Sunday, November 6, 2016

Billy Budd - Opera North

21 October 2016 at Leeds Grand Theatre.

A great performance by an all-male cast. Striking scenery, stirring music, superb singing. It's a grim tale told as a flashback by a captain with a moral dilemma.  The three main characters, Captain Vere (Alan Oke), Claggart (Alastair Miles) and Billy Budd (Roderick Williams) were excellent, along with the supporting cast and the orchestra. 
I loved the piccolo playing during one of Billy's long arias. 
I thought the performance was magnificent.

Winter Cabaret by the Harborough Collective

Winter Cabaret
Wind, Sand and Stars
 5 November 2016 - 7.30pm
The Jubilee Hall, Congregational Church, High Street, Market Harborough, LE16 7JD

“I am entering the night. Sailing. Nothing left to me now but the stars….”
Antonine de Saint-Exupéry - poet, pilot, explorer of the air.

In a fascinating and beautiful weave of music and readings from Saint-Exupéry, the evening explores the pre-war world of the pioneer pilot, when to be a pilot was a thing of wonder: from the velvet minimalist chords of Satie to the brightly polished and exquisite whirring world of Ravel; from the exotic flavours of Debussy to the grit and pathos of Montmartre Chanson. Join The Harborough Collective for this entrancing cabaret-style concert complete with candlelit tables and a bar.

David Le Page & Catherine Leech violins
Morgan Goff viola
Clare O'Connell cello
Elena Hull bass
Graham Padden narrator

Beautiful playing of a varied programme, and as a bonus the narrator's voice was clear and commanding.

The whole concert was a delight, and we especially liked the Satie, and the arrangements of Trenet's La Mer and Piaf's La Vie en Rose.

The Harborough Concerts

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Japanese Lover - Isabel Allende

Finished 19:10:2016

Reading Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune led me to another book by the same writer - The Japanese Lover.  This covers topics such as Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany, the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, child sexual abuse, and love, marriage and homosexuality, all wrapped up in a compelling story, with strong characters.

Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende

Finished  07:10:16.

Eliza Sommers is found as a baby on the doorstep of a wealthy English brother and sister, and brought up by them in their fine house in Valparaiso, Chile, and traces her story as she grows up, and falls in love and is deserted by her lover who goes to California to make his fortune in the gold rush.
She follows in search of him, smuggled into the hold of a ship, with the help of a Chinese cook Tao Chi'en. 
In the end what she finds is her own way in life.
This is a book with some great characters, and I learned a lot about nineteenth century Valparaiso and San Francisco.

Peaches for Monsieur le Curé - Joanne Harris

Finished in Leeds, 14:10:2016

In Joanne Harris's latest novel about Vianne Rocher Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, she deals with some current issues such as Muslim fundamentalism, alongside the personal stories of some of the characters you'll have met before if you've read  Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes. Darker than the first of these, the ending is basically optimistic, in spite of two convenient, though perhaps essential deaths. Quite a page-turner.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Touching the Void - film

This is a film, made in 2003, about two mountaineers tackling the unclimbed west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes.  Simon Yates was 25, and his companion Joe Simpson was 21.  They had no support team, other than a man with no interest in climbing who stayed in the tent with their equipment.

The ascent to the summit took three days of huge efforts, but they made it, and all they had to do now was descend - but most climbing accidents happen on the way down.   In this case it happened to Joe, who fell and broke his leg, very badly.  

How they coped with this and eventually made their separate ways back to the tent makes for a remarkably gripping film with terrific photography, based on interviews with the three people concerned.

Kevin MacDonald made the film and tells of the difficulties involved in it in this article.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Scottish Play with extra atmosphere

The wind has been strengthening all day, noticeable on the motorway drive, and more so as we picnic on the stately 'picnic slope' at  Tolethorpe Hall before the play.

We follow the sun, minor heliotropes, shifting our chairs, balancing our plates. We are not of those who dine on weighted down but flapping tablecloths.

"This evening's performance will begin in five minutes."

We take our seats and watch the branches dancing , and hear the leaves whooshing or soughing.  Better than a painted backcloth and a worthy background for the initial meeting of the weird sisters, and the general mood of the play.

Another thoroughly enjoyable production by the Stamford Shakespeare Company, with particularly strong performances in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.