Showing posts sorted by relevance for query opera. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query opera. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, 6 November 2017

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, Victoria and Albert Museum | Review

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics (Exhibition)
Victoria and Albert Museum
Reviewed on Sunday 5th November 2017 by Olivia Mitchell 

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics is a vast and exhilarating exhibition which explores the complex and beautiful history of opera as well as its power to affect us all. In collaboration with the Royal Opera House, the exhibition examines seven operas both in the context of the composer's lives and the cities and countries they were originally performed in (the only exception is the 1861 Paris production of Wagner's Tannhäuser.) The final room takes us into  the modern day with a selection of operas premiered in the last seventy or so years. 

The exhibition is extravagant and immersive; visitors are supplied with headsets which play pieces to accompany the route which evoke both intellectual and visceral feelings. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the entire exhibition and the accompanying music, I find it somewhat odd that the actual musical element is made optional, although there are so many factors which go into making an opera great, the music is certainly the most crucial. 

Wandering around the exhibition space it's amazing to see how opera changed so much whilst keeping its original roots. The displays become more and more lavish, with stunning costumes and other objects becoming grander as we get further in. The political climate and opera have always been thoroughly linked and it is particularly striking to see the sudden return to minimalism during the Soviet Modernism movement when Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk was suppressed in 1936 and to be taken literally to the battlefield when the music is replaced with the sound of distant gunfire as we move to study Verdi's Nabucco.

This is overall a remarkable exhibition, which like the Opera itself, really needs to be seen and heard to truly be appreciated. The amount of information displayed is overwhelming but exciting throughout and both Opera lovers and Opera newbies are sure to learn something interesting. Visually experiencing the humanity and social relevance of the seven pieces is moving and compelling and I highly recommend you go and experience it yourself.

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics is on display at the Victoria and Albert museum until February 25th 2018.

Monday, 4 April 2022

La Traviata, Royal Opera House | Review

La Traviata
Royal Opera House
Reviewed on Saturday 2nd April 2022 by Olivia Mitchell 

Richard Eyre's production of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata is certainly a landmark one, having stood the test of time and remaining a timeless version in its 28th season since 1994. The opera encompasses all the swooping storylines you'd expect, with grandeur, passion, sex, family, betrayal, romance and tragedy sewn into every moment. Of course there's also the key element: Verdi's stunning melodies. Even if you haven't listened to the opera before you'll surely recognise a few pieces and as operatic works go, it's very accessible for opera newcomers. This is evident in the audience attracted, with a variety of ages filling the auditorium at the Saturday morning performance.

It's quite clear why this is such a well-loved production. The entire thing is completely opulent and so visually impressive. Gloriously detailed period costumes transport the audience to a 19th-century Paris which feels worlds away from Covent Garden. Despite the grandeur, there's also a subtlety that comes alongside the proceedings. Whilst yes, it is dramatic and luxurious, Bob Crowley's set is also cosy and makes the Royal Opera House's auditorium feel small and inviting. This is also helped by the cast, namely leading lady Violetta, played by Pretty Yende who grabs the attention of all and wraps you up in her tragic story from the moment she steps on stage.

La Traviata tells the tale of a famed Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry. Seemingly carefree, she is secretly struggling with tuberculosis so when she meets and falls in love with Alfredo, she believes she gets a new chance to live and be happy. They run away together and life off of her money and sale of her property. However one day Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont appears and begs her to leave his son as he is disgracing his family. Due to her strong love, she agrees and from there further drama and pain ensues.

As Violetta, Pretty Yende is a perfect fit. A fantastic soprano, she embodies the role fully and completely shines both vocally and as an accomplished actress. Yende's technique is faultless and she soars throughout with beautifully spun lines, breath control that grasps the audience and complete accuracy on every note.  She is completely in command throughout and is especially wonderful in Addio del passato in the final act.

Partnered with Stephen Costello as her suitor, the pair work together nicely. Costello at times is overpowered but really comes into his own towards the end when he shows more outward intensity that is mirrored in his vocal performance and really captures the romantic majesty.

