Tag Archives: Francis Poulenc

July/August 2018 – upcoming London opera – the rest of Grimeborn 2018 including a baroque ‘Xerse’, a reconfigured ‘Membra Jesu Nostri’, a reclaimed ‘Carmen The Gypsy’, repertoire hits, kids’ shows and jazz-dance (24th July to 26th August)

20 Jul

Grimeborn 2018, 24th July to 26th August 2018

While my previous post on London alt.opera festival Grimeborn 2018 dealt with many of its obvious heavy-hitters (including the revivals of Turnage’s ‘Greek’, Britten’s ‘Rape of Lucretia’ and Ethel Smyth’s ‘The Boatswain’s Mate’, plus its premieres of Keith Burstein’s ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ and a slew of BAME/female-originated one-acters), there’s plenty more to the season. First of all, let’s take a quick look at the reconfigurations.

Most boldly, Opera Louise’s ‘Teenage Bodies’ takes on ‘Membra Jesu Nostri’ – Baroque composer Dietrich Buxtehude’s seven-song five-voice cantata on the body of Christ. In a corkscrew dive from the sacred to the secular, director/lyricist Julien Chavaz, choreographer Oliver Dähler and music director Jérôme Kuhn rework it as a meditation on puberty and development, mixing live music, physical movement and new text. I’m assuming that the original Biblical listing of “feet, knees, hands, sides, breast, heart, and face” have either been replaced or restored to the carnal. Equally, perhaps they’ve turned into a politicized view of the relationship and power dynamics between young and old bodies. The publicity photos and videos show what seems to be a Theatre of Cruelty classroom with an elderly man and several younger figures cavorting around each other. It could signify anything. At any rate, it’s one of the best-equipped operas in the festival, complete with small orchestra.

 
For ‘A Fantastic Bohemian: The Tales of Hoffman Revisited’, Opera MIO & Co-Productions take Jacques Offenbach’s rollicking Victorian fantasy opera ‘The Tales of Hoffman’ and turn it into an Anglo-Spanish immersive theatre piece spread across three spaces, kitting out the Arcola as Mexico City during the 1940s (during its Golden Cinema Age). The original score will be interspersed with bursts of Mexican danzón, all of the music being played by a four-piece band of piano, cello, clarinet, and violin.

Grimeborn 2018: 'Carmen The Gypsy' - 22nd to 25th August 2018In turn, Romani polymath and Romany Theatre Company head Dan Allum has rewritten Bizet’s ‘Carmen’ as ‘Carmen The Gypsy’, setting it within the contemporary British traveller community and highlighting both anti-Romani racism (“when the outside world thinks you’re scum, can you ever be free?”) and Carmen’s own struggle to liberate herself from “a brutal husband and the shackles of tradition.” This reworking features original Gypsy songs played live on guitar, drum, violin and accordion, plus staged cage fighting (presumably replacing Bizet’s bullfighting) and, as with many RTC productions, a combined English and Romani libretto.

Baroque tradition meets contemporary minimalist theatre in Ensemble OrQuesta’s straighter revival of Francesco Cavalli’s ‘Xerse’, directed by Marcio da Silva. The company triumphed last year with their production of Armide, and return with this dramatic comedy of “jealousy and unfulfilled love” set in the royal court of Persia (with a company of eleven singers, baroque violins, cello, lute and harpsichord).

Milly Forrest

Milly Forrest

For repertoire shows, The Opera Box’s compilation piece ‘Recitals’ (performed by soprano Milly Forrest and pianist Alastair Chilvers) features “new spins” on pieces by Richard Strauss, Hugo Wolf, Vincenzo Bellini, Franz Liszt, Francis Poulenc, and Joseph Haydn. In ‘Onegin & Tatiana’, Opera Company director Guido Martin-Brandis presents “an award-winning cast explor(ing) the dramas and psychologies of Alexander Pushkin’s immortal characters”. Centred on the character of Tatiana Onegin (and focussing on female desire, fantasy and personal upheavale) it features music from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, plus additional songs by Strauss, Fauré, Massenet, Barber and Schubert.

The remaining pieces might be heading away from the opera template, but seem to be aimed at pulling in both children and the classical-averse, providing entry points to musical drama. Children are catered for via a return appearance by Melanie Gall, with her acclaimed anthropomorphic kids theatre shows about musical animals winning through against the odds (‘Opera Mouse’ quotes Puccini and Mozart, while the scat-happy ‘Jazz Cat’ is built around the music of Harry Woods, Louis Armstrong and Robert Johnson.)

Melanie Gall: 'Opera Mouse'

A more adult-orientated jazz evening arrives with Nancy Hitzig and Cat Foley’s ‘Swing Sister Swing’ “a cabaret-inspired show celebrating female choreographers, kick ass musicians and pieces created and inspired by jazz-greats” (a trinity of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday). It’ll be performed by Nancy and Cat themselves with fellow dancers Christine “Tine Machine” Gatchalian, Katie Stotter, Benjamin Cook and Stephen Atemie and European champion chorus-line The Dixie Dinahs, and with recorded and live music by Katie. “Through lindy hop, swing dance, vintage burlesque, song and comedy, performers will explore what it means to be a in a partnership and alone.”


