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Review – Cellist Matthew Sharp and the Northern Chamber Orchestra

I last wrote about the wonderful Northern Chamber Orchestra when I visited the rather lovely Stoller Hall for the first time, back in May 2018 – https://honorarymancblog.com/2018/05/18/the-northern-chamber-orchestra-mozart-and-elgar-and-beethoven-oh-my/

Yes I was rather taken with the acoustics of the environment and hall, and I’m not going to pretend to go down the ‘but was it the location and the acoustics that provided such a pleasurable experience’ path, because that would be ludicrous and frankly condescending to the orchestra (even though the answer is a formidable

NO!

Although I should probably add…

AS LOVELY AS THEY WERE!

The Northern Chamber Orchestra is the Northern Chamber Orchestra, is the Northern Chamber Orchestra. And this time they brought their beautiful talent to the rather charming venue of the Focus Theatre in Romiley, Stockport.

Blink and you’ll miss it, it would be easy to overlook this venue by the precinct, but find, go in and enter the auditorium and it’s just, well, charming! And being fortunate enough to be a regular theatre-goer, I have sat in many a seat and that red velvet seat was one of the most comfortable I have ever relaxed in.

And relaxed was the word, that evening as the Orchestra and guest soloist, Matthew Sharp, took us on a musical journey which soothed, delighted and almost sent this writer into a glorious slumber (on my signed Uri Geller bent spoon, this is a compliment).

For what is music if not to take us out of ourselves, our busy lives, our worries and woes (blimey do forgive the drama – I write this amidst the litany of Coronavirus concerns, updates and world-wide stresses – you get the picture).

And so after a wonderfully rousing rendition of the Overture from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (full disclosure, I’ve seen The Marriage of Figaro but my heart belonged to the opening of the film Trading Places – forgive me Amadeus), we were introduced to cellist, Matthew Sharp.

Internationally recognised not only as a cellist, but also as an accomplished actor, Matthew definitely brought a presence and energy to the stage even before he picked up his instrument, engaging the audience in the tale of why he was sporting a t-shirt to perform in (backstage wardrobe malfunctions of the ripped shirt variety).

The audience instantly on his side before a note played, after which you could have heard a pin drop as those glorious sounds that can only eminate from a cello (granted you have to be able to play too) filled the theatre. Stoller, Schmoller (just kidding Stoller Hall – see you again in May…) The Forum Theatre held its own.

Performing Antonio Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor. This is one of the most performed cello concertos of all time with many of the world’s greatest cellists recording it, including Jacqueline du Pre (who Sharp performed for at the age of 12).

As the world’s ills evaporated around us, Matthew Sharp, along with the orchestra, had our full attention and awe, not least that of some of the students who he had been working with all week in the area, as part of education and outreach programmes.

With the audience in the palm of his hand, his modest attempts to quietly leave the hall after his performance were met with a crowd of people wishing to shake his hand, say hello and even capture a quick selfie with the talented musician.

And so we were then treated to an upbeat end to the concert from the orchestra with Hayden’s Symphony no.101 subtitled The Clock and finally the last two sections of Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo: Saturday Night Waltz and Hoedown which left us all feeling like we’d left Romiley for the deep Wild West of America.

And so, there are plenty of opportunities to see and hear this wonderful orchestra.

And you simply must. Find them here at https://www.ncorch.co.uk/concerts/

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Culture dance film Manchester Music Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: Back to the Future – The Musical

I can remember the first time I heard those ticking clocks.

It was a friend’s birthday party at her house and we all sat round as the video was put on.

The excitement was real as those clocks ticked and the camera panned across the Doc’s home and workshop in a garage in the fictional Hill Valley.

Some 30 odd years later and those tick-tocks were back as we took our seats in the circle of the Opera House, Manchester, a countdown taking place on stage, the atmosphere feeling as electric as the currents that crackled above our heads.

And so for years and years my brother and I have been quoting lines from the Back to the Future (BTTF) trilogy (mostly the first two actually – Soz cowboy BTTF.

Run for it Marty!

Good night Future boy!

Well you’re right, Biff, you’re right!

Not too early, I sleep in Sundays

Joey just looooves being in his playpen

You’re my m…you’re my m….

Ha a a a a a a a a a a a a he always says that…

And so it was with intrigue, fear and nerves that I approached the concept that is BTTF the musical.

Full disclosure – I’ve never been the biggest fan of musicals. I can cast an objective eye towards them and recognise talent and what is good about them (I hope), but as a genre of entertainment they’re not necessarily my favourite.

