Friday 29 June 2012

Carmen at Norwich Theatre Royal

On the evening of Friday 22nd June 2012 I attended the Impact Opera performance of Georges Bizet's Carmen at Norwich Theatre Royal. The aim of Impact Opera is to give new and instantly appealing takes on classic works of music drama. They perform fully staged productions with an onstage chamber orchestra, making live opera more accessible, appealing and affordable to an ever-widening audience. Amie Clapson starred in the role of Carmen while Don Jose was played by Daniel Hoadley.

In a square outside of a cigarette factory in Seville, Spain, Morales, an officer of the Dragoons, is with his guards on watch. Micaëla, a maiden, arrives looking for her fiancé Don José, but is being bothered by the flirting soldiers, so she flees the square. Don José arrives with his captain, Zuniga to relieve the guard. At noon, the cigarette-girls come out of the factory to the square and Carmen appears. All of the men ask her for her love. She sees José, who at first does not notice her. She throws a flower at the feet of José, choosing him as a lover, and then flees. He is flattered by Carmen’s gesture, but is interrupted from his daydream by Micaëla, who brings a note from his mother reminding him to be faithful. As soon as Micaëla leaves, there is commotion from the factory. Carmen has attacked another woman. Zuniga orders José to arrest her. He goes to arrest her, but she seduces him to let her escape. He does, and is arrested.

A month later, Carmen and her friends are dancing and drinking at an inn that is a local hangout for smugglers. Zuniga and some of his men are there, and Zuniga attempts to woo Carmen. She refuses. She has promised to meet José there. The great bullfighter, Escamillo, enters the bar and falls in-love with Carmen. Two smugglers, Remendado and Dancaïro, enter the bar to tell Carmen and her gypsy friends, Frasquita and Mercedes, that their help is needed for a smuggling operation. Carmen refuses to go, since she is waiting on José. Having been released from jail, José arrives and the bar empties off all but he and Carmen. She entertains him with a private dance, which is interrupted by the call of bugles. José’s troops have been called to retreat. He is about to leave, which angers Carmen. He reveals the flower that she gave him when they met that he has kept with him in jail this entire time. He pledges his love to her. Zuniga bursts back into the inn and orders José to leave at once. José refuses the order and they both draw swords. They are both disarmed and Zuniga is taken away at gunpoint. José is forced to join the smugglers after openly defying a superior officer.

The band of smugglers is on the outskirts of town with Don José. He is disinterested in the smugglers and their intentions. Carmen, has tired of José, and she loves him no more. Carmen, along with Frasquita and Mercedes are reading tarot cards. Though Frasquita and Mercedes’ cards show wealth and happiness, Carmen pulls the death card. The smugglers depart, leaving José to guard over the camp. Micaëla approaches. As she comes near, José, who does not see her, he fires a shot in her direction, which is intended for Escamillo, who he has seen. Escamillo arrives and introduces himself as Carmen’s lover. They duel with knives. Carmen steps in and saves Escamillo’s life. They are to leave together, to spite José. Micaëla has come to find José and tell him to return home to his dying mother. He has to leave to go home, but before leaving, warns Carmen that he will be back.

A parade is entering the bull-fighting arena through a square in Seville. At the tail of the parade is Escamillo who is joined by Carmen. The other smugglers tell her that she needs to go away because Don José has come to kill her. She does not listen. José pleads with her that he is still in love with her. He offers to rejoin the smugglers. She will have nothing of it, laughing at him, and throwing the ring that he gave her at his feet. She tells José that Escamillo is hers, and that she will live with him until death. The crowd roars in the arena for Escamillo. As Carmen goes to join him, the jealous José grabs her from behind and stabs her in the heart. At the moment of Escamillo’s victory inside of the arena, Carmen dies.

