Thursday 30 May 2013

Fragile at The Forum

It was a short walk from The Undercroft at Norwich Marketplace to Millennium Plain outside The Forum on Sunday 19th May 2013 to see Tilted Productions perform Fragile at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. This performance featured Tightwire artists, dancers, a trampoline duo and a dancing clown searching for the beautiful in the fragile and the fragile in the seemingly beautiful.

Maresa von Stockert's latest work combined contemporary circus, dance and physical theatre. Fragile's architectural set created the illusion of the performance being on a rooftop. Imagine a flat concrete roof where someone has put up a garden with a few plants in pots and some grass.

One layer of the piece exposed the microcosm of human activity taking place in this garden. It looked at the lives of those who visited the roof terrace and explored what the garden meant to them. For the creator of the garden it may be an oasis or even an obsession. Others made it their hide-away; a place where they escaped reality.

Some saw it as a playground, others as a forbidden space. For one person it may have resembled paradise, for another a foreign world of green discomfort, bewilderment and fear. While intricate relationships tenderly and brutally entwine, a strange transformation happened to the garden itself enhancing the sense of a warped reality and other worldliness outside The Forum.

This Sixty minute performance at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival was incredible and created an amazing spectacle in Millennium Plain. The trampolining and tightwire walking thrilled the large crowd outside The Forum who were spellbound by the movement and the unique story of Fragile. I very much enjoyed this outside event at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival which proved to be a big hit in Norwich City Centre.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Black Clouds at The Undercroft!

After my visit to The Assembly House on Sunday 19th May 2013 I visited Rhona Byrne's It's All Up In The Air at The Undercroft behind Norwich Marketplace. This installation for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival was created using more then three thousand black balloons that were blown-up and woven together to form five black clouds.

Black clouds are immediately recognisable as a comedic emblem of misery and pessimism but there was a fun side to this installation as the clouds hovered over bright colourful islands made out of carpets. You could say every cloud has a silver lining or always look on the bright side of life as the comical and happy element of It's All Up In The Air was there for all to see.

I enjoyed my visit to The Undercroft which is a space that is normally hidden away but was brought to life for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. The black clouds looked amazing and filled the space perfectly. Rhona Byrne said that they were like cartoon drawings of a squiggle over your head.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

The Bartholdy Quartet at The Assembly House

On the afternoon of Sunday 19th May 2013 I attended the Royal Academy of Music concert at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival featuring The Bartholdy Quartet and Kei Takumi at The Assembly House, Norwich. This annual visit from the Royal Academy of Music is a vital and much loved feature of the Festival.

The programme consisted of String Quartet No.25 in C Op.20 No.2 - Haydn and Piano Quintet in G minor Op.57 - Shostakovich. The Bartholdy Quartet are Tessa Ho - violin, Marisol Lee - violin, Ricardo Gasper - viola and Raphael Lang - cello. Pianist Kei Takumi studied with Vera Gornostaeva and Hironao Suzuki at the Yamaha Music School.

Joseph Haydn composed the six string quartets from Op.20 in 1772 and are among the great works that earned him the nickname 'the father of the string quartet'. At the time of these compositions Haydn's musical ideas were influenced by the ongoing shift in European philosophical and political thought.

Piano Quintet in G minor, Op.57 was composed by Dimitri Shostakovich in 1940. It was written for the Beethoven Quartet and was premiered by them with Shostakovich himself at the piano on 23rd November 1940 at the Moscow Conservatory, to great success. In 1941, it was awarded the Stalin Prize.

This was a wonderful afternoon performance from The Bartholdy Quartet who after playing Haydn's String Quartet were joined by pianist Kei Takumi for the Shostakovich Piano Quintet. This is the part of the Festival where we get to hear the classical music stars of tomorrow and based on the music played at this concert, The Bartholdy Quartet and Kei Takumi have a bright future ahead of them.

Monday 27 May 2013

The Aurora Orchestra declares war!

On the evening of Saturday 18th May 2013 I was back at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich to see the Aurora Orchestra at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival performing their Battle programme which combined break dancing and orchestral music. The Aurora Orchestra were conducted by Rory MacDonald with Thomas Gould - Leader and Max Baillie - Viola. The Dancers were from Bboy's Attic and Company Decalage.

