‘Once upon a time …’ So fairy-tales begin, although often they don’t conclude with a ‘happy ever after’. Certainly, both Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilËges, paired in this Royal Academy Opera double bill, might be said to present transformations from innocence and ignorance to experience and knowledge, but there is little that is saccharine about their protagonists’ journeys from darkness to enlightenment.
‘Britannia waives the rules: The EU Brexit in quotes’. Such was the headline of a BBC News feature on 28th June 2016. And, nearly three years later, those who watch the runaway Brexit-train hurtle ever nearer to the edge of Dover’s white cliffs might be tempted by the thought of leaving this sceptred (sceptic?) isle, for a life overseas.
Opened as recently as 1997, the Opera House of the New National Theatre Tokyo (NNTT) is one of the newest such venues among the world’s great capitals, but, with ten productions of opera a year, ranging from baroque to contemporary, this publicly-owned and run theatre seems determined to make an international impact.
It is a “a musicstallation-theater with video” that had its world premiere at the Mannheim Opera in 2012, revived just now in a new version by Vienna’s ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wein for one performance at the Vienna Konzerthaus and one performance in Hamburg’s magnificent Elbphilharmonie (above). Olga Neuwirth’s The Outcast and this rich city are imperfect bedfellows!
Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.
Promises made to placate a foe in the face of imminent crisis are not always the most well-considered and have a way of coming back to bite one – as our current Prime Minister is finding to her cost.
A perfect blue sky dotted with perfect white clouds. Identikit men in bowler hats clutching orange umbrellas. Floating cyclists. Ferocious crustaceans.
This was an oddly fascinating concert – though, I’m afraid, for quite the wrong reasons (though this depends on your point of view). As a vehicle for the sound, and playing, of the London Symphony Orchestra it was a notable triumph – they were not so much luxurious – rather a hedonistic and decadent delight; but as a study into three composers, who wrote so convincingly for opera, and taken somewhat out of their comfort zone, it was not a resounding success.
David Pountney and his design team – Raimund Bauer (sets), Marie-Jeanne Lecca (costumes), Fabrice Kebour (lighting) – have clearly ‘had a ball’ in mounting this Un ballo in maschera, the second part of WNO’s Verdi trilogy and which forms part of a spring season focusing on what Pountney describes as the “profound and mysterious issue of Monarchy”.