It was a particularly good year for non-narrative ballet and ENB’s triple bill had to be my favourite dance programme of the year. I watched the matinee on 12 March and did rather expect the B team, so I was particularly thrilled to see dancers such as Tamara Rojo and Erina Takahashi in three superb examples of modern ballet. The Royal Ballet also thrilled with Connectome and Monotones, although both were repeats of recent productions.
Of the narrative ballets, Vienna Festival Ballet was as enjoyable as ever with Coppelia and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Carmina Burana was wonderfully spectacular. Apart from Onegin at the start of the year, it was not so good for the Royal Ballet, culminating with a Carmen that had me laughing for the wrong reasons.
When I retired I thought it would be the chance to go to all the concerts, theatres, exhibitions and restaurants I never had time for when I was working. This year I’ve enjoyed 70 concerts and performances, plus those for which I’ve been a volunteer usher. I’ve also been to 37 exhibitions or other days out and eaten 71 restaurant meals (plus those on holiday). That’s not been anywhere near enough – the number of important art exhibitions and concerts I’ve missed is horrifying. Despite that, I’ve decided to resurrect my blog with a few of my favourites of the year as there’s not enough room for on Twitter. I’ll just wait for the year to finish first.
I loved it at ENO and OperaUpClose, so why not Royal Opera? I used to think I didn’t like Verdi, then a friend talked me into Simon Boccanegra at the ENO which I enjoyed. Interested, I tried OperaUpClose’s Traviata and loved it. It was a tender story, delicately told and carried a huge emotional charge. The same charge was there for the ENO’s Traviata. It was grander and more dramatic but there were also great choruses and terrific orchestration. I’ve loved plenty of Royal Opera productions, most notably their astonishing Wozzeck last year, so I tried their Traviata.
The singing was superb, the orchestra magnificent, so why did I leave at the second interval? Party I didn’t get the sense of being drawn into a terrific drama and hardly cared what happened to Violetta. The superb soloists sang their arias to the audience who applauded them, then went off in the excessively long intervals to drink their G & Ts and their champagne or pack the restaurants. I drank my free plastic cup of water and just felt so alienated. I don’t think these were people who would have appreciated Wozzeck or Satyagraha – they just loved the experience of Grand Opera and the singers showed off to them. Now I understand why I didn’t like Verdi or Puccini – this is the Verdi I don’t like. I am looking forward to the ENO’s Carmen tomorrow. I know the audience will be full of real people enjoying wonderful music and an absorbing story but I’ll give the more famous operas at the ROH a miss in future.
I have not been updating the blog for a while. Since Man and Superman I have not seen anything early enough in its run to be worth reviewing, but also I now tend to use Twitter instead, so if you are interested in my immediate comments on productions, please follow me there.
I’ve held off saying anything about this but it was press night last night so I see no problem. It’s 3 hours 20 minutes, plus one interval and Ralph Fiennes is on stage for almost the whole of it, talking for a good half of that, and he is perfect. It’s unfair to concentrate on him though, as there’s not a dud performance in it. OK, there were a couple of minor glitches but it was a preview. They may well add more performances – keep an eye out and grab it if you can.
A brilliantly written, astonishingly well staged examination of morality in the virtual world. A grey interrogation room opens up to show a very beautiful virtual reality in which people can experience anything they want to. Is it acceptable to rape and murder a child when you know the ‘child’ is really a willing adult who wants to partake and the the ‘child’ will be resurrected instantly? This play will not give you an answer but I guarantee it will leave trying to work out your own answers: I haven’t finished yet. This is easily the most important play I’ve seen this year and really should be seen by anyone interested in the Internet.
A great little comedy about a couple in their 40s inviting a younger couple round for a nookie. It’s not for children but don’t expect anything to be explicit other than the language. It’s actually more of a comedy about class, manners and relationships than the sex comedy you might expect. The cast are mostly billed according to their fame on TV: Charlie Brooks and Tanya Franks from Eastenders, Jason Durr from Heartbeat, with the exception of Off West End Award nominee Ralph Aiken, but don’t let that worry you. Unlike some famous actors from television, these four are all good stage actors. Very enjoyable all round.