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tamaranth

August 2017

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05JUL17: Spiderman: Homecoming, Odeon Leicester Square

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16JUL17: 'The Death of Christopher Marlowe'
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19JUL17: blink-182, O2, Greenwich
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20JUL17: Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity, Leighton House Museum
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21JUL17: Der Freischutz (Weber), Blackheath Community Opera, Blackheath Halls
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22JUL17: Adventures in Moominland, Royal Festival Hall
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27JUL17: Dunkirk, Barbican Cinema
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02JUN17: Wonder Woman, Odeon IMAX, Greenwich

This is not really a feminist film, despite the female protagonist -- there is not enough interaction between the female characters -- but it might be a 'feminist superhero' film. Diana's blend of naivete and power, and her journey from the idyllic female community of Themyscira to the trenches of WWI, parallels her growth from idealistic warrior to conflicted hero. That arc is familiar (Thor, Captain America, even Iron Man). Is Diana's journey any different from a male hero's?

I didn't engage with Wonder Woman as fully as I'd hoped. I found it a remarkably humourless film -- perhaps I have been spoilt by Marvel's wisecracks and one-liners -- and, though it has parallels with the first Captain America film, it doesn't have that film's knack for characterisation. For instance, Steve Trevor's backup team get more screen time than Steve Rogers' Howling Commandos, but have less personality.

I would have liked more of Lucy Davis' Etta Candy (and Josette Simon's Mnemosyne!) but Gal Gadot rocks: she has presence, grace and timing.

16JUN17: L'elisir d'amore -- Donizetti, Royal Opera House

I adore this opera: the comic, romantic themes suit Donizetti's glorious and ebullient music rather better than the doom and tragedy of Lucia or Anna Bolena. Laurent Pelly's ROH production -- set in 1950s rural Italy -- is cheerful, witty and beautifuly staged. The performance we saw had some changes of personnel. Roberto Alagna was ill, so Nemorino sung in second half by Atalla Ayan from side of stage while Alagna acted (this worked surprisingly well) and understudy Jennifer Davis stood in as Adina for Aleksandra Kurzak. Absolutely no complaints on either count.

I used to avoid the ROH because I perceived it as much more expensive than the ENO. Times have changed. We had reasonably-priced seats -- £35 -- in the Upper Amphitheatre (note to self: get seats on left-hand side next time, to avoid crowds en route to bar) and didn't find the 'restricted view' problematic.
Am hideously behind on reviews: luckily (?) November was a very quiet month culturally.

12-NOV-16: La Boheme (Puccini, version by Robin Norton-Hale) - Cutty Sark Theatre, Greenwichreview )
15-NOV-16: Acedian Pirates, Theatre 503, Batterseareview )
Brief reviews this month, due to November. Click the links to see what other people thought, and more details about performances etc.

07-OCT-16: Don Giovanni, English National Opera
Utterly splendid production, which managed to introduce a twist! Several twists, actually, including Donna Anna being complicit in her own seduction: I'm not sure this entirely makes sense. Beautifully staged, too: a highlight was Masetto, perfectly silhouetted by stark light, tipping over one of the two figures on his wedding cake. Maybe a new translation of the libretto? I'd surely have remembered 'let my peasant eat my pheasant' ...

15-OCT-16: The Libertine, Theatre Royal
I know this play quite well, having seen it performed live at least once (maybe this performance) as well as owning the DVD of the film starring Johnny Depp. There were a couple of innovations (or possibly things I misremembered) in the Theatre Royal version: I was especially taken by the theatre scene ('play within a play', ha) near the beginning, where it became obvious why Restoration actors relied so much on exaggerated gestures and poses: their audiences made such a racket, there was little chance of anyone hearing the actors declaiming their lines.
Sadly, Dominic Cooper didn't really work as Rochester, at least not for me. He lacked not only the charisma, but the requisite air of danger: and it never felt as though he actually enjoyed the company of his friends, or felt like one of a group. In this production, Billy Downs wasn't central enough, so Rochester's friendship with and abandonment of him lacked impact.
The Theatre Royal is a beautiful building, and this play still makes me laugh: but it could have been better.

21-OCT-16: Bach - Mass in B Minor, Milton Court
'Like being wrapped in a velvet devore shawl," I wrote, '(and slowly smothered?)' The slower movements were beautiful, if ... relaxing: but oh, baroque brass and kettle-drums! The Gloria and the Sanctus Spiritus both sparked exclamation marks in my notebook. The sheer attack on the Resurrexit was like electricity going through the room. And the gradual slowing at the end of the final movement worked very well.
Milton Hall, which is part of the Guildhall School for Music and Drama, is smaller than the Barbican's main concert hall and has great acoustics: I like it, and hope to see more concerts there.

