Monthly Archives: May 2016

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci 

Sunday 29th may 2016 at the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff. A production of Cavalleria rusticana by Mascagni and Pagliacci by Leoncavallo,performed by the Welsh National Opera company.

We begin with Cavalleria rusticana (cav for short) set in a village in Sicilly in 1880 on Easter Sunday. The story is centred around Turridu’s love for Lola who is married to Alfio with the rivalry between the two men intense, as we move to the final scenes when Alfio and Turiddu fight until Turridu is killed. As soon as the music began I was in floods of tears, the orchestra were amazing, magnificent throughout the whole opera,as they always are.

As we move through this amazing opera the chorus come into their own with fabulous,scintillating voices raising the roof of the centre. The main leads were also magnificent with David Kempster as Alfio,Gwyn Hughes Jones as Turridu and Camilla Roberts as Santuzza. Wow what voices, these guys were amazing,absolutely fabulous, if the chorus raised the roof this trio sent it into orbit. 

A word of praise for the set,you actually thought you were looking out of a huge window onto a street in Sicilly. What a magnificent effort by the whole team at WNO. Fantastic.

A beautiful opera from start to finish,proving to many people that the WNO have to be one of the best companies in the world today,Well I think so anyway.

After the interval we moved on to Pagliacci (pag for short), a story of a troupe of players performing in a Calabrian village. We meet Tonio played by David Kempster, Canio by Gwyn Hughes Jones and Nedda (Canio’s wife) by Meeta Raval. Centred around these characters we find that Nedda has a lover and Canio does not know who and as the story continues in a jealous rage Canio kills Nedda and her lover at the end of the opera.

The singing was superb again, with Gwyn Hughes Jones,Meeta Raval and David Kempster taking centre stage. These three were simply stunning and deserve all the applause they got. Along with the rest of the cast and chorus this was a heavenly performance. Not to forget the orchestra,who again, were amazing brilliantly conducted by Carlo Rizzi.

A special mention to all the children in the cast of both operas who all played their parts in this fantastic production.

This is again a must see for all opera lovers,before it tours. I will definitely be back to see it for a second time next week.

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A Midsummer Nights Dream

Saturday 28th May 2016 at the New Theatre,Cardiff.for a performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream. One of Shakespeare’s best known plays.A production with the RSC and Everyman theatre company,with a special mention to the children of Rumney primary school here in Cardiff for their roles of the fairy train.

As this is my first ever Shakespeare play it intrigues me to see how it unfolds. I have to say I was pretty impressed with the first act a good mix of comedy combined with a superlative script aptly performed by all the characters.Puck and Helena steal the first act with such passion for each role, played brilliantly by Lucy Ellinson and Laura Riseborough. 

As the play progresses to the woods we meet the troupe of actors rehearsing for a play to be set at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta and there the fun begins with mayhem and comedy running until the close of the first act. An amazingly funny and brilliantly acted first half leads me wanting more. Can’t wait for the second act to begin now. 

To the second act,which I so enjoyed so much. As the act progresses and Oberon reverses the damage Puck has done to the lovers. They awake and unite with their rightful partners to wed with Theseus and Hippolyta. At the wedding reception a play is requested and performed by the troupe to end the play. At this point the audience is in hysterics as am I. This was a true delight and executed to perfection by the Everyman company who were all outstanding in their roles.

A special mention to the staging of the production which was excellent. Another major factor was that the whole cast worked so well together you could hardly tell the difference between the amateur and professional actors,which in the end is a huge bonus to all.

In all a fantastic play brilliantly performed by all of the cast. A special mention to the children of Rumney primary school who all performed so well. To the Everyman theatre company who gave the audience so much laughter and merriment. Also to the musicians on and off the stage who were magnificent. A strong cast of Performers for the RSC made this a wonderful occasion. 

Finally a magnificent gesture by the RSC Cast as they themselves applauded the amateur players and children who had worked so well with them over the week, a gesture noticed by the audience and brought a tear to my eye. One last word to sum up the evening,SUPURB.

Les Miserable – The Movie

I finally got around to watching the movie version of Les Miserable,a few weeks ago and boy was I disappointed. Having seen the stage version of this magnificent show a few years earlier,I thought ‘give it a go I may like it’. Sadly that was not to be.
I was actually appalled at the miscasting of most of the main characters in the first half hour of the film. Russel Crowe was awful and I’ve heard a lot better from Hugh Jackman. Although Anne Hathaway was good as Fantine, if a little too quiet singing I dreamed a dream.

