The Round Up | 17 06 2018

 

I'm a few days late posting this for June, however it means I can fit Beyonce and Jay Z in my highlights, so I think that's worthwhile.

In other news, theatre has taken over my life in a new way. I'll run through the highlights. 

I saw one of the early showings of Julie at the National Theatre. I've been pondering some of the theatrical techniques and stage directions for days afterwards - which  think is a sign of great theatre. I won't spoil anything, and it's not a perfect play - my mind certainly had a little walk, and came back at several points. However, I found it really resonated with me of the identities of modern class, and the trappings of being born with it all.  You can nab tickets for 15 pounds, so no excuse really. 

We had a group outing to see Red - the double-hander about Mark Rothko and his fictional assistant. I loved going to this from an academic point of view. The staging was beautiful and there was a lot to appreciate about the work, but it is essentially the examination of an artist's mind, and I think I get enough of a close-up in my day job, without needing to explore that in my free time. 

For my birthday we bought 25 tickets to Matilda through Today Tix. Nothing else to it, except Matilda is excellent, and I sang 'when I grow up' for 300 hours afterwards. 

As I'm spoilt for brains at the moment, I also went and saw Leave Taking at the Bush Theatre. Even though it was written in the 90s, it doesn't feel dated for a single moment. The piece is really about the generational challenges of immigrants but it's such an incredible piece, that spoke truths on the stage. 

I saw Acts II and III of Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House, which was grand, though there were aspects of the production I didn't enjoy too much. The director was the same as the recent Semiramide, so that made more sense to me. 

Then I saw the On the Run II tour with Beyonce and Jay Z. Not much to say except it's amazing, and I'll be listening to more Yonce on repeat for days. 

Other things I've seen (need to cut my spending, but ... why would I want to?) 

Nightfall at the Bridge Theatre  

Joyce DiDonato

Hamlet

The Moderate Soprano

Kronos Quartet  

Max Richter 

Picasso 

Trying to read more, and trying desperately to justify purchasing a new iPad Pro... they are so shiny and fun. But that's until next time. 

 

The Round Up | 04 05 2018

Ah it's technically May, so the month of April has really passed us by... but there's still time for a round up. I mean, there's always time for a round up really. 

 

So I've just dived through my diary to see what I've actually gone to this month, so I could write something, anything about what I've been doing. 

 

I started classes at CitiLit in Covent Garden, which has been a stretch in a very different direction for me. I'm going to Playwriting 1  classes and it's just such a fantastic way to spend time on my Wednesdays. 

It was perfectly timed with the arrival of Gimlet's new fiction podcast, Sandra

 

I've been all around the country in the last few weeks - Aldeburgh, Cambridge, Guildford, Cheltenham and the Cotswolds proper. The weather has finally turned, and I'm starting to experience exactly what makes the UK so beautiful and wonderful during the summer. Long nights, mild weather, sunshine and everyone is suddenly in a fantastic mood. 

 

So who have I heard lately? The Aurora Orchestra, when Tamara came to town. Far from what I've started to expect from them, they programmed quite a conservative program - except for a new work Martin Suckling's Candlebird. 

 

LPO then performed Persephone - with Dame Kristen Scott Thomas as the narrator. It was an astonishing piece, really unexpected, and to my mind, does a lot to change the perspective of those who think Stravinsky is a brash, angular nationalist, who then transformed into a calculated neoclassical mathematician. This piece reveals a composer (who we did know is in there) of depth of feeling, grace and fragility. Worth a listen. 

 

In between I choofed off to a Graham Norton taping at the BBC centre. That was an incredible experience - and quite straightforward, you just need to apply and get tickets. Do that here

 

Lastly I went to the ROH performance of 4.48 Psychosis at Hammersmith Theatre. It's absolutely incredible use of orchestration to intimate theatrical ideas, and I was incredibly moved by elements of the production. Read more about Sarah Kane if you can. 

 

Other reading 

 

Decca Vs EMI through the Ring. 

More think pieces about Kendrick Lamar winning the Pulitzer (I'm all for it). 

Why the guys who 'lost' to Kendrick are ok with 'losing' to Kendrick. 

Just beautiful dancers on top of buildings. 