The programme consisted of Battalia A 10 - Biber, Chamber Symphony Op.73A - Shostakovich arr. Barshai, Venus from The Planets - Holst arr. Farrington, Maxamorphosis - Julian Phillips and This Means War - Chris Willis. The Bboy's Attic and Choreographer Mickael 'Marso' Riviere joined the Aurora Orchestra for this adventurous cross-art project as part of the Orchestra's New Moves series.

Battle featured a playlist linked loosely by the theme of conflict or struggle. There is the baroque fireworks of Biber's Battalia, Shostakovich's third string quartet whose original guise as a straightforward 'war narrative' in fact masked more complex beginnings and Chris Willis' radical re-imagining of Holst's Mars, the Bringer of War. At the heart of the programme was Maxamorphosis, a major new work composed by Julian Philips and choreographed by Marso for chamber orchestra, dancers and solo viola.

This was an amazing night at St. Andrew's Hall with the Aurora Orchestra giving us a brilliant unique programme of break dancing and orchestral music which was greatly enjoyed by the enthusiastic audience. Maxamorposis not only featured breakdancers and a contemporary dancer, but the soloist, Baillie, danced as well as played the viola. He is trained in Capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts danceform. The Norfolk and Norwich reached another level of excitement with the stage being filled with break dancers as well as the orchestra.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Audible Forces on Earlham Park

On Saturday 18th May 2013 I visited Audible Forces on Earlham Park, Norwich, an intricate landscape of musical installations produced by OCM and Oxford Brookes University Sonic Arts Research Unit. This Norfolk and Norwich Festival event was commissioned by Without Walls.

This collection was inspired by sound artist Max Eastley's explorations into the mythology, history and contemporary role of Aeolian (wind driven) instruments. Max Eastley was joined by Mark Anderson, Jony Easterby, Kathy Hinde, Dan Fox, Nathaniel Robin Mann and Mike Blow creating an ever changing sound world on Earlham Park.

I was amazed by these kinetic, sonic creations that produced incredible and different sounds as the wind breathed life into them. My favourite installation was Kathy Hinde's piece Sonic Reed Bed which captured my imagination. All the pieces were beautiful in their own way and its incredible how they are able to create these wonderful sounds from nature.

Mark Anderson's Phantom Field was very dramatic being made up of twenty one wind synthesisers with each one having a little mini-synthesiser and as the wind blow the pitch changed. This was one of the best events at this year's Festival which turned Norwich's Earlham Park into a delightful constellation of sounds.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Kris Thomsett Organ Recital at Norwich Cathedral

On Thursday 16th May 2013 I attended the Big Screen Lunchtime Organ Recital at Norwich Cathedral performed by Kris Thomsett. The Norwich Cathedral's Organ Scholar played a varied programme of organ music.

The programme consisted of Chorale No.3 in A minor - Franck, Majeste Du Christ Demandant Sa Gloire A Son Pere - Messiaen, Praeludium in D BuxWV 139 - Buxtehude, Arabesque - Langlais and Litanies - Alain.

A large enthusiastic crowd in attendance at Norwich Cathedral enjoyed a wonderful lunchtime treat of splendid organ music. This was a great way to take a break from work with the added bonus of trying to spot the Cathedral's peregrines on the way to the performance.

Friday 24 May 2013

Bang on a Can All-Stars at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Wednesday 15th May 2013 I attended the Bang on a Can All-Stars concert at Norwich Theatre Royal and what a night it was at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. This New York contemporary ensemble took us to the edge of music with their experimental music.

The programme consisted of Sunray - David Lang, For Madeline - Michael Gordon, Big, Beautiful, Dark and Scary - Julia Wolfe, Electric Counterpoint - Steve Reich and 2 x 5 - Steve Reich. This set of music went straight to the musical DNA of the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

This New York ensemble cross the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world and experimental music to create a sound that is free of any category definition. The Bang on a Can All-Stars were formed in 1992 by renowned new-music collective Bang on a Can and were named Musical America's Ensemble of the Year in 2005. Since 1987 Bang on a Can founded by Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe have been creating an international community dedicated to innovatory music.