This was a wonderful evening as the Impact Opera put on a splendid performance of Georges Bizet's brilliant Opera. A Spanish story of love, treachery, passion and betrayal. This version was sung in English and Spanish as the world's most famous opera was brought to life at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Douglas Hollick at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On Saturday 16th June 2012 I attended the Douglas Hollick organ recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich which was part of the Mancroft Music Summer Recital Series 2012. Douglas Hollick is an organist and harpsichordist with an international reputation who teaches in Cambridge and at the Birmingham Conservatoire.

With the title Bach and the Hamburg connection the programme consisted of Praeambulum Primi toni a 5 - Weckmann, Fugue in G minor - Reinken, Lobet den Herren, den er ist sehr freundlich - Scheidemann, Praembulum in F major - Praetorius, Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott Bux WV 199 - Buxtehude, Fugue in C major Bux WV 174 - Buxtehude, An Wasserflussen Babylon BWV 653 - Bach and Dorian Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 538 - Bach.

This was a wonderful organ recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich which was enjoyed by the large audience in attendance. Douglas Hollick gave a talk before playing his programme of music. He was awarded a year 2000 Churchill Fellowship to visit North Germany and Denmark to research the organs and other keyboard instruments from the period of Buxtehude and the young J S Bach.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Wonderful Town in a Fine City

It was a splendid afternoon at Norwich Theatre Royal on Saturday 9th June 2012 when I attended the matinee performance of Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town starring Connie Fisher as Ruth Sherwood. The musical follows the story of sisters Ruth and Eileen Sherwood, who travel to New York City from Columbus, Ohio in search of love and fortune.

This musical is full of great songs like Christopher Street with the opening line of On Your Left Washington Square, Right in the Heart of Greenwich Village. From Columbus, Ohio to New York City on to Norwich Theatre Royal. Wonderful Town in a Fine City with Connie Fisher putting on a brilliant performance who along with Lucy Van Gasse as Eileen Sherwood and Michael Xavier as Bob Baker made this one of my highlights at Norwich Theatre Royal this year.

Act One Musical Numbers were Overture, Christopher Street, Ohio, Conquering New York, 100 Easy Ways to Lose a Man, What a Waste, A Little Bit in Love, Pass The Football, Conversation Piece, A Quiet Girl, Conga! and Conga! Reprise. Act Two Musical Numbers were Entr'acte, My Darlin' Eileen, Swing!, Ohio Reprise, It's Love, Ballet at the Village Vortex, Wrong Note Rag and It's Love Reprise.

The good feel factor spread throughout the theatre to the audience as the cast gave us a good time doing the conga and having fun at the Village Vortex. The Sherwood sisters are in New York City to stay as Ruth is given a press card and a job as a result of her Navy Yard story. It's Love and time to celebrate.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Dowland and Lawes Music at Wigmore Hall

On Wednesday 6th June 2012 I caught the National Express bus from Norwich to London Victoria. I spent the afternoon at the British Museum before making my way to Wigmore Hall for the Phantasm viol consort, Elizabeth Kenny and Daniel Hyde concert which featured music from John Dowland and William Lawes.

The programme consisted of Lachrimae Antiquae The King of Denmark Galliard, Lachrimae Antiquae Novae The Earl of Essex Galliard, Lachrimae Gementes - John Dowland, Sett No.3 a5 in C - William Lawes, Lachrimae Tristes Sir John Souch His Galliard, Lachrimae Coactae Mr Giles Hoby His Galliard, Lachrimae Amantis, Semper Dowland semper dolens, Loth to depart Lachrimae Verae - John Dowland, Sett No.1 a5 in G and Royall Consort No.2 in D minor - William Lawes.

This was an evening of splendid Early Music at London's Wigmore Hall  which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. Phantasm are considered as one of the most exciting viol consort active today while Elizabeth Kenny is considered to be one of Europe's leading lute players. John Dowland, who rose to fame in the late 16th century, was regarded as one of the finest lutenists of his time in his native England, but was also influential in mainland Europe where he spent much of his career. The next generation saw the emergence of Salisbury-born William Lawes who wrote extensively for voices and instruments.

