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Posts Tagged ‘Eva Noblezada’

Anais Mitchell’s take on the Orpheus & Eurydice myth is more gig theatre than musical, a brilliantly realised song cycle that fills the Olivier Theatre, maybe the first pinnacle of this new genre.

Rachel Hauck’s brilliant set is part jazz club, part factory, with the band on three tall sections which come apart, and the necessary deep pit for Hades, all superbly lit by Bradley King. Hermes is our MC / narrator, both playful and sinister. The Fates are like a 60’s girl group, slithering sexily around the space. The ‘workers’ are a chorus in both senses of the word, musical and Greek. The seven-piece band plays the jazz influenced score superbly.

Within all of this, the story seems incidental, and I found myself admiring the exceptional score and imaginative stagecraft of Rachel Chavkin’s production more than I did engage with it; I felt no emotional involvement with the doomed couple, perhaps in part because the performances, though musically accomplished, lacked passion. Hades had a compelling malevolence though, and Persephone a cheeky decadence, but Hermes was the one who drew you in.

Eva Noblezada sings beautifully, but she lacked credibility as a modern day Eurydice and Reeve Carney was more pop singer than contemporary Orpheus. Patrick Page’s deeper than deep bass alone was enough to characterise Hades and Amber Gray felt truly captured as Persephone. Andre De Shields as Hermes our narrator though was the star of the show for me. Above all, it’s the music that shines, a fantastic score which leaves you wanting more.

With the leads and creative team all imported, I do worry about our subsidised stages being used as Broadway try-outs, but perhaps I should just be glad we get to see it first, and cheaper!

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Contemporary Music

Surely Richard Thompson hasn’t ever had a band as good as his current trio? His Royal Festival Hall show was the second time I’d seen them in 2.5 years and they’ve got even better. They were such a tight unit and RT was on fire playing guitar. There were so many highlights, but an acoustic Meet Me On The Ledge and a cover of Hey Joe stood out for me. His daughter Kami and her partner did such a lovely 40-minutes in support you had to forgive the nepotism!

Cynthia Erivo‘s late-night ‘bon voyage’ concert (she’s off to Broadway!) at the Hippodrome was a real treat, with a host of great guests that I wasn’t expecting, including Richard Fleeshman (terrific pianist too!) Robert Dean Wilson, Alison Jiear and Eva Noblezada. The vocals were occasionally too unrestrained, but that’s easily forgiven because of the show’s many highs and the emotion of the occasion. Let’s hope they don’t keep her there!

Opera

The Royal Opera’s Orphee et Eurydice felt more like a staged concert, with the orchestra and choir on stage and no set as such. Hofesh Schecter’s dancers were mostly underutilised, but somehow it proved satisfying overall. Gluck’s music was played and sung beautifully and it was this that mattered most, carrying the evening.

Classical Music

The Bernstein Prom was one of the hottest tickets this year and I failed to get an extra single despite trying almost daily. It turned out to be a real highlight too, a lovely combination of stage and screen works with the emphasis on songs from shows. The John Wilson Orchestra sounded great and the soloists were terrific, with Scarlett Strallen bringing the house down with Glitter & Be Gay. Some say the Proms are dumbing down with populist stuff like this, but that’s tosh – Bernstein is a 20th century titan and his stage and screen works are more than worthy of treatment in this way.

Dance

Lest We Forget was a triumph for English National Ballet; three works marking the centenary of the start of the First World War by three great modern choreographers – Liam Scarlett, Russell Maliphant and Akram Khan.  I feel lucky to have seen the early revival. They were extraordinarily diverse pieces, but all were stunning in both visual imagery and emotional power. One of the most perfect evenings of dance I’ve ever experienced.

I haven’t seen Les Ballets de Trocadero de Monte Carlo for many years and I’d forgotten what fun this all-male company is. The parody of classical ballet is brilliant, but what I realised this time is how skilled they really are as ballet dancers. A hoot.

I gave the Hofesh Shechter Company a second chance as I wasn’t sure after Political Mother, but the barbarians trilogy didn’t convince me I’m afraid. The visual imagery was often striking, but the lack of a cohesive narrative meant that it didn’t sustain its 90 minute running time.

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I’ve been apprehensive about seeing this new production lest it tarnishes my memory of multiple visits to the much loved original in the late 80’s / early 90’s, but a January offer saw me succumb and now I’m both relieved and happy that it has scrubbed up so well, reinvented for a new generation.

Of course it isn’t an original premise, it’s Puccini’s Madam Butterfly, but moving it from Japan to Vietnam and forward a century or so to the end of the Vietnam War is inspired. It’s very effective in telling the story of those effected by war, both local people and armed forces. The relationship of GI Chris with local girl Kim isn’t unusual, and their son is one of tens of thousands of bui doi, the children of such relationships, who weren’t recognised by the US until 13 years after the war ended, just before this show was first produced. The war still seemed recent then, but I suspect many seeing it today will be saying ‘what war?’. Above all of course it’s a love story and a personal tragedy, though I felt the backdrop had more of a visceral edge this time round. It’s also racier, with much more bare flesh on show!

I liked the design concept with bamboo spilling out of the proscenium and a realistic rather than idealised contemporary oriental feel. It’s a beautiful, lush (pucciniesque!) score and here it’s beautifully played by a 16 piece orchestra. There’s not much chance of a repeat of the controversy of Cameron Mackintosh’s original white casting – particularly Welshman Jonathan Pryce playing The (Vietnamese) Engineer! as it’s packed full of East Asian actors. Philipino Jon Jon Briones really is outstanding as The Engineer, though he’s in danger of overplaying what seemed to be occasional unscripted ad libs. This is Eva Noblezada’s professional debut, so we shouldn’t expect seasoned acting, but there’s no doubting the power and beauty of her singing. Both Alistair Brammer as Chris and Hugh Maynard as John deliver in both the acting and vocal departments, though I wish the latter would dump his X-Factor moment at the end of Bui Doi. We don’t see much of Thuy in the second half, but Kwang-Ho Hong impresses in the first half.

It impressed me more than it moved me, but Laurence Connor’s revival fully justifies it’s West End presence and it was good to see it again after all these years.

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