Giacomo Sagripanti conducts the orchestra with the perfect amount of sensitivity and creates an atmosphere like no other.

This is a version of La Traviata that will surely run for another 28 seasons and is a must see for opera lovers and opera newbies.

photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Thursday, 22 August 2019

West Side Story, Sydney Opera House | Review

West Side Story 
Sydney Opera House 
Reviewed on Tuesday 20th August 2019 by Jamie & Emily 

West Side Story- an explosion of colour and culture clashes and immerses all your senses as one of the most iconic musicals takes over the iconic Sydney Opera House. This heart wrenching tale of lovers from two sides is a rollercoaster journey, taking its audience through every emotion. 

Director Joey McKneely has created an enthralling show. A set (Paul Gallis) you would think impossible with three moveable tiers, takes you around New York and you are truly immersed and transported.The choreography (Joey McKneely) is on point as it whisks and whirls around the stage; complimented by the fabulous costumes, and fantastically virtuosic playing from the Opera Australia Orchestra, a winning combination is created. Plus, what more could you ask for when listening to Bernstein's glorious score, than the brilliant acoustics of the Sydney Opera House?!

Maria and Tony take you on an emotional journey as the Romeo and Juliet story is transported to New York. The suspense of the rumble between the Jets and the Sharks keeps you on the edge of your seat with the first act leaving the audience in a state of shock, yet wanting more. The scene is set for the darker second act. 

Tony (Daniel Assetta) is a particular stand out, his powerful tenor voice blows the audience away with each, perfectly controlled note and emotion portrayed. Just when you think the performance can’t get any better the duets between Tony and Maria (Sophie Salvesani) and the harmony they achieve blows you away. Their talent is like no other as the complement each other and soar together faultlessly.

All round, this production of West Side Story is full of multi talented individuals singing and moving around the stage with ease and power in this enthralling stage production.

The uniformly strong cast give impeccable and energetic performances with vibrant dancing, fantastic vocals and a dramatic plot.  You'll leave the Opera House singing every song, and certainly won't forget this theatrical experience. What a great alternative to the usual evening of Netflix!

West Side Story runs at the Sydney Opera House until 6th October 2019

photo credit: Jeff Busby

Thursday, 22 November 2018

La Traviata: Behind the Curtain (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

La Traviata: Behind the Curtain
New Victoria Theatre 
Reviewed on Wednesday 21st November 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

As part of Glyndebourne's 2018 touring season, they are offering Behind The Curtain performances where "the essence of opera is revealed" and audiences get a look at La Traviata as it's cleverly dissected and put together again for a condensed version of the show.

Hosting the night is comedian and opera lover, Chris Addison who welcomes the audience with open arms, and discusses opera in a thoughtful but easily understandable way. First up is a look at the famous brindisi which in 1853 was the equivalent of Gangnam Style in a show, as shown by the stellar Glyndebourne chorus. Addison likens the song style to "a group of students who don't stop talking about getting drunk." These comments, plus other ingenious ways of educating- such as showing the difference between recits and arias through a sung version of outrage at a Greggs bakery opening- make the entire night flow whilst informing people of all ages and keeping them entertained through humour and music.

Much of Addison's commentary is underscored by the glorious Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra, led by Ben Glassberg, who play both pieces from La Traviata and pieces which inspired/were inspired by it. The talent of the orchestra is evident throughout, no more so than when their sight-reading skills are shown off when playing Glyndebourne's Balancing The Score composer, Ailie Robertson's Invocation. Other games include a quick change competition called Beat The Orchestra and an audience guess at how many operas have been composed since Jacopo Peri's first, Dafne.

This Behind the Curtain event takes on the form of part opera performance, part lecture and is a whole lot of fun for both opera fanatics and new fans. It also raises questions to keep you thinking such as "is there ever an authentic setting for Verdi?" and introducing us to the wonderful performances available from Glyndebourne. Particularly interesting for theatre fans is when the Gypsy dance is taking place on stage whilst we see the rehearsal process on the screens; giving us an insight into the backstage process of forming a show. 

