This evening I saw Freema Agyeman & Joseph Millson in 'Apologia'. Of the four plays that I've seen this month, I think that this one was certainly my favourite! (Getting a near-£100 ticket for £25 certainly helped!)
'Hung around afterwards to get their autograph and those of the other three members of cast.
Tonight I'm seeing 'The Fellowship' (about Tolkein & C S Lewis's friendships) and one of my local theatres. It's a little short for my liking (it's a 70-odd minutes), so I'm going to the cinema beforehand to make the trip to Guildford a little bit more worthwhile.
This afternoon I got a freebie ticket to see 'Strictly Murder' at the same theatre on Monday, so have something to look forward to over the weekend!
* Edit - Well, I take back what I said about 'The Fellowship'... Despite being "only" 71minutes in length, I absolutely loved it & would happily see it again tomorrow had it not been for work! (Thankfully I managed to get myself a student standby ticket for £6, so that helped a little bit).
(Waves) Hi, me again. I got home about ten minutes ago from seeing the opening night performance of 'Strictly Murder' at my local theatre and, well, I hate having a general sense of ambivalence about plays, I really do, but... Jeeeeesus!
it was a decent enough show well done, but it could really have done with a second part (or even a third hour), as it was building up to something that just never came...
Read Tom Taylor's English adaptation of Victor Hugo's play Le Roi s'Amuse (The King's Diversion). This is the same play that became the libretto for Verdi's Rigoletto.
I can see why Hugo's play was banned by the French government after a single performance, thereby leading to a bit of scandal and thus instant popularity of the play in every other country. Also, Verdi's opera makes a lot more sense once you've read the original (or even Taylor's adaptation). Verdi's librettist extricated several important characters who provide key exposition, as well as chunks of the plot.
"I can't be expected to remember every alien-worshiping lunatic I encounter." —Eighth Doctor
Last week, I watched a NY Metropolitan Opera production of Gounod's Faust, starring Jonas Kaufmann, Marina Poplavskaya, and René Pape. The setting is updated from France in the 19th century to the 20th, so the historical events look back to the two World Wars rather than the Napoleonic Wars. The staging is quite good and technically clever; the performances are excellent; but I can't say I'm a fan of this opera. Really I'm not sure why this was among the most popular of operas for more than a century. Gounod's handling of the plot is much better than Italian writers like Verdi, but the music and plot are inferior to any of Mozart's operas.
I'm now watching / re-reading Romeo and Juliet for the first time since I was in school. I have access to five different film versions, which I will be watching as well over the coming weeks, to see how different actors, directors, cinematographers (etc.) made choices in order to realize the play.
I've been meaning to do this play for some time, and although I've read (or re-read) all of Shakespeare's other tragedies in recent years, I haven't done R&J yet.
"I can't be expected to remember every alien-worshiping lunatic I encounter." —Eighth Doctor
L'Incoronazione di Poppea. (Opus Arte recording of the Opera Barcelona, 2012)
This was amazing, although it took time to get into it. I've watched a recording of Monteverdi's first opera L'Orfeo, but this was written near the end of his career, when he was in his seventies and the contrast is evident. His earlier opera had little action, little plot, and very long scenes between two characters. But this opera has a modern structure to the plot, with acts broken up into shorter scenes. The music is also more mature, and ending in an ethereal duet that is rightly famous.
The story is based on actusl Roman history and on the one surviving historical Roman play Octavia. The essential plot is that the Emperor Nero has fallen in love with Poppea, and so divorces his wife Octavia. Hence, the final duet between Nero and Poppea who sing of their love for each other. But Monteverdi has taken a libretto that enriches the story as a satire. The audience watching it for the first time would have known that the ending, however beautiful on the stage, was headed for tragedy. The historical Poppea was kicked to death by Nero on their wedding night, but this happens after the end of the opera.
