Friday, 17 August 2018

Hubert Parry - the complete string quartets

Hubert Parry - Complete Music for String Quartet - Archaeus Quartet
Hubert Parry Complete works for string quartet; Archaeus Quartet; MPR Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 14 August 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
A disc which allows us to see Parry moving from student works to something deeper and more serious

Hubert Parry's music is gradually (very gradually) coming out of hibernation. Whilst his symphonies have been available on disc for some time, it is only recently that a serious exploration of his songs has started (on SOMM), whilst this new disc from MPR features the Archaeus Quartet in Parry's complete music for string quartet.

The disc includes Parry's three completed quartets, along with a quartet movement left incomplete and here heard in an edition by Jeremy Dibble. The three quartets are all relatively early works, the first two date from Parry's student days in Oxford. There he participated in the musical soirees given by William Donkin, the Savilian Professor of Astronomy, and this seems to have spurred Parry on. His first quartet was finished in 1867, and his second in 1868. There was then a gap as, after he finished university he went to work at Lloyd's Register of Shipping (in order to convince his fiancee's family that he was able to support her). Parry would take lessons from Edward Dannreuther, only four years Parry's senior. Dannreuther also hosted chamber music concerts, with quite advanced repertoire, and it was for these that Parry composed his third string quartet in 1878 to 1880.

Out of the mouths of babes: Metta Theatre at The Place

Oliver Brignall: I Do Need Me - William Morgan, Nathan Gregory - Metta Theatre at Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Oliver Brignall: I Do Need Me - William Morgan, Nathan Gregory -
Metta Theatre at Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Oliver Brignall I Do Need Me, Laura Bowler I'm Not A Bit Like A Clown; William Morgan, Alexandra Bork, Nathan Gregory, dir: Poppy Burton-Morgan, Metta Theatre; Tête à Tête at The Place  
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 16 August 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
The verbatim words of children form the basis for this pair of challenging contemporary works for singer and percussion

When children are depicted in opera it is usually via words and dramatic situations created by adults (Benjamin Britten & Mfanwy Piper creating Miles & Flora in Turn of the Screw, Engelbert Humperdinck & Adelheid Wette creating Hansel & Gretel). In Metta Theatre's double bill presented at The Place on 16 August 2018 as part of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival the intriguing conceit was to have the words taken directly from the mouths of babes.

The company presented a pair of operas, each used a libretto by Poppy Burton-Morgan (artistic director of Metta Theatre and director of both shows) based on verbatim text from children. Each opera used a single singer and a percussionist, but a different composer. The result was an evening which provided an intriguing and creative disjunct between character and execution, were these adults behaving badly or were they adults depicting children, or something of both.

Laura Bowler: I'm Not A Bit Like A Clown - Alexandra Bork, Nathan Gregory - Metta Theatre at Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Laura Bowler: I'm Not A Bit Like A Clown - Alexandra Bork, Nathan Gregory
Metta Theatre at Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Now, I have to admit upfront that I do not respond well to children, and do not find them automatically delightful and funny. There were funny moments in both operas, but I noticed that other members of the audience found things far more amusing than I, one woman laughed repeatedly throughout both operas. So, my slightly cool reaction to the pieces might partly be a reaction to the subject matter.


First we heard I Do Need Me, with music by Oliver Brignall and text by Poppy Burton-Morgan performed by tenor William Morgan and percussionist Nathan Gregory. Then there was I'm Not A Bit Like A Clown, with music by Laura Bowler and text by Poppy Burton-Morgan performed by soprano Alexandra Bork and percussionist Nathan Gregory.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

if there were water

The Crossing - if there were water - Innova
Gregory W Brown un/bodying/s, Stratis Minakakis Crossings Cycle; The Crossing, Donald Nally; Innove Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 5 Aug 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Two different, yet challenging contemporary choral pieces in this striking disc from the American choir.

How do you depict in words and in music the destruction of four towns and an entire valley in the name of creating a reservoir which is needed to ensure the survival of other towns. How do you address the ethical question in music? These are issues raised by Gregory W. Brown's 2017 choral work un/bodying/s, a setting of poems by Todd Hearon.

Gregory W. Brown's un/bodying/s is performed alongside Stratis Minakakis' Crossings Cycle from 2015/2017, by the American choir The Crossing, conductor Donald Nally on this disc from Innova.

The Crossing is a Philadelphia-based professional choir which was founded in 2005 and has made a name for itself in new music. On this disc they pair two 21st century works linked together by the idea of water.

Brown's piece is a choral suite, four movements The Meeting of the Waters, The Valley of Lost Names, Questions for a Disincorporation/Atlantis and Poem with Any End. The first movement, The Meeting of the Waters, sets Hearon's poem which considers the waters themselves, covering the land, but Brown's music is anything but tranquil. His style is largely tonal, but here he writes complex quasi polyphony into which he folds, references to the lost civilisations, fragments of melodies and shape-note tunes. The result is a sequence of changing evocative textures creating a sense, pell mell, of the changes which the area has undergone.

The body of water in question is the Quabbin Reservoir in the former Swift River Valley of Western Massachussetts, which was created in 1938.

Bayreuth’s new production of Lohengrin has taken the Green Hill by storm

Wagner: Lohengrin - Bayreuther Festspiele (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Wagner Lohengrin: Piotr Beczała, Michael Gniffke, Anja Harteros, Tomasz Konieczny, Eric Laporte, Waltraud Meier, Timo Riihonen, Egils Salinas, Kay Stiefermann, Georg Zeppenfeld, dir: Yuval Sharon, cond: Christian Thielemann; Bayreuth Festival, Germany Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 14 August 2018 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
An electrically-charged production that sparked the imagination and ignited the audience to a thunderous and most deserving curtain-call

In this brand-new production of Wagner’s Lohengrin directed by Yuval Sharon - born in Chicago in 1979 to Israeli parents and the Bayreuth Festival’s first American director - he delivered an electrically-charged and imaginative production that - like Hans Neuenfels’ rat-infested one - challenged the traditional boundaries of opera direction which, hopefully, is now finding favour with Bayreuth’s traditionally-minded audience. (Seen 14 August 2018). Christian Thielemann conducted with Piotr Beczała in the title role, Anja Harteros as Elsa, Tomasz Konieczny as Telramund, Waltraud Meier as Ortrud and Georg Zeppenfeld as Heinrich der Vogler.

