Thursday 29 November 2012

Seckou Keita at Norwich Arts Centre

Seckou Keita is a kora player and drummer from Senegal. He is a charismatic live performer and one of the few champions of the less-known and rhythmically rocking kora repertoire from Casamance in southern Senegal. On Saturday 3rd November 2012 I attended his concert at Norwich Arts Centre which was the finale of Norfolk Black History Month.

His new album Miro has just been released and this was the perfect night for Seckou Keita to showcase his music which is influenced by his West African roots and travels around the world. His music put smiles on everyone's faces and got lots of the crowd dancing on a night of positive vibes at Norwich Arts Centre.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Rusulka at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Friday 2nd November 2012 I attended the Glyndebourne performance of Dvorak's Rusalka at Norwich Theatre Royal. This Opera sung in Czech is based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. This performance was dedicated to Robert Poulton who was tragically killed in a car accident on Tuesday 30th October 2012.

As wood nymphs dance by the lake, the moonlight wakens the water sprite, who tries to lure one of them into the depths. They mock him and run away. His daughter Rusalka, sick at heart, tells him of her yearning to become human. He is shocked to learn that she loves a human being – a prince who comes to bathe in the lake. Her father tells her she must consult the witch, Ježibaba warning her that she will be doomed if claimed by a man.

Rusalka appeals to the moon to tell her lover she is waiting for him. She wakes Ježibaba and asks her to give her a human soul. Ježibaba informs her that the ability to speak to humans will be denied her. If she fails to win love, she will be forever accursed; if he rejects her, her lover, too, will be eternally damned. Confident of her love, Rusalka agrees.

Hunters approach, among them the Prince, seeking Rusalka. He sends the others away, and sees Rusalka standing silently before him. Unable to answer him, she throws herself into his arms. He leads her away as the other water nymphs lament her leaving. At the Prince’s castle, the Gamekeeper and Kitchen Girl discuss events. The Prince has brought a silent female back with him from the woods, and seems likely to marry her; the Gamekeeper hopes that they will be delivered from such sinister magic. Yet there is hope: the Prince is increasingly attracted to the Foreign Princess.

The servants disappear as the Prince enters with Rusalka. Though he is still drawn to her, he complains that she is devoid of passion. Watching them as she enters, the Foreign Princess vows to separate them. She asks why the Prince’s bride-to-be is so silent. As the Prince recalls his duties as a host and leaves with the Princess, he tells Rusalka to dress as befits the wedding ball.

As the ball begins, Rusalka looks on broken-hearted while the Prince dances with the Princess. Her father arrives to warn her that death awaits her back at the lake; she will return eternally damned. As the Prince embraces the Princess, Rusalka acknowledges that he has betrayed her. Rusalka suddenly throws herself into the Prince’s arms, but he rejects her. As Rusalka’s father drags her away, the Prince falls stupefied. The Foreign Princess laughs.

A moonlit night at the lake, where Rusalka sits sadly. Deserted by the Prince and banished by her companions, she longs for death. Ježibaba mocks her, relenting only so far as to tell her that if she kills the Prince herself, she can return to her former state. She gives Rusalka a knife, which the latter throws into the lake. The Gamekeeper and Kitchen Girl arrive at the witch’s cottage, seeking a cure for the Prince’s illness, caused by the sorceress Rusalka. The witch sends them packing and Rusalka’s father angrily chases them away.

The dryads return to dance until Rusalka’s father’s tale of his daughter’s undoing causes them to flee. The Prince enters, once more seeking Rusalka. She appears, warning him that now she can mean only death to him. The Prince asks her to kiss him, to bring him peace. Rusalka finally agrees. He dies. She asks for God’s mercy on his soul and sinks back into the lake.

Glyndebourne took us to the magical world of Rusalka as Dvorak's Opera was performed at Norwich Theatre Royal Conjuring up a world of dark forests and deep lakes. Natasha Jouhl as Rusalka and Peter Berger as the Prince were wonderful which together with the amazing music from The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra made this an unforgettable night.

Friday 23 November 2012

The Marriage of Figaro at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Tuesday 30th October 2012 I attended the Glyndebourne performance of Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was a great opportunity to witness world class Opera in the Fine City.

The entire action of Mozart’s life-enhancing opera takes place within a single day; a day of madness as the subtitle of the original text describes it. Figaro and Susanna’s determination to marry enrages their master, the Count, reducing him to a state of lustful frustration, disregarding his wife, the Countess, who is left to suffer the miseries of unrequited love. In a breathless circle of plots and counter-plots, the Count pursues Susanna, the young and hormonally volcanic Cherubino pursues anything in a skirt and the scheming pair of Bartolo and Marcellina come close to upsetting Figaro’s plans but are caught in a web of their own devising.

Conceived by the brilliantly scurrilous writer Beaumarchais in 1784 as a barbed satire on the aristocracy, the original play was repeatedly banned from performance in the years leading up to the French Revolution. It was considered to be dangerously incendiary and to Mozart and his librettist Da Ponte it proved irresistible, inspiring them to create an opera of unrivalled beauty and acutely perceptive characterisation.