22-OCT-16: Welcome to Night Vale, London Palladium
Not nearly as many women in the audience as the last show I attended. And it didn't seem, from my sparse notes, to appeal to me as much either. Some interesting lines, but the show's accomplishment was the slow build of Cecil's ghost story. Excellent opening act Eliza Rickman: I loved her cover of Let's Dance and recognised the chords before she started to sing.

25-OCT-16: Doctor Strange, Odeon Leicester Square
Not very far up my ranked list of MCU films: it's visually spectacular, but the character arcs don't make much sense, and Cumberbatch is an oddly uninteresting Strange. (Or perhaps Strange is uninteresting? Compare and contrast to the first Iron Man film for how to introduce a new, engaging character.) Some nice lines: 'What's this?' asks Strange in a Tibetan hideaway. 'My mantra?' 'The wi-fi password.' I liked Stan Lee's cameo, reading The Doors of Perception. Tilda Swinton: awesome as ever. The best bit was the first credits scene. Also, is that a new Marvel title sequence? Does not want.
First came Nine Worlds: love the new venue (Hammersmith Novotel) and felt much less frazzled than in previous years. My Historical Headcanon (concerning Christopher Marlowe) seemed well-received and I was on a couple of interesting panels about historical fiction, fanfiction, writing, etc.

Then to Edinburgh to skew my monthly averages for various types of Culture. I like the shorter-than-usual performances (they averaged an hour): leaves plenty of time for climbing the hills of which Edinburgh is composed, and pausing for refreshment at each summit.
theatre, gigs, circus, literary stuff, opera, comedy )

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Jun. 7th, 2016 07:24 am
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
07-MAY-16: Fred's House -- The Junction, Cambridge

What an excellent gig! Full of verve, nice Seventies vibe, exuberant singer and good songs. Plus, although it was technically a standing-only gig, we got there early enough to get seats.

11-MAY-16: Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

M had a spare ticket, hurrah! This was the Katie Mitchell production that sparked outrage due to explicit sex: I don't know if they'd toned it down by the time we saw it, or if we just didn't notice the worst bits. (We were off to the left of the ROH: the production is 'split-screen', with different action on the left and the right of the stage, and we didn't have a good view of the left half.) The production does highlight the sexual politics and the misogyny -- Lucia's 'wedding feast' is a pool game, not a woman in sight. Blood everywhere, too. But the music is sublime and often cheery. Marvellous singing, especially from Aleksandra Kurzak as Lucia and Artur Ruciński as Enrico.

21-MAY-16: London Choral Sinfonia; Haydn, War and Peace -- Cadogan Hall

Haydn's Masses have become some of my favourite choral music. The London Choral Sinfonia gave us Salve Regina, Te Deum and the Nelson Mass: they started with a shorter piece I had not heard before, Insanae et vanae curae, which was fantastic. Interestingly, the choir includes male altos -- not something I remember seeing before. Will definitely look out for more concerts by this group.

25-MAY-16: Justina Robson interview, BSFA -- Artillery Arms

Interviewed by Kate Keen, who asked plenty of pertinent questions and got interesting responses. JR's recurring theme: 'dead people in your head'. And her apology: 'I naturally complicate things'. An offhand comment provoked me to find and reread Andre Norton's The Jargoon Pard; I also learnt that JR was inspired by Holdstock's Lavondyss -- communal tales, big ideas. Plus some commentary about Glorious Angels, her latest, which I loved.
11-MAR - Norma (Bellini) -- English National Opera

Glorious music, sublime indifference to historical fact. Gaul, circa 50BC. Norma is a Druid priestess, who worships Inmirsul [a Saxon deity, here represented quite authentically by a large tree-trunk, albeit not in its erect state] and believes the Romans will be leaving soon. (True, give or take four centuries.) She is in love with a Roman proconsul, Pollione: but he has traded her in for a younger model, Analgesic Adalgisa -- also a priestess. When Pollione is recalled to Rome, guess who he plans to take with him? Norma is not happy. But she does a selfless brave thing.

Very much enjoyed, and thanks to A for taking our spare ticket and bringing us a bottle of wine for the box!

12-MAR - Hail Caesar!

This was immense fun, even for someone like me who has a poor memory for faces. Gosh, that was Christopher Lambert. And Dolph Lundgren. And ... and ... Gosh, Professor Marcuse. I have heard of him.