A recipient of the Götz Friedrich Prize for ‘best opera direction’ for his production of John Adams’ Dr Atomic seen at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe three years ago, Mr Sharon replaced Latvian-born Alvis Hermanis as director a couple of years ago while the celebrated husband-and-wife team of Neo Rauch (set designer) and Rosa Loy (costume designer) - who had been working on sets and costumes well before the switch of directors - delivered a visual feast that was interesting but equally disturbing as the plot itself.

Born in Leipzig, East Germany, in the 1960s, Rauch - whose work focuses on a bold subject-matter probably reflecting the influence that Socialist Realism had on him as a young man - gathered his thoughts together and inspiration for the sets from actually listening to the score of Lohengrin while working in his studio.

Based on a well-loved German legend written by an unknown German author, the actual story of Lohengrin relates to other traditional and fairy-like stories that belong to the ‘Knight of the Swan’ tradition, a medieval tale about a mysterious rescuer who comes in a swan-drawn boat in defence of a damsel in distress, his only condition being that he must never be asked his name. Therefore, the fairy-tale elements in Lohengrin are strong with the Good represented by Lohengrin and Elsa of Brabant and the Bad by Ortrud and Frederick of Telramund.

I felt a nod was given to the fairy-tale legend by Mr Sharon inasmuch as the central characters were adorned with diaphanous wings (made of thin semi-transparent cloth) but here they represented flying insects - and like all insects, attracted to the light. There was a lot of light in this production to bug them. Those worn by Elsa, though, would have perfectly fitted the part of the Fairy Queen Iolanthe in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta of the same name.

Wagner: Lohengrin - Bayreuther Festspiele (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
The original scenario of Lohengrin - centred upon the Flemish city of Antwerp on the banks of the river Scheldt in the 10th century - was reinterpreted by Mr Sharon who swapped things round a bit. The city’s Gothic-built cathedral became a cathedral of modern technology: in this case an electric power generating plant set in the midst of a vast mountainous waterfall landscape. However, traditional Flemish dress clothed the peasantry while ruff collars (as worn by 17th-century Flemish aristocrats) adorned the nobility with some of the characters looking if they had just jumped from a painting by Anthony van Dyck.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Exploring advanced techniques: Sara Minelli's New Resonances

Sara Minelli - New resonances for flute - EMA
Alessandro Solbiati, Bryan Ferneyhough, Jonathan Cole, Salvatore Sciarrino, Alessandro Magini; Sara Minelli; EMA Vinci contemporanea Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 31 July 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
Challenging both listener and player, a disc of contemporary music for solo flute

This new disc from Italian flautist Sara Minelli on EMA Vinci contemporanea showcases new writing for the solo flute, with seven contemporary works, many of them written for Minelli. On the disc are Alessandro Solbiati's Anthos (2016) for alto flute, written for Minelli, Bryan Ferneyhough's Cassandra's Dream Song (1970) for flute, Jonathan Cole's 50 Florentine Breaths (2016) for flute, written for Minelli, Solbiati's As if to land (1989) for flute, Salvatore Sciarrino's Come vengono prodotti gli incantasimi? (1985) for flute, Alessandro Magini's Nova (2016) for flute and electronics, written for Minelli, and Matteo Giuliani's Oltre (Narcissus) (2016) for alto flute and electronics, written for Minelli. Five of the tracks are world premiere recordings.

The disc is very much a compendium of advanced flute playing techniques, with pitch and harmony often playing a minimal role in the music, instead were are exploring rhythms and textures, creating evocative soundscapes full of breaths, tappings, eerie notes and the fascinating half-world between pitched and unpitched.

What is fascinating is the commonality between the various pieces.

Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer at the Bayreuth Festival

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer - John Lundgren - Bayreuth Festival (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
Richard Wagner Der fliegende Holländer; John Lundgren, Ricarda Merbeth, Tomislav Mužek, Peter Rose, Rainer Trost dir:Jan Philipp Gloger, cond: Axel Kober; Bayreuth Festival, German Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 12 August 2018 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
Bayreuth Festival’s stunning production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer leaves the Green Hill on a high

Wagner’s first mature opera written in 1841, Der fliegende Holländer - directed with great flair and imagination by the German theatre director, Jan Philipp Gloger - received its final showing at this year’s Bayreuth Festival (seen 12 August 2018) having debuted in 2012 [the 2013 revival is available on DVD]. Conducted by Axel Kober the production featured John Lundgren as the Dutchman, Ricarda Merbeth as Senta, Tomislav Mužek as Erik and Peter Rose as Daland.

Mr Gloger’s quite daring in his approach to the work and I found not only his production to be dramatically convincing but also totally convincing within Wagner’s world, too. Not frightened to take chances, Mr Gloger boldly shifted the scenario from a ‘nautical’ setting to a ‘business’ environment and also took on board Wagner’s socialist dislike of money, materialism and basic greed as the keynote of his production which turned the opera into a critique of capitalism.

For instance, the ‘sea’ is represented as a worldwide web of international money markets and the Dutchman - a Master of the Universe, to borrow a Tom Wolfe phrase - is happy as Larry making money off the backs of others but cursed in sailing the High Seas eternally while hooked into the money markets that control him. He can only redeem himself by a woman’s love, something that’s non-material.

