Das Rheingold at the Royal, or, An Analytical Experience
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2M ago
 It was interesting to see this production so close to Barrie Kosky's Dialogues at Glyndebourne earlier in the summer. There as here the production can be defended on a textual basis (and there are some striking close readings) but the overall argument for me came at a cost of emotional engagement and dramatic tension.  Kosky's central thesis appears to be that the Earth (Erda) is being exploited and ruined by everybody else on stage. He thus makes the character of Erda much more present than would usually be the case. Almost the first image we see (before a note has been played) is ..read more
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Dialogues des Carmelites at Glyndebourne, or, A Minority Opinion
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4M ago
 Note: This is a review of the performance on Saturday 29th July 2023. I feel obliged to preface what follows with a few caveats. First, I am very much in a minority in not being overwhelmed by this production (though my partner was in agreement) both as regards the critics and the rest of the audience at the performance I attended if the applause for Barrie Kosky's appearance was any guide. Second, I've seen a few Kosky productions over the years (usually in Edinburgh) and I can't think of a single one that really blew me away compared to his unstaged concerts of Yiddish opera and Weill ..read more
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Wozzeck at the Royal, or, In Bafflement
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6M ago
Note: I've struggled to get back to blogging since the pandemic. On several occasions I've written pieces off line, put off publishing them here, and the moment passed. I originally wasn't going to write about this performance because it seems clear to me that I haven't got to grips with the work, but thoughts have been nagging at me so I've decided to set them down but I think this probably has to be considered a reflection rather than a standard review.  This was my second attempt to get to grips with this opera. I previously saw it at ENO in (Google informs me) 2013, a performance whic ..read more
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BBC Classical Music "Strategy" Update, or, A Disappointing (to put it mildly) Response
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8M ago
 Since we last wrote on this senior BBC management (Davie, Moore, Clarke and Webb) have sent replies to at least two of the groups who collectively protested the original strategy. These replies are as un-reassuring as the press release announcing the pause of the decision to close the BBC Singers. They continue to present arguments which date back to the first announcement of the new "strategy" and which we (and others) have taken to pieces. You can read our previous posts on the matter here, here, and here. I'd much prefer not to have to keep on writing about this situation. I'd also mu ..read more
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BBC U-Turn on Singers Closure?, or Questions that Senior Management Still Need to Answer
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8M ago
 What was a rumour (on Lebrecht's blog) last night appears to be fact this morning with a BBC press release announcing that the decision to close the BBC Singers has been "paused" by the corporation. This is, as far as it goes, good news, but there remain major questions for senior management at the corporation to answer. First, and purely with respect to the Singers, what is to happen going forwards and on what timeline? There's a troubling statement in the report that implies the pause is because "a number of organisations came forward to offer alternative funding". Maybe this is (as my ..read more
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The BBC Classical Music Cuts, or, We Must Have Accountability and Standards in Senior Public Appointments
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8M ago
 Just over ten days ago now I wrote at length here about the BBC's new classical music strategy, of which the most notable element is the proposal to close the BBC Singers and to make 20% cuts to the three English orchestras (BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra). I asked a whole series of questions about the evidence (& mostly lack of it) underpinning the strategy and about the strategy itself. Since I published that blog post, public criticism of the cuts and the strategy has gathered pace. A letter was leaked which is damning of BBC management's conduct i ..read more
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EIF 2022 - There's Runnicles with Fidelio, or, A Powerfully Felt Performance
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1y ago
 Regular readers will know we are admirers of Donald Runnicles at this blog, well our name is a bit of a giveaway. His performances of concert opera at the International Festival over the years have consistently been highlights, and it's been really excellent news that after the baffling gap of the Mills era, Linehan has in recent Festivals resumed inviting Runnicles to give concert opera. I sincerely hope Nicola Benedetti will continue to do so when she takes over as Artistic Director next year. My history of staged Fidelios has been pretty dismal, in fact I think I've probably seen ..read more
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EIF 2022 - The Pulse at the Playhouse, or, Simply Mesmerising
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1y ago
 At the start of this performance, Gravity & Other Myths and the National Youth Choir of Scotland conducted by Mark Evans lulled this viewer into thinking he had seen it before. The Choir are singing numbers - 1,2,3,2,1 etc. (I suspect a Glass setting) and the movement of the acrobats recalled to mind the work of others - William Forsythe's choreography, Glass's Einstein on the Beach. Then the acrobats subvert it as they climb on one another's shoulders - forming first a set of two person towers, and then moving up to three - the moment when the set of trio towers cross through each o ..read more
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EIF 2022 - Rusalka at the Festival Theatre, or A Superb Substitution
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1y ago
 When the 2022 EIF programme was announced I confess to a lukewarm reaction to Rusalka as the sole staged opera simply because it's never been one of my favourite works and I've seen it a couple of times and not been wowed. I booked for this run of performances more for completionist reasons. As it turned out this is a show that is well worth seeing and makes a very strong case for the merits of the piece. Before we go on to any other aspects of the evening Elin Pritchard, stepping in to the title role for the indisposed Natalya Romaniw must be singled out for special praise. Pritchard ga ..read more
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EIF 2022 - Burn at the King's, or, Mr Cumming is Self-Indulgent
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1y ago
 I was sceptical about this show in advance. When it began with a projection of the title (a theatrical tick I particularly dislike) on the back video screen my scepticism increased. The subsequent hour did not change my mind. There's no doubt that Alan Cumming is a compelling stage presence - having that indefinable quality of charisma I've observed in very few performers in my years of theatregoing and which renders the individual inherently watchable. He is also a very effective deliverer of text. But neither these qualities nor throwing the kitchen sink at the staging can disguise the ..read more
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