The plot is basically 'man has to choose between hard-but-fun job or cushy boring job'. George Clooney is brilliantly stupid; Alden Ehrenreich is hilarious as a star of Westerns thrust into a society drama; gosh, Channing Tatum can certainly dance (and what an interesting take).

Yes, it trivialises the anti-Communist witchhunts, and there's a bit of period-typical homophobia (part of it plot-related, e.g. the threatened outing of an actor; part of it not, e.g. the fact that the villain is a homosexual). But it celebrates the myth of the golden age of Hollywood, and has fun recreating thinly-disguised classics such as Ben Hur, On the Town, Shine on Harvest Moon and Million Dollar Mermaid.

13-MAR - Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution -- National Maritime Museum

Using Pepys as a starting point, this exhibition brought together a great many artifacts from the 17th century, and included some audiovisual items: a painting of the execution of Charles I, with areas highlighted as the narrative progressed; a theatrical section with readings from Shakespeare; an animation of the progress of the Great Fire. There wasn't as much about Pepys' own life as I'd have liked, and more about his marriage (happy) than any of his extracurricular affairs. This being the Maritime Museum, they got into their stride with his connections to the Navy. Gosh, a chain link such as would have been used in Pepys' time ... Very nicely done, though. I was accompanied by a friend who asked me about the history of the period: I recommended she read Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver -- and when we reached the gift shop at the end, there it was.

18-MAR - Scriabin, late Poemes (James Kreiling) Peckham Asylum

Well, I went to this concert suspecting that I didn't like late Scriabin, and I came away confirmed in my belief. I could perceive glimmers of structure and sequence, but I didn't understand the music at all. By way of contrast, Kreiling finished with an earlier piece, and I felt I had more of a handle on that. So: still unappreciative of late-period Scriabin, but it was a very impressive performance by a gifted musician. Also, the venue was astounding: lots of peeling and faded paint, stained-glass windows, tealights and bare bulbs, broken masonry. Photo here.
02-JAN - Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky), Royal Opera House -- a Christmas present from [livejournal.com profile] ladymoonray. Like any good production, this made me notice aspects of the opera that I hadn't spotted before: the melodramatic music of Onegin's first appearance (a visitor is such an event!); the Offenbach vibe of the Frenchman's song; Tatiana's friends talking about Samuel Richardson. And this production is gorgeous: shades of blue-grey-aqua for everyone except Tatiana, who's in crimson and white. Having a younger version of Onegin, dancing, didn't work for me, but I can see how it illuminated the story.

07-JAN - As You Like It (Shakespeare), National Theatre -- a friend had a spare ticket. I loved the transformation of techie office space into forest: truly arresting. The sheep were fun, too, and Rosalind (Rosalie Craig) was excellent.

14-JAN - Celts: Art and Identity, British Museum. Celtic art is a broad category, extending from decorations on shields and swords to Mackintosh and 'Ossian'. I was taken by The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe (George Henry, 1890) until I got closer and realised that the Druids had Native American features. Also, could really have done without the dreamy tinkly New Age music playing throughout.

28-JAN - Sibelius/Martinsson/Sibelius: Philharmonia cond. Rouvali, Royal Festival Hall Rouvali clearly loves Sibelius -- he was a joy to watch, and brought so much energy (and sharp exhalations of breath) to 'Night Ride and Sunrise' and the Second Symphony. Exuberant! Kudos to the Philharmonia -- as usual -- but especially for the perfect union of bass pizzicato at the beginning of the second movement of Second Symphony. ... There was also a Trumpet Concerto, which I did not care for though it was very well executed. More of an argument between orchestra and instrument than a conversation ...

30-JAN - Libertines, O2 -- a.k.a. 'my friend's cousin's band'. Attended with 2 teenagers, who were excellent company. I find I like earlier Libertines best, and have little patience for the celebrity-hungry afterpartiers. Bass was waaaaaay too high on Sleaford Mods (support); Libertines good, energetic and engaged; crowd-watching fun.
1. The Indian Queen -- Purcell (sort of), ENO, 28 Feb 2015

Purcell's half-an-opera has been wrenched by Peter Sellars from the Dryden play it accompanies, reimagined, reenvisaged and really not my thing. I love Purcell for his triumphant choral pieces and wit: I found neither here. The leads were excellent; the art was interesting; the music wasn't offensive, if not as lively as I'd hoped. But the parts didn't fit together, and I was often at a loss as to what the heck was going on. (Especially after a bathroom break, when -- prevented from returning to Our Box -- I had to sit at the back where I couldn't see the surtitles.) The Indian Queen is a mashup of Mayan creation myth, colonial oppression narrative, romance (some of the novel excerpts read aloud were quite ... explicit: I do not wish to hear the word 'thrust' in this context), pastede-on-yay bits of poetry, non-linear sequence.