The first three pieces performed on the night were composed by the three founders of Bang on a Can. This was followed by Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint and 2 x 5. Norwich Theatre Royal was filled with the sounds of minimalism and progressive music. This has to be the coolest event at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival which I greatly enjoyed.

I love the music of Steve Reich and it was brilliant to hear Electric Counterpoint and 2 x 5 being performed live at Norwich Theatre Royal. Sunray, For Madeline and Big, Beautiful, Dark and Scary were all interesting and stimulating pieces. The Bang on a Can All-Stars are taking music into uncharted territories in the 21st Century.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Mariza at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Tuesday 14th May 2013 I attended the Mariza concert at Norwich Theatre Royal with support from Alasdair Roberts. Two years ago Mariza had to cancel her appearance at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival due to illness. It was great to be able to finally see her live at the Festival.

Mariza is the leading Portuguese fado singer of her generation and a global icon. She has infused fado, the breathtaking lyrical and melancholic music of Portugal, with the musical flavours of Brazil, Spain and Mozambique.

Mariza has such an amazing powerful and beautiful voice which filled the Norwich Theatre Royal with the sounds of fado. She looked stunning in a long elegant dress and chatted between songs in English and Portuguese. She has a charismatic stage presence and her set mixed traditional and contemporary song forms. There was a great relaxed atmosphere on the night which resulted in a loud round of applause at the end of the concert for the Queen of Fado.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Britten and Bridge celebrated at St. Andrew's Hall

I was back at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival on Monday 13th May 2013 when I attended the Philharmonia Orchestra's concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which featured David Parry - conductor and Mary Plazas - soprano. This was a celebration of Benjamin Britten's centenary and also a tribute to his links with the Festival.

The programme consisted of Suite, The Sea - Bridge, Our Hunting Fathers - Britten, Sinfonia de Requiem - Britten and Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes - Britten. In 1924 Britten heard The Sea, by his teacher, Frank Bridge at the Festival and was knocked sideways. Our Hunting Fathers was commissioned for the 1936 Festival, where it was conducted by Britten himself at St. Andrew's Hall.

The Sea was composed by Frank Bridge in 1910-11 at Eastbourne. This piece is in four movements, each with its own descriptive title. Seascape, Sea-form, Moonlight and Storm. Benjamin Britten's Our Hunting Fathers was the first of the composers acknowledged orchestral song-cycles. This was a collaboration with the poet W.H. Auden, who provided texts for the opening and closing songs.

Sinfonia da Requiem was written by Britten in 1940 as one of several works commissioned from different composers by the Japanese government to mark the 2600th anniversary of the founding of the Japanese dynasty. The work was considered inappropriate for the occasion and was politely rejected. The first performance of Sinfonia da Requiem was given in New York in 1941.

Britten's Four Sea Interludes received its premiere at the Cheltenham Festival in 1945 only a few days after the first performance of Peter Grimes. The Interludes are taken, with slight modifications, directly from the opera. This is one of the composers most popular pieces of music.

It was a brilliant experience to be at St. Andrew's Hall for this concert which celebrated Benjamin Britten's historic links with the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. This was a night to celebrate wonderful music and the Philharmonia Orchestra were on top form to ensure that this will go down as one of the highlights of this year's Festival.

The Festival Eucharist at Norwich Cathedral

On Sunday 12th May 2013 I attended The Festival Eucharist at Norwich Cathedral. The annual Eucharist cements and renews the unique relationship between the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and Norwich Cathedral. This year the service celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation with Liturgical performances of music heard at the ceremony in 1953.

The service used Vaughan Williams' Mass in G minor for double choir and included anthems and motets by Vaughan Williams, Howells and Wesley. It closed with Walton's Coronation Te Derum which was composed to conclude the coronation ceremony and Gordon Jacob's arrangement of the National Anthem.

