Thursday 26 April 2012

La Fille du regiment at The Royal Opera House

On Saturday 21st April 2012 I caught the early Norwich to London train. After a morning at Trafalgar Square and The National Gallery I made my way to Covent Garden to attend the Royal Opera's performance of La Fille du regiment at The Royal Opera House.

Maria was played by Patrizia Ciofi while Tonio was played by Colin Lee. La Fille du regiment was written by Gaetano Donizetti while the composer was living in Paris and was first performed in 1840. This is an Opera Comique in two acts with a french libretto.

On their way to Austria, the terrified Marquise of Berkenfeld and her butler, Hortensius, have paused in their journey because a skirmish has broken out. When the Marquise hears from the villagers that the French troops have retreated, she comments on the rude manners of the French people. Sulpice, sergeant of the 21st regiment, assures everyone that his men will restore peace and order. He is joined by Marie, the daughter of the regiment, which adopted her as an orphaned child. When Sulpice questions her about a young man she has been seen with, she explains that he is Tonio, a local Tyrolean who once saved her life.

Troops of the 21st arrive with a prisoner: this same Tonio, who says he has been looking for Marie. She steps in to save him, and while he toasts his new friends, Marie sings the regimental song. Tonio is ordered to follow the soldiers, but he escapes and returns to declare his love to Marie. Sulpice surprises them, and Marie must admit to Tonio that she can marry only a soldier of the 21st.

The Marquise asks Sulpice for an escort to her castle. When he hears the name Berkenfeld, Sulpice remembers a letter he found near the young Marie on the battlefield. The Marquise soon admits that she knew the girl's father and says that Marie is the long lost daughter of her sister. The child had been left in the care of the Marquise, but was lost. Shocked by the girl's rough manners, the Marquise is determined to take her niece to her castle and give her a proper education. Tonio has enlisted so that he can marry her. But Marie has to leave both her regiment and the man she loves.

The Marquise has arranged a marriage between Marie and the Duke of Krakenthorp. Sulpice is also at the castle, recovering from an injury, and is supposed to be helping the Marquise with her plans. The Marquise gives Marie a singing lesson, accompanying her at the piano. Encouraged by Sulpice, Marie slips in phrases of the regimental song, and the Marquise loses her temper. Marie thinks about the meaninglessness of money and position when she hears soldiers marching in the distance and is delighted when the whole regiment files into the hall. She leads them in singing a patriotic tribute Salut a la France. Tonio, Marie, and Sulpice are reunited with Tonio asking for Marie's hand. The Marquise is unmoved by the young man's declaration that Marie is his whole life. She declares her niece engaged to another man and dismisses Tonio. Alone with Sulpice, the Marquise confesses the truth, Marie is her own illegitimate daughter.

Hortensius announces the arrival of the wedding party, headed by the groom's mother, the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Marie refuses to leave her room, but when Sulpice tells her that the Marquise is her mother, the surprised girl declares that she cannot go against her mother's wishes and agrees to marry a man that she does not love. As she is about to sign the marriage contract, the soldiers of the 21st, led by Tonio, storm in to rescue their daughter. The guests are horrified to learn that Marie was a canteen girl, but they change their opinion when she tells them that she can never repay the debt she owes the soldiers. The Marquise is so moved by her daughter's goodness of heart that she gives her permission to marry Tonio. Everyone joins in a final Salut a la France.

The Royal Opera House was full of tears and laughter complete with wonderful singing and music as we were treated to a brilliant performance of La Fille du regiment which is always a fun Opera to attend. Bravo to the Royal Opera for such a splendid afternoon at Covent Garden.

Monday 23 April 2012

Heroic concert at the Assembly House

On Friday 20th April 2012 I attended the UEA School of Music concert in the Music at One series at Norwich Assembly House featuring pianist Alison Lincoln. The programme consisted of Sonata No.21 in C, Op.53 Waldstein - Beethoven and Grande Polonaise, Op.53 - Heroic.

Beethoven composed his Waldstein sonata in 1804 during his middle or Heroic period. This piece was dedicated to Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein who famously wrote to Beethoven on hearing that he was moving to Vienna, "you shall receive the spirit of Mozart from Haydn's hands."

The second piece in the programme was written by Chopin in 1842. Grande Polonaise kept with the heroic theme of the lunchtime programme. This was another wonderful concert at Norwich Assembly House from the UEA School of Music.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Sibelius at The Barbican

After spending the afternoon in Greenwich and a dinner of coconut dhal, spicy rice, naan bread and mango chutney in the Barbican Foodhall I was ready for the BBC Symphony Orchestra concert at The Barbican on the evening of Friday 13th April 2012. Another night to remember in the City of London.

The programme consisted of En saga - Sibelius, Violin Concerto in B minor - Dvarionas and Symphony No.2 in D major - Sibelius. Conductor on the evening was Thomas Sondergard with Vadim Gluzman as soloist on the Dvarionas Violin Concerto.

The symphonic poem En saga was composed by Sibelius in 1892 and revised in 1902. The title translate both in Swedish and Finnish as A Fairy Tale. Sibelius claimed that the atmosphere of the tone poem was similar to the Eddas of Norse mythology which was a major source for Wagner's Ring cycle.