Would it be all…(a 5,6,7,8)

🎶 Gigawatts! 1.21 Gigawatts! They are Gigawatts! And there are 1.21 of them, that’s 1.21 of them…

No matter. If BTTF is involved and importantly the original creatives, co-creators and producers Bobs Gale and Zemekis are on board, you go, go, go.

Robert Zemekis in rehearsals (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

And blimey – I am so glad I did (we did need roads).

Bob Gale in rehearsals (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Starring Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and Roger Bart as The Doc, the show takes us through the first film and story in a way that is fully faithful, and abridged where necessary.

Olly Dobson and Roger Bart (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

The dialogue is there as the actors riff on the old favourites, with lines delivered to cheers, laughter and the pure joy of recognition.

Olly Dobson and Hugh Coles (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

This was never more the case than when loveable old George McFly (Hugh Coles) was on stage. The show didn’t necessarily demand carbon copy imitations of the characters, but boy did we all marvel with open-mouthed glee (picture what that looked like) as the loveable old and original ‘slacker’ manifested before our very eyes.

Olly Dobson and Rosanna Hyland (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

And it was a very similar story with Rosanna Hyland as Lorraine, from the moment she poured out that vodka, through to pointing out her hope chest, to parking with a boy.

Olly Dobson took on the incredibly difficult task of asking us to imagine a Marty McFly who isn’t Michael J Fox (yes, I know, Eric Stolz for about 5 mins, fellow hardcore BTTF tribe members), and he smashed it.

(Pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Darting, skateboarding, jamming his way round the stage in his life preserver, Dobson was a joy to watch down to the smallest of inflections – don’t get me wrong though, he made future boy his own.

We need to talk about the Doc, played by Roger Bart. I was never about to make like a tree and get outta there but for the opening strains of a song and dance routine as he shimmied round the DeLorean with his back up dancers, I was in a small state of shock.

Roger Bart (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

But then, Great Scott, I got it. And it was everything.

Christopher Lloyd is the Doc, we all know this. But Roger Bart is musical Doc. A Doc that delivers the 1.21 gigawattsness with the same breathy, incredulity, but with a hammy quality and campness that is simply perfect.

If you’re gonna be musical Doc, go big, go extra, or go home (with the aid of a bolt of lightening, perhaps).

Glor.i.ous.

And so to our dear time machine, the DeLorean. There it was in all its glory. Forget Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, this car is its own star which brings me to the special effects which were out of this world.

Believe me, this pic does not do the sfx justice (credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

How do you demonstrate time travel on a lovely old theatre in the middle of Manchester? I don’t know but thanks to the genius of the special effects, they did, and then some in a way that got the heart rate racing upto 88mph.

With a musical score that was the perfect balance of the original and the new (with a healthy dose of Huey and his veritable News thrown in (nice nod, naming a new character after his Lewisness), it even got Miss ‘musicals aren’t necessarily my thing’ on her feet.

If you put your mind to it, you can indeed achieve anything. And blimey o’reilly, has the world premier outing of this show achieved everything.

Hugh Coles and Aidan Cutler (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)
What a voice – Cedric Neal (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Go, introduce your kids and bask in the brilliance of this new show. Buttheads.

Showing at the Opera House, Manchester, until 17 May 2020.

For further details and tickets, head to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/back-to-the-future-the-musical/opera-house-manchester/

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Culture LGBT LGBTQ+ Manchester Music Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: Insane Animals

It’s true to say that I didn’t always know what I was watching last night.

But I know that I liked it.

Like the camp space landing that it depicted (are there any other kind?), the show launched itself on stage through plumes of smoke and a cacophony of noise, and with the arrival of ‘cult cabaret duo’, Bourgeois & Maurice.

Directed by Phillip McMahon, the premise of the show (you’re best not to question, just accept) is two glam aliens arrive from a faraway galaxy to rescue present-day earth from impending political, environmental and social doom.

Now, of course this show was written, created, conceived of before we all entered the realms of (brace yourself for the c-word) Coronavirus. Yet, I can’t have been the only one in that audience more than aware of the …well not so much irony, more literal coincidence, of the statements delivered to the audience along the lines of ‘we’ve come to save you, you’re all doomed,’. They raised more than a little nervous laughter as we coughed into our elbows, having performed hand-washing duration top trumps with fellow theatre-goers in the toilets beforehand.

Being accidentally reminded of world-wide health crisis aside, the show was a riot, a pure joy.