Original Glyndebourne Violetta, Marie McLaughlin gives wonderful insight into the vocal variations needed for Verdi compared to other composers as she discusses technique and how solid breath control comes from the feet to the top of the body. Alongside some beautiful vocal demonstrations, Marie also explains how the beauty of Verdi is that he gives everything to you in the music and text which tell you exactly how to feel like the "consumptive" Violetta.

Overall La Traviata: Behind The Curtain is just a whole lot of fun. For music students it will surely provide an invaluable and memorable operatic experience and will inspire more people to participate in and enjoy opera. Glyndebourne should be commended for providing such an accessible operatic night. Here's to many more!

photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Tosca, Royal Opera House | Review

Royal Opera House 
Reviewed on Monday 27th May 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

The Act One finale of Puccini's swooping opera has got to be up there on the list of the best theatrical moments ever. The curtain comes down on Scarpia singing his menacing lament and we enter the first interval feeling utterly wrapped up in this glorious production; a feeling which continues until the very end. 

Kristine Opolais strongly performs Tosca, with all the shrieks needed and a wonderfully characterised lovers tiff in act one where she is a flirty and and playful diva. At times her vocals feel a little light purely due to the power of Vittorio Grigòlo's booming Caravadossi but overall the vocals are as soaring and emotive as you desire. Opolais balances the diva and naive sides well both characterisation and vocal performance.

Grigolo gets the passion and vulnerability of Caravadossi to feel natural and all-encompassing at once. The tenor gloriously performs Puccini's music finding explosive moments at the top of his range, as well as drawing us in with his highly controlled legato and dynamics; E lucevan le stelle is a particular, chill-inducing highlight.

Ironically it is a delight to see and hear Bryn Terfel as he brings the cruel, lascivious character of Scarpia to life. Despite being one of the most evil opera villains, one can't help but want him on stage more as his performance is so strong. The role requires not only serious vocal chops, but serious acting ones as well, Terfel provides both to create a perfect performance.

Paul Brown's set seems to get more beautiful with each act. Beginning in the Church, there are hints of magic and mystery, as well as small details of the trails being faced in the outside world. Scarpia's apartment is big, dark and overwhelming. Bookshelves devoid of books and an intimidating statue of a man crushing an opponent are signs of the way this cruel man runs his life. The final act is the barest of them all, featuring sharp angles in muted tones, the emotion is really the focus. Mark Henderson's lighting helps bring to life the love and hated which seeps through this production.

Alexander Joel's conducting brings out every ounce of tenderness and cruelty from the divine score as the Royal Opera House Orchestra soar through every moment. Jonathan Kent's production of Tosca is a must-see and is a perfect introduction to the drama and beauty of opera. 

photo credit: Catherine Ashmore

Monday, 3 December 2018

Carmen, Royal Opera House | Review

Royal Opera House 
Reviewed on Friday 30th November 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

Twisting Carmen on it's head, the Royal Opera House's revival of Barrie Kosky's production brings modernity, a narrator, simplicity and vibrance together to create a fresh and mostly effective production. 

Taking the place of the original dialogue/recitative is new text performed by pre-recorded narrator, Claude De Demo who sounds sultry and gives vibes of Carmen herself. Whilst this narration does bring a flow and more typically theatrical feeling to the show, overall Carmen does feel somewhat un-cohesive as it tries to be a bit too clever for it's own good. 

Katrin Lea Tag's set comprises of a vast stair case which covers the stage and prompts us to use our imaginations to see the tobacco factory and other settings. The simplicity effectively highlights the performances and provides a great backdrop for more dramatic and colourful moments of action; although at times it seems in the way of the flow of the show. There are times where the performers are legging it up the deep steps, that it feels there would be much less struggle and more payoff if they were not the main entrance, exit and focal point throughout the entire production.

