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Posts Tagged ‘Archaeology’

MUSIC & OPERA

Only two operas and an oratorio in a musically lean two months! Dr Atomic at ENO would have been a much better opera if he’d cut it by 30 mins (especially in the more static first half). I liked the design and staging, the music is accessible and there are some very good performances (though Gerald Finley’s understudy didn’t really cut it and looked too young) but it’s a case of more is less. I saw the premiere of The King Goes Forth to France at Covent Garden in the 80’s, but enjoyed this revival at the wonderful Guildhall School so much more (or maybe I’ve grown into modern opera). This production seemed to lighten the fantasy and bring out the humour and the staging and performances were yet again exceptional for a conservatoire. Another conservatoire put on the hugely ambitious Britten War Requiem with considerable success. The venue was tiny so the singers and musicians outnumbered the audience but this gave this anti-war piece so much more power.

Maria Friedman’s Sondheim concert was the fourth I’ve seen by her in the last year. Her interpretations of Sondheim are as goods as any others and the selection was as inspired as the choice of cello and piano accompaniment.

CINEMA

I was put off Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino because I thought it was a classic revenge movie; I’m glad I gave in as it’s a lot more than that – and it may well be the last chance to see him act.

The Boat That Rocked was overlong and would have benefited from an independent director’s scrutiny. However, it was nowhere near as bad as the reviews and is worth the ticket price for the soundtrack alone.

ART & EXHIBITIONS

Another dire month for ‘art’ though better for ‘other’ exhibitions. The only art exhibitions I enjoyed were Rodchenko / Popova at Tate Modern (way-ahead-of-its-time iconic design – the posters, pamphlets and other graphic designs were as captivating as the paintings), the Japanese painter /  illustrator Kyunoshi’s stunning range of work at the Royal Academy and the wonderful original artwork for London Travel Posters  at the London Transport Museum.

All of the contemporary stuff was disappointing – the middle eastern contemporaries at the Saatchi were patchy though there were a few crackers, the Annette Messager installations at the Hayward seemed to me to be the product of a disturbed mind and I found it impossible to like, and worst of all was Tate Britain’s dreadful After Modern; like walking through the cast-off’s in an art school after they’ve taken the good stuff out for an exhibition.

I’m afraid the oldies didn’t fare much better – Tate Britain’s Van Dyck exhibition was only for those who are prepared to view room after room of lifeless nobles in their finery in preposterous over-staged poses and Constable’s portraits at the NPG were even less interesting than his biscuit-tin landscapes.

Gerard Richter’s photo-paintings at the NPG didn’t do a lot for me either, I’m afraid, though the DeutscheBank Photo Prize finalists at the new Photographer’s Gallery as the best short-list in a while.

Of the two architecture exhibitions, I preferred Le Corbusier at The Barbican to Paladio at the RA, though there were too many drawings which may be fascinating to an architect but rather dull to a layman.

The Russian Linesman collection at the Hayward seemed to me to be another of those excuses-for-an-exhibition that the Hayward (and others) are rather too fond of.

I caught up with the British Museum’s Babylon just before it closed and even though it falls into the excuse-for-an-exhibition category, like the Queen if Sheba before it at the same museum, there were enough good exhibits to excuse it on this occasion. By the time I saw it the Shah Abbas exhibition had moved into the converted Reading Room and proved to be as good as The First Emperor and Hadrian before it with some terrific exhibits, but above all telling the story of a great leader very well.

The Natural History Museum’s Darwin exhibition was a huge disappointment – very static; you’d learn more and have more fun reading a book. The V&A’s contribution was an exhibition about Hats which I went to ‘passing through’ the museum but I’m afraid left me cold – it was crowded though, so its clearly up a lot of other people’s streets. I was there to see the new performance galleries and they proved to be a real treat – a superb collection of costumes, memorabilia, video clips really well curated in just four galleries (though rather hidden somewhere on the 3rd floor). We went to the new British Music Experience at the O2 in its first week. It’s a terrific interactive tribute to 50 years of popular music. You can learn to play instruments, watch and hear video and sound clips and view memorabilia and store what you like onto a web space you can then access at your leisure. I’m not sure I’ll access my attempts at drumming and keyboard playing much, but I did love the experience and could have stayed all day. Of course, you tend to concentrate on your favourite period – in my case 60’s and 70’s – and provided the visitor age range is as wide as it was the day we went that means the visitor numbers are managed well.