Transferring direct from the 2012 Festival,this was a new production from celebrated director Michael Grandage, returning to Glyndebourne following his critically acclaimed Billy Budd (2010). A packed Norwich Theatre Royal had a splendid entertaining evening as Glyndebourne thrilled us and gave us lots of laughs. This was Mozart set in the Swinging Sixties with Joélle Harvey as Susanna and Guido Loconsolo as Figaro both performing brilliantly along with the fine music from the orchestra conducted by Jonathan Cohen. Glyndebourne took us on an amazing emotional journey.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Joseph at Theatre Royal Nottingham

Thanks to East Midlands Trains I made the journey to Nottingham on Friday 26th October 2012 which included a visit to Theatre Royal Nottingham to attend a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Keith Jack as Joseph and Laura Ingram as the Narrator. This was a wonderful opportunity to see this Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age, and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.

The Biblical saga of Joseph and his coat of many colours comes to vibrant life in this delightful musical parable. Joseph, his father's favourite son, is a boy blessed with prophetic dreams. When he is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and taken to Egypt, Joseph endures a series of adventures in which his spirit and humanity are continually challenged. He is purchased by Potiphar where thwarting advances from Potiphar's wife lands him in jail. When news of Joseph's gift to interpret dreams reaches the Pharaoh (wryly and riotously depicted as Elvis), Joseph is well on his way to becoming second in command. Eventually his brothers, having suffered greatly, unknowingly find themselves groveling at the feet of the brother they betrayed but no longer recognise. After testing their integrity, Joseph reveals himself leading to a heartfelt reconciliation of the sons of Israel. Set to an engaging cornucopia of musical styles, from country-western and calypso to bubble-gum pop and rock 'n' roll, this Old Testament tale emerges both timely and timeless.

Any dream will do and I'm dreamed of seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. My dream came true at Theatre Royal Nottingham where the cast put on a brilliant show full of many splendid songs including Jacob and Sons, One More Angel in Heaven and Go Go Go Joseph. This was a show of many colours and was full of fun. The audience was full of smiling faces as the magical of this musical spread throughout the whole theatre.

Then Joseph said to his brother, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. Tell my father about all the honour accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.” Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Happy 20th Birthday Britten Sinfonia!

On the evening of Tuesday 23rd October 2012 I attended the Britten Sinfonia 20th Birthday concert at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was a celebration of Britten Sinfonia both present and future. The line-up included Pekka Kuusisto - violin/director, Thomas Gould - violin/director, Jacqueline Shave - violin/director, Caroline Dearnley - cello, Nicholas Daniel - oboe and the Britten Sinfonia Academy.

The programme consisted of Gallo Variations - Alissa Firsova, Rakastava Op 14 - Sibelius, Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D minor, BWV 1060 - Bach, Fantasia Concertante on a theme of Corelli - Tippett, One - James MacMillan and Symphony No.1 in D major, Classical - Prokofiev. The pieces from  Alissa Firsova and James MacMillan were Birthday Commissions which were being World Premiered on this tour.

This was the perfect night to showcase twenty years of  Britten Sinfonia with an very imaginative and varied programme being performed at Norwich Theatre Royal. My personal favourite piece of music was Bach's Concerto for Oboe and Violin. Happy 20th Birthday Britten Sinfonia and we all hope that the next 20 years will be as equally successful and pioneering.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Alina Ibragimova at the John Innes Centre

I made my way to the John Innes Centre at Colney, Norwich for the Norfolk and Norwich Chamber Music concert on the afternoon of Sunday 21st October 2012 with Alina Ibragimova who entertained us with a solo violin performance of Johann Sebastian Bach Sonatas and Partitas. The programme consisted of Bach's Sonata No.1 in G minor BWV1001, Partita No.1 in B minor BWV1002, Sonata No.2 in A minor BWV1003 and Partita No.2 in D minor BWV1004.

Alina Ibragimova was born in Russia and entered the Gmessin State Musical College in Moscow at the age of five. She moved to London in 1996 when her father took up a post with the LSO. Alina went to the Yehudi Menuhin School and then attended the Guildhall and Royal College of Music studying with Christian Tetzlaff. She know has a full international career performing music from baroque to new commissions. In 2010 she won the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award.

Bach write his Sonatas and Partitas in 1720 of which there are three of each. They occupy an unchallenged position in the literature for solo violin. Alina Ibragimova put on a brilliant performance at a packed John Innes Centre on her 1775 Anselmo Bellosio violin. She proved what a talented Violinist she is and made this an afternoon to remember.

Monday 12 November 2012

Musical treats from the Academy of St. Thomas

On the evening of Saturday 20th October 2012 I attended the Academy of St. Thomas concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which featured soloists Kanako Ito on violin and Martin Storey on cello. Christopher Adey was conductor as we were treated to a programme of Egmont Overture - Beethoven, Double Concerto for Violin and Cello - Brahms and Symphony No.4 The Italian - Mendelssohn.