Performance wise, this is an incredibly strong production. Stepping in last minute as Carmen, Gaëlle Arquez is astounding. From the various sleek costume changes from a pink matador, to a gorilla, to a suit and various dresses; to the elegant way she crosses the stage and of course her powerful but vulnerable vocals, Arquez demands to be seen in the title role. Brian Jagde brings an equally commanding passion to Don José but at times lacks characterisation that would bring a more menacing and psychologically commanding aspect to the character. With his booming bass and charismatic performance Alexander Vinogradov as Escamillo makes it clear why Carmen would choose him over Don José.

Otto Pichler's choreography emphasises the Cabaret theme which runs throughout the show, with six dancers who work hard to showcase various dance styles. There are moments when the choreography really works, creating a frantic, popping energy.

A melting-pot of movie, musical and pop culture references, this production of Carmen does a good job of refreshing and modernising the opera but feels at times that in attempting to be too accessible that it instead becomes unaccessible. 

Carmen runs until 22nd December at the Royal Opera House

photo credit: ©ROH. Bill Cooper

Friday, 23 March 2018

Tosca (Welsh National Opera Tour), Mayflower Theatre | Review

Tosca (Welsh National Opera Tour)
Mayflower Theatre 
Reviewed on Thursday 22nd March 2018 by Victoria Hayward 

Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre is a well presented 90 year old theatre with excellent acoustics and architectural surroundings. This provided the perfect setting for Puccini’s Tosca. After its first performance in Rome 118 years ago, Puccini’s Tosca is brought to life by the phenomenal Welsh National Opera (WNO), bringing a diverse audience along with it.

Tosca is divided into three acts with two intervals. The curtain opened and conveyed the dimly lit church of Saint Andrea Della Valle. This is where we meet the first of our two lead gentlemen: Mario Cavaradossi played by the truly wonderful tenor Hector Sandoval; who is more than qualified after singing the title role of Don Carlos twice in Moscow. Hector’s Mario is a talented passionate lover, embroiled in a love so deep with his beau Floria Tosca. 

Floria is played by our very own Hampshire leading lady Claire Rutter. Claire plays the role in a bouncy, vibrant and refreshing way and able to switch from lover to murderer easily and with conviction.

To Mario’s Tenor, Baron Scarpia’s baritone matched unequivocally. Mark S Doss’ portrayal of the venomous villain owned the production. With his masculinity taking over the stage every time he took his place, he delivered a strong yet vulnerable character. 

The magnificent orchestra during this production were expertly conducted by Timothy Burke who led them through the stunning and complex score. It was beautifully rehearsed which was clear from the impeccable timing. 

One criticism would be that during the first act the orchestra out-volumed the singers on stage, although, this seemed to have been corrected by Act 2.

We must show gratitude to the scenery and stage design produced by Cardiff Theatrical Services. The glorious sets throughout really took the audience on a journey seen through the characters eyes.

If you, like me, have never been to the opera, you should not feel intimidated. The whole production was surtitled (not subtitled, as I have learnt) so you are able to see where the story is leading. The screens are above the stage and are placed discreetly so you are not drawn away from the performance.

Tosca is a great introduction to opera. It has an incredible score, an excellent cast and a flawless story. Filled with love, murder and tragedy it’s a whirlwind production sure to keep you on the edge of your seats. The audience were gripped from the very beginning.

I will leave you with this quote:

With a thousand kisses I shall seal your eyes,
and call you by a thousand names of love.

photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith

Friday, 8 December 2017

Peter Pan (Pantomime), Grand Opera House, Belfast | Review

Peter Pan (Pantomime) 
Grand Opera House, Belfast 
Reviewed on Tuesday 5th December 2017 by Damien Murray 

With over 70,000 tickets having been sold even before press night, Peter Pan is already set to become one of Belfast’s most successful pantomimes yet.

Staged amid visually attractive cut-out sets that transported the audience to a world of wonder in such locations as The Darlings’ nursery, Neverland, Crocodile Creek, on board a pirate ship and beneath the sea, this production had a lot to offer with a talking bra, some super soakers, a giant gorilla and jokes about a mermaid’s shell phone all proving popular with the young audience.