The best thing with shows such as Insane Animals, is not to attempt to explain it (and with that, she was off the hook), but just to feel it, absorb it, embrace it and really, really enjoy it.

The satirical double-act were joined by 6 other actors and musicians (and self-described misfits) as they sang, played, danced, gyrated, wrestled, gurned and glitter-bombed their way through a story of time-travel and mortality (oh yes, they weren’t messing about).

The songs were catchy (I’m not the biggest embracer of musicals but i was all over this one) and the costumes as extra as the country’s current penchant for stockpiling loo-roll.

At the time of writing, there are four more chances to bear witness to this ‘queer unravelling of past and present, fact and fiction’. Just watch yourself on that front row…

For more details and to book tickets, visit https://homemcr.org/production/bourgeois-maurices-insane-animals/.

Pic credits: Drew Forsyth.

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Culture film Manchester Music Popular culture preview The Arts Theatre

Pics: Rehearsals in full flow for Back to the Future The Musical

If you haven’t yet heard that Back to the Future The Musical (no less) is coming to Manchester’s Opera House on 20 February 2020, great Scott, you’d better make like a leaf and get outta here!

Yes, I did that homage and I’m very proud of my little self…

Starring Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and and Roger Bart as ‘Doc’ , you’ll have 12 weeks to catch the show and from 17 March they even have Sunday matinees (before then, they sleep in on Sundays…)

Oh yes.

As these behind the scenes pictures show, the actors have hit rehearsals at a rate of 88mph (yes it works), with (and this surely stamps quality all over it) original creative team Co-creators and Producers, Bob Gale and Robert Zemekis.

Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Bob Gale in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Robert Zemeckis in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Olly Dobson and Hugh Coles in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Rosanna Hyland and Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Hugh Coles and Cedric Neal in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Roger Bart in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes (2)
For full details visit http://backtothefuturemusical.com/

Buy tickets here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/back-to-the-future-the-musical/opera-house-manchester/

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Culture Manchester Music preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: Opera North’s Giulio Cesare at The Lowry

Some years ago, I visited the site where Julius Caesar was said to meet his maker.

The Curia in the Theatre Of Pompey is not only a place of significant historical importance but much to my total and utter glee, a colony for feral cats. Cat lovers this is your Mecca, cat not-lovers probably give this a miss and spend more time in the Coliseum (actually cats live in there too – maybe go to Madrid instead).

Handel’s Giulio Cesare comes with the wonderful tagline…

Cleopatra would die for the throne. But she’d rather kill for it.

And so tells the story of Cleopatra and her brother Tolomeo, as they compete for absolute power over Egypt.

Credit: Alastair Muir

Julius Caesar has chased his enemy Pompey to Egypt where he falls into the murderous hands of Tolomeo.

As Pompey’s widow Cornelia plots with son Sesto to get their revenge, Tolomeo is seemingly more concerned by an ‘enemy’ closer to hand…

Credit: Alastair Muir

Well they do say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose…etc and so forth.

Whilst Cleopatra could be lauded as a symbol of a strong independent women, some may take issue with her tactics to secure her position – that is with feminine wiles and good old ‘female of the species’ straightforward seduction of Caesar.

Credit: Alastair Muir

Nobody’s coming out of this registering strong on the moral compass so, moving on…

Sung in Italian, Tim Albery’s production of Handel’s sweeping and passionate operatic tale is accompanied by a wonderful orchestra conducted by Christian Curnyn.

The set is simple, allowing for the marriage between the voices and the music to flourish and entertain without distraction.

Forgive me for perhaps lowering the cultural tone here but I couldn’t help but equate the spirited, competitive and sometimes downright troubling relationship between brother and sister, Tolomeo and Cleopatra, to that of, what for it, the ice-skating, scheming siblings in the very deep and seminal film…Blades of Glory. Even aesthetically.

DO forgive me – I mean this without any of the slapstick but with all of the heart, passion and downright devilment of both pairs.

It’s a pocket of time that is revisited, referenced and paid tribute to both in the history books and in popular culture repeatedly. But whilst time moves on, human passion, ambition and indeed ruthlessness remains.

And with a wonderfully talented cast and production (a statement which will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the work of Opera North), Giulio Cesare delivers on this age-old story of tyranny and passion in spades.