 

The Round Up | 10 04 2018

It's only been a few weeks, but I'm glad I'm keeping notes of just what I have seen.  I'm currently hurtling along on a train towards Manchester - with non-committal internet. It says it loves me, then it disappears for minutes at a time. For a relationship that only needs to last two hours, I'm finding it a little unreliable.

I'm listening to the remastered album by Johann Johannsson, which has just been rereleased in the wake of his tragic and all-too-soon passing. Listen here. I’ve been listening on shuffle play on Spotify, but I’ll have to listen to it as a complete album – I feel stylistically I’m missing the story of the piece.

I saw From the House of the Dead at the ROH just a couple of weeks ago where I'd bought last minute tickets in the standing balcony area. Musically, it's outstanding, and a work that I think represents the best of Janacek’s orchestral colours. You can hear his legacy to the developments in the later 20th century. It was a stark staging that didn’t reach me from my audience perspective (restricted viewing), but quite a bit of the action wasn’t front and centre anyway… which is one of my major gripes with ‘grand opera’ – not directing for the nosebleed section.

At the Barbican I worked on a collaborative contemporary show featuring the London Contemporary Orchestra, which is a group I’m going to watch closely from now on. They were lean, nimble and you’ve probably heard a lot of their work before – without even realising. They often sell out (which I’ve noticed has happened with their next concert that I really wanted to go to…) See more here

I paid £15 to attend The Bridge Theatre last week and experience (for want of a better word) the new production of Julius Caesar. It was bombastic, and overwhelming, but exactly the kind of theatre I think the theatre world needs right now. How are you supposed to entice people from their homes, to pay money they could to go to the cinema, to put down their phones, if you aren’t delivering them something so compelling, they are forced to engage? I absolutely loved it, and was truly mesmerised by Ben Whishaw (who I’d previously expected to just be a Hollywood heartthrob) but who was compelling for every moment he was on stage. 

Not much else I'm reading at the moment (shocking!) but there was this great piece on learning to love opera. As most of us do. 

 

The Round Up | 11 03 2018

It's been a bit too long since I've done a round up, but I'm keen to note everything I've been hearing/watching/experiencing in the last week. A few weekends ago I went up north to hear Ballo in Maschera with Opera North. I’d forgotten just how magnificent it is. 

Listen here

Lebrecht interviewed Jonas Kaufmann where they touched on #metoo in opera. I'm filing this under 'interesting to read, won't change your life, worth reading to feed into the larger debate'.  

This however, did. I don't always love Lena Dunham, but I do love her when she writes about things that she knows. The latest article she wrote for vogue is extraordinary. 

I actually left this link in my filing for me to discover and read later - as I'd run out of free copies from the New York Times when I came across it. No, I haven't subscribed (trying to cut down). I think Nico Muhly is one of the most interesting composers working at the moment. His work has a vivacious quality, a sense of space, wonder and playfulness. I hate using the word 'sound', because, well, what is his sound? I'm certainly not adept enough to write about it, that's why I read Alex Ross. 

I heard his opera 'Marnie' earlier in the year at English National Opera, and I really hope that he continues to have opportunities to write operatic works. Like other notable composers, Muhly finds sounds that feel familiar to my ear, but haven't ever been articulated in that manner before. Or perhaps they have, and that's his real gift. I won't review Marnie - that's not my role, but I did feel that the dramatic structure and musical structure wasn't fused in a way that elevated the piece as a masterwork. 

Last weekend I went to the Royal Academy's King Charles exhibition. I took home a postcard of 'Lady in Green'. She's just that. Sublime with a Mona Lisa smile, and situated about my desk at home, looking over my pretty amateur attempts at art. 

In my Barbican wanderings, I had the extreme fortune to hear Jake Heggie's  Dead Man Walking. I have to confess I didn't know Heggie's music much at all. The work is the same story as the movie Dead Man Walking, and I really pondered this piece as I thought it succeeded where Marnie stumbled. This work understands the importance of music working in harmony with the drama of the story of the piece, and as a result, some of the greatest emotional heights in the piece have barely anything scored at all - or something incredibly simplistic. But not less powerful. 

Other readings: 

The Trouble With Opera. Isn't there always trouble with opera? 

The Goldfinch is coming - with added Nicole Kidman. 

This interview on Jacinda Ardern will help you forget the 60 minutes monstrosity. 