There are three classes of characters in the opera: patrician, plebeian, and deity. The Barcelona opera latches onto this point, distinguishing the three classes in both performance and in costume. The patrician characters (nobility) are the central ones: Nero, Poppea, Octavia, Seneca, and Drusilla. In the performance, these characters play their roles as if they are in a high drama or tragedy, and they are dressed elegantly in modern high fashion, although Nero's costume somewhat resembles a rich toga. The plebeian characters (servants) play their roles as if they are in a comedy or farce, and are dressed simply as 20th-century lower class: Valetto is dressed as a busboy, the Nurse in white with red crosses, etc. This disparity between the two classes of mortal characters may seem odd, but it works with Monteverdi's script. While the patricians discuss high ideals, political intrigue, and the like, the servants are commenting on the action, hooking up with each other, or getting into mischief. Also of note is that two characters are cast with a performer of the opposite gender: Nero is played by Sarah Connolly, and Arnalta by Dominique Visse. This is not out of place in the opera, as both of these roles have demanding vocal ranges that can be difficult to cast. There is also a male character in the opera who, as part of the plot, dresses up as a woman for a disguise, so casting performers against natural gender fits easily with the opera anyway.
The deities (Fortuna, Cupid, Venus, Minerva, Mercury, etc.) are the one part of the production that fails. None of them have more than a few lines in Monteverdi's opera, so they are not on stage much, and this is a blessing considering what the Barcelona Opera chose to do. The deities are all distinguished by platform shoes--tall ones--are avant garde costumes that, with two exceptions, give no indication which deity they are supposed to be. Why does Virtue have crutches and a neck brace? Why is Mercury wrapped up like a mummy (on platform shoes)? Cupid makes sense, and the actor is of smaller stature and has wings. Venus is a bit clever, wearing a curvaceous white dress with groping hands depicted all down her front. Thankfully, as I say, the deities play little part in the events of the opera, and I suspect that Monteverdi did this deliberately, minimizing the action of deities in favor of human choices and outcomes, which is another sharp contrast with his first opera.
The only performance that I felt subpar was Jordi Domenech as Ottone. He hit the right notes, but did not have a pleasant voice quality for someone supposed to play a young jilted lover, which meant that he couldn't draw my sympathy to the character. He also was the only performer in the opera who couldn't act without chewing the scenery. Speaking of scenery: purists might also balk at the minimalist post-modern sets, but I don't think it's a problem for an opera like this one, where the emphasis is on the music and the plot is solidly constructed. The minimal sets focus attention more upon the performers and the music.
I mentioned the final duet above, but I want to emphasize just how amazing this particular performance was. I poked around on iTunes and couldn't find a recording that comes close to the quality imparted by Miah Persson (Poppea) and Sarah Connolly (Nero) to this duet. It really is amazing. The other specific piece to grab my notice was Dominique Visse singing a lullaby to Poppea in Act II. This isn't a musical piece that I've seen mentioned in what I've read, not like the final duet or some other pieces that people talk glowingly about for the opera. But this performance of the lullaby, which might bring the action of the opera to a stop if done poorly, is here given a sublime gentleness that made me listen to it two more times before proceeding with the rest of the opera. Nothing else but the final duet was so well performed that I had to listen again immediately.
I've written more than I think I intended to, but this opera and this recording made a strong impression upon me. Most operas (aside from Mozart's and Wagner's) typically seem poorly plotted and artificial, with the composer forcing pieces of music and unnecessary coloratura into the performance. But L'Incoronazione di Poppea is very well plotted, with the story and the music flowing naturally from one moment to the next.
Tonight I saw 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee', my 40th play of the year. The moment when a show in a theatre atop a London pub is so SO much better than some of the others you've seen recently...
The smile I'm wearing? It's the biggest, most genuine I've had in a long LONG time!
I've just got home from seeing the National Theatre Live-screening of 'King Lear' and, to be honest, it was three-and-a-half hours of my life I'm never getting back...
Ian McKellan was [of course] good enough in the tile role, but Regan? Hoooooo boy, Regan! A fairly bold and confident character played as if she's an annoying "slutty little 'TOWIE' girl'!... =_= [Oh, and I'm pretty sure that I'm not supposed to be holding back laughter at the torture / eye removal scene in Act 3... But still, at least we find out what happened to The Fool!]