Guardian review here
article from New York Times about Madrid reception here
Mary Beard liked it more than I did

2. Jupiter Ascending (3D), Odeon, 01 March 2015

In contrast this was immense fun. Yes, pure space opera, with waaaaay too many chase / fight scenes and Sean Bean being quite hammy. And it's rather ... disjointed, or possibly just overambitiously trying to shove too many genres / moods into 2 hours. But it has an interesting female protagonist with agency (she even makes the first move in the inevitable romantic liaison); an excellent soundtrack that I liked much more than most Marvel soundtracks; some splendid scenes ('worth the price of admission,' said my companion early on, as Jupiter's moons -- the planet's, not Jupiter Jones' -- whirled across the screen); some delightfully dastardly villains; plenty of daft not-actually-science; a genetically-modified soldier who's effectively a werewolf; and several outstanding performances, including Eddie Redmayne and Maria Doyle Kennedy.

Oh, and it has Terry Gilliam in it.

Guardian review: 'absolute nonsense'. Yes, and your point is ...? That review does end with the marvellous line 'delivered with a “petite-mort” look on his face that suggests he is being fellated by eternity itself.'
I have been lax in writing up my Thoughts on Culture ... recent outings have included Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, and Another Earth at the cinema.
reviews! )
A hasty but heartfelt recommendation for Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Cambridge Youth Opera's first ever production, at St Mary's School (Bateman St) this evening 7:30 tickets £5.

Went last night with [livejournal.com profile] woolymonkey (mother of two chorus members) and was dead impressed: witty, gorgeously sung and beautifully choreographed by Jenny Bell (who is 15). Better than some professional productions I've seen: reminiscent of ENO productions with reimagined setting (Fifties teen movie) and plenty of humour.

Photos later unless monkeyboys have a whipround to raise preventative funds.
It has been a busy few weeks. Not only have I started WERK, I have been ingesting CULTURE, including but not limited to:
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
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- Warrior
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- The Elixir of Love (Donizetti)
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- Mahler, Symphony #8 ('Symphony of A Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine')
The finale of Lorin Maazel's Mahler cycle: big in every respect (three choirs, large orchestra, eight solo singers, and the RFH organ (WIP, not yet fully restored); last night's performance was well over the 90-minute mark, and not a single one of those moments was dull. Additional, and unwanted, excitement provided by the collapse during the final movement of one of the double-bass players, who was helped off the stage by colleagues. Apparently shaken but okay. I was impressed by the rapidity of help offered and by Maazel keeping an eye on the basses, and the door behind them, afterwards.
I would have got even more out of this performance if I knew the piece better: as it was, I sat dazed, and hitched a lift with the Muse who was in attendance. (Concerts are brilliant for generating creative inspiration.)

I have also, recently:
- had a chest x-ray (no nasties)
- increased my peak air flow from ~180 to ~350 (still some way to go, but steroid inhaler is fab)
- been to the beach (blissssss)
- been to a barbeque
- had a birthday (thanks to all who sent good wishes or turned up to present in person!)
- had a grand day out with [livejournal.com profile] ladymoonray
- cleaned a lot of data
- read some books
Last Friday I was lured to the Junction, round the corner, by [livejournal.com profile] groliffe and C and C's friend C2, to see Show of Hands with Miranda Sykes, supported by Rodney Branigan. Branigan was funny and impressive (played a duet with himself, no mean feat on acoustic guitars: also managed a drum solo without any drums). Show of Hands were rivetting -- I found this folk gig more ... inclusive? ... than many rock gigs, more of a sense of camaraderie with audience.

Last Saturday I traipsed around the National Gallery with [livejournal.com profile] ladymoonray, then met up with [livejournal.com profile] swisstone (standing in for a poorly [livejournal.com profile] ms_cataclysm) and headed to the ENO for Terry Gilliam's production of Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust. I'd been looking forward to this, and the production -- transposed to Nazi Germany -- was visually arresting and beautifully lit, with stunning use of video, interesting staging etc: but it just didn't engage me for some reason.

