Tuesday 30 April 2013

Jersey Boys at Prince Edward Theatre

On Saturday 13th April 2013 I made another trip to London. During the afternoon I attended the matinee performance of Jersey Boys at Prince Edward Theatre in the West End. This internationally acclaimed hit musical, tells the remarkable rise to stardom of one of the most successful bands in pop history.

It tells how four New Jersey boys from the wrong side of the tracks invented their own unique sound, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and sold 100 million records worldwide. With spectacular performances of all their hits, Jersey Boys is the electrifying true life story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; the mob, the heartaches, the triumphs and the music.

It was an afternoon that delivered all of the Four Seasons hits including Beggin', Can't Take My Eyes Off You, Oh What A Night, Walk Like A Man, Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye), Sherry and Big Girls Don't Cry. This musical takes the music of the group and combines it with their story. This makes for a gritty and interesting show and on top of that you get all of the songs. Oh what a night. Late December back in '63. What a very special time for me. As I remember, what a night.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Triorca Orchestra at St. Andrew's Hall

On the evening of Wednesday 10th April 2013 I attended the Triorca International Youth Orchestra's concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich. The orchestra is made up of young musicians from Norfolk, Rheinland-Pfalz and Novi Sad. This was their first UK appearance conducted by their Artistic Director, Nicholas Daniel.

The programme consisted of Wavefront Silhouette - Xiaotian Shi, Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra - Britten and Symphony No.5 - Shostakovich. Triorca's Patron, Louis de Bernieres was narrator for Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra which was performed as a tribute to the composer in his centenary year.

Wavefront Silhouette is a new work commissioned for the orchestra from Aldeburgh young musician, Xiaotian Shi. This piece was inspired by the sea and creates the sense of a journey going through the different emotions. Music has always been a common language and the sea links so many different countries, peoples and cultures together.

Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra was written in 1946 as the soundtrack to a film entitled The Instruments of the Orchestra featuring the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent. The theme is taken from Henry Purcell's incidental music to Abdelazar, composed in 1695 for a revival of Aphra Behn's play originally written in 1676.

Shostakovich composed his Fifth Symphony in 1937 and was first performed in December of that year. The premiere was a huge success, and received an ovation that lasted well over half an hour. The composer had to be tactful in his approach by appearing to yield to pressure from the State while still retaining his artistic integrity.

This was a wonderful evening at Norwich's St. Andrew's Hall with the Triorca Orchestra providing us with a splendid programme of music played brilliantly with lots of enthusiasm. It was great to see this orchestra perform and they provide an inspiration to lots of people.

Thursday 25 April 2013

David Dunnett Organ Recital at Norwich Cathedral

On Monday 1st April 2013 I attended the David Dunnett Bank Holiday Organ Recital at Norwich Cathedral. The Cathedral's Organist gave us a Easter treat by performing a varied selection of organ classics. David Dunnett is a busy organ recitalist both here and abroad and also regularly accompanies singers and instrumentalists on the organ, harpsichord and piano. He is also the Choral Conductor of the Norwich Philharmonic Society.

The programme consisted of Festival Toccata - Fletcher, Allegro (from Concerto in A minor) - Vivaldi (arr. Bach), Romance (Symphony No.4) - Vierne, Concert Rondo - Hollins, Rosace - Mulet and Overture - Die Meistersinger - Wagner (arr. Westbrook).

This was a fun and jolly Organ Recital at Norwich Cathedral on Easter Bank Holiday Monday which was very much enjoyed by the large audience in attendance. These events are a great opportunity to visit this splendid historic Cathedral combined with listening to some wonderful music.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Steampunk Dream at The Maddermarket Theatre

On Saturday 30th March 2013 I attended The Norwich Players performance of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich. In this production rhythm, movement, music and dance created a dream world.

This Steampunk version of this classic play began in Starveling the tailor's shop where the Mechanicals including that well-loved clown, Bottom, come to rehearse their play for the wedding festivities of the Duke. The fairies transform this shop into their Steampunk forest where four lovers take refuge and we learn all is not well in the relationships of the forest folk royalty. Magic leads to mayhem before order is finally restored.

The stage was transformed but as in a dream, elements of a reality remained. Steampunk is a literacy and cultural genre and aesthetic (an off-shoot of science fiction and fantasy) which combines aspects of the Industrial Revolution, i.e. steam power, with a rebellious or punk response. In the end Puck asks you to consider what you have just seen as no more yielding but a dream.

This production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was mad and brilliant. It was an afternoon where you could leave reality outside and enter an amazing dream world inside The Maddermarket Theatre. Director Chris Bealey created a fantastic version of the Dream which made for a very entertaining experience. Dreams, if they're any good, are always a little bit crazy.