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer - Ricarda Merbeth, Peter Rose, John Lundgren - Bayreuth Festival (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
The arrival of the Dutchman on land projected an haunting image as he emerged as if coming from the bowels of an ocean-liner but was, in fact, making his way through a city’s financial district dressed as a smart booted-and-suited businessman pulling a black-wheelie suitcase stashed full of bank notes (hopefully euros!) steering an uneven course through an ‘ocean’ of greed, corruption and opportunism. Surrounded by people on the make, a scantily-dressed whore tried her luck but to no advantage. She was not on his agenda!

But Daland - no longer a sea-captain but an ambitious small-time factory-owner producing ‘ready-to-use’ table-top desk-fans - was. That well-loved British bass, Peter Rose, delivered a strong and entertaining reading of this pivotal role while Rainer Trost in the role of the Steersman (now a fussy-minded management accountant) delivered a masterful account of the sailor's love-song while on watch holed up with Daland in a small dinghy ‘beached’ in an urban landscape, the only hint of any nautical life.

Never one to miss a trick, Daland - whose business interests were a mere spit in the ocean compared to the global dealings of the Dutchman - is quick off the mark in tantalising and baiting the stranger to the attractiveness of his daughter Senta who wants for something better in life than slaving away in her father’s factory.

The Dutchman was well portrayed by John Lundgren (he’s no stranger to the role, though) while Ricarda Merbeth triumphed as Senta, her voice employing an extraordinary range of vocal and dramatic colour to produce a glowing and moving account of The Ballad, a highlight of the opera.

And in another highlight, The Monologue, one witnesses the Dutchman cutting into his arm but, of course, doesn’t bleed thus illustrating his immortality while his body scars hint, perhaps, at attempted suicide. Interestingly, Mr Gloger recorded his scars ‘black’ while Senta - sexually repressed, unsettled and dissatisfied - fills her time building from cardboard boxes from her father’s factory an effigy of the Dutchman (daubed with ‘black’ blood) hoping for release from the boredom that imprisons here.

And the moving scene in which Senta and the Dutchman meet - Daland’s seen prancing about like an oriental marriage-broker - was breathtaking to the extreme and met by total silence and nervous excitement that only a live performance can possibly yield.

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer - - Bayreuth Festival (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
The love between them eventually releases the Dutchman from his dreaded curse enabling him to bleed normally. It also gave Senta - who portrayed the great ‘socialist hope’ inasmuch as society can only be built on love rather than from cold money-grabbing practices - the inspiration (the life-blood as it were) to ditch her current woeful position. And the wings she adorns is symbolic of that new-found freedom.

A robotic-type workforce replaced the usual team of pretty traditional spinners in Daland’s factory and were tastefully attired in light-blue trouser uniforms with matching caps tastefully designed by Karin Jud. It added a new dimension to their big number, The Spinning Chorus, as they worked systematically under the careful eye of Mary (Senta’s nurse - but now the factory-floor supervisor) the role sung with esteemed authority by Christa Mayer while Croatian-born tenor, Tomislav Mužek, proved a strong and stubborn Erik and his confrontation with Senta about her infatuation with the Dutchman was so powerfully sung and acted by Mr Mužek that it underlined his deep love and affection for her but to no avail, of course.

As in all of Wagner's operas the chorus - the backbone of the whole show - plays such an important and pivotal role and one has to shout out loud the praises of chorus-master, Eberhard Friedrich, while Axel Kober was equally impressive in the pit energising his players with all the necessary fire and power needed to capture the mood and passion of Wagner’s compelling score.

Martin Eidenberger also conjured up some excellent video sequences and Christof Hetzer created a complicated set heavily laced with strips of bright-white neon lighting highlighting a digitalised-number board continually on the go echoing, perhaps, a traders’ floor of a stock exchange or a time-clock counting the days, hours and seconds left for the Dutchman before his seven-year exile of solitude comes to an end.

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer - Bayreuth Festival (Photo Enrico Nawrath)
But when the end comes for the chosen couple, true Wagnerian redemption manifests itself into a memento of them in an original fan-based china-coated statuette. Such is their fame! And yet another business initiative of Daland.

DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER
Conductor: Axel Kober
Director: Jan Philipp Gloger
Stage design: Christof Hetzer
Costumes: Karin Jud
Lighting: Urs Schönebaum
Video: Martin Eidenberger
Dramaturg: Sophie Becker
Chorus Master: Eberhard Friedrich
Daland: Peter Rose
Senta: Ricarda Merbeth
Erik: Tomislav Mužek
Mary: Christa Mayer
Der Steuermann: Rainer Trost
Der Holländer: John Lundgren

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Prom 42: the first Estonian orchestra at the Proms - Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra (★★★★½)  - concert review
  • A strong message on anti-semitism: Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festival  (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Edward Lambert's new Lorca-inspired chamber opera at Tête à Tête (★★½)  - Opera review
  • Still relevant & still controversial: Alex Mills' Dear Marie Stopes at the Wellcome Collection (★★★★½)  - Opera review
  • Politics, music and tonality: Keith Burstein and The Prometheus Revolution - interview
  • Small scale challenge: studio performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor from Fulham Opera (★★★½)  - opera review
  • Calen-O: songs from the North of Ireland from Carolyn Dobbin & Iain Burnside (★★★★½) - CD review
  • Prom 34: rare Barber & Copland in Juanjo Mena's leave-taking at the BBC Proms (★★★★) - concert review
  • Musical memoir: Tom Smail's Blue Electric at Tête à Tête  (★★★) - opera review
  • An uneasy mix: politics, spirituality and melody in Keith Burstein's new opera at Grimeborn  (★★★) - opera review
  • Jonas Kaufmann as Wagner’s Parsifal at the Munich Opera Festival (★★★★) - opera review
  • Piecing together the new opera Dear Marie Stopes  - guest post from composer Alex Mills
  • The classical saxophone: Huw Wiggin's Reflections (★★★★★) - CD review
  • Home

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Prom 42: the first Estonian orchestra at the Proms - Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra

Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra (Photo © Kaupo Kikkas)
Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra (Photo © Kaupo Kikkas)
Pärt, Grieg, Sibelius; Estonian Festival Orchestra, Khatia Buniatishvili, Paavo Järvi; BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 August 2018 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
For its first appearance at the Proms, the Estonian Festival Orchestra gave us a striking mix of Nordic and Baltic composers, ending with a gripping account of Sibelius Symphony No. 5

2018 is the centenary of Estonian independence and contributing to the celebrations Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra made their first appearance at the BBC Proms (the first appearance of an Estonian orchestra at the Proms). On Monday 13 August 2018 at the Royal Albert Hall, they performed music from three Nordic & Baltic countries, Arvo Pärt's Symphony No. 3 (from Estonia), Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto (from Norway) and Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 5 (from Finland). The pianist in the Grieg was the Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili.