Boasting production values as high as its flying sequences, this impressive show was spectacular with its pyrotechnics and special effects such as a colossal crocodile that moved right out over the front seats of the stalls in the Act 1 finale and a scary 3D underwater journey on film (but, be warned, it is, perhaps, a tad too scary for smaller children as I learned from this, my grandchildren’s first pantomime visit).

With super sets, costumes, dance routines and lighting, this production had cross-generational appeal with the double entendres, political jibes and topical references keeping the adults happy, while the silly one-liners and slapstick comedy made the children laugh loudly throughout.

Celebrating 28 consecutive years as the pantomime dame at Belfast’s Grand Opera House, May McFettridge (aka John Linehan) again proved that he truly is the ‘Grande Dame’ of the local pantomime stage.

This year, playing May Smee, this seasoned dame appeared to go into auto-pilot mode each time he took to the stage as his quick-fire one-liners and audience put-downs now come as natural to him as wearing female clothing each December… they are both part and parcel of his annual residency at the prestigious theatre.

Aided by a strong support cast, his partner in crime was again local actor and regular pantomime performer, Paddy Jenkins (as Smee), who, despite his laid-back approach, always delivered with perfect timing in the comedy routines, while television soap star, Claire King, kept telly fans happy as Mimi the Magical Mermaid.

One of the stars of this production was Britain’s Got Talent impressionist, Paul Burling (as the ship’s entertainer, Starkey), who made a good impression on everyone (in more ways than one) with a wide range of voice impersonations of such famous and celebrated characters as Michael McIntyre, Harry Hill, Alan Carr, Popeye, Top Cat and The Simpsons.

However, the brightest star of this show was the multi award-winning, David Bedella, who’s demanding stage presence, precise diction and perfection of performance was such that he could play such a believable ‘baddie’ as Captain Hook, yet remain such an extremely lovable rogue to those who can appreciate his theatrical talents and skills.

All were joined by Mikey Jay-Heath as a flying Peter Pan, Hollie O’Donoghue as the rude, roller-skating Tinkerbell, Natalie Windsor as a commanding Tiger Lily and Kweeva Garvey as a likeable and popular Wendy, while talented young performers from the McMaster Stage School comprised the children’s ensemble with an amazingly good break dance from one tiny little boy.

From reworded and reworked pop songs like Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You to show tunes like Cell Block Tango from Chicago and popular favourites like Blondie’s One Way Or Another, The Village Peoples’ In The Navy and Frank Sinatra’s My Way, the music was well-varied to suit all and, under Mark Dougherty’s musical direction, had a surprisingly big sound for such a small band.

It may be the festive season, but Christmas songs were, wisely, restricted here to a comic rendition of The Twelve Days Of Christmas (I say ‘wisely’ as I always think it must sound odd for audiences in the latter stages of a pantomime run to be singing about Christmas in a show that continues well into January).

On their first ever visit to a Grand Opera House pantomime, my grandchildren really enjoyed the experience… and there is no better test to prove that this big production is another big hit from the Grand Opera House!

Photo credit: Aaron McCracken

Friday, 24 February 2017

Aida (UK Tour), New Victoria Theatre | Review

New Victoria Theatre
Reviewed: Wednesday 22nd February 2017 by Melanie Mitchell

Being a relatively inexperienced Opera goer, I wondered how an opera this grand and majestic could be brought to life on the relatively small stage of the New Victoria theatre. My concerns were soon banished. Ellen Kent’s touring production of Aida comes to life with the spectacle, majesty and grandeur the opera was intended for.

The Triumphal March with a cascade of golden confetti and fire is particularly spectacular. One of the main highlights is the appearance of Houdini the Black stallion as the war horse of Radames which was a magical moment to see.

The cast were truly magnificent as was the Orchestra of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Moldova, conducted by Vasyl Vasylenko, both playing and singing the extremely difficult score with ease and agility.