The proms take a stand

The Round Up | 12 02 2018

It's been a week. A really really long and exciting week, but here we are starting again on a Monday all the same. Mostly I've been reading like a madwoman, as there's been quite a few interesting thought pieces from various music journalists (and not so journalists). I also watched the entirety of 'The Marvellous Mrs Maisel' on a long bus trip to Leeds. Well worth the time.

Music |

Firstly, to understand my headspace, listen to Zan Rowe's Monthly Mixtape.  You could listen to my Homesick playlist, but it's short and depressing. 

Podcast |

I suggested it last week, but the Helga podcast is great. I'm about to embark on a four hour bus journey tomorrow, and it will be my companion. When you've become as obsessed with her as I am, you can read this profile here

Other Reading |

I've been stalking a lot of Lebrecht this week, primarily because he's been gleefully reposting the ROH Carmen reviews and I couldn't disagree more. However, he did link to this fantastic article 'Through our critics eyes.' Anne Midgette always writes beautifully, and I loved her take in this piece. I'm primarily sharing so I can return to this. 

Then I fell down a rabbit hole and never climbed out again.

Firstly, this article ahead of the Kosky premiere, which isn't a review, but is a great interview by the NY Times. Then I saw on a google ad (google knows me) the new season for the LA Phil had been launched. I've read every interview (almost) that Deborah Borda ever did (the previous CEO of LA Phil - more on her another time), and so I became curious about the person who has filled the spot. Turns out his name is Simon Woods, and you can read all about him here.  Then read Alex Ross's thoughts on the season here.

Alex Ross originally tuned me into the music (and story) of Amy Beach a couple of years ago, and he's written another piece on the balance of the canon here - with a feature about the music of Florence Price. I haven't done much digging yet to hear her music, but it is very interesting.

If I were a rich (wo)man |

The Phene, Shoes of Prey & Opera Holland Park

 

The Round Up | 06 02 2018

It's the first week of February in London, and it's dark, FREEZING, and dark again.


Podcasts |
I love a well-produced monologue style podcast, and that's what I found this week from The Guardian. It's called The Start, and it's short, well-produced, glossy, and underneath it all features a sparse, ebbing soundtrack. Thumbs up. It's early days, so I'll be interested to hear if the theme shifts, but it looks like it will traverse a wide variety of subjects as the first two episodes feature Damien Hirst and Sophia Coppola. Listen here.  

All my friends are sick of it, but I'm a long-term advocate and disciple of The Barefoot Investor, so I was excited to hear a new money podcast - and downloaded - The Pineapple Project - as soon as it appeared on my recommended podcast list. Let me elaborate that it's not from the Barefoot Investor - but the producer Monique Bowley is also a fan. If you are a creative type who doesn't like to think too hard about what money you aren't earning, or non creative type who doesn't like to think too hard about what money you aren't earning, it's great. 

Opera |
On Saturday I went to the dress rehearsal Barrie Kosky's new production of Carmen. It was bonkers, it was edgy and it kept me on the edge of my seat. The reviews have been less than favourable - especially pointing to the 'derivative choreograpy', but I thought it was captivating, and I truly believed that every action served the forward momentum of the plot. For a piece that is so often performed, I found myself mostly transfixed (except for a slightly slow section at the end of the second act... but that could have been a need for caffeine in a matinee).

The true star was the diva herself - Carmen as performed by Anna Goryachova - who was everything in sound, and then also in performance. I am trying to find recorded evidence that does justice to her singing, but have come up short. For background reading - I read this profile on Kosky here. I'll probably keep hunting. 

Other bits and bobs |

This piece on orchestras post Brexit, and this rather splendid interview (for all the wrong reasons) with Angela Gheorghiu.

You can take the girl out of the radio station, but you can't take the radio station out of the girl. I've found this rather fantastic station - an offshoot of WQXR - called New Sounds. It's blatantly aimed at a young demographic - millennial pink is everywhere - but after listening to the station I re-discovered a recording I loved from the soundtrack of a podcast, so it's well worth the time spent.  

They have a conversation podcast (ANOTHER! I love it) called Helga, and at the time of writing I'm halfway through the Allan Gibert episode - but Solange will follow immediately after.

Just because I can tell you are asking - the soundtrack was Daniel Hart, and it was *the* sound of S-Town.

If there was 48 hours in a day | 

The Post. Belleville. Screenwriting courseOtelloJulius Caesar.