Arvo Pärt's Symphony No. 3 was written in 1971, a period of transition for the composer when he was re-considering his technique and would eventually create the tintinabuli style for which he is best known. This symphony has moved away from the modernist style of his earlier works whilst it has not yet reached the tintinabuli style. Written in a single movement with three sections playing continuously, the work is based around a series of motifs which evoke plainsong, and it is this medieval style of musical discourse which dominates the symphony.

The piece started with a single clarinet line, evocative and rather mysterious in its neo-medieval shaping. Pärt shapes his material in blocks, sometimes a single line, sometimes a few instruments and sometimes the whole orchestra, and silence is important. This is one of the pointers to his later style. Pärt's writing for single instruments, or a single musical line drew a strongly spiritual sense out of the piece. Conductor Paavo Järvi did not give a lot away, but he drew focussed, concentrated playing from his orchestra. The composer Arvo Pärt (now 82) was present for the performance, receiving huge applause at the end.

The Estonian Festival Orchestra is very much Paavo Järvi's orchestra. Founded in 2011 it is the orchestra in residence at Järvi's Pärnu Festival in Estonia, and the orchestra brings together Estonian musicians with musicians from all around the world, with players from many of the major orchestras.

Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festival

Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festival - Photo Enrico Nawrath
Richard Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg;Daniel Behle, Günther Groissböck, Johannes Martin Krenzler, Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Emily Magee, Klaus Florian Vogt, Michael Volle, dir: Barrie Kosky, cond: Philippe Jordan; Bayreuth Festival, Germany
Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 14 August 2018
Star rating: (★★★★★) 5.0

Bayreuth Festival’s production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg offered a strong message on anti-Semitism

An innovative, flamboyant and at times a wonderfully-quirky director, Barrie Kosky (artistic director of Komische Oper Berlin) delivered a brilliant and entertaining production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg first seen at last year’s Bayreuth Festival [see Tony's review from the 2017]. This year (seen on 14 August 2018) conducted by Philippe Jordan with Michael Volle, Klaus Florian Vogt, Daniel Behle and Emily Magee.

Born in Melbourne in the late 1960s, the grandson of Jewish emigrants from Europe, his name in now indelibly linked to Bayreuth’s glorious history as he has become the first Jewish director to hold court at Bayreuth over its illustrious 142-year-old history. He’s also the first person outside of the Wagner family to direct Meistersinger at Bayreuth’s Festspielhaus built specifically to stage Wagner’s mighty canon of Teutonic works especially Der Ring des Nibelungen.

That’s quite an honour and I think, too, an important and significant step by Katharina Wagner - artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival and daughter of Wolfgang Wagner and great-granddaughter of Richard Wagner - of appointing Kosky as it supports her strong viewpoint of bringing to the fore Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitic stance and his family’s later association with Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

This vision is also reflected in the revamped exhibition focusing on the Bayreuth Festival housed in the newly-restored Villa Wahnfried (complete with a swishy new extension) where Wagner lived with his wife Cosima and their children from 1874 to 1882.

Although a museum since 1976 (it reopened to the public just over three years ago) this is the first time that the era of the Third Reich has found its place in the exhibition. Most certainly, the last piece of the jigsaw. You cannot erase history and neither should you but at the same time the sins of the father cannot be brought upon the children.

Therefore, in Mr Kosky’s riveting and exciting production of Die Meistersinger - a work that’s essentially a hymn to the supremacy of German art - Wahnfried takes centre stage and features prominently in the first act replacing the traditional setting of St Catherine’s Church. Here we meet Herr Wagner and his wife Cosima entertaining friends in the book-lined drawing-room engaged in a ‘read-through’ of Meistersinger in which the Jewish conductor, Hermann Levi - who conducted the first performance of Wagner’s Christian-based and final work, Parsifal, in July 1882 - is portrayed (and humiliated) as Sixtus Beckmesser.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Somewhere for the weekend: Suoni dal Golfo

Lerici in Ligura
Conductor Gianluca Marcianò's festival Suoni dal Golfo returns to Lerici in Ligura, Italy from 16 to 31 August 2018. Marcianò and co-artistic director Maxim Novikov are presenting a programme of music and poetry inspired by the sea and by the poets who were drawn to this emerald coastline.

Liszt's recently re-discovered Italianate opera Sardanapolo will receive its Italian premiere. Liszt worked on the opera intermittently until 1852 when he abandoned it. The libretto is based on Lord Byron's tragedy of 1821, and Liszt completed a substantial part of Act One, but having conducted Wagner's Lohengrin and Tannhauser he stopped work on it. Marcianò will conduct a cast including Anush Hovhannisyan, Sam Sakker and Vazgen Ghazaryan. The orchestra will be Orchestra Excellence, Marcianò and Novikov's new initiative for emerging musicians.

Performing at the festival for the first time is the Polyphony Quartet, which has evolved out of Polyphony Foundation, established by Nabeel Abboud-Ashkar. The mixed group of Arab students from Polyphony Education and Jewish students from the Jerusalem Music Center perform at Castello di Lerici on 22 and 23 August. Polyphony Foundation is an organisation that bridges the divide between Arab and Jewish communities in Israel by uniting young people to perform classical music.