Cast:

  • Giulio Cesare – Maria Sanner
  • Cleopatra – Lucie Chartin
  • Cornelia – Amy J Payne (special mention who stepped in for Catherine Hopper)
  • Sesto – Heather Lowe
  • Tolomeo – James Laing
  • Noreno – Paul-Antoine Bruno’s-Djian
  • Curio – Dean Robinson
  • Achilla- Darren Jeffery

Opera North continue at The Lowry this week with performances of La Boheme tonight (15 November) and The Greek Passion tomorrow (16 November) at The Lowry.

Have a thousand questions on Opera-going that you never dared ask? Find out more here at https://www.operanorth.co.uk/your-visit/new-to-opera/.

My reviews of previous Opera North productions can be found below:

Review: Aida at the Bridgewater Hall

Theatre review: The Magic Flute at The Lowry

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Culture Current affairs Manchester Music News People Popular culture The Arts

More than a building…Chorlton Bee Gee landmark needs your help to stay alive!

The Bee Gees belong to Manchester, well Chorlton to be specific.

Yes, ok, they flirted with being born in the Isle of Man,  emigrating to Australia, living in LA, travelling the world, but it was in Chorlton, Manchester,  that the magic first happened.

These fellow honorary mancs formed their first band, the skiffle/rock and roll group, the Rattlesnakes, whilst living in the family homestead on  Keppell Road.

Whilst fans often pay pilgrimage to the terrace house of The Bee Gees‘ childhood, there is another place which carries a significant place in the history of the siblings – The Gaumont – which was previously their local cinema and played host to The Rattlesnakes’ first ever performance!

gaumont 2-1

Since turned into The Co-op Funeral Care, local volunteer group, Chorlton Community Land Trust (CCLT), are fighting to save the building being sold and turned into flats, with their Stayin’ Alive Campaign.

Member, Chris Peacock, explains

Bee Gees fans from all over the world come to have their pictures taken outside – even though it’s a funeral home!

Turning 100 years young next year, local residents are passionate that this historic building is preserved, given that it is such an important part of Manchester’s music scene, and part of the rich tapestry that is the city’s cultural heritage.

Fellow CCLT member, Simon Hooton, adds

Time is critical to save this landmark building – we have just a few days left to persuade the Co-op to change course. It is an important part of Manchester’s historic music scene, so we want to preserve it and celebrate the world-famous Bee Gees and encourage more visitors to the area.

stayin alive

If the campaign is successful, CCLT plan to show the historic site some love by using it to:

  • celebrate the Bee Gees’ heritage

  • Offer a new destination for food and leisure

  • Attract more spending for local businesses

  • Put the site on Manchester’s music trail for visitors to the city

CLT have been working with developers and local residents to generate a plan that would help make Chorlton a more vibrant place for residents and visitors and retain this unique piece of music history.

The plans are to convert the old cinema building into a market-style food hall with flexible scope to also be a performance space for live music and cinema nights. CCLT are also working with the local community health centre to bring forward a new GP Practice with potentially a gym, community space and some affordable housing on the site too.

The campaigners are also keen to integrate the development with the upcoming re-development of the precinct and to create a new public square outside the building too.

CCLT has been liaising with both Manchester City Council and the Co-op  and been given until this Saturday 9 November by to raise £250k. So far, £55k has been raised in the first few days.

HOW ON EARTH CAN I HELP?!

I hear you passionately cry!

Start by heading over to the Stayin’ Alive website and watching this video where you can find out more information and make a pledge.

You can also follow the campaign and show your support by signing upto the following socials:

Twitter: @CampaignStayin

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/stayinalivecampaign

Do it for Chorlton, do it for The Bee Gees, heck do it for Manchester!

 

 

 

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Preview: NQ Jazz – 21.10.2019 – Sue Rynhart & Huw Warren

NQ Jazz is one of my favourites things.

Yes we have Matt and Phred’s and I give thanks to the gods of live jazz that we do.

But Manchester needs even more and NQ Jazz gives us that more in a gloriously dark, underground befitting location that is The Whiskey Jar.

The rather marvellous Richard Isles Trio at The Whiskey Jar

To speak in New York terms (because, of course), if Matt and Phred’s is Birdland, The Whiskey Jar is Smalls (I’m basically using this opportunity to show off about the fact that I’ve been to both).

This Monday 21st October sees Dublin singer and composer, Sue Rynhart, take to the atmospheric Whiskey Jar basement bar, with pianist (and composer) Huw Warren.

Sue previously visited our fair city with a performance at the Manchester Jazz Festival and brings sounds which are an edgy blend of modern jazz mixed with contemporary sounds.