DANCE

Eonnagata is a collaboration between a favourite dancer (Sylvie Guillem), a favourite theatre director (Robert Lepage) and a favourite choreographer (Russell Maliphant). I’m not sure the idea of staging a story of a transvestite 17th century French nobleman works, but the craftsmanship is unquestionable and the visual imagery stunning; I was spellbound for all 90  minutes.

OTHER

Frank Skinner’s Credit Crunch Cabaret was a great idea – a variety show thrown together on the day for a tenner. It was a hit-and-miss affair but enough of a hit to make it a decent birthday treat. My other (surprise) birthday (and Christmas) treat was a visit to Simon Drake’s House of Magicwww.houseofmagic.co.uk – I think Lynne & Graham were as pleased that the surprise remained a surprise and that they’d found something in London I’d never heard of as they were that I enjoyed it so much – it’s a very original night out.

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This has been an action-packed month, and I’ve done a lot in the 19 days I wasn’t in Edinburgh & Orkney!

The exhibition highlight was Hadrian at the British Museum; the second use of the magnificent Reading Room space. Though it was a bit crowded (even first thing on a Monday), I rather liked the way it told the story of his life, loves and adventures.

Street Art was a recurring theme as I caught up with Cans, an anarchic selection in a tunnel near Waterloo where even the street art had graffitti on top, and Tate’s Street Art on the building’s outer walls and elsewhere around Southwark (though I only found two-thirds of it, even with a gallery map!). Inside Tate Modern, both Cy Twombly‘s paintings and the photographs in Street & Studio were disappointing – the annual Press Photographers exhibition at the RNT was far more satisfying.

Architect Richard Rogers exhibition at the Design Museum was a great retrospective and it was particularly interesting to see the unbuilt designs; it must be very disheartening to spend ages on a design which is rejected. The Serpentine’s pavilion this year was designed by architectural genius Frank Gehry (Guggenheim Bilbao and many more) and proved a bit of a disappointment, as did the Richard Prince exhibition inside the gallery.

August is musical theatre compilation month. The Cole Porter one at Cadogan Hall was good but not up to last year’s Sondheim collection. Though I enjoyed the smaller scale Kander & Ebb compilation at Jermyn Street Theatre, not knowing which shows some of them were from was rather frustrating. A freebie in the RFH foyer saw X-Factor’s Brenda Edwards give a gorgeous 45 mins of songs connected in some way to The Wizard of Oz. I didn’t see the show, but I really enjoyed this.

The new Batman movie, the Dark Knight, is a great piece of film-maikng but boy is it dark. I missed the tongue-in-cheek campness that was an integral part of the brand. The 12A rating is completely wrong.

Confession time! I went to see Kylie at the O2 and even though after a while the music becomes techno-mush, the staging was spectacular and probably the most visually stunning pop concert in 40 years of concert-going….and she’s an honorary national treasure!

Our annual outing to Holland Park was disappointing this year; La Giaconda with some ropey singing. This was compensated for by a terrific one-act Puccini opera Il Tabarro at the proms (in an odd pairing with Rachmaninov’s 1st symphony). The month ended at the Proms for Verdi’s Requium, back where it had it’s world premiere well over 100 years ago. This piece is more reliant on good soloists than most choral works, and we were lucky with our quartet from Italy, Malta, Lithuania and the US. The Royal Albert Hall is made for pieces on this scale – 250 voices + 150 players – and this was a great performance and a terrific end to a culture-packed month.

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