There will also be a programme of talks on Music, Diplomacy and Peace.


Gianluca Marciano's appearances in the UK have included Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera [see my review], Verdi's Nabucco with the Chelsea Opera Group [see Anthony's review on this blog] and Verdi's Don Carlo at Grange Park Opera [see my review]

Set on the famous coastline of the Golfo dei Poeti, the seaside town of Lerici has been a magnet for poets and composers alike, from Shelley, Byron and DH Lawrence to Wagner. Further details of the festival from its website.

Edward Lambert's new Lorca-inspired chamber opera

Edward Lambert: Cloak and Dagger - Fleur de Bray, Andrew Greenan - Music Troupe, Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Edward Lambert: Cloak and Dagger - Fleur de Bray, Andrew Greenan
Music Troupe, Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Edward Lambert Cloak and Dagger Affair; The Music Troupe; Tête à Tête at RADA Studios Reviewed by Jill Barlow on 8 August 2018 Star rating: 2.5 (★★½)
Edward Lambert's latest opera, based on Frederico Garcia Lorca

The erudite and accomplished composer Edward Lambert has once more given us a new 'bite sized' Music Troupe chamber opera, Cloak and Dagger Affair (based on Federico Garcia Lorca) but 40mins long, apt for these dimensions, this time staged at the highly prestigious RADA Studios as part of Tête à Tête:The Opera Festival on 8 August 2018, directed by Jaered Glavin, conducted by Thomas Payne

However, I felt that in some respects the actual realisation of this production on the day, fell short of other works of his I’ve reviewed previously.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Still relevant & still controversial: Alex Mills' Dear Marie Stopes at the Wellcome Collection

Alex Mills: Dear Marie Stopes - Alexa Mason - Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Alex Mills: Dear Marie Stopes - Alexa Mason
Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Alex Mills Dear Marie Stopes; Alexa Mason, Jess Dandy, Feargal Mostyn-Williams, Liam Byrne, Lucy Railton, Tom Oldham, dir: Nina Brazier; Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival at the Wellcome Collection Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 11 August 2018 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
Personal letters arising from the publication of Marie Stopes Married Love give rise to a thought-provoking and imaginative opera

The Reading Room at the Wellcome Collection is a wonderful 1930s interior, a galleried space with a striking staircase originally part of the Wellcome Trust's headquarters and now open to the public. This formed the setting for Alex Mills' opera Dear Marie Stopes with a libretto by Jennifer Thorp (with gender and sexology expert Dr Lesley Hall providing advice), based on the Marie Stopes Archive held by the Wellcome Collection. [You can read Alex Mills' article about the creation of the opera on this blog]. The opera was performed as part of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival, directed by Nina Brazier the performance featured soprano Alexa Mason, contralto Jess Dandy, counter-tenor Feargal Mostyn-Williams, viola da gamba Liam Byrne, cello Lucy Railton and percussion Tom Oldam.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Politics, music and tonality: Keith Burstein and The Prometheus Revolution

Keith Burstein
Keith Burstein
Keith Burstein is an intriguing person, softly spoken yet with strong opinions about politics and about music, notably tonality, opinions which are strongly held and which have been seen as contentious. Keith's opera The Prometheus Revolution premiered at the Arcola Theatre by Fulham Opera as part of the Grimeborn Festival on Tuesday 7 August 2018 [see my review]. The opera deals with politics and the idea of revolution in Britain, so another contentious topic. We met for coffee to find out more.

The opera combines the idea of a revolution in Britain with the Prometheus myth. The idea for the work began when Keith became interested in the Occupy Movement. Music and politics seem to go hand in hand for Keith, his previous opera Manifest Destiny was about a suicide bomber who renounced violence. An opera which has resulted in an ongoing court-battle with Associated Newspapers [see Keith's website for more details]

For Keith, the way the Occupy Movement pitted the 99% against the 1% meant that there were quite a few middle class people in the tents and he talks about the way it effectively created a movement whereby the poor and the affluent middle class (the 99%) were pitted against the ultra rich (the 1%). Keith was intrigued that, compared to the ultra rich, the affluent middle classes seemed poor and that their children were radicalised and going to demonstrations. Keith sees this as leading directly to the rise of Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn. So Keith decided to try and write a music drama which took these processes as the starting point. Keith uses the myth, Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods and giving it to everyone, as a metaphor to ask what if the 99% did wrest power from the 1%

Such fascinating conversations are not ones that I usually have when talking about opera, and perhaps that is half the problem with contemporary opera. Intriguingly, Keith combines these contemporary politics with a musical style that is still radical for its embrace of tonality.

Stephen Langridge to move from Göteborg Opera to Glyndebourne

Stephen Langridge
Stephen Langridge
Glyndebourne Opera has announced that Stephen Langridge, currently artistic director of opera & drama at Göteborg Opera, will be its next artistic director. Stephen Langridge, who is the son of the late tenor Philip Langridge, will return to the UK as artistic director Glyndebourne in 2019. Langridge has been at Göteborg for five years, and is creating a new Ring cycle with them, beginning with Wagner's Das Rheingold in November 2018. He will continue with the Ring Cycle, returning each year to direct it.

For the Göteborg Opera Ring Cycle, Langridge has devised an ecologically-sustainable production to explore Wagner's theme of the exploitation of the earth's natural resources. The Göteborg Opera is a champion of ecological sustainability and a leader among opera houses. Each department within the House has had to consider the environmental impact in every aspect of its planning.

Langridge's work in the UK has include Parsifal for the Royal Opera n 2013, and the world premiere of Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur in 2008 with John Tomlinson and Philip Langridge [see my review of the first run, and my review of the 2013 revival], as well as Bellini's I Puritani at Grange Park Opera in 2013 [see my review].