Moving on, I was actually going to switch off at that point but went a bit further, but not that much. The only bright light was the voice of little Cosette,who,for me made that first part watchable. She was amazing. It was shortly after that that I did switch off after hearing Sacha Baron Cohen,I couldn’t go on. And that was the end of my viewing of Les mis.

I tried to listen to the cd but gave up on that also. For me I hated it, even though I love the voice of Samantha Barks playing Eponine. It just wasn’t for me.

I started going to watch theatrical shows, about three and a half years ago,this is the only time I have actually hated anything based on the theatre. I have seen over 100 shows in that time, many of them more than once and have reached 230 performances of those shows, and to tell the truth I have loved everything I have seen. Except this.

In parenthesis (2nd performance)

Saturday 21st may 2016. Tonight is my second performance of this Opera at the Millenium centre in Cardiff. An amazing new production by the Welsh National Opera.

The evening began on the Glanfa stage with members of the WNO chorus (Paula Greenwood,Simon Crosby Buttle and Julian Boyce with piano accompaniment by David Doidge) performing World War One period pieces. One word to describe this 45 minutes of indulgence before the main show,SUPERB. Everything WNO put on is excellent and this performance was in that category.

To the main performance of the evening,as the music begins and first chorus of voices begin I’m drawn back to the days of war I can only read about. The sumptuous tones of each character soaring into the vast auditorium. As the opera moves on we find the men leaving our shores onboard to France, the mood changes as fear spreads through the company. The whole cast effortlessly travel through the act bringing a whole range of emotions to keep you thoughouly engrossed in this production.

At the start of the second act,we are treated to a fantastic version of Sospan fach, sung by most of the male leads and the male vocalists in the chorus,before the mood changes as the boys March towards Mametz wood. As men start dying around private ball the wood comes to life,regenerating around them as we come to a beautiful musical ending,with the Queen of the woods and the female members of the chorus treating the audience to a wonderful,tearful climax to an amazing Opera.

This has been a wonderful new Opera,which I have seen twice,and it just gets better every time. The WNO company has to be one of the best I have seen, everything they put on has been brilliant, long may it continue.

Goodnight Mr Tom

Saturday 14th may at the New Theatre,Cardiff. A play by David Wood and starring David Troughton as Tom Oakley. A story of a young boy (William Beech) evacuated to the countryside as World War Two looms, who is taken in by Tom rather reluctantly at first.

As the play progresses we start to see a relationship develop between William,Tom and the other children in the village especially a young thespian named Zach. The other cast members play dual roles including the other children in the village.

Williams mother portrayed by Melle Stewart, a hard religious woman who beats will before he is evacuated,is not seen until act two but envokes a dangerous threat to will as he is sent back home to be with his mum. These scenes are very harrowing with the upshot that will is left alone with his little newborn sister and tied in a cupboard until found by Tom, who missed will and went to London to find him.

From that moment on we see the struggle for Tom to adopt will after kidnapping him from his hospital bed during an air raid.

This play was extremely well made with a host of good actors taking you through a roller coaster ride to a satisfying end which brought a tear to many eyes in the auditorium. A special mention to Sammy the dog played by Elisa De Grey,who was outstanding and reminded me a little of war horse puppeteers,so good to watch and so lifelike you forgot it was a puppet by the end of the show.

In all a fantastic show,wonderfull acting by all and would definitely see this production again. Unfortunately it’s ended its run in Cardiff but is still touring.

In parenthesis 

WNO world premiere of in parenthesis,composed wonderfully by Iain Bell with David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins providing a perfect libretto for this opera. Based during World War One and leading up to the assault at Mametz wood.

Charting the journey of private John Ball and company,played superbly by Andrew Bidlack into war. Peter Colman Wright and Alexandra Deshorties take centre stage as the bards of Brittainia and Germania taking you through the scenes as they play out. The supporting cast also deserve a mention as every voice soars out over this amazing auditorium.

As usual the WNO orchestra and chorus were brilliant as they always are at every performance they give.

The set was imaginative and well put together playing its role as needed. This new opera sends you through different emotions on its way to a memorable ending in the woods at Mametz. It’s new it’s different and well worth another viewing. I would recommend this to all opera lovers.