Prom 50: Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Weilerstein, Belohlavek, Royal Albert Hall

Alisa Weilerstein  BBC Proms 2014.Even as orchestras began to sound more and more alike, there was the Czech Philharmonic. And many of its notable characteristics remain to this day: a modest, homespun, quality, warm and engaging and full of bright-eyed distinction in the woodwinds. In the pithy but immensely passionate overture to Janacek’s last opera From the House of [Read More]

Prom 47, Britten War Requiem, CBSO, BBC Proms Youth Choir, Nelsons, Royal Albert Hall

Baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann BBC Proms 2014Nothing has resonated through the unfolding First World War commemorations than the poetry of Wilfred Owen; and in terms of its grim immediacy and enduring heartbreak nothing ever could. Benjamin Britten knew that when he set down his War Requiem for posterity, counterpointing religious posturing with Owen’s indisputable truths. One fought, the other chose not … [Read More]

Prom 43: BBC Symphony Orchestra, Skride, Gardner, Royal Albert Hall

Prom 33_CR_BBC Chris Christodoulou_3The Russians were coming – and the prospect of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, even without the added attraction of hearing it in Igor Buketoff’s questionable choral arrangement where the Tsarist hymn is taken at its word and does a Boris Godunov on us, the promenade queues were fast stretching towards South Kensington. And if ever … [Read More]

Dogfight, Southwark Playhouse

Dogfight 3 Jamie Muscato (Eddie Birdlace) Cellen Chugg Jones (Boland) Photo Darren BellThe movie slipped through my net, the musical comes to Europe – more specifically the Southwark Playhouse – laden with Off-Broadway awards, including the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. You can see why. There is conspicuous talent at work in Dogfight none more so than its composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul whose work … [Read More]

Prom 31: Hallé, Coote, Elder, Royal Albert Hall

The levels of refinement now exhibited by the Hallé, the stylishness and elegance of the playing, is alone a measure of the special relationship that they and Mark Elder have cemented over the last decade and a half. The opening bars of Berlioz’ Le corsaire came off the page like a manifesto for French sensibilities … [Read More]

Prom 28: BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers (Men’s voices), BBC Symphony Chorus (Men’s voices), Oramo, Royal Albert Hall

All kinds of narratives at play in this Sakari Oramo/ BBC Symphony Orchestra Prom – and perhaps the truly adventurous programmer might have double-deployed Rory Kinnear – dispassionately chronicling Stravinsky’s Oedipus rex – and taken us beyond the Overture and into the melodramas of Beethoven’s Incidental Music to Egmont. Mind you, that overture will … [Read More]

La Traviata, Glyndebourne

Venera Gimadieva in La Traviata Glynebourne image Richard Hubert SmithImages of Violetta taken to her bed or receding like a ghostly mirage into an eternity of solitude preface and conclude scene after scene of Tom Cairns splendid new staging at Glyndebourne. Designer Hildegard Bechtler has created minimalist surfaces, upholstered or slickly veneered, square or curved and offset by a slash of curtain – crimson … [Read More]

Prom 1, Elgar “The Kingdom. Royal Albert Hall

Sir Andrew Davis conducts the BBC Symphony OrchestraBack in the Royal Albert Hall for the unveiling of Proms 2014 and speaking personally adjustments need to be made – the heat, for one, but also the acoustical amplitude. As Elgar rolled out the magisterial themes for The Kingdom in its glorious Prelude my auditory memory was recalling Andrew Davis’ recent airings of the … [Read More]

Forbidden Broadway, Menier Chocolate Factory

forbidden broadwaySince 1982 it’s been open season on the great and the good of Broadway musicals. It was in that very year that a chap called Gerard Alessandrini created Forbidden Broadway and from the hitherto innocuous sidelines of the fringe set out to cut any and everything with ideas above its station down to size. No … [Read More]

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

Ramiro and Arminda La finta giardiniera image Tristram KentonThe title of the opera provides the essence of Frederic Wake-Walker’s staging. Finta – pretend, fake – and giardiniera – gardener – are key elements in a show where Arcadian bliss is not even glimpsed until the counterfeit facade of 18th century manners and deceit has quite literally crumbled away. Wake-Walker and his designer … [Read More]