Friday, 10 August 2018

Small scale challenge: a studio performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor from Fulham Opera

Fulham Opera - Lucia di Lammermoor
Donizetti Lucia di Lammermoor; Nicola Said, Alberto Sousa, Ashley Mercer, dir: Sarah Hutchinson, Fulham Opera, cond: Michael Thrift; Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 9 August 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
A chamber version of Donizetti's dramatic opera, rescued by fine performances from the lead singers

For its second contribution to the Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre, Fulham Opera brought a revival of their production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor which was originally presented at St John's Church, Fulham in November 2017. Sarah Hutchinson directed, based on Jim Manganello's original production, but this must have been very much a re-invention as the smaller studio at the Arcola Theatre is a very different space to Fulham Opera's home in Fulham. Nicola Said sang Lucia, with Ashley Mercer as Enrico, Alberto Sousa as Edgardo, John Wood as Arturo, Simon Grange as Raimondo, Rebekah Jones Alisa and James Bowers as Normanno. Michael Thrift was the conductor and Ben Woodward, artistic director of Fulham Opera, accompanied on the piano.

Doing Donizetti on a chamber scale is a great challenge, on a number of levels. For a start, Donizetti's accompaniments do not lend themselves to simple piano accompaniment and though Ben Woodward is a fine pianist, the piano reduction from the Ricordi vocal score left a lot to be desired in terms of supporting the voices and in the variety of colour and texture. In such a small space, performing is a challenge for the singers too, not only is the audience alarmingly close but singing Italian bel canto music requires the voice to sound fully so you cannot hold back. The result was, at times, very loud and the ensembles extremely so.

Also, stylistically Donizetti does not leave much room to manoeuvre and being so close to the singers we could hear every detail. The young cast came from a variety of stylistic backgrounds and it was clear that not all had a secure knowledge of bel canto technique, there were plenty of moments when the shape of the vocal line was pushed towards Verdi or even Verismo, though admittedly this problem is not confined to smaller fringe companies. But thanks to strong and wonderfully engaged performances from the principals, there was much to enjoy.

Calen-O: songs from the North of Ireland

Calen-O - Carolyn Dobbin - Delphian
Joan Trimble, Hamilton Harty, Howard Ferguson, Charles Wood; Carolyn Dobbin, Iain Burnside; DELPHIAN Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 29 July 2018 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
Mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin in an attractive recital of songs by composers from her native Northern Ireland

Listening to this on Delphian disc blind, it would be fatally easy to simply classify the music as English song, but by bringing this particular group of 20th century composers (some born pre-1900) together, mezzo-soprano Carolyn Dobbin highlights the particularity of music by composers coming from Northern Ireland. Many were English trained, the Royal College of Music crops up in their CVs, but they use Irish words and, sometimes, Irish tunes, to create a very particular feel. So here, accompanied by pianist Iain Burnside, Carolyn Dobbin sings songs by Joan Trimble, Hamilton Harty, Howard Ferguson and Charles Wood. 

Some of the composers are not well known, and others are better known for other things (Hamilton Harty was the conductor of the Halle, and CHarles Wood is known for his Anglican Church music), but all have something to contribute in the song repertoire. Evidently, collecting songs by composers from the North of Ireland is a passion of Dobbin's, and she has plenty more for us to look forward to.

We start with Joan Trimble, from Enniskillen she studied at the Royal College of Music and taught at the Royal Academy of Music. Here we have Green Rain, Girl's Song and My grief on the sea, this latter her first published song, it sets and English translation of an Irish poem. These are elegant, lyrical songs, folk-influenced and very much in the tradition of RVW's songs except with an Irish melancholy lilt to them  As with most of the songs on the disc, the accompaniments are rather more than just simple support for the vocal line and we are very much in art-song territory.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Prom 34: rare Barber & Copland in Juanjo Mena's leave-taking

Juanjo Mena & BBC Philharmonic (© BBC | Chris Christodoulou)
Juanjo Mena & BBC Philharmonic (© BBC | Chris Christodoulou)
Walton, Copland, Britten, Barber; Sally Matthews, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Juanjo Mena; BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 8 August 2018
Star rating: 4.0

Rare Copland and Barber alongside Britten in Juanjo Mena's final concert as Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic

For his final concert as Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Juanjo Mena chose an interesting mix of British and American 20th century music at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 8 August 2018. Mena and the orchestra were joined by soprano Sally Matthews for performances of Benjamin Britten's Les Illuminations and Samuel Barber's Two scenes from 'Antony and Cleopatra', and the programme was completed with William Walton's overture Portsmouth Point, Aaron Copland's Connotations and Britten's Four Sea Interludes from 'Peter Grimes'. 

The programme included two relative rarities, both the Copland and the Barber receiving their first Proms performance, and the Barber coming hot on the heels of Glyndebourne's new production of his opera Vanessa [see my review] raises interest in his operas even further. But there were other fascinating links in what might at first seem a diverse programme. Both the Barber and Britten's Four Sea Interludes presented music extracted from larger operas, whilst the Barber and the Copland were written for openings at the newly built Lincoln Centre in New York.

Musical memoir: Tom Smail's Blue Electric at Tête à Tête

Tom Smail: Blue Electric - Mimi Doulton, Jonathan Brown - Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Tom Smail: Blue Electric - Mimi Doulton, Jonathan Brown -
Tête à Tête (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Tom Smaill Blue Electric; Mimi Doulton, Jonathan Brown, dir Hugh Hudston; Tête à Tête at RADA Studios Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 7 August 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Work in progress: Alba Arikha’s memoir Major/Minor translated into opera

This is the 11th year of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival and this Tuesday, 7 August 2018, was the opportunity to see, what was described as a "work in progress", Blue Electric composed by Tom Smail with words by Alba Arikha

Economically directed by film director Hugh Hudson and atmospherically staged by Laura Albeck and Sara Stanton, the protagonist Alba was sung by Mimi Doulton, Vigo, her father, by Jonathan Brown, with Helen Charlston, Camilla Seale and Jennifer Coleman as Anne, her Mother, Barbara and Noga.