All the male performers were strong and powerful, however the Spanish tenor, Giorgi Meladze playing the part of Radames is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, and powerful tenors I have heard. His voice soared effortlessly and the intense emotion of the piece could be heard in every note.

The female leads both gave accomplished and spirited performances. The mezzo-soprano Zarui Vardanean has a beautiful voice and gave a real air of jealousy and malice to the role of Amneris Princess of Egypt.

French Soprano, Olga Perrier as Aida was absolutely amazing, she captivated the audience from the first note and kept them there. Her haunting performance was for me the highlight of the show, full of emotion, passion and vulnerability.

Aida is touring the UK and Ireland until May 10th 2017.

Review written by Melanie Mitchell

Monday, 26 February 2018

Madama Butterfly, New Theatre Oxford | Review

Madama Butterfly (UK Tour) 
New Theatre Oxford
Reviewed on Friday 23rd February 2018 by Donna Meredith

Being new to Opera, I arrived at the New Theatre Oxford keen to experience Ellen Kent’s production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

The story of young Japanese girl, Cio-Cio-San, who sacrifices her Japanese roots and traditions when she marries Lieutenant Pinkerton of the American Navy immediately captivated me.

As the opera starts, the matchmaker Goro is showing Pinkerton round the home he will share with Butterfly. 

The marriage ceremony is beautifully portrayed amidst much excitement as the bride is prepared for her nuptials. The vibrant colours and costume design are mesmerising.

The arrival of Cio-Cio-San’s Uncle Bonze marks a change in mood as he clearly displays his intense displeasure with her choice of husband and her contradiction of ancient customs.

Despite her uncle’s anger Cio-Cio-San enters in to the marriage idealistically, for lifelong love. The flighty Pinkerton however sees the marriage as a short-lived affair. He inevitably leaves the country promising to return in one year. Three years later Cio-Cio-San is still patiently waiting, believing that one day he will return and they will be reunited. Cio-Cio-San’s servant Suzuki is her loyal companion during Pinkerton’s long absence

In Act 2 Consul Sharpless arrives announcing the expected arrival of an American ship, Cio-Cio-San is filled with joy at the prospect of the imminent return of her beloved husband. She proudly introduces Consul Sharpless to her and Pinkerton’s son: Sorrow. Consul Sharpless does not have the heart to destroy Butterfly’s joy, by sharing the news that Pinkerton has remarried whilst in America. 

In anticipation of her husbands return Cio-Cio-San joyfully begins decorating her home with flowers. Whilst Suzuki and the child sleep Cio-Cio-San waits eagerly for Pinkerton's return. As the hours pass Cio-Cio-San gives in to exhaustion and joins her servant and child to sleep.

Sharpless and Pinkerton arrive at Cio-Cio-San’s home accompanied by Pinkerton’s new American wife. Cio-Cio-San is overjoyed when she wakes to hear her husband’s voice. Her joy at the sight of her beloved Pinkerton is clear to see. It is left to the ever-faithful Suzuki to explain to Cio-Cio-San the true intentions of Pinkerton’s visit. The realisation the he has not returned for her, but to take her son from her, and raise him with his new wife in America is met first with disbelief and then acceptance. 

The overwhelming sorrow that Cio-Cio-San experiences at the loss of her son leads the heart-breaking climax of this sorrowful tale as she takes her own life. 

I found the whole performance beautiful,mesmerising and ultimately painfully sad. The stage setting is simple and in fact the same for both acts. Clever lighting by Valeriu Cucarschi subtly uses shadow on the paper walls to give great visual impact. The Korean soprano Maria HeeJung Kim as Cio-Cio San gives an impressive performance, ably supported by Giorgio Meladze as Pinkerton and Zara Vardanean as Suzuki.

A mention must also go to Vasyl Vasylenko’s superb conducting of Puccini’s music.

It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with Ellen Kent after the performance and congratulate her on bringing together a very talented cast and succeeding in making opera accessible to the masses. I arrived as a first time opera goer and left as a firm fan – next stop Tosca!