Yesterday Wednesday I was back in London, at the IMAX with [livejournal.com profile] ladymoonray, for Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides. Immensely enjoyable and considerably better than the previous two films (though still managed a few slow bits): it felt a lot more like the first one, with which I fell in love. Much of the soundtrack was based on that of the first film. Penelope Cruz was very good as Tough Girlie. It's a long time since I read the Powers novel which this claims to have been 'suggested by': there were moments when I felt as though Powers had plundered (pillaged, rifled, looted) Declare as well as On Stranger Tides.

There's a Geoffrey Rush interview in the Torygraph, in which he was asked "how do you resist the temptation to slip into high camp when acting alongside Depp?"

The truthful answer to this is, as far as I can tell, "I don't."

Arrrr!
The ENO's latest production of Mozart's Don Giovanni suffers a little from cluttered and incoherent staging (what was it supposed to be?) and the desire to have constant movement, scenery and cast, on stage: from where we were sitting, over to the right of the balcony, it also suffered from lopsidedness, and there were quite a few times where we couldn't see the singers. And please please will someone proffrede the surtitles and put back all the missing words?

It is, despite all this, delightful: Don Giovanni is one of my top three operas, and this new translation (though occasionally clunky and often quite free) is great fun.

Iain Paterson plays Don G as the sleazebag he is: there is little charm to him, and it makes sense that the only way he gets to add another woman to the catalogue is by force. Brindley Sherratt's Leporello was the star of the show for me: the Catalogue Aria (with spreadsheets and Powerpoint) was hilarious, though the Don's conquests were reduced from "and in Spain, one thousand and three" to "March and April, one hundred and two: then there's you". Good performances all round, especially John Malloy as Masetto.

There were a couple of points where the staging and / or translation modified the original quite markedly: the cavatina that Don Giovanni sings, in disguise, to Elvira has become a solitary performance mourning a lost love. And I definitely got the sense in this production, more than in some others, that he's not just a libertine but damaged and dangerously disconnected: dying of boredom.

Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] ms_cataclysm for chauffeuse duties, without which -- due to late start and overrun -- we'd have been on the late-late train.

To be broadcast live 27th November 6:15pm Radio 3

ENO Production Page -- though see feedback below ...

Dear ENO,
is it fair, on your About the Production page, to give us an excerpt from a different production for the catalogue aria (Pretty Lady)? I think not ...
Love, me
I'd seen this production before, but possibly with a different cast. Anna Christy was unsettlingly childlike and vulnerable as Lucia: the production really plays up her youth, as well as hints of more than brotherly interest from her wicked sibling.

Noteworthy things: excellent use of light and shadow (Alisa's shadow seeming to close the curtains); Lucia's white dress revealed in the mad scene as red with blood all down her right side. (Though her husband's corpse showed wounds on right, so was she behind him?); glass harmonica right there on stage, looking weirdly like some nineteenth-century 'medical' device. The whole production's reminiscent of an asylum.

On the whole I prefer Donizetti's comedies -- he writes such cheerful melodies and there's cognitive dissonance when the words are about death, madness, betrayal.

This time M and I sat in the upper circle, where the acoustics are so good you can hear the singers almost as clear and close as the coughing spluttering audience.
Mercurius Company: Orpheus Britannicus – The Dance of the Hearts

A masque (lots of dancing, some singing) loosely woven around Purcell's music and some typically Baroque plot elements (evil spirits! kindly sorcerer-king! shepherds! mermaids! storms at sea!) Highlights for me were 'No Stars Again Shall Hurt You' (from The Tempest); Venezuelan baritone Emiliano Barragán Géant as Grimbald (that man has an impressive glower and considerable presence); 'Two Daughters of this Ancient Stream' (from King Arthur, but much enlivened by being sung by mermaids); the Witches' scene from Dido and Aeneas.

Some of the costumes would have benefitted from application of the 'KEEP IT SIMPLE' rule; some of the wigs had a topiary quality. There were times when the sound wasn't great (though it turned out that part of the problem was our official seats, off to one side in the gallery: sound much better from the back, and it was also easier to make sense of the ballet). But it felt like Baroque theatre, and was fun and frivolous and melodious and very enjoyable.

Gripe: audience seemed wholly unengaged, there was little applause.

Mercurius Company, a musicians', singers' and dancers' cooperative specialising in "the performance and research of the Early Music & Dance, embracing in its repertoire works from the Baroque and Pre-Classical periods."
And they have a YouTube channel, with a trailer for 'Orpheus Britannicus' (though I don't think the music matches)
Concert performance of Bellini's Norma, featuring the coloratura showpiece 'Casta Diva'. We were sitting in the gallery, sideways on to the stage, but could hear the singers very clearly despite Bellini's typically subtle brass! Sadly, the surtitles were Obscured By Harp, the lack of props and costumes made it harder to work out who was who, and neither of my companions were familiar with what I will loosely term the Plot.