Monday 22 April 2013

The Siege of Calais at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Wednesday 27th March 2013 I attended the third of the English Touring Opera's productions at Norwich Theatre Royal. The final performance in this series of operas was Donizetti's The Siege of Calais (L'assedio di Calais) which was sung in Italian. This new production featured designs by Faroese artist Samal Blak, inspired by the siege of Stalingrad.

Due to illness director James Conway mimed the role of Eustachio, leader of the Calais resistance, while Cozmin Sime not only sang the King in the first scene but then the baritone part of Eustachio, the real hero of this story. Toby Girling substituted as Armando, one of the six men who volunteer to die that their city might be saved.  Even with these difficulties the English Touring Opera made this a night to remember at Norwich Theatre Royal with a brilliant performance.

The Siege of Calais is the story of the burghers of Calais (depicted by Rodin in his famous sculpture outside the Houses of Parliament), citizens who offer up their lives to save their city from a besieging army. Their sacrifice is quiet, ordinary, sublime and it culminates in one of the most moving ensembles in all of opera, the momentous O sacra polve, o suol natio (O Sacred Earth). The opera also includes poignant, intimate scenes between the young couple at the heart of the drama and between the leader of the city and his anguished followers. Meanwhile, at the gates, the triumphant Edward III shouts for blood.

This historical and serious opera was a big success for the English Touring Opera on a night when nothing was going to stop them telling this story of what it is to be a citizen and what that citizen owes to their city or country. This was a week with three brilliant operas in three nights from the English Touring Opera at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Simon Boccanegra at Norwich Theatre Royal

I was back at Norwich Theatre Royal on Tuesday 26th March 2013 to attend the English Touring Opera's performance of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. This new production sung in Italian featured a twenty six piece live orchestra.

This is the English Touring Opera’s first new Verdi production for several years. The story comes from the history of Genoa, for centuries a great maritime republic, and from it Verdi creates an impassioned plea for Italian unity. This production was set in post-war Italy.

The composer’s musical depiction of the shimmering Mediterranean is wonderful; so too are the characters he creates, from the rough-hewn buccaneer-turned-ruler played by Craig Smith to his spiteful adversary and father-in-law Fiesco played by Keel Watson. Other characters include embittered traitor Paolo played by Grant Doyle and the idealistic Adorno played by Charne Rochford.

This was a massive undertaking for English Touring Opera, with an unusually large chorus and orchestra which was a personal ambition of General Director James Conway and Music Director Michael Rosewell, supported with a special grant from the Peter Moores Foundation.

At the end of the opera, Boccanegra is dying thinking of his youth, the freedom of the deep sea, and peace. Amelia and Adorno, newly married, come for his blessing and understand that he has been poisoned. Boccanegra names Adorno his successor. This was definitely my favourite opera of the three the English Touring Opera performed at Norwich Theatre Royal. Simon Boccanegra has a brilliant story combined with wonderful music.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Cosi fan tutte fun at Norwich Theatre Royal

The English Touring Opera arrived in Norwich for three operas in three nights at Norwich Theatre Royal. The first on Monday 25th March 2013 was Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. It was a busy few days for me as I had tickets for all three performances. This comedy about making mistakes in love is one of Mozart's most famous operas.

Così fan tutte is in many ways Mozart’s most perfect opera score, and Da Ponte’s most challenging script. It is a comedy of innocence and experience, funny and unnerving, touching and satirical. The delicate balance between recognising the posturing of the four young lovers and loving them all the same is a challenge to each director and singer.

In one day fiancés are parted, and new fiancés found – or so it seems. Discovering they are not at all the people they thought they were is strange, exciting, and very embarrassing. Paul Higgins' new period production sung in English featured a cast including Laura Mitchell, Paula Sides, Richard Mosley-Evans and Kitty Whately.

A packed Norwich Theatre Royal enjoyed a fun night as the English Touring Opera performed brilliantly and gave us lots of laughs. The combination of the wonderful music and the period setting made this an evening with a great feel good factor. At the end of the opera all four lovers’ certainties have been destroyed. No one quite knows what to feel, except that certainly human nature has been at work.

Monday 15 April 2013

The Crucifixion at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On Sunday 24th March 2013 I attended a liturgical performance of The Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich. This performance on Palm Sunday was given by the St Peter's Singers directed by Jody Butler with Julian Haggett - organ, Joseph Denby - tenor and Edward Kay - bass.

The Crucifixion: A Meditation on the Sacred Passion of the Holy Redeemer is an oratorio composed by Sir John Stainer in 1887. It is scored for a SATB choir and organ, and features solos for bass and tenor. The text was written by W. J. Sparrow Simpson, the librettist of Stainer's two earlier oratorios, The Daughter of Jairus and Mary Magdalene. The work is dedicated "to my pupil and friend W. Hodge and the choir of Marylebone Church", who first performed it on February 24, 1887, the day after Ash Wednesday.

