Posts Tagged ‘Anna Watson’

Ruddigore, Opera North, Barbican, November 2011

25 November, 2011

W. S. Gilbert, the librettist for this work, was a master of wit, not just on paper but spontaneously in conversation. When a neighbour referred admiringly to Ruddigore calling it Bloodygore, Gilbert objected, so the neighbour said: “Same thing isn’t it?” WSG was swift as a rapier, “If I admire your ruddy countenance, it doesn’t mean I like your bloody cheek, which I don’t”.

All images Robert Workman

There’s no blood in Ruddigore, but there is a ghostly episode after our hero, Robin has reluctantly accepted his real name of Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, whose position as the Lord of Ruddigore gives him the accursed obligation of committing a crime a day. Failure to do so condemns him to death. His attempted crimes are rather inadequate, and in Act II ancestral paintings come to life to accuse him of failure. This pantomime-like episode was very well done, with excellent sets and lighting by Richard Hudson and Anna Watson. All seems lost, but the trick in the plot is that the honest Robin suddenly realises that failure to commit a crime is suicide, which itself is a crime …

Robin and Rose, just before the intervention

Robin was delightfully sung and portrayed by Grant Doyle, a versatile performer whom I last saw as a bearded Abraham in Clemency, a serious Biblical opera by James MacMillan. His beloved Rose Maybud was beautifully sung by Amy Freston whose body movements were those of a ballerina. She even did a small jeté en tournant at the end, and the sheer joy of her performance was a charm in itself. Robin’s foster-brother, Dick Dauntless was engagingly performed by Hal Cazalet, and the rest of the cast formed an excellent team around these three principals, including Heather Shipp as the Mad Margaret, Steven Page as the ancestral Sir Roderic, Richard Burkhard as the sly Sir Despard, and Anne-Marie Owens as Dame Hannah, all well directed by Jo Davies.

The ghosts of Ruddigore

Sullivan’s music was played with wit and enthusiasm under the direction of John Wilson, and it was a pleasure to see a performance of this lesser-known operetta from the Gilbert and Sullivan stable.

Performances at the Barbican continue until November 26 — for details click here.

Songs from a Hotel Bedroom, Linbury Studio, ROH, Covent Garden, November 2010

5 November, 2010

Kurt Weill is the composer of two operatic works that I like very much — The Threepenny Opera (Berlin, 1928) and Street Scene (New York, 1947) — along with lots of glorious songs from other stage works. I was delighted to hear many of those songs in this drama created by Kate Flatt and Peter Rowe, with choreography by Ms. Flatt.

The main idea is a love affair between Parisian chanteuse Angélique, and American song-writer Dan. Their relationship catches fire in various hotel bedrooms, but is doomed in the more mundane world of careers and the prospect of homemaking. What I particularly liked about the show was the clever use of two tango dancers, who express the protagonists’ emotions by their movements, demonstrating physical passion and ardour, or distancing and yearning, after each song is over.

Nigel Richards and Frances Ruffelle, photo by Caroline True

Frances Ruffelle sang Angélique with a wistful melancholy, and her voice had a gloriously smoky quality with a cutting edge that was quintessentially Weill. Nigel Richards came over forcefully as Dan, but I thought his voice was too strongly miked-up at times. The tango dancers, Amir Giles and Tara Pilbrow, were wonderfully sensuous, helped by Kate Flatt’s excellent choreography, and the atmospheric lighting by Anna Watson that allowed the singers to fade away as the dancers came on, making the combination of the two very effective.

As for the songs themselves, I loved the early ones from the 1943 musical One Touch of Venus with lyrics by Ogden Nash. She did a great job with Foolish Heart, followed by the duet Vive La Difference, and later by I’m a Stranger Here Myself. Other songs followed, including One Life to Livefrom Lady in the Dark with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and It Never Was You from the 1936 musical Knickerbocker Holiday. When he returns to her, with not much time left to live, she sings To Love You And To Lose You from the even earlier musical Johnny Johnson. These songs, and more, are all Kurt Weill and were very well played by the band whose members were all in costume and joined in the action on stage. The production helps to bring the songs to life and makes for a charming hour and a quarter, with the singing very well complemented by the choreography and lighting.

I’m delighted the Royal Opera House has put this on. Performances continue on November 4, 5 and 6 (mat. and eve.) — details here.