From the Jacobean Music of John Dowland to the works by William Lawes who wrote music while serving the Stuart monarch Charles I this was truly a wonderful evening at Wigmore Hall. The Phantasm viol consort and Elizabeth Kenny played this Early Music brilliantly and gave us a night to remember. Wigmore Hall was the perfect venue for this programme of music.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Time of My Life at the Maddermarket Theatre

On the afternoon of Saturday 2nd June 2012 I attended the matinee performance of Time of My Life by Alan Ayckbourn at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich. The Norwich Players took us to the evening of 18th January 1992. David Newham and Susan Seddon starred in this dark comedy.

It is one of Ayckbourn's time plays beginning at Laura Stratton's 54th birthday party in the present at the Essa da Calvi restaurant and continuing in three time streams - the present with Gerry and Laura Stratton, the past showing how Adam, the younger son and his girlfriend Maureen's relationship began and developed, and the future showing the breakdown of Glynn, the elder son and his wife Stephanie's marriage.

This was an interesting play which as it progresses you learn about the individual characters and their relationships. There were lots of funny moments especially from the Restaurant Owner and four waiters who were all played by the same actor. During the performance it was clear which characters you should like or dislike. Time of My Life is a play in which seriousness and comedy can coexist. At the end of the performance Trevor Burton who played the staff of the Essa da Calvi restaurant got the audience to their feet to sing God Save The Queen for the Diamond Jubilee.

Friday 8 June 2012

Flute and piano recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On Saturday 2nd June 2012 I attended the Jubilee weekend concert at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich which featured music for flute and piano from Vicky McCardel and Mark Jones. This was a performance of light summer music on a special weekend.

The programme for this Mancroft Music Summer Recital was Hamburger Sonata - C.P.E. Bach, Romance for flute and piano - Saint-Saens, Morceau de Concours - Faure, Sunstreams - Ian Clarke and Fantasie Brillante on Themes from Bizet's Carmen - Borne.

Mark Jones is the Director of Music at Gresham's School who spent three years at the Royal College of Music studying organ and piano. Vicky McCardel teaches the flute at Gresham's School and for the Norfolk Music Service. This was a wonderful recital which delighted everyone in attendance with a programme of beautiful music. The performance finished with music from Carmen to give us a lively conclusion to another splendid Summer Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church in the centre of Norwich.

Thursday 7 June 2012

I Got Rhythm brings glitz to Norwich Theatre Royal

On Wednesday 30th May 2012 I was at Norwich Theatre Royal for the Northern Ballet's performance of David Nixon's I Got Rhythm. This was an evening of music, song and dance celebrating the wonderful music of George and Ira Gershwin.

The programme consisted of An American in Paris, The Man I Love, Three Preludes, I Got Rhythm, Embraceable You, Cuban Overture, Rhapsody in Blue, Summertime, My Man's Gone Now, I Got Plenty O'Nuttin, Bess You is My Woman and Girl Crazy.

With the Northern Ballet Sinfonia Orchestra on stage with the dancers this was truly a night of glitz and glamour at Norwich Theatre Royal as the Northern Ballet gave us a performance that was full of energy as Ballet met Jazz with brilliant results. I loved it that the Orchestra was on stage in big band style, which made for a spectacular experience. This was a fun production which was greatly enjoyed by the audience as we were treated to the sounds of the roaring twenties along with splendid dancing. I Got Rhythm, I Got Music. Who could ask for anything more.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Sea Pictures coming home to Norwich

On the evening of Saturday 26th May 2012 I attended my last event at this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival as the London Philharmonic Orchestra along with the Festival Chorus at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich brought Elgar's Sea Pictures home. It's world premiere was at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival in 1899.

The programme consisted of Nocturnes - Debussy, Sea Pictures - Elgar and Gloria - Poulenc. The concert featured David Parry - conductor, Fflur Wyn - soprano, Anna Stephany - mezzo-soprano and John Andrews - chorus master. A wonderful programme of music to celebrate a piece of history. Seabirds are asleep, the world forgets to weep, sea murmurs her soft slumber song on the shadowy sand of this elfin land.