Modelled on the great passion settings of J.S. Bach, Stainer’s Crucifixion is amongst the most popular of all English choral works and vividly portrays the events of the Passion of Christ. This was a moving event at St. Peter Mancroft Church to mark the beginning of Holy Week.

Thursday 11 April 2013

St. John Passion at Norwich Cathedral

On the evening of Saturday 23rd March 2013 I attended the Norwich Cathedral Choir and Norwich Baroque's performance of J S Bach's St. John Passion at Norwich Cathedral. The role of the Evangelist was played by young tenor, William Blake who is one the UK’s rising singing stars. The role of Christ was sung by Bradley Travis, leading bass soloist from the Royal College of Music. The distinguished soprano, Amy Carson was joined by other soloists from within the Norwich Cathedral Choir.

Bach wrote his Passion according to St John for the service of Vespers at St Nicholas’ Church in Leipzig in 1724. It is without doubt one of the most dramatic representations of the Passion story, the striking narration and crowd scenes interspersed with reflective arias and chorales that are amongst the most beautiful Bach ever composed. And when from death you waken me, let my unworthy eyes then see with tears of joy, my soul's reward; my Saviour and my risen Lord! O Jesus Christ, give ear to me, and let me praise Thee endlessly.

This performance directed by Norwich Cathedral's Master of Music Ashley Grote was very inspirational and proved to be a special night. There was a large crowd in attendance as we were moved to reflect on the sufferings of Christ and his joyful resurrection. The concert took place on the eve of Palm Sunday and it marked the start of the Cathedral’s observance of Holy Week and Easter. J S Bach's St. John Passion is a sacred oratorio masterpiece and was performed wonderfully by the Norwich Cathedral Choir, Norwich Baroque and all the soloists.

Monday 8 April 2013

Midnight Tango at Norwich Theatre Royal

On the evening of Thursday 21st March 2013 I attended the Midnight Tango performance from BBC Strictly Come Dancing's Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace at Norwich Theatre Royal. The night was set in a late night bar in downtown Buenos Aires and featured some of the finest Tango dancers in the world.

Midnight Tango took us on a journey into the heart of this intoxicating city. This was a combination of danger and excitement, joy and jealousy and pain and passion. Vincent and Flavia filled the Norwich Theatre Royal stage with explosive tango routines, gravity-defying moves and feather-light footwork. In 2012, Vincent reached the finals of Strictly Come Dancing, performing with Dani Harmer, whilst Flavia and Louis Smith won the series and took home the much-prized glitter ball.

Vincent and Flavia were fantastic as were the Bar Owner and his wife who added some wonderful humour and singing to the night. This was a spectacular and fun night at Norwich Theatre Royal which was full of Latin flavour. Great dancing and Tango music made for the perfect combination as Vincent and Flavia brought the magic of Strictly Come Dancing to the Fine City of Norwich.

Thursday 4 April 2013

The Los Angeles Philharmonic and Dudamel at The Barbican

I was back in London on Sunday 17th March 2013 and after a visit to The Museum of London in the afternoon I attended the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra's concert at The Barbican in the City of London. This was always going to be a thrilling night at The Barbican with the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Musical Director Gustavo Dudamel conducting a wonderful programme of music.

The story of Gustavo Dudamel and his remarkable journey from childhood in the El Sistema programme in Venezuela to Music Director of the Los Angeles is well known. On this special night at The Barbican the programme consisted of Zipangu - Vivier, La mer - Debussy and The Firebird (Complete) - Stravinsky.

The Canadian composer Claude Vivier was murdered in his Paris apartment in 1983. His legacy consists of some 49 works in a wide range of genres, including opera, orchestral works and chamber pieces. Zipangu was the name given to Japan at the time of Marco Polo. Composed in 1980 this piece was commissioned by the University of Toronto. Vivier wrote inthe note he provided for the score. 'Within the frame of a single melody I explore in this work different aspects of colour. I tried to “blur” my harmonic structure through different bowing techniques. A colourful sound is obtained by applying exaggerated bow pressure on the strings as opposed to pure harmonics when returning to normal technique. A melody becomes a colour (chords), grows lighter and slowly returns as though purified and solitary.'

Claude Debussy's La mer is a unique mix of tone-poem and symphony, a three-movement impression of the ocean. Composed between 1903 and 1905, La mer is a masterpiece of suggestion and subtlety in its rich depiction of the ocean, which combines unusual orchestration with daring impressionistic harmonies. The work has proven very influential, and its use of sensuous tonal colours and its orchestration methods have influenced many later film scores.