Norwich Cathedral was full of the pomp and majesty of great choral works from Stanford's Gloria in Excelsis which was composed for the coronation of George V in 1911 to Walton's Crown Imperial march. The Norwich Cathedral Choir directed by Ashley Grote and organist David Dunnett made this a moving and memorable service.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Hot dancing at The Forum

On Saturday 11th May 2013 I attended the Bad Taste Company's performance of Faust on Millennium Plain outside The Forum, Norwich. This Norfolk and Norwich Festival event was a unique fusion of breaking combined with Lindy Hop, Charleston and big-band music of the roaring Twenties.

Faust is based in the Twenties prohibition era and re-imagines Goethe's classic tale, where our hero is in danger of losing his soul to the devil. This fantastic show featured flaming cocktails and burning boxing rings.

The Bad Taste Company gave us a set full of amazing dancing which thrilled the large crowd outside The Forum. This was a fast paced show with lots of imagination. The temperature was raised on Millennium Plain with the hot moves and flames of Faust.

Friday 17 May 2013

Reve d'Herbert at Cathedral Close

On Friday 10th May 2013 I attended the Norfolk and Norwich Festival launch where Compagnie des Quidams performed Reve d'Herbert which transformed Cathedral Close, Norwich into a luminous dreamscape. This was a spectacular outdoor celebration of the senses.

Mysterious figures, glowing from within, beckoned us into a world of ethereal beauty. The performers themselves became giant lanterns lighting the way to a climax of music, movement and majesty. Cathedral Close with the Cathedral in the background was a wonderful setting for this amazing and beautiful performance.

French performance group Compagnie des Quidams have performed Reve d'Herbert all over the world and this was a fantastic opportunity for the people of Norfolk to witness this truly spectacular show. Several thousand people were in attendance to see the Festival launch where we were taken on a incredible journey by the magical dreams of Compagnie des Quidams and their characters and beautiful music.

Thursday 16 May 2013

The Pirates of Penzance at The Maddermarket Theatre

It's always wonderful to attend a Gilbert and Sullivan production and even more so at a venue like Norwich's Maddermarket Theatre. This year the East Norfolk Operatic Society performed The Pirates of Penzance which was their ninth show at The Maddermarket and I attended the performance on Wednesday 8th May 2013.

The story begins on a rocky seashore where the pirates are celebrating young Frederic's coming of age. He has completed his apprenticeship and is now about to become a full-fledged member of the crew. Frederic however shocks the pirate King and his men by announcing that he is leaving their band.

We find out that Frederic was mistakenly indentured to become a pirate when he was a child. Although he never approved of the pirates' plundering profession, he stayed with them because he was bound by his sense of duty. This same sense of duty, he tells them, now compels him to forsake them.

Frederic is about to marry his elder nanny Ruth, who has constantly accompanied him since he joined the ship, but he wants her to remain with the pirates. He has not seen another woman since he was eight years old, and he wants to compare Ruth with other women. He comes upon a group of beautiful maidens, all of them daughters of Major-General Stanley, and falls in love with the youngest, Mabel.

The pirates try to abduct the Major-General's daughters and marry them. But the Major-General begs for their release, claiming that he is an orphan, and that he would be all alone without them. The pirates, who are all orphans themselves, are sympathetic to him, and they give up their plans for marriage.

We find out that the Major-General lied to the pirates: He is not an orphan, and he now fears the consequences of his story. Frederic meanwhile has arranged for a Sergeant and his police force to help defeat his former buccaneering comrades.

Ruth and the Pirate King inform Frederic that through an unusual circumstance, he is still bound to remain a pirate. He reluctantly surrenders to his sense of duty and agrees to join them again. Mabel begs him to stay with her, but he sadly tells her that he cannot.

Meanwhile the pirates have planned their revenge on the Major-General and are now coming to rob his estate. The Sergeant and his police force await them. They meet. All is resolved after the ensuing battle.

We were treated to lots of fantastic musical numbers including A rollicking band of pirates we, Climbing over rocky mountains, I am the very model of a modern Major-General and Sighing softly to the river. They were all performed brilliantly with great enthusiasm by the East Norfolk Operatic Society. I greatly enjoyed this fun evening which included fantastic scenery and costumes. Next year they will be performing HMS Pinafore and Trial by Jury at The Maddermarket Theatre.