There was a special atmosphere at St. Andrew's Hall as the London Philharmonic Orchestra along with the Festival Chorus brought this year's Norfolk and Norwich to a glorious finale. We all partied like it was 1899 as the audience imagined how it was like with Edward Elgar conducting with Clara Butt as soloist at the world premiere at the same venue 113 years ago. I'm sure David Parry must have enjoyed conducting this performance.

Fflur Wyn and Anna Stephany were both in fine voice on a night that the London Philharmonic Orchestra brought worldclass classical music to Norwich. Along with Elgar's Sea Pictures there was memorable music by Debussy and Poulenc. Gloria was the perfect way to finish the concert. Gloria in excelsis Deo. Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Friday 1 June 2012

Splendid songs at St. Peter Mancroft

On Saturday 26th May 2012 I attended the first Mancroft Music Summer Recital of 2012 at St.Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich which featured The Young Musicians of St. Peter Mancroft. The Recital featured Julian Haggett - piano/organ, Jody Butler - director, The Choristers, Girls' Choir. Choral Scholars and Organ Scholars.

The programme consisted of Praeludium in G No.11 - Tunder, Ten Children's Songs (Settings of poems by Christina Rossetti) - Finzi, Christ lag in Todesbanden BWV 625 - Bach and The Sprig of Thyme - Rutter.

The lily has a smooth stalk, will never hurt your hand. But the rose upon her briar is lady of the land. This was a wonderful Summer Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church which featured a splendid settings of poems by Christina Rossetti by Gerald Finzi.

The programme finished with John Rutter's The Sprig of Thyme which is a cycle of folk song settings. This was a splendid end to the Recital as these beautiful songs filled this historic Norwich City Centre Church. O the Cuckoo she's a pretty bird, she singeth as she flies. She bringeth good tidings, she telleth no lies. She sucketh white flowers, for to keep her voice clear. And the more she singeth cuckoo, the summer draweth near.

The Magic Number at the Spiegeltent

On the evening of Friday 25th May 2012 I made a visit to the Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens to attend the performance of The Magic Number at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. The Spiegeltent is a beautiful 100 year old travelling venue where some of the greatest stars of cabaret and variety have trodden the boards.

The Magic Number are Brighton's premier swing band. who create a unique brand of dirty dixie gypsy swing. Creating a potent blend of old time swing, sweat and four part harmonies. From the South of France to being the King of the Jungle this was a night to have fun at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

The Spiegeltent was full of energy as The Magic Number filled the venue with their dixie/gypsy music combining driving drums, guitars, violins and double bass to create music for having a good time. There is always a brilliant atmosphere at the Spiegeltent during the Norfolk and Norwich Festival as Chapelfield Gardens are transformed into a wonderful world where dreams come true.

La Mer Trio delight at the Assembly House

On Friday 25th May 2012 I attended the La Mer Trio lunchtime concert at Norwich Assembly House at the Norfolk and Norwich. This concert was part of the Royal Academy of Music Lunchtime Concert Series. The La Mer Trio are Renate Sokolovska - flute, Maja Wegrzynowska - viola and Hannah Stone - harp.

The programme consisted of Elegiac Trio - Bax, Le Tombeau de Couperin - Ravel, And Then I Knew 'Twas Wind - Takemitsu, Trio Sonata in D Op.2, No.8 - Leclair and Triptyque de la Lande - Oehler. This was the world premiere of Triptyque de la Lande with the composer Thomas Oehler in attendance at Norwich Assembly House.

This was a delightful concert at Norwich Assembly House as the La Mer Trio put on a brilliant performance in a packed music room as once again this year the Royal Academy of Music Lunchtime concert series proved to be one of the most popular features at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. From the invisible motion of water in a stream from the piece by Toru Takemitsu to the landscape of Brittany which inspired the music composed by Thomas Oehler this was a concert full of imagination which was complemented by the distinctive playing from the La Mer Trio.