La Bohème @ ROH

Live screening of performance at the Royal Opera House on 29 January 2020

most of the cast and a glimpse of the entire opera on this YouTube video provided by the Royal Opera House
Why The Royal Opera House love performing Puccini’s La Bohème
except for Musetta who was changed on the day and is in this video also from the Royal Opera House La bohème – ‘Quando m’en vo’ (Puccini; Simona Mihai; The Royal Opera)

The voices superb without exception; the production intently focused on the main characters but colourful and overflowing in the crowd scenes.

This would appear to be a story of the difficulties two couples encounter in their relationship. One is blighted by disease, the other by infidelity. The opera is a platform giving the opportunity to express beautifully the immense sadness of these situations, and La Bohème does this very well. Interesting to me was that both couples were unhappy with what they did, in some measure. In the very first scene Rodolfo burned his work. Mimi though loving the flowers she embroidered expressed the regret that hers had no scent. Instead of treasuring what they were able to do. Knowing that by doing their best they were doing God’s work. Perhaps all of them valued their work according to the remuneration it provided, Rodolfo regretted not being able to provide medicine for Mimi, but perhaps if he had just simply valued it as God’s will, Mimi may not have needed medicine, the weather could have warmed up, for instance. Although I am not familiar with Puccini operas it seems to me this is just a snippet of a longer story. Perhaps that is the case for a lot of composers who without themselves realising it were continuing their stories from one to the next. I can see this in the Mozart operas. This seems to have similar hallmarks. The unfinished script. The extraordinarily beautiful music in really quite a sad context. Apparently senseless. Does this reflect the continuity of our loves and lives? Love defeats time, as Petrarch would have it. Is this what God was trying to tell us in getting composers to write operas?

The Sleeping Beauty @ ROH

The story
The wicked fairy Carabosse is furious she wasn’t invited to Princess Aurora’s christening. She gives the baby a spindle, saying that one day the Princess will prick her finger on it and die. The Lilac Fairy makes her own christening gift a softening of Carabosse’s curse: Aurora will not die, but will fall into a deep sleep, which only a prince’s kiss will break.

Background
The Sleeping Beauty holds a special place in The Royal Ballet’s repertory. It was the ballet with which the Company reopened the Royal Opera House in 1946 after World War II, its first production at its new home in Covent Garden. Margot Fonteyn danced the role of the beautiful Princess Aurora in the first performance, with Robert Helpmann as Prince Florimund. Sixty years later, in 2006, the original 1946 staging was revived by then Director of The Royal Ballet Monica Mason and Christopher Newton, returning Oliver Messel’s wonderful designs and glittering costumes to the stage.

Company
The Royal Ballet

Choreography
Marius Petipa

Additional choreography
Frederick Ashton, Anthony Dowell and Christopher Wheeldon

Production
Monica Mason and Christopher Newton after Ninette de Valois and Nicholas Sergeyev

Music
Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky

Original designs
Oliver Messel

Additional designs
Peter Farmer

Lighting designer
Mark Jonathan

Performed byThe Royal Ballet

Performers
Conductor Simon Hewett
Princess Aurora Fumi Kaneko
Prince Florimund Federico Bonelli
King Florestan XXIV Christopher Saunders
His Queen Elizabeth McGorian
Catalabutte Thomas Whitehea
Carabosse Kristen McNally
Lilac Fairy Gina Storm-Jensen
Fairy of the Crystal Fountain Romany Pajdak
Fairy of the Enchanted Garden Mayara Magri
Fairy of the Woodland Glade Claire Calvert
Fairy of the Song Bird Anna Rose O’Sullivan
Fairy of the Golden Vine Yuhui Choe
The English Prince Gary Avis
The French Prince Nicol Edmonds
The Indian Prince David Donnelly
The Russian Prince Tomas Mock
The Countess Christina Arestis
Florestan James Hay
Florestan’s Sisters• Mayara Magri •Anna Rose O’Sullivan
Puss-in-Boots Paul Kay
The White Cat Leticia Stock
Princess Florine Yasmine Naghdi
The Bluebird Matthew Ball
Red Riding Hood Romany Pajdak
The Wolf Nicol Edmonds
Concert Master Sergey Levitin
Orchestra Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

the above is given on the ROH website for the performance on 16 January 2020, 19:15, screened at Cinemas in 24 countries I think

Excellence, this is without a doubt. The sets are grand without being ostentatious, the colours of the costumes delectable, the cast supremely skilled and intuitively gifted, the story is of love triumphant. It does not need to ask to be loved, it has been for centuries, is irresistible still and this production is masterfully crafted to portray all its charms.