Blue Electric began life as Alba Arikha’s memoir Major/Minor which is a poetic retelling of her teenage years. The haunting book is a coming of age story. The wilful teenage girl in Paris coping with adolescence. The feelings of alienation and bewilderment at the world. The struggles to find her own voice and to shake off the labels already applied to her by the adults. This could be our life but for the fact that her father is the artist Avigdor Arikha and her godfather Samuel Beckett. Re-reading the book in 2017, her husband, Tom Smail realised he could hear “music in the words” and began to explore what more there was to say. So, Blue Electric was born.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

An uneasy mix: politics, spirituality and melody in Keith Burstein's new opera

The Prometheus Revolution
Keith Burstein The Prometheus Revolution; Fulham Opera, dir: Sophie Gilpin, m.dir: Ben Woodward; Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 8 August 2018 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
A new opera which combines politics, new-age spirituality and an unashamedly tonal score.

A three-act opera with twelve named roles, a plot which mixes contemporary politics with new-age spirituality and a lyrical, tonal score, this new contemporary opera The Prometheus Revolution by Keith Burstein was the first of two contributions by Fulham Opera, artistic director Ben Woodward, to this year's Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre on Tuesday 7 August 2018. (The company's second opera of the festival is more traditional, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor).

Burstein's opera was performed in the smaller, more intimate of the Arcola's studios with a production directed by Sophie Gilpin with designs by Sunny Smith and a cast which included Alex Haigh, Lucie Louvrier, Caroline Carragher, Robert Garland, Luci Briginshaw, James Schouten, James Bowers, Gerard Delrez, Olivia Barry, Nick Dwyer, Ian Wilson-Pope and Christie Cook. Musical director Ben Woodward accompanied on the piano.

Burstein's plot (the libretto was by the composer) took a grass roots political movement like the Occupy Movement, here called the Prometheus Revolution, and asked the question what if it succeeded. Support from billionaire Peter Rowlands (Alex Haigh) allows the movement to succeed, but comes at a price. Rowlands has history with the movement's founders and all is not well. On the political front, the success of the movement leads to the suicide of the Prime Minister, James Hanson (Ian Wilson-Pope) and the eventual dictatorship of his deputy, Paul Zapruder (Nick Dwyer), though the intervention of the head of the army (Gerard Delrez) allows the movement to succeed.

Woven into this is Rowlands' ex-girlfriend, Iris (Luci Briginshaw), now mute who only sings and has attracted a spiritual following, when she speaks again it will be to fortell the future. This happens in dramatic circumstances and ultimately ushers in a new age of peace.

This mix of politics and spirituality rather reminded me, in a distant way, of Michael Tippett's The Ice Break, but as a librettist Keith Burstein lacks Tippett's gift for concision and for aphorism.

Jonas Kaufmann as Wagner’s Parsifal at the Munich Opera Festival

Wagner: Parsifal - Jonas Kaufmann - Munich Opera Festival (Photo Ruth Waltz)
Wagner: Parsifal - Jonas Kaufmann (Parsifal) & the flower maidens
Munich Opera Festival (Photo Ruth Waltz)
Richard Wagner Parsifal; Christian Gerhaher, Jonas Kaufmann, Wolfgang Koch, René Pape, Nina Stemme, Bálint Szabó, dir: Pierre Audi, cond: Kirill Petrenko; Bayerischen Staatsoper, München Reviewed by Tony Cooper on 31 July 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
Pierre Audi delivered an intriguing production of Parsifal at Bayerischen Staatsoper, München, closing this year’s Munich Opera Festival

In Pierre Audi’s somewhat strange, unusual but compelling production of Parsifal, the Great Hall of Montsalvat Castle - the home of the Knights of the Holy Grail - drifted miles away from its original setting inasmuch as it turned out to be a strongly-built, wooden-constructed, wigwam-type building located in the Holy Forest of the Knights of the Grail with members of the Brotherhood attired in dark monastic-style robes as opposed to being clad in tough leather or chain-mail shirt and embroidered tunic favoured by medieval knights.

Presented at the Bayerischen Staatsoper as part of the Munich Opera Festival on 31 July 2018, Pierre Audi's production of Parsifal was conducted by Kirill Petrenko and featured Christian Gerhaher, Jonas Kaufmann, Wolfgang Koch, René Pape, Nina Stemme and Bálint Szabó.

At the opera’s première at Bayreuth in 1882, the set presented was, perhaps, more conservative, based on a traditional German wooden-beamed roof supported by four heavy-duty stone columns. But with Audi (the incoming general director of the Aix-en-Provence Festival) you can expect his productions to be challenging - and he duly obliged.

A marvellous, intriguing and dark production, nonetheless, Parsifal closed the Munich Opera Festival on a high and was conducted by Kirill Petrenko, artistic director of Bayerischen Staatsoper and, of course, the new chief conductor of the Berlin Phiharmoniker. His reading of Wagner’s score was brilliant.

Wagner: Parsifal - Nina Stemme - Munich Opera Festival (Photo Ruth Waltz)
Wagner: Parsifal - Nina Stemme - Munich Opera Festival (Photo Ruth Waltz)
And, brilliant, too, was the legendary German artist, Georg Baselitz, who came up with a host of rather dark and gloomy sets produced in pen-and-ink drawings (they caused a bit of a hoo-ha in some quarters, though) complementing well Mr Audi’s realisation of the opera and, indeed, the opera’s traditional setting, The Middle Ages, a dark and war-torn period for Europe after the upheaval and fall of the Western Roman Empire therefore the darkness and unsettling nature surrounding this production fitted this historic scenario extremely well.