 
All performances at Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 2DJ, England.

Dates:

  • The Opera Box presents ‘Recitals’ – Thursday 26th July 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Nancy Hitzig & Cat Foley present ‘Swing Sister Swing’ – Sunday 29th July 2018, 4.00pm & 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Melanie Gall presents ‘Opera Mouse’ – Wednesday 1st August 2018, 11.00am – information here and here
  • Melanie Gall presents ‘Jazz Cat’, Wednesday 1st August 2018, 2.00pm – information here and here
  • Opera Louise presents ‘Teenage Bodies’ – Thursday 2nd August 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Opera MIO & Co-Productions present ‘A Fantastic Bohemian: The Tales of Hoffman Revisited’ – Saturday 4th & Saturday 11th August 2018, 2.30pm / Sunday 5th & Sunday 12th August 2018, 4.00pm – information here and here
  • Guido Martin-Brandis presents ‘Onegin & Tatiana’ – Monday 13th & Tuesday 14th August 2018, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Romany Theatre Company presents ‘Carmen the Gypsy’ – Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25 August 2018, 8.00pm / Saturday 25 August 2018, 3.00pm – information here and here
  • Ensemble OrQuesta presents ‘Xerse’ – Friday 24th to Sunday 26th August 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here

 

October 2017 – London classical gigs – Olga Stezhko’s Paris flash (10th & 19th October); Billroth Quartet play Mozart and a Paul Barnes premiere (15th October)

30 Sep

Olga Stezhko, 2015It’s always good to hear about new concerts by Olga Stezhko. In addition to her dazzling piano technique, Olga’s enquiring mind, her intellectual rigour and her urge to communicate ideas always ensures that she sets up interesting programmes and juxtapositions.

Her latest London appearances are no exception, as she focusses on music created during a particularly animated period of cultural shift. As she comments, “all the pieces… (Debussy, Poulenc, Prokofiev and Ravel) were composed in Paris at a time when Europe was undergoing a seismic cultural and socio-political shift. I will explore the dynamics that drove the creativity of four complex personalities in the fast-paced environment of the City of Lights…”

Programme:

Claude Debussy – Suite bergamasque; Children’s Corner (Wigmore Hall only); Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (from ‘Images, Series 2’ – Wigmore Hall only)
Francis Poulenc – Trois pièces
Maurice Ravel – Oiseaux tristes and Alborada del gracioso (from ‘Miroirs’)
Sergei Prokofiev – Pensées Op. 62 (Wigmore Hall only)

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Billroth Quartet, 15th October 2017

In between the two Stezhko dates, the Billroth Quartet (violinists Thomas Leate and Christian Halstead, viola player Simon Ballard and cellist Heidi Parsons, whose performance gamut runs from contemporary classical to jazz, tango and world recordings) are premiering a debut piece by composer and crystallographer Paul Barnes, in programme with a Mozart favourite.

Programme:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Duo for Violin & Viola (K423)
Paul Barnes – Layers of Life (for string quartet)

Regarding his piece, Paul Barnes writes:

“…’Layers of Life’ is a commemoration of all lives that fulfil some aspect of their potential, whether small or large, recognised or hidden… This composition is very unusual in that the styles of its four movements contain aspects of the four basic musical styles (respectively: baroque, classical, Romantic, and modern) thereby illustrating the passage of time, from cradle to grave, of its subject. The story ends with a passage where the subject enters a dreamy phase which becomes strongly agitated when its status, as a life finale, is realised.

“However, the dream then reforms into a vision in which the subject’s whole life flashes quickly past, as represented by the distorted re-appearance of several themes from its earlier movements, and by the final harmony which signals an ambiguous ending indicative of the varying beliefs concerning an afterlife.”

Billroth Quartet
Platform Theatre @ Platform Islington, Hornsey Road Baths, 2 Tiltman Place (off Hornsey Road), Holloway, London, N7 7EE, England
Sunday October 15th, 3.00 pm
information (tickets available on the door, or reservable by emailing the composer)

This low-key concert (you won’t currently find it mentioned on the Platform website) is the debut live event from a new North London recording and performance initiative, aiming to find and carry out effective micro-budget strategies for classical musicians and composers. They’ll be producing a limited-edition CD-R of the Barnes piece for the evening, with hopes of further concerts and releases later on. I’ll post up more info on all of this, as and when I get it.
 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – ‘The Secret Life of Organs’ tour of England (with The Necks and James McVinnie); plus, in London, ‘The Female Persona’ (a woman’s-eye music evening with works by Sally Beamish, Robert Schumann, William Bolcom and a performance of Francis Poulenc/Jean Cocteau’s ‘La Voix Humaine’)

4 Apr

Some interesting classical or classical-slanted gigs coming up this week and next week…

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'The Secret Life of Organs', April 2016

No-Nation presents:
‘The Secret Life of Organs’ with The Necks + James McVinnie

A double-bill of experimental musicians revealing the secret sounds of some of England’s most majestic pipe organs and using the instruments to their full potential. The tour takes in some of the finest organs in the UK; housed in Birmingham Town Hall, Leeds Town Hall, The Meeting House at Sussex University Brighton, Colston Hall Bristol and the Union Chapel London.