Dvarionas composed his Violin Concerto in 1948, which is the first Violin Concerto by any Lithuanian composer. The music was inspired by his love of the Baltic coast. Tonight was the UK premiere of the piece with Vadim Gluzman playing brilliantly with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Sibelius music represents Finland and the North and his Symphony No.2 is truly a masterpiece. Composed in 1901/02 Sibelius dedicated his Second Symphony to Axel Carpelan. Much of the music was written in Rome and on the Ligurian coast making this in many respects as Sibelius's Italian Symphony.

This was another wonderful evening at The Barbican with Thomas Sondergard and the BBC Symphony Orchestra putting on a powerful performance of Sibelius's Symphony No.2. A night to celebrate the music of Jean Sibelius which is full of all human emotions.

HarmonieMusik at St. Thomas' Church

On the evening of Wednesday 11th April 2012 I attended the HarmonieMusik concert at St. Thomas' Church, Norwich which turned out to be a splendid night of wonderful chamber music at this great venue for live music on Earlham Road.

 The programme consisted of Trio Sonata in G minor (flute, oboe and harpsichord) - Handel, Mr Marvels (wind quartet) - Frost, Trio (flute, oboe and piano) - Dring, Trois pieces pour une musique de nuit (wind quartet) - Bozza, Trio sonata in D minor (2 treble recorders and harpsichord) - Sammartini and Trio Pathetique (clarinet, bassoon and piano) - Glinka.

There is always variety in the programming of HarmonieMusik concerts with pieces ranging from baroque sonatas of the early eighteenth century to works written specially for them. This was a brilliant evening which was enjoyed by the audience with my personal highlight being the Glinka piece for clarinet, bassoon and piano.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

The Barber of Seville at Norwich Theatre Royal

On the evening of Tuesday 10th April 2012 I attended the English Touring Opera performance of The Barber of Seville at Norwich Theatre Royal. With music by Giacchino Rossini and libretto by Cesare Sterbini this opera was first performed in 1816 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. It is based on the comedy Le Barbier de Seville by Piere de Beaumarchais.

With english translation by David Parry this English Touring Opera's new production was first performed at Hackney Empire in March 2012. Each year the company on average gives 110 performances at 55 venues across the country.

Count Almaviva is in love with Rosina, the rich ward of Dr. Bartolo, an old doctor, who plans to marry her himself. The Count serenades Rosina with the help of a group of actors and musicians. He enlists the help of Figaro, a barber, who prides himself on his ability to manage the affairs of the city.

The Count makes himself known to Rosina as a poor student called Lindoro and Figaro suggests that in order to gain admittance to the house he should pretend to be a drunken soldier billeted on Dr. Bartolo. Rosina falls in love with her unknown admirer but Dr. Bartolo has heard rumours about Almaviva's interest in her and decides to marry her immediately.

Rosina is delighted when the Count reveals that he is really her admirer. The Doctor's annoyance at Almaviva's behaviour causes such a row that the militia are called by the neighbours. Later the same day the Count assumes yet another disguise and enters the house as Don Alonso, a music teacher. The Count tells Rosina that he will elope with her at midnight.

Dr. Bartolo confronts Rosina with a letter she addressed to Lindoro and catches her by surprise when he makes out that Lindoro is the agent of Count Almaviva, who only wants to marry her for her money. She agrees to marry Bartolo at once and tells him of the planned elopement.

Rosina repulses Lindoro until she learns that he is himself Count Almaviva and falls into his arms. Basilio arrives with a notary to marry Rosina to her guardian but a bribe easily persuades him to witness the marriage of Rosina to the Count instead. Bartolo and the magistrate appear too late and Bartolo is obliged to acknowledge that he has lost her.

This was a wonderful evening at Norwich Theatre Royal with the English Touring Opera and Orchestra taking us to the world of The Barber of Seville with a brilliant performance full of splendid singing and music.

Monday 9 April 2012

Passiontide at St. Peter Mancroft Church

After my afternoon in Eaton on Sunday 1st April 2012 I walked to Norwich City Centre to St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich for a service of Music and Readings for Passiontide on Palm Sunday with The Girl's Choir and Choral Scholars.

Praise to the Holiest in the height, and in the depth be praise. In all his words most wonderful, most sure in all his ways.

Many people spread their cloaks on the road and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting: 'Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'

Singing fun at Eaton!

On Sunday 1st April 2012 I attended the final concert in the Eaton Concert Series 2011/12 season at St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich with Gerard Carey and Neil Ricketts bringing us The Great American Songbook. They were performing at very short notice and had to put together their programme just before the start of the concert.

Gerard Carey graduated from London's famous Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and is currently appearing with Broadway legend Tyne Daly in Terrence McNally's Master Class at London's Vaudeville Theatre. Neil Ricketts has accompanied and conducted various choral societies and choirs in numerous concerts over the past 25 years.

