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Posts Tagged ‘La Colombe’

This was an extension to the Tanzania and Zanzibar trip. It was less than two years since my last visit, and the journey took forever, but boy was it worth it.

Some photos first….https://photos.app.goo.gl/24HkrxGhQciOrxWm2 including most of the building and exhibits at the wonderful new MOCAA!

On the sightseeing front, I spent a lovely sunny day on the tourist trail, to the top of Table Mountain and on harbour and canal cruises, all linked by the open top bus! A couple of museums I’d missed before – the Slave Lodge and eighteenth century Dutch home Koopmans-de-Wet House – were totally eclipsed by a visit to the new museum of contemporary African art, MOCAA (a typical acronym for such places) in its first week; a stunning reinvention of a waterfront silo by our own Thomas Heatherwick, with a world class collection of contemporary art as good as I’ve seen anywhere. Wine featured – no surprise there – with tastings at http://www.kleinezalze.co.za and http://www.lourensford.co.za and a whole day tour to Paarl, Stellenbosch & Franshhoek with a return to http://www.simonsig.co.za and firsts at http://www.glencarlou.co.za , Antonij Rupert (http://www.rupertwines.com) and http://www.annandale.co.za, where a retired Springbok player has the most rustic, least corporate winery with reds to die for.

The two major gastronomic experience were at South Africa’s top two rated restaurants, both extensive tasting menus with wine pairings (well, for me!) with more than a touch of playfulness and theatre. Lunch at http://www.lacolombe.co.za, high up in the Silvermist woods overlooking Table Mountain consisted of seven courses, a visit to the Enchanted Forest and a petit fours taste test, with more than a touch of Heston Bloomenthal about it. I loved it. The Test Kitchen’s Luke Dale-Roberts’ http://www.thetestkitchen.co.za has been reinvented since my last visit two years ago, with a ‘dark room’ of nine snacks from around the world accompanied by four cocktails – sweet, sour, bitter and salty; continuing La Colombe’s theme – then a ‘light room’ sitting at the counter watching the chefs prepare our 10 courses with 7 wine pairings! Both lived up to the hype.

Tapas-style food is very much in vogue and I thoroughly enjoyed my return to Liam Tomalin’s http://www.chefswarehouse.co.za and my first to its sister restaurant, http://www.thalitapas.co.za, with tapas on an Indian theme. Luke Dale-Roberts is at it too, with http://www.thepotluckclub.co.za in an old silo on what is now the 6th floor with night-time views across the docks. All three were excellent, and good value too. The other gastronomic treat was the first, at Terrior (http://www.kleinezalze.co.za/terroir/background) on the Kleine Zalze wine estate, a more traditional three-courser which I enjoyed very much. There is nowhere else in the world where imaginative, high quality food and outstanding wines are so affordable and it was a thrill to immerse myself in it for a third time.

So that’s another trip done. With plenty more to sample and lovely friends to enjoy it all with (try their Airbnb’s https://airbnb.com/rooms/9088391?i=10&ref_device_id=46744834b9964419cff00163edaa70046575cf9f&s=1&user_id=47873682 and https://airbnb.com/rooms/13390632?i=10&ref_device_id=46744834b9964419cff00163edaa70046575cf9f&s=1&user_id=47873682). The only question is…..when is the next visit?

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It’s sixteen years since my last visit to the Buxton Festival and twenty years since my first, and boy has it grown. Then there were two operas, now there are eight. It has dropped ‘Opera’ from its title and added recitals, lots of spoken word and more. It has grown a fringe that, like Edinburgh, has got bigger (though maybe not better – yet!) than its parent. Fortunately, it hasn’t succumbed to dressing up and other poshness, though the average age seems to have gone up (same audience getting older?) enabling me to feel good about bringing it down!

The first opera was Vivaldi’s first. He apparently wrote 50, but we rarely see any. By the interval I thought I understood why – mediocre music, perfunctorily performed here – but he saved his best tunes until the second half and the cast responded by raising their game significantly. Ottone in Villa is one of those silly love quadrangles with trouser roles and implausible disguises, but when the music was good, it didn’t matter – though three stifling hours on the hottest day of the year was a challenge!

The same first half / second half contrast occurred in the double-bill, with the first opera, Saint-Saens’ La Princesse Jaune, creaking somewhat, despite a clever set and good singing. It has been relocated to Paris and set in an attic where Lena is pursuing her cousin Kornelis who has an opium-induced fantasy about an oriental woman! A bit slight and a rather dated feel to it. The second, Gounod’s La Colombe, made up for it though; a delightful comedy about how a parrot gets killed for love! Beautifully sung, with Jonathan Best’s Maitre Jean a masterclass in comic opera performance. Les Brotherston’s clever set relocated this in the apartment below the attic of the first opera, which was still in view, as the top of the apartment had (just) been in the first opera without giving the game away.

I’d failed to get tickets for Britten’s Church Parables in Aldeburgh, but managed to get them for the same productions here, and what a treat they were. Written at two-year intervals over four years in the mid-60’s and performed in the same four-day period in June, they are now rarely staged (I’d only seen them once, in a concert hall). Though each lasts just 70 minutes or so, they have huge atmosphere when staged in a church, weaving an extraordinary spell. Singers process as monks to a high stage where they play out the parables – a woman’s search for her lost son in Curlew River, a father’s unconditional love in The Prodigal Son and Nebuchadnezzar’s killing of three Israelites in The Burning Fiery Furnace. Director Frederic Wake-Walker has infused them with Japanese, Middle-Eastern and Balinese influences respectively and it works. A big feather in Mahogany Opera’s cap and yet another treat for the Britten centenary.

The unexpected highlight was Literary Britten, which interspersed two Britten song cycles, beautifully sung by tenor Andrew Kennedy, with poems and letters to Britten by WH Auden read by Alex Jennings no less. There was a bonus too – a world premiere of Tim Watts’ excellent new song cycle. It was a perfectly formed 70 minutes and I was a bit surprised the audience weren’t cheering loudly – I think this might have been the inclusion of Auden’s more racy letters; it’s a conservative crowd here!

Add in a talk by former Labour MP and writer Chris Mullin and a walking tour of the town and you have as fine a festival weekend as you could wish for – despite the fact it wasn’t really the weekend to spend indoors! It was good to return and I hope (and suspect) it won’t be another 16 years before my next visit.

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