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Bat Out of Hell (Tour), Manchester Opera House | Review

Bat Out of Hell (UK Tour) 
Manchester Opera House
Reviewed on Saturday 11th September by Hope Priddle

Hitting the highway until late 2022, after several staggering runs in Toronto, New York and London, Bat Out Of Hell returned to its proverbial Manchester home this weekend. A stunning realisation of Jim Steinman’s life’s work and Meat Loaf’s iconic trilogy, the rock-opera is set in the dystopian city of Obsidian, a wasteland governed by the despotic Falco in the wake of a chemical war. Falco embarks upon a campaign to rebuild his metropole, which has since been overrun by a gang of feral, mutated youths – The Lost - frozen forever at the age of eighteen. As their leader Strat falls for the tyrant’s daughter Raven, an epic drama unfolds.

Bat Out Of Hell has undergone numerous changes across its various iterations; this new touring production is no exception, having been understandably shortened and scaled back. The book, which was already somewhat nonsensical, has suffered because of this. Amendments to the script, which were clearly made to clarify and accelerate the storyline, are overly literal, with clunky dialogue often betraying the visceral atavism of Steinman’s poetry. However, it’s foolish to think that anyone coming to see Bat Out Of Hell is after a refined and sophisticated narrative. Bat Out Of Hell is bursting with knowing irony and sarcasm – it has its tongue firmly situated in its cheek throughout. It’s a magical fever dream that invites you to suspend your disbelief.

Incoherency is irrelevant when you have a cast as stellar as this one - a cast who perform with such raw passion and hunger, you absolutely cannot take your eyes off them. As the black-hearted leader of The Lost and ultimate manic pixie dream boy, Glenn Adamson is mesmerising as Strat. His powerful performance of the titular song blew the roof of the Manchester Opera House. Adamson shares sizzling chemistry with Martha Kirby, our atypical teenage ingénue Raven, who perfectly captures the character’s fearless spirit and delivers flawless vocals. Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton triumph as Raven’s parents, Falco and Sloane. While the couple are outrageously comic and camp, their failing marriage inspires genuine pathos as they reflect upon What Part of My Body Hurts the Most. Sultry and savvy, Joelle Moses embodies the role of Zahara; James Chisholm is charming as  tough yet huge-hearted Jagwire, and Killian Thomas Lefevre plays a wholly endearing Tink, the youngest member of The Lost. Whilst supporting characters Valkyrie (Kellie Gnauck) and Ledoux (Danny Whelan) demonstrate stunning vocal prowess, the loss of an all-male rendition of Objects In The Rear View Mirror during the second-act, is felt massively.  In previous productions, the number provided an emotional antidote to examples of sexually-charged masculinity and it was always refreshing to see raging machismo tempered by platonic male love.

The ensemble are electric, executing Xena Gusthart’s dynamic choreography with real attitude. They are complimented by a spectacular use of multi-media effects, including live video. Action is televised, Big-Brother style, across the auditorium, with an on-stage camera woman magnifying the drama. Given that the cast have free-reign over Jon Bausor’s multi-levelled post apocalyptic playground, this technique proves highly effective in capturing every little detail. The show is a huge assault on the senses, in the best way possible; expect a cacophony of colour, light, sound (and fire)!

If you’re after an evening like no other, exploding with hedonistic pleasure and unadulterated euphoria, head out on your Harley and get yourself a ticket…before they’re too hot to handle. 

Bat Out of Hell is currently touring the UK and Ireland

photo credit: Chris Davis Studio

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Romeo and Juliet, Royal Opera House | Review

Romeo and Juliet
Royal Opera House 
Reviewed on Tuesday 26th March 2019 by Olivia Mitchell 

Romeo and Juliet is arguably Shakespeare's most well known play and a regular feature in the Royal Opera House programming, having been performed by The Royal Ballet more than 400 times since its Covent Garden premiere in 1965. This season beautifully revives Kenneth MacMillan's dramatic monument in a smooth and moving way, with a number of Company debuts making it feel fresh even after all these years. 