When October Goes is a ballad based on lyrics by Johnny Mercer with music by Barry Manilow which was sung brilliantly by Gerard Carey. Neil Ricketts treated us to a wonderful version of Gershwin's Summertime before the concert finished with Gerard Carey dressed in a kilt gave us a Scottish version of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs including Jesus Christ Superstar. This was a fun finish to this season's Eaton Concert Series.

Bach and Boyce music at Norwich Cathedral

On the evening of Saturday 31st March 2012 I attended the Norwich Baroque and Norwich Cathedral Consort concert at Norwich Cathedral. The performance featured Tom Primrose - Conductor, Jim O'Toole - Leader, Robert Rice - Bass, Billie Robson - Soprano, Tim Morgan - Alto and Daniel Bartlette - Tenor.

The programme consisted of Symphony No.1 - Boyce, Jehova Quam Multi Sunt Hostes Mei - Purcell, O Lord Look Down From Heaven - Battishill, Ich Habe Genug - Cantata for Bass BWV 82 - Bach, Lorde Let Me Know Mine End - Greene, Turn Unto Me O Lord - Boyce and Lutheran Mass in G Minor BWV 235 - Bach.

Norwich Cathedral was a splendid setting for this wonderful programme of music by Bach, Boyce and their contemporaries.The highlights were William Boyce's Symphony No.1 and Bach's Lutheran Mass in G Minor. Boyce wrote eight symphonies which were first published in 1760. However they were all composed over the previous 21 years as either an ode to a vocal or stage work or as an overture.

Bach composed his Lutheran Mass in G Minor around 1738-39. It is made up of music from three different cantatas. The Kyrie is taken from Lord Thine eyes look after the faith. For the Gloria Bach selected All things should accord with the will of God and the following four movements were from All things are waiting for you.

This was another very enjoyable evening at Norwich Cathedral with the Norwich Catherdral Consort, Norwich Baroque and all the soloists putting on a brilliant performance. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Piano fun at Norwich Assembly House!

On Friday 30th March 2012 I attended the UEA School of Music concert at Norwich Assembly House in their Music at One series featuring Simon Ireson on piano. The programme for this lunchtime concert was Cantata Die Seele Ruht in Jesu Handen - Bach arr Bauer, Kreisieriana - Schumann and Rondo Capriccioso Op.14 - Mendelssohn.

This was a very interesting programme for a Friday lunchtime in the Music Room which delighted the audience. I particularly enjoyed the Schumann's Kreisleriana. He write the following in a letter to his future bride, Clara Wieck about this piece. " How full of music I am now, and always such lovely melodies! Only fancy, since my last letter I have finished another whole book of new things. You and one of your ideas are the principal subject, and I shall call them " Kreisleriana," and dedicate them to you ; yes, to you, and to nobody else; and you will smile so sweetly when you see yourself in them."

We were then treated to a bonus concert from Will Ferguson playing a programme of Liszt who once played at Norwich Assembly House and slept where the bar is situated at the present day. Complete in sunglasses and grey suit Will Ferguson to an exciting and fun performance. This was definitely one lunchtime well spent.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Mozart and Mahler at the Royal Festival Hall

On the evening of Wednesday 28th March 2012 I was back in London for the London Philharmonic Orchestra's concert at the Royal Festival Hall. With conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin suffering from severe gastric flu there was a change of conductor at very short notice with Matthew Coorey stepping in at very short notice.

The programme for the evening was Violin Concerto No.3 in G major - Mozart and Symphony No.9 in D major - Mahler. Lisa Batiashvili played and directed the Mozart Violin Concerto in the first half of the concert.

Mozart composed this Violin Concerto in 1775 for one of Salzburg's local dignitaries. As well as playing this piece Lisa Batiashvili directed the performance. This was a great start to the evening down at the Southbank.

After the interval we had the pleasure of a performance of Mahler's epic Symphony No.9 which was composed at the end of his life. Mahler was wore down by an exhausting schedule, the constant sniping of the press and domestic tragedy. He summarised the pain and regret of that existence in his epic Ninth Symphony. Well done to Matthew Coorey for stepping in at short notice as we were all treated to a wonderful performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra of this brilliant piece of music.

Monday 2 April 2012

Falling down the rabbit hole at The Royal Opera House

On Monday 26th March 2012 I made the trip to London to attend The Royal Ballet's performance of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland at The Royal Opera House. It's always wonderful to be at this historic venue especially on nights like this.

Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland is a ballet in three acts instead of two after slight amendments from its premiere last year. Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon and music by Joby Talbot. On my visit to The Royal Opera House Lauren Cuthbertson played Alice with Federico Bonelli as Jack/The Knave of Hearts.

The Victorian childhood of Lewis Carroll’s Alice and her encounters with extraordinary people, strange creatures and unusual events gave The Royal Ballet an entire new world to create which they did brilliantly. We all loved Edward Watson as The White Rabbit and I particularly loved the Cheshire Cat. We were all scared by Laura Morera as The Queen of Hearts  hoping that we all still had our heads at the end of the evening. This is a ballet for the 21st Century, full of magic that takes you to the world of Alice falling down the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll's classic novel.