In the autumn of 1809 Beethoven was commissioned by the Director of the Vienna Court Theatre to compose the incidental music for a new production of Goethe's 1787 play Egmont. The music consists of an overture and nine additional pieces for soprano, narrator and orchestra. Brahms write his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello for his friend Joachim in 1887 who he had fell out with for several years. Mendelssohn's The Italian is always referred to as his Fourth Symphony although it is his third in order of composition. It was started during a visit to Italy in 1830 but was not completed until three years later in Berlin.

This was a wonderful evening at St. Andrew's Hall as The Academy of St. Thomas put on a brilliant performance with the highlight of the night being the Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello when Kanako Ito and Martin Storey gave us a moment to remember. The programme was true to the orchestra's philosophy to offer diverse programming as well as more familiar repertoire.

Friday 9 November 2012

Jonathan Wiseman at St. Peter Mancroft

On Saturday 20th October 2012 I attended the Jonathan Wiseman Classical Guitar Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich as part of the Mancroft Music Autumn Recital Series. Jonathan Wiseman studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London and in 2011 won the Julian Bream Prize that is awarded for artistic excellence.

The programme consisted of Sonatina for Guitar - Torroba, Elogio de la Danza - Brouwer, Andante - Bach, Variations on a theme of Scriabin - Tansman and Cadiz - Albeniz. For an encore Jonathan Wiseman performed Porro - Montana.

This was a wonderful performance from a very talented young musical which was very well appreciated by the lunchtime audience at St. Peter Mancroft Church. This was a brilliant recital full of imagination. Jonathan Wiseman has a bright future with a commission for a new guitar concerto as well as recording and publishing initiatives.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Julius Caesar at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Thursday 18th October 2012 I attended the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance of Julius Caesar at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was part of a national tour following runs in Stratford-upon-Avon and London's West End.

In this production William Shakespeare's great political thriller finds dark contemporary echoes in modern Africa. This epic struggle for power was directed by RSC Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran and was originally created as part of the World Shakespeare Festival for the London 2012 Festival. How many times shall this our lofty scene be acted o'er in states unborn and accents yet unknown.

Julius Caesar tells the story of the conspiracy against Caesar, his assassination and the defeat of his conspirators. Julius Caesar has returned to Rome triumphant from the war against Pompey. The Roman republic is prepared to heap him with new honours, causing concern and dismay among some senators who fear that too much power is held by one man.

Caius Cassius plots a conspiracy to murder Caesar, enlisting the support of the well-respected Marcus Brutus. Brutus has misgivings but is persuaded that Caesar's death is necessary for the good of the republic. However, he rejects Cassius' proposal that Mark Antony, close friend of Caesar, should also be killed. Brutus, Cassius and their co-conspirators stab Caesar to death at the senate house on the Ides of March.

At Caesar's funeral Brutus addresses the people and successfully explains the conspirators' motives. However, Mark Antony speaks next and turns the mob against the conspirators, who are forced to flee from Rome. Mark Antony and Caesar's nephew, Octavius, take command of Rome and lead an army against the conspirators. Brutus and Cassius are defeated at Philippi where they kill themselves rather than be captured.

There were wonderful performances from Paterson Joseph as Brutus, Cyril Nri as Cassius, Ray Fearon as Mark Antony and Jeffery Kissoon as Caesar as this classic story was transferred to present day Africa making it relevant for the 21st Century. The African music and stage set worked very well and the play being acted with African accents gave a real contemporary feel showing how present day political situations can compare to events in history. I really enjoyed my evening in the company of the RSC which made for a real thought provoking and progressive event at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Episode Two of Brahms and Szymanowski

After my visit to The Royal Opera House on the afternoon of Saturday 13th October 2012 I made my way to The Barbican for the second episode of the London Symphony Orchestra's Brahms and Szymanowski series of concerts. The LSO were conducted by Valery Gergiev as they played Tragic Overture - Brahms, Symphony No.2 -Szymanowski and Symphony No.2 - Brahms.

The Tragic Overture was composed by Brahms in 1880. Brahms chose the title Tragic to emphasise the turbulent, tormented character of the piece, in essence a free-standing symphonic movement, in contrast to the mirthful ebullience of a companion piece he wrote the same year, the Academic Festival Overture.

Szymanowski completed his Symphony No.2 in 1909. He was greatly influenced by German culture and the symphony has many echoes of Richard Strauss and Max Reger. This Symphony is a complex tapestry of threaded musical ideas that the composer claims to be one of his favourites.

Brahms composed his Symphony No.2 during the summer of 1877 during a visit to Pörtschach am Wörthersee, a town in the Austrian province of Carinthia. Its composition was brief in comparison with the fifteen years it took Brahms to complete his First Symphony. Brahms said that this symphony was so melancholy that you will not be able to bear it. I have never written anything so sad, and the score must come out in mourning.

This was another wonderful evening to be at The Barbican as Valery Gergiev and the LSO brought us more delightful music from Brahms and Szymanowski. This was a fabulous way to finish another brilliant day in London before catching the train back to Norwich.