Australian trio The Necks are known for their improvisational approach, never playing the same set twice and each performance a ‘thrilling, emotional journey into the unknown’ (Guardian). This concert sees pianist Chris Abrahams eschew his usual instrument in favour of the organ, showing off the versatility of its deep, warm sounds as part of a trio.

Organist and composer James McVinnie is fast becoming the country’s leading performer of new organ music as comfortable playing medieval music as he is collaborating with the likes of Nico Muhly, Oneohtrix Point Never, Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) and Bryce Dessner (The National). Here he plays a specially-commissioned new score by Tom Jenkinson (which intertwines expansive classical influences with the chaotic intricacy for which Jenkinson is so well known in his work as Squarepusher) as well as performing two of Philip Glass’s most emblematic organ pieces, ‘Mad Rush’ and ‘Music in Similar Motion’.

Tom Jenkinson: “The experience of hearing organ music as a child is one of the most significant influences on my work. Through this new set of pieces I intend to explore some of the darker and more mysterious timbres available on these fantastic instruments.”

James McVinnie: “The organ is the ‘original synthesiser’ — an orchestra of sound like no other, which can fill huge architectural spaces without amplification but can also create a huge range of colourful and beguiling sounds. I enjoy working with many living composers and electronic musicians breathing new life into this grand, noble instrument and I’m thrilled to be now working with Tom Jenkinson on his beautiful and haunting new work.”

Chris Abrahams, The Necks: “With the pipe organ, the Necks take the idea of site-specific music making to another level; one where both the site and the instrument are the same. The hugeness of sound coming from an organ comes about through the combination of thousands of discreet sound producing units as well as the complex, multi directional reverberations possible in the hall space. The sound seems everywhere. Sometimes a pipe set is split between both sides of the pipe array, making possible wild “panning” effects; some pipes sound from the front of the instrument – like the massive bass pipes of the Leeds Town Hall organ; others sound from unseen pipe chambers deep within the confines of the instrument. Each organ is an important part of the building in which it is housed and is reflective of the economic and cultural aspirations of the city that brought it into being.”

Here’s a quick clip of James McVinnie performing a snippet of Morton Feldman’s ‘Principal Sound’ from another event, last month.


 

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'The Female Persona', 12th April 2016The Amalie Trio/Eleanor Janes/Maya Soltan/P.J. Harris present:
‘The Female Persona’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Tuesday 12th April 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Programme:

Robert Schumann – ‘Frauenliebe und –leben (Op. 42)’
William Bolcom – ‘Let Evening Come’
Sally Beamish – ‘Sonata for voice, viola and piano’
Francis Poulenc/ Jean Cocteau – ‘La Voix humaine’

Performers:

The Amalie Trio (Catherine Backhouse – mezzo soprano; Alexa Beattie – viola; Elspeth Wyllie – piano)
Eleanor Janes – soprano
Maya Soltan – piano
PJ Harris – director (‘La Voix Humaine’)

“The members of The Amalie Trio (Catherine Backhouse, Alexa Beattie and Elspeth Wyllie) first met as pupils at St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh. Now establishing themselves amongst Scotland’s most outstanding young soloists, they unite to champion the wonderful repertoire for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano. Considering their audiences at every turn they offer thoughtful, varied and engaging programmes that bring freshness and life to a large and flexible repertoire ranging from Brahms to Bernstein.

At this concert the Amalie Trio will perform the London premiere of ‘Sonata for voice, viola and piano’ by Sally Beamish, alongside the work that inspired it: Robert Schumann’s ‘Frauenliebe und –leben’ (a song-cycle based, in turn, on poems by Adelbert von Chamisso which voice a woman’s perspective on her love for a man, from first meeting through marriage to his death and her widowhood). The end of life is the subject of William Bolcom’s trio piece ‘Let Evening Come’, which sets the texts of three female American poets: Maya Angelou, Emily Dickenson and Jane Kenyon.

The second half of the evening features a performance of the Francis Poulenc/Jean Cocteau collaboration ‘La Voix humaine’, an emotionally powerful monodrama presented as one side of a telephone conversation between a suicidal woman and her ex-lover. The piece explores the nature of fear, depression and nervous exhaustion that obsession, rejection and the loss of a lover can bring on. Poulenc, who had himself experienced the pain of separation wrote: ‘I’m writing an opera – you know what it’s about: a woman (me) is making a last telephone call to her lover who is getting married the next day.’ As the woman attempts to disguise her despair and panic with superficial chat, Poulenc’s music expresses her true state as she verges towards a mental breakdown. Performed by London soprano Eleanor James and pianist Maya Soltan, this version of the piece was directed by P.J. Harris (who’s worked with Scottish Opera and Opéra National du Rhin).”

Here’s the Amalie Trio introducing themselves:

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More on the Gnod weekender next time…
 

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