Credit: Karl Burke

Welsh pianist Huw, a BBC Jazz award winner, carries with him an international reputation for innovative music making.

Fresh from the release of their new single We Are On Time (Flower Seeds), join them (and me!) this Monday 21 October and kick start the week with a little NQ Jazz therapy.

For more details, visit https://nqjazz.com/

To hear Sue and Huw’s new single, visit Spotify – We Are On Time (Flower Seeds)

NQ Jazz is every Monday at the Whiskey Jar, 14 Tariff Street, Manchester.

Entry £5 (£4 students with ID), doors at 8pm, live music from 8.30pm…

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Culture Events Manchester Music Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: The Nico Project (Manchester International Festival)

Manchester International Festival is your opportunity to see something different. Something new, something especially commissioned, someone new, someone big…

The Nico Project is the perfect case study of all of the above.

The late Nico, real name Christa Paffgenmade, entered the musical zeitgeist in 1967 with The Velvet Underground, and the ‘show’ is inspired by her 1968 album, The Marble Index.

Maxine Peake as Nico – Credit: John Shard

With Maxine Peake in the title role and artistically directed by Sarah Frankcom, The Nico Project is billed as ‘a stirring theatrical immersion into her sound, her identity and the world in which she fought to be heard’.

Taken at face value and with or without a background knowledge of this artist/actor/model, her work, her predilections in life and, indeed music, before her premature death, the show is a 60 minute assault on the senses.

Credit: Joseph Lynn

Assault is perhaps the the wrong word as it evokes negative connotations. Although given the haunting and troubled persona of the late Nico herself, the message being sent through the performance and indeed the musical orchestrations aren’t intending to take the audience on a nice stroll through the park. So yes, let’s stick with assault.

A company/outfit/cast of all female performers, the pre-reading tells us that the show ‘celebrates the potency of female creativity in a field dominated by men’.

artistic director sarah frankcom in rehearsals - image stephen king
Artistic Director, Sarah Frankcom, in rehearsals. Credit: Stephen King.

Apparently, this wasn’t intentional but according to Maxine Peake in an interview with The Guardian ‘felt right…I could only seem to find male stories about Nico.’

Indeed, synonymous with Andy Warhol. Lou Reed, John Cale… and her relationship with the French actor, Alain Delon, it is perhaps perversely apt that the production is wholly brought to us by a solely female outfit.

To the show itself.

The Royal Northern College of Music brought not only the music to life, but did so with a visual performance to boot – they were striking in their choreography and acting as they interacted with Peake, both instruments in hand and without.

the-nico-project-at-manchester-international-festival.-credit-joseph-lynn.
Credit: Joseph Lynn

As the musical performance steadily reaches its crescendo throughout the hour, so does the unravelling of Nico’s mind and visuals laid before us – erratic lighting, hair let down and wild, shoes off…Peake, appearing on the balcony is a messiah-like moment both in her delivery and stature.

And, like much of the performance, it’s disturbing. It’s meant to be and frankly it’s reassuringly and acceptably so.

Watching  Peake slip in and out of the persona and,  indeed, accent (intentionally!) – from the familiar Lancashire voice into the clipped, groaning voice and intonation of Nico, is at best mesmerising, at worst frightening.

maxine-peake-in-the-nico-project-at-manchester-international-festival.-credit-joseph-lynn-1
Credit: Joseph Lynn

Indeed at the moment the theatre was plunged into absolute darkness for what was probably a minute or so but felt like hours, closing off one sense allowed a certain respite to gather one’s thoughts and, to be honest, panic slightly about what on earth was coming next (certainly for me, accompanied by a frisson of excitement).

My advice as with anything avant-garde, off kilter, experimental art is to go, absorb and see what emotions you take away with you. Don’t approach with a list of questions or immediately deconstruct).

Credit: Joseph Lynn

Productions such as this and, indeed, events such as the Manchester International Theatre give you the gift of originality and expression of freedom. And this really is a gift.

And now for the Manchester connection – Nico did indeed visit Manchester in 1982 for a gig and never did leave (well, save for the odd European Tour).

Guess that makes her an Honorary Manc too…

 

 

 

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Review: Aida at the Bridgewater Hall

Verdi’s Aida is admittedly one of the operas I knew little about, in terms of both narrative and its musical score.

An opera in four acts, Aida is set in Egypt at the time of the Pharoahs. The priesthood, through its self-proclaimed ability to interpret the gods’ will, controls the government and have long been at war with Ethiopia, many Ethiopians becoming enslaved.