In the title roles, Matthew Ball and Lauren Cuthbertson are a match made in heaven as they bounce off of one another, in their sweetly romantic choreography which showcases young love (and obsession) especially well. The tension as they build to their first kiss is palpable. Romeo lifts his Juliet onto pointe as they kiss and creates a very calm and heartwarming moment before the fast paced drama of the next two acts. Ball and Cuthbertson are masters of their craft and give performances which completely justify their successes. 

Act One drags a little but the pageantry from the offset is marvellous. The sword fights are choreographed memorably and sharply and stand out against Nicholas Georgiadis' set as they fill the vast stage. The contrast between the intimate pas de duex and large scale ensemble numbers does well to bring variety and allows moments of extreme action as opposed to storytelling alone. A particular stand out is certainly  Marcelino Sambe who leads the mandolin dance perfectly and creates a buzz as the audience are drawn in by his fantastic technique and performance skills. Itziar Mendizabal also shines as she brings brief moments of humour and light to the three harlots who appear throughout. 

The melodrama is prevalent, with Mercutio's death (Valentino Zucchetti) and Lady Capulet's break down providing emotionally impactful moments. Mime is used perfectly by the pair as well as by Cuthbertson who acts beautifully throughout. 

Brief moments where dancers fell out of time are noticeable but do little to detract from the story and flow. Whilst MacMillan's choreography does everything it should, there are times when it feels too much is being done in too little time, and there isn't a second to really appreciate the intricacies of the basics. The musicality of movements feels undervalued in comparison with storytelling.  

MacMillan's telling really puts Juliet at the heart of the story which brings a fragility and power that makes it so special. A wonderfully danced and highly luxurious production, Romeo and Juliet is sure to delight audiences.

Romeo and Juliet runs at the Royal Opera House until 11th June 2019 and will also be screened at cinemas on the 11th.

photo credit: Helen Maybanks

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Don Giovanni (Welsh National Opera Tour), Mayflower Theatre | Review

Don Giovanni (Welsh National Opera Tour)
Mayflower Theatre 
Reviewed on Friday 22nd March 2018 by Lucy Jardine 

This performance of Don Giovanni was part of a short Welsh National Opera (WNO) season at the handsome, art deco Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. WNO are touring England and Wales until mid-April performing Don Giovanni, Tosca and La Forza del Destino and based on this performance I would recommend seeing any of the three productions if you can.

Don Giovanni is one of Mozart’s best known operas, first performed in Prague in 1787. The events take place in 18th century Seville and this production is true to the original setting, with elaborate costumes to match. The production is sung in Italian, but surtitled in English on a discreet display high above the stage, so you can easily follow the words and see where the story is heading.

Our hero – or anti-hero – is the amoral libertine Don Giovanni (played by Gavan Ring), whose only purpose in life is to seduce as many women as he can, using whatever mixture of money, deception & physical violence is necessary to complete the task.  

Somewhat reluctantly aided and abetted by his servant, Leporello (David Stout), Giovanni attempts to seduce the newly-married peasant girl Zerlina (Katie Bray), while avoiding her husband Masetto (Gareth Bynmor John) and trying to elude his former lover, Donna Elvira (Elizabeth Watts), who cannot make up her mind whether the man who betrayed her deserves forgiving or murdering.

Meanwhile, Donna Anna (Emily Birsan), attended by her steadfast lover Don Ottavio (Benjamin Hullett), is bent on avenging the killing of her father, the Commendatore (Miklos Sebestyen), at the hands of a masked assailant who's eventually revealed to have been the Don himself.

As you might expect from the full title of the opera, “Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni” or “The Rake Punished, or, Don Giovanni”, things do not end well for our main character when he finally has to face something that he can’t bribe, beat up or outwit.

Overall this was an enjoyable performance with a strong cast, but Emily Birsan as Donna Anna and Katie Bray as Zerlina stood out for the combination of great singing and good acting they brought to their roles. David Stout as Leporello also outshone his master on a number of occasions.

photo credit: Richard Hubert Smith