Archives for posts with tag: Barbican

There are times when no matter how good a concert/opera/recital may have been, you come away with a slightly heavy heart, thinking to yourself, “And now I’ve got to write that up” (Well, you probably don’t: but God knows I do.) And then there are occasions like tonight, where such was the quality of the performance that I could barely endure the brief journey home, itching as I was to pounce into print on the instant. (I suppose this is why people have smart-phones: though if they were that smart my view is that they should write the damn thing for me themselves, based on a star-rating and a few choice observations. Roll on the day).

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The ever-accumulating appropriation of soprano repertory by Joyce DiDonato continues apace. Tonight, in Handel’s 1735 Alcina, the mezzo sang neither Ruggiero – the opera’s most demanding and extensive role, written for a castrato – nor that of Bradamante – surely the opera’s most beautiful, written for a contralto – but the title role itself, which in the last decade or so I’ve heard sung on stage by Renée Fleming and Anja Harteros. Given that Alice Coote sang Ruggiero, and Christine Rice Bradamante in this performance, the provision of mezzo-soprano voices was surely excessive, and one wonders why we couldn’t have had a genuine soprano Alcina and a counter-tenor Ruggiero to re-balance the higher voiced sonorities, with only a gleaming Anna Christy’s Morgana left to fly the flag for actual sopranos among the principals.


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This year in the August heat and dust of Neapolitan Italy, I made my first visit to Poppea’s villa at Oplontis. Like neighbouring Herculaneum, the villa was preserved in the eruption of 79 A.D. Unlike the modest townhouses in Herculaneum, Oplontis boasts a huge complex of elegant drawing rooms, cool inner courtyards, a huge swimming pool and endless trompe l‘oeil wallpaintings of birds, exotic fruit and mythological characters set against a backdrop of Pompeian red, giving a unique insight into the extravagant lifestyle of the patrician class. Standing alone in the afternoon stillness, with no other sound than the cicadas in the pine trees, it took little imagination to visualise the steamy sexual intrigues perpetrated by this great Roman siren, as portrayed in L’incoronazione di Poppea of 1643, attributed to Monteverdi.


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82492b2f-5032-4dec-adb8-56369fbbce78Who’d have thought you could get so much mileage out of a tomato? But in the hands – quite literally – of Joyce DiDonato, the lone specimen found bizarrely dangling from an otherwise exiguous and rather bedraggled bunch of flowers left on the platform steps by a female fan at the end of tonight’s concert took on a life of its own, prompting stories galore from the mezzo diva du jour, a flawless mid-coloratura retrieval from the floor where it had fallen during the first encore, much throwing in the air and catching both by her and the very game conductor – Riccardo Minasi – on whose score she deposited it afterwards, not to mention a delicious piece of pantomime when he pocketed it to the diva’s horror, and was obliged to place it on the first cellos’ desk instead. I shouldn’t think anybody has witnessed quite this much creative fun with fruit and veg since Callas and the carrots, many, many moons ago. Read the rest of this entry »