Amneris (Alessandra Volpe) is the daughter of the reigning Egyptian King (Michael Druiett), who is in love with Radames (Rafael Rojas), a captain in the Egyptian military, the expectation being that they will marry. There is only one problem; Radames is secretly in love with Aida (Alexandra Zabala), a slave of the Egyptians but significantly, the daughter of the Ethiopian King (Eric Greene). Radames’s love is requited yet smothered. Until it isn’t.

Opera North have a fine back-catalogue, if you will, of productions, but this was a little different to those operas I have seen before.

I don’t say it was unusual per se, but a first for me, and a very pleasant first.

In the beautiful surroundings of the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, the orchestra takes position on the stage, rather than ‘banished’ to the lower level of the pit. Whereas I’m always happy to sit in the circle at such affairs as I love to watch the musicians, on this occasion my position from the stalls was just fine, as the wonderful orchestra, conducted by Sir Richard Armstrong, shared literal centre stage with the singers.

Concert staging, to use the correct term.

Without a set to distract, the cast took their places at the front of the stage as and when the story demanded it. Dressed in simple, modern clothing, the production laid bare only the musical and vocal talent. And what a talent it was.

There was nowhere for the performers to hide and how fortunate it was for myself and fellow theatre-goers that this was the case.

Sung in Italian, with English subtitles, the emotion and passion in the orchestral movements were matched by the beautiful and pitch-perfect vocals.

Indeed in the choir seats, (yes, I know the clue is in the description) it wasn’t clear whether the casually dressed, ‘civvy-clothed’ ensemble of people sat up there were fellow audience members or not (my only clue was the choreographed synchronicity with which they sat down – no messing about with coats and bags for them). My confusion was definitively cleared up when they burst into rapturous harmony and song, the acoustics in the great hall never more tested, never more giving.

Each performer was as charismatic as the last. I was drawn to Alessandra Volpe’s Amneris, the performance and characterisation playful, seductive and powerful until the realisation that her love is gone – her demeanour crumbling before your eyes.

Whilst Alexandra’s Zabala’s Aida is touching, sympathetic and moving in both character and tender performance, your empathy lies with both women –  each vulnerable. Indeed, they are no winners  in this narrative, right down to the very last haunting scene.

Murmurings around me in the interval demonstrated that I was not the only person moved by this wonderful production, and indeed, was a clue to what was to come at ‘final curtain’, with a lengthy, rapturous standing ovation and applause.

Indeed, at the Italian premiere of Aida at La Scala in 1872, the opera was a great success with the public and it seems that in its latest iteration nothing much has changed.

Part of a 12 night tour, Opera North’s Aida can be caught at Hull City Hall on Friday 7 June and finishes at Birmingham Symphony Hall on Tuesday 11 June.

And do, indeed  catch it if you can.

Opera North – Aida

 

Photo credits: Clive Bards (2-7)

The Author (1 and 8)

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Culture dance Events Manchester Music Popular culture Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: Kingdom – part of Viva festival at HOME

Tensions were reaching fever pitch last night.

Two words, two cities – on everyone’s minds, on everyone’s lips, up and down Deansgate, in squares…

Albert, Exchange, Peter’s,  Anne’s – all the squares.

Manchester

Barcelona

And as we headed to the theatre of dreams, we knew that this date would be imprinted on our memories for the rest of our lives.

That theatre is HOME Mcr. Where one Barcelona based theatre company, Senor Serrano, came face to face with some Manchester based audience members.

Basically I’m making a point that Kingdom, headlining Viva Festival, had a few parallels with the Champions League football game going on in Manchester between United and Barcelona, ok?

Where I go next is…actually I have no idea.

There is no way I can describe what I witnessed within Theatre 1 last night that will make any sort of sense. But I think I can praise the creativity, the talent (musical, poetic, artistic, vocal, dance…) of the five men that took us all on a journey, nay a trip

and it really did feel like a ‘trip’

as in the midst of a cloud of marijuana smoke, they made us realise what we’d known all along but never dared to say out loud

Bananas are the lynchpin of society and where we will find all our answers.

Do you know what? I’m going to leave this one here.

And say get yourselves down to HOME Mcr until Saturday 13 April.

Hear rap, hear music, see strobe lighting, inhale weed (through your ever open mouth) and learn why the book of Genesis has been leading us astray all this time.

It’s performance theatre on acid.

King Kong.

Sexy bananas.

(It’s bloody brilliant).

Kingdom at HOME