The Firebird is a ballet and orchestral concert work by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was written for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company, with choreography by Michel Fokine. The ballet is based on Russian folk tales of the magical glowing bird of the same name that is both a blessing and a curse to its captor. The ballet was first performed on 25 June 1910 with spectacular results.

It was a brilliant experience to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel live in concert at The Barbican. A World class orchestra at a world class venue being conducted by the most exciting conductor in the world. Vivier's Zipangu was a journey through sound played by thirteen string players. Debussy's La mer took us on a voyage across the ocean which was full of wonderful colours. The concert finished with Stravinsky's The Firebird flying around Barbican Hall like a magical bird. This performance was truly delightful from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Macbett at the UEA Drama Studio

On the evening of Friday 15th March 2013 I attended the Sacre Theatre's performance of Eugene Ionesco's Macbett, a play in French at the UEA Drama Studio, Norwich. Written in 1972, Ionesco's satire on Shakespeare's play loosely follows the plot adding some characters and twists to the story.

Two generals, Macbett and Banco, put down a rebellion. In payment for their heroic service, Archduke Duncan promises to bestow on them land, titles and cash, but he reneges on the deal. Encouraged by the seductive Lady Duncan, Macbett plots to assassinate the Archduke and crown himself King. He tries to maintain his tenuous grip on the throne through a vicious cycle of murder and bloodshed. Meanwhile, he is haunted by the ghosts of his victims and discovers that his new wife is not all that she seems.

Written during the Cold War, Macbett remoulds Shakespeare's original play into a comic tale of ambition, corruption, cowardice and excess, creating a tragic farce which takes human folly to its wildest extremes. Innovations include a long conversation between the thanes of Glamiss and Candor and a lemonade seller and butterfly hunter, and the revelation that the rightful heir to the throne is a worse tyrant than Macbett ever was.

This was a brilliant night at the UEA Drama Studio with the Sacre Theatre who are a UEA staff-student theatre company which specialises in French language productions putting on a wonderful production of Macbett. It was a night of French culture which offered no ray of hope but was able to offer moments of humour throughout the play. I very much enjoyed Macbett which is a production that evokes a number of different emotions.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Aspects of Love at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On Friday 15th March 2013 I attended the Aspects of Love concert from The Oriole Singers at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich. This lunchtime concert party featured a choral suite from the operetta by Andrew Lloyd Webber arranged by Francis Shaw. There was a retiring collection for Christian Aid.

The Oriole Singers were conducted by Martin Wyatt with Accompanist Heather Wyatt. Beverley McInnes was guest soloist at this wonderful Friday lunchtime concert. The programme consisted of In the still and the peace of the moment - Martin Wyatt, Ode to the Five Senses - Martin Wyatt, Love is the sweetest thing - Ray Noble, Foggy foggy dew - Trad, arranged by Britten, Will she wait up for me? - T Sterndale Bennett, Happy Talk - Rodgers and Hammerstein, Reading from the 4th Century Greek Prelate Eusebius, Excerpt from Cello Suite No.3 - Britten and Vocal Selection from Aspects of Love - Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Aspects of Love tells the dramatic story of a young man's enchantment with an actress. The songs sang gave hints at the different phases of love. Infatuation, lust, joy and sorrow that this overwhelming emotion entails. Love changes everything, Flirtation - Mermaid Song, Courtship - The first man you remember, Elopement - Seeing is believing, Bliss - Chanson d'enfance, Cautionary tale - There is more to love, Gentlemanly rivals defer to each other - She'd be better off with you, Nostalgia - Other pleasures can't compare with you, Desolation - Anything but lonely and Summary - Love changes everything.

This was a fun and enjoyable concert at St. Peter Mancroft Church which proved to be the best place to spend Friday lunchtime as we experienced a wonderful programme of music. In the still and the peace of the moment be still and at peace with God.

Monday 1 April 2013

Les Misérables at The Queen's Theatre

I saw the movie, now it was time to see the musical live on stage. On Thursday 14th March 2013 I travelled to London to see Les Misérables at The Queen's Theatre in London's West End. Seen by more than 65 million people in 42 countries and in 22 languages around the globe, it is still breaking box-office records everywhere in its 28th year.

Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Ex-convict Jean Valjean is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. Featuring the songs I Dreamed A Dream, Bring Him Home, One Day More and On My Own. Les Misérables is the show of shows and is now a major motion picture.

The musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg is based on the novel by Victor Hugo. It was first performed at The Barbican Theatre in 1985. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh, Les Misérables exams the nature of law and grace, the story elaborates upon the history of France, the architecture and urban design of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love.

It was a wonderful evening at a packed Queen's Theatre as I dreamed a dream. I loved the movie and I now love the stage version. At the end of the day this was a night I will never forget. They are Les Misérables, the outcasts, the underdogs.