This is a celebration of love between two people, the codas in this production add intriguing little nuances. The story is complete as it stands. However it made me wonder whether there may be some inkling here, about our progress from one life to another. Why 100 years? The person Aurora was waiting for had to be a Prince, if he was not in that life, perhaps she and her entourage become part of the trees, waiting for the right moment? Fanciful. Perhaps. At the risk of sounding repetitive, could this story be so enduring because it is a reflection of something about our relationship with God? That it is only when we ‘fall in love’ with God and therefore the world we inhabit, that this relationship can truly flourish?

Easter coming up sometime soon and the idea of spending some time as trees reminded me of Easter Island. Still in the realms of conjecture naturally, but could it be that this time in trees is a necessary part of our progression, and that this is the reason the Easter Islanders died as they could not fulfil that cycle perhaps. Respecting all lifeform being very important for reasons that can only be guessed at.

Little Women – Film

This has always been a great story. For all the ways it tries to handle notions of wealth, poverty, charity, talent, love and duty, for all the ways it shows how ingenious people have worked or sometimes struggled to find solutions to the problems these issues throw up, it deserves to be told again, and again! It is impossible to know how many it has inspired but long may it continue.

Excellent cast, stellar and otherwise. The telling here crosses time-lines, bringing those very issues and how they are addressed by this family and people close to them into even sharper focus. This is an ode to human nature, both real and heart-warming, beautifully set and acted.

In other words, this could be described as a film showing the beauty of how God sometimes works through people, both then and now.

Question that occurs to me about the story thus told: this was obviously the right outcome for those times, but at a different time, with a different level of awareness, could Jo have thought that perhaps Beth’s illness was God’s way of telling her to seriously rethink her decision to rebuke Frederick, and at a different time, would the loss of Beth then not have been necessary in order for Jo to write the book? She could have stayed and looked after Beth and then gone to see Frederick and perhaps Beth would not have become ill again later? Might losses that occurred afterwards have been prevented if Beth had still been present?

Cats – Film

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) T.S. Eliot
and the musical Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber brought right up to date with CGI technology and Tom Hooper’s insightful direction

Fabulous dancing and singing in all kinds of different styles, each excelling, portraying various storylines dealing with inclusion or the lack of it

The Rise of Skywalker – Film (spoiler!)

Fortifying continuation of the ‘good wins over evil’ Star Wars story lines.

The characters new to me, but great to see various familiar stories pieced together to make a soul enhancing whole, where good can triumph over evil regardless of background eg Rey holding on to the good in her in spite of evil grandfather and Finn amongst others feeling ‘the force’ even while having been made part of the first order.

Soulful and characterful droids blur the lines along with mechanical and soul-less Sith troopers, good can be anywhere, or not.

Thoughtful idea of the throwing away/burying of sabres. Ben Solo, on finding the good in him, manages to stand his ground with nothing but his hands, for a while…

Don Pasquale @ ROH

Royal Opera favourite Bryn Terfel heads the cast for this new production of Donizetti’s comedy of domestic drama across two generations. The witty story of a middle-aged man whose supposed young wife runs rings around him – with her own ulterior romantic purpose in mind – has long delighted and surprised audiences, not least as presented with the sparkle of its music and the virtuoso skill of its performers. Damiano Michieletto’s exhilarating production shows how contemporary the characters still are and how immediate and touching the story remains.

CREATIVES:
Company: The Royal Opera
Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto 1: Giovanni Ruffini
Libretto 2: Gaetano Donizetti
Director: Damiano Michieletto
Set designer: Paolo Fantin
Costume designer: Agostino Cavalca
Lighting designer: Alessandro Carletti
Video designer: rocafilm

Approximate running times:
Act I and II: 1 hour 25 minutes
Interval: 25 minutes
Act III: 45 minutes

Language: Sung in Italian with English surtitles

Generous philanthropic support from
The Friends of Covent Garden.

A co-production with:
Opéra national de Paris and Teatro Massimo, Palermo

CAST: at live screening on 24 October 2019
Don Pasquale______________Bryn Terfel
Ernesto___________________Ioan Hotea
(his nephew)
Doctor Malatesta__________Markus Werba
Norina____________________Olga Peretyatko
(a young widow in love with Ernesto)
A Notary__________________Bryan Secombe
(in reality Malatesta’s cousin Carlotto)

In my opinion, there was nothing weak about this performance.
Individual instruments were allowed to shine, eg. at the beginning of the Ouverture, making it sound like an Orchestra of soloists.
Sets, placed in modern times, did not feel out of place with the story.
Structures, décor, seemed to me to have nothing superfluous but nothing missing either.
The entire cast seemed to bring the warmth of the Mediterranean to the screen, beautifully guided, I imagine, by this creative team.
Everyone’s voice seemed to me exactly right for the part and made it look perfectly easy, totally natural, like they had always been these characters!
Characters seemed to me more than simple caricatures, they seemed carefully considered and deepened with imaginative and thought provoking additions.