beautiful yet ethereal sound from the pit. After the prologue the set transformed with the ship deck emerging from rear-stage. This set, designed by Christopher Oram, remained on stage throughout - and many nautical devices (ropes, rigs, etc.) were used by the singers and actors to convey a sense of action-on-deck.

Jacques Imbrailo, as Billy Budd, had the quintessential innocent and youthful quality. Master-of-Arms Clggart was sung by Phillip Ens who gave it plenty of vindictiveness: shades of Iago emerged during his monologue towards the end of Act 1. The Glyndebourne chorus was splendidly masculine.
Michael Grandage, making his operatic debut, did the job well - the acting and movements were great. The lighting, by Paule Constable, was goo…

A punchy Aida at the Royal Opera

After the last not so successful Aida at the Royal Opera (the night I went, someone in the audience shouted "get on with the bloody singing" during some mannerist movements on stage), there was much anticipation of David McVicar's production of this Verdi masterpiece. The stage design (by Jean-Marc Puissant)  had a dark, industrial and gritty look. The 3-d elements were creatively used to give the stage interest without being intrusive.
Micaela Carosi (as Aida) had a powerful voice and delivered some good acting. Amneris (Marianne Cornetti) had the right kind of highly strung and gutsy voice. The decidedly-chubby Marcelo Álvarez sang a decent Radames - though his opening aria Celeste Aida could have been sung with greater sensitive and observance of the morendo marking at the end would not go amiss. There were lots of people on stage, but my guess was that less than half were singers (there were acrobats, lots of dancers, some muscle-bods) - so while the Royal Opera cho…

The Mandarin Oriental trying to re-invent the sandwich, why?

Finger sandwiches form an integral part of an English afternoon tea (together with scones and clotted cream, cakes and of course tea). Most hotels in Hong Kong would do a half decent afternoon tea. The Clipper Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental has been offering afternoon tea for decades.I was meeting up with some out of town friends in Hong Kong and I thought tea at the Mandarin would be lovely. We sat down. We ordered afternoon tea. The food, as usual, came in a multi-tier contraption as well as a basket of piping hot scones. What intrigued me first were the boxy objects on the top tier (see picture below) - what were they? Then I realised they were sandwiches! Except the Mandarin has done a "california maki roll" job by wrapping the bread with the filling: so the oily smoked salmon covered the bread, the Parma ham wrapped around the bread, not to mention thin cucumber slices went around buttered white bread. The whole point of a sandwich is that the bread forms a barrier to …