McAllister and Jackson at Norwich Cathedral

On Monday 6th May 2013 I attended the Bank Holiday organ recital at Norwich Cathedral featuring Maureen McAllister and Robin Jackson, husband and wife organ duettists. They performed a varied recital to entertain us with music from Wilhelm Rudnick to Ralf Bolting.

The programme consisted of Fantaise on Ein' Feste Burg Op.33 - Rudnick, Five Renaissance Dances - Gervaise, Trilogie for Organ Duet - Bedard and Toccata Francaise sur le nom Helmut - Bolting.

Maureen McAllister studied at the Royal Academy of Music, Westminster Cathedral and in Siena. Her recital career has included BBC Radio 3 and most cathedrals and town halls in the country. Robin Jackson was a prize-winner at the Royal College of Music and at seventeen he was organist at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, London. From 1980 to 2005 he was in charge of student music making at the University of Bath.

The duettists put on a splendid performance at Norwich Cathedral to warm us on a Bank Holiday Monday. It was very interesting to witness this recital with two organists, which I enjoyed especially as the recital included a varied programme of music. At the end of the recital we all gave Maureen McAllister and Robin Jackson a big round of applause which was richly deserved.

Sunday 12 May 2013

The Great Gatsby at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Thursday 2nd May 2013 I attended the Northern Ballet's performance of The Great Gatsby at Norwich Theatre Royal. This production with choreography by David Nixon and music by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett CBE brought F Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel to the stage. We were taken to to the heady, indulgent days of New York's Long Island during the glamorous Twenties.

Nick Carraway comes to know his infamous neighbour Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire with a secret past and a penchant for lavish parties and beautiful women. As the sparkling facade of Gatsby’s world begins to slip, Carraway comes to see the loneliness, obsession and tragedy that lies beneath. This era was brought to the Norwich Theatre Royal stage by designers Tim Mitchell and Jérôme Kaplan.

The Northern Ballet are great at story ballets and this is one that they can be very proud of. The costume design was absolutely stunning and beautiful. The ballet score played by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia contained all four elements of Sir Richard Rodney Bennett's diverse expertise: his symphonic work, film music, jazz and popular song.

I very much enjoyed this stylish and wonderful performance of The Great Gatsby from the Northern Ballet at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was a classic story told by dance as the magic of the Twenties, full of the sound of Jazz gave us a night of memories to treasure.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Coronation Music at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On the evening of Saturday 20th April 2013 I attended the Keswick Hall Choir with Norwich Baroque's Coronation Music concert directed by Christopher Duarte at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich. This event was planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953.

The programme consisted of Zadok the Priest - Handel, The King shall rejoice HWV - Handel, The Lord God is a sun and a shield - Blow, Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem - Boyce, My heart is inditing Z.30 - Purcell, The King shall rejoice - Boyce, Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem Z.46 - Purcell, The Lord is a sun and a shield - Croft, Let thy hand be strengthened HWV 259 - Handel and My heart is inditing HWV 261 - Handel.

Handel's anthem Zadok the Priest has been a feature of every coronation since that of George II in 1727 and is a great way to start any concert. Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon King. And all the people rejoiced and said: God save the King! Long live the King! May the King live forever. Alleluia. Amen. As well as George Frideric Handel there was music by John Blow, William Boyce, Henry Purcell and William Croft on a night of royal celebrations at St. Peter Mancroft Church.

This was the first time that the Keswick Hall Choir and Norwich Baroque had performed together. The Coronation Music concert proved to be a great success as a large audience were treated to a wonderful programme of music that filled both this historic church and our hearts. Kings shall be thy nursing fathers and Queens thy nursing mothers.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Ben Morris Organ Recital at Norwich Cathedral

On Thursday 18th April 2013 I went to Norwich Cathedral for the Ben Morris Big Screen Lunchtime Organ Recital. This was another opportunity for the music lovers of Norwich to experience more splendid organ music at this historic venue.

The programme consisted of Toccata in F BuxWV 156 - Buxtehude, Dies sind heilgen zehen Gebot BWV 678 - Bach, Prelude and Fugue in C BWV 547 - Bach, Chanson de Matin Op.15 No.2 - Elgar trans. A Herbert Brewer, Invocation and Dance - Morgan, Allegro vivace from Symphonie No.1 in D minor Op.14 - Vierne and Toccata from Pieces de Fantaisie Suite No.2 Op.53 - Vierne.