It's the SENSATIONAL TALE of a Druid priestess (that's the bit about mistletoe), a Roman proconsul, and a young temple virgin (possibly no longer qualified) who makes up the third point of the eternal triangle. Cue misunderstandings, mistaken identity and DOOM. I was reminded of the term 'idiot plot': plot which functions only because all the characters involved are idiots. They behave in a way that suits the author's convenience, rather than through any rational motivation of their own. (Attr. James Blish) (source.) If Norma had only asked who Adalgisa's sekrit lover was ..! If Pollione had only exercised a modicum of common sense when sneaking around the temple ...!

Ah well.

It is all rather overwrought ("Eternal love begins in death": NO IT DOESN'T) and I don't think Bellini is as good as Donizetti at matching music to sentiment: there were some delightfully cheery tunes to accompany Norma's anguish. But there are a couple of splendid soprano duets (the first of which set off some unpleasant harmonics from where I was sitting, but their voices were much less dissonant when Norma and Adalgisa are in sympathy) and a grand martial chorus which can be summed up as "Down with the Romans!"

The sopranos -- Yvonne Howard as Norma, Alwyn Mellor as Adalgisa -- were fabulous; Mellor in particular has a hall-filling voice. I couldn't hear Justin Lavender (Pollione) quite so well, but that may have been because he was nearest to our seats. Supporting cast also very good, especially Clotilde.
Right now on Radio 3, Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur. Featuring rape, massacre, harpies and a ball of string, as well as the eponymous beastie (John Tomlinson).

Long long ago, I saw another Birtwistle opera (The Second Mrs Kong, featuring King Kong, Anubis and Vermeer's Girl in a Pearl Earring) at Glyndebourne. And that didn't have any tunes in it either. From the look of the photo gallery (linked from the above page), the Royal Opera House production is as visually impressive as that was: but I cannot get the hang of Birtwistle's music at all.

My icon is of Ariadne, who is probably saying "You want me to sing what?"
Golijov's opera Ainadamar is based on the relationship between playwright and poet Federico García Lorca and his muse, the Catalan actress Margarita Xirgu: the Lorca / Margarita story is framed in a dialogue between Margarita and her student Nuria, in a theatre in Montevideo in 1969.

This is the first piece by Golijov that I ever heard, on Radio 3 a couple of years ago. I fell in love with the mix of Latin American rhythms, flamenco and soaring soprano: with Dawn Upshaw's passionate, precise voice. (Golijov writes much of his vocal music for Upshaw: calls her his muse.) When the CD came out I bought it, and found the flavour, the timbre quite different to what I'd heard on the radio. Sunday's live concert performance (CBSO cond. Spano; Dawn Upshaw / Margarita; Jessica Rivera / Nuria; Kelley O'Connor / Lorca) had a different flavour again.

Ainadamar seems to be a work in progress: Golijov revised it extensively after its 2003 debut, and the CD version differs from the previous live version in some respects. I'd assumed the CD was full, final version, but there was about 15 mins more material in the Barbican performance: notably 'To Havana' (which rocked), the pre-execution scene, and the final trio. Hmm, wonder if there'll be a broadcast of this performance?

The Barbican tends (in my minimal experience: three Golijov concerts, one Priesner) to present live modern music in much the same way as rock: extravagant coloured lighting, miked-up singers, conductor in loose designer suit rather than tux. (On the other hand, the singers shared the stage with a brass-heavy orchestra and a 30-strong choir: I doubt I'd have heard anything if they hadn't been amplified.) The lighting worked very well: blood-red, ghost-blue, rich gold.

All singers fab, O'Connor as Lorca especially so: her body language was flirtatiously masculine, or perhaps androgynous. We were sitting a couple of rows from the front, so got full benefit of Dawn Upshaw's acting: this may have been a concert performance but it was every bit as dramatic and heartfelt as a full production.

One delicious thing about modern music: live composer, who appeared to tumultuous applause at the end, and congratulated orchestra and soloists with a huge grin on his face: yes, this is what I meant, this.

Slightly incoherent review, I know, but it was gorgeous and moving and just what I needed.
[livejournal.com profile] ladymoonray (not usually a fan of modern stuff) reviews the concert here