Piecing together the new opera “Dear Marie Stopes”

Alex Mills: Dear Marie Stopes - rehearsal photograph with Liam Byrne (viola da gamba) Jess Dandy, Feargal Mostyn-Williams and Alexa Mason - (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Alex Mills: Dear Marie Stopes - rehearsal photograph with Liam Byrne (viola da gamba) Jess Dandy, Feargal Mostyn-Williams and Alexa Mason - (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Alex Mills' opera Dear Marie Stopes premieres on Thursday 9 August 2018 at the Wellcome Collection, as part of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival in a production directed by Nina Brazier and featuring Alexa Mason (Soprano), Jess Dandy (Contralto), Feargal Mostyn-Williams (Countertenor), Liam Byrne (Viola da gamba) and Lucy Railton (Cello). In this special Guest Post for Planet Hugill, Alex writes about creating the opera, which is based on letters written to Marie Stopes.

Alex Mills: Dear Marie Stopes - Alex Mills - (Photo Claire Shovelton)
Alex Mills - (Photo Claire Shovelton)
The first time I encountered the letters in the Marie Stopes archive, housed in the Wellcome Collection Library, I was immediately struck by their powerful emotional content. I felt it would be the perfect kind of material to explore musically and dramatically. The question was how to do it as sensitively and effectively as possible.

The archive itself contains thousands of private, intimate letters written to Marie Stopes from members of the public in response to her landmark publications on sex, birth control and parenting in and around the 1920s. The first of these publications, Married Love, was a sex manual Stopes published in 1918 to educate men and women on the most intimate details of sex, sexual desire and contraception while firmly advocating sexual equality between men and women. It became a global sensation, revolutionising attitudes to sex around the world. It was controversial not only for its contents, but because it was written by a woman. It inspired people to write to Stopes in their thousands sharing their most personal experiences about sexual relationships and to ask for advice on a variety of sexual health problems.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The classical saxophone: Huw Wiggin's Reflections

Huw Wiggin - Reflections - Orchid Classics
Alessandro Marcello, Franz Schubert, Edvard Grieg, Camille Saint-Saens, Claude Debussy, Manuel de Falla, Paule Maruice, Astor Piazzolla, Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov, Takashi Yoshimatsu; Huw Wiggin, John Lenehan, Oliver Wass; Orchid Classics
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 29 July 2018 

Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
The delight of the classical saxophone in music ranging from Baroque to contemporary

It was the recordings of saxophonist John Harle that introduced me to the classical saxophone via a range of borrowed melodies [discs like John Harle's Saxophone Songbook]. On this disc from Orchid Classics, entitled Reflections, the young saxophone player Huw Wiggin, accompanied by John Lenehan (piano) and by Oliver Wass (harp), presents an eclectic programme of music by Alessandro Marcello, Franz Schubert, Edvard Grieg, Camille Saint-Saens, Claude Debussy, Manuel de Falla, Paule Maurice, Astor Piazzolla, Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov and the contemporay Japanese composer Takashi Yoshimatsu.

Invented by Adolphe Sax in the mid-19th century the saxophone was intended as a classical instrument, it never really caught on in orchestras but its ability to play fast passages like a woodwind instrument yet to project like a brass one led it to be popular in military bands. It does crop up occasionally in 19th-century French opera, such as Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet and Giacomo Meyerbeer's Le Prophete, and Debussy wrote for it. But it would be in jazz that the instrument found a real home in the 20th century. Techniques are different, and it requires a real leap to move from the smokey vibrato-led sleaze of the jazz saxophone to the more straight-toned classical style.

Huw Wiggin's great virtue on this disc is that he makes it sound so natural and obvious.

New production of Shakespeare's Othello at the Globe Theatre

Shakespeare: Othello - Shakespeare's Globe (Photo: Simon Annand)
Shakespeare: Othello; Mark Rylance, Andre Holland, Jessica Warbeck, Sheila Atim, Stephan Donnelly, Aaron Pierre, dir: Claire van Kampen; Shakespeare's Globe
Reviewed by Jill Barlow on 1 August 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)

"Rylance used to run the Globe and he still owns the SPACE
(Sarah Crompton-'What's On Stage ?' Aug 1st 2018 )


Shakespeare: Othello - Mark Rylance - Shakespeare's Globe (Photo: Simon Annand)
Shakespeare: Othello - Mark Rylance
(Photo: Simon Annand)
Our guest reviewer, Jill Barlow, sees the new production of Shakespeare's Othello at Shakespeare's Globe, directed by Claire van Kampen (who also wrote the music), designed by Jonathan Fensom. Mark Rylance stars as the treacherous Iago, with Andre Holland as Othello and Jessica Warbeck as Desdemona.

I first had the privilege to meet Rylance (Globe’s Artistic Director) face to face in August 2000 when interviewing his wife Claire van Kampen, Director of Theatre Music, behind the scenes at the Globe myself as Theatre music critic. When I asked him what was the role of music in the plays his considered reply was :- ‘The music is replacing lights and sets’.

This classical austerity of approach lasted through to circa 2012 with his much acclaimed Twelfth Night and Richard III, but with his subsequent sideways move into the illustrious tv drama ‘Wolf Hall’etc.

In his absence, things became more relaxed in Globe productions, I understand. However with Othello this season he has happily returned to ‘treading the boards' with his talented wife, Claire van Kampen as Globe director (and composer) and so have I returned as well to help celebrate the occasion and what seems a return to former classical austerity of approach on stage here.

However as Claire explains in the programme notes:-‘normally as composer I’d be making all sorts of suggestions to the director (now herself !) devising all sorts of interesting music cues, but with this production we’re barely having music other than that which Shakespeare has called for in the play; when Cassio gets drunk, the ‘Willow song’. We don’t have inter scenic music because the scenes are going to move extremely quickly –‘Righto say I, so over to husband Mark Rylance and his antics non-stop as Iago, much more fun'.

They say ‘everyone loves a villain’, but didn’t Shakespeare write overtones of treachery and skulduggery in Iago, not Chaplinesque jumping about clad in red beret and ill-fitting cloth trousers too short, which is what we got? The audience gleefully lapped it all up, with roars of laughter as Rylance threw asides galore to the groundlings at his elbow on all sides of the stage where indeed he ‘owns the space’.

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