Ben Morris is Junior Organ Scholar and a Foundation Scholar at Jesus College, Cambridge, in his second year studying for a degree in Music. As Organ Scholar he accompanies the College's two choirs for regular Chapel services, assists the training of the boys choristers, occasionally conducts rehearsals and services, and accompanies their numerous concerts, tours and recordings.

I very much enjoyed this Organ Recital which included music composed by Dietrich Buxtehude, Johann Sebastian Bach and Louis Vierne. These big screen events are now becoming established at Norwich Cathedral and are a welcome addition to the music events in the fine city of Norwich.

Saturday 4 May 2013

Great American Poems Evening at The Forum

On Tuesday 16th April 2013 I attended the Great American Poems evening at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library. This was a night of readings and presentations by scholars from the University of East Anglia. This was a free event for the poetry lovers of Norfolk.

The Memorial Library is a unique “living memorial” to nearly 7,000 young Americans in the 2nd Air Division of the US 8th Air Force who lost their lives during the Second World War. Located in the landmark Forum building in the centre of Norwich, the Library have a lending collection of over 4,000 books covering all aspects of American life and culture, and a specialist collection devoted to the history of the 2nd Air Division.

The wonderful poems chosen for the evening were ‘Safe in their alabaster chambers’ by Emily Dickinson, presented by Kate Anderson. ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost, presented by Philip Wilson. ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S. Eliot, presented by Gareth Jones. ‘If We Must Die’ by Claude McKay, presented by Christopher Astwood and ‘I Am Vertical’ by Sylvia Plath, presented by Silvia Panizza.

This was an stimulating and interesting event at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library which gave us a diverse selection of American poems to enjoy. Safe in their Alabaster Chambers, untouched by morning and untouched by noon. This is Emily Dickinson brilliance and my favourite poem of the five presented at The Forum.

Sunken Garden at the Barbican

On the evening of Saturday 13th April 2013 I attended the English National Opera's performance of Sunken Garden at the Barbican in the City of London. This film-opera with libretto by bestselling author David Mitchell and score by Dutch composer Michel van der Aa combined music, text and visual images including one of opera's first uses of 3D film.

This occult mystery opera's world premiere featured Roderick Williams, Katherine Manley, Claron McFadden, Jonathan McGovern and Kate Miller-Heidke. The ENO Orchestra were conducted by Andre de Ridder. The characters Toby Kramer, Zenna Briggs and Iris Marinus appeared on stage while Simon Vines and Amber Jacquemain were on film. Put on the 3D glasses when entering the door under the flyover.

This film-opera follows a missing person and those who are searching for him. A parachutist falls to earth. Toby Kramer, a wannabe video-artist, is visited by one Zenna Briggs in his basement flat and wishes to see Toby's work in progress. This multi-layered production explores hoax and dark truth, while we ponder the connection of the disappearance of a software engineer with a neurotic film-maker and a gullible patroness of the arts.

The Sunken Garden is an occult engine built by Zenna in the dusk between life and death. The garden converts the visitors' souls and memories into immortality for its creator. In time nothing is left of the visitors but undying moths. Iris Marinus manages to use her dying voltage to stun her enemy, Zenna. At the last possible moment Toby exits the garden via the vertical pond but with one serious catch, he is now a man trapped inside Zenna's body.

Sunken Garden is an opera full of interesting ideas and innovations. This is a production for the 21st Century which uses a combination of live theatre with visual technology making this a truly contemporary piece. From my seat in the Barbican Theatre I was taken into many different dimensions and I really enjoyed how the live cast interacted with the filmed performances.

Simon Vines is dressed in parachuting gear, and Sadaqat and Mrs Wales wave him onto a light aircraft. Up it climbs. Out he jumps. Look at it, this... massive, unfair, beautiful, cruel, miraculous... World-Machine. Look at it. And you think, I'm part of this, too. This production asks questions about the future direction of opera. I found it very stimulating and enjoyable.