Posts Tagged ‘GSMD’

Lysistrata, The Albany 16 May

May 16, 2012


Picture from GSMD website

This was rather an engaging production of Lysistrata .  I’m not sure that’s what is required; obscene would be better.  We did benefit by the appearance of some phalloi, but they were rather modest–for full comic effect I think they need to be ludicrously large and to comprise balls as well as cock.

As we went in, men were asked to sit downstairs and women upstairs, which raised worrying possibilities of audience participation.  In the event, some couples naturally enough refused to obey and participation was limited to rhetorical calls for support from the Chorus of Old Men.

Some things worked well: the scene of Myrrhine (Rosie Reynolds) tormenting Kinesias (Jherad Alleyne) with interminable preparations for bed; and also some genuine choral singing at the end–in fact, the use of live  music was good throughout.  I was impressed by Paapa Essiedu’s rough streets-of-London Commissioner, and thought this was an idea that could have been applied more consistently.

On the downside, there was a lack of structure–the opposing men’s and women’s choruses need to reflect each other much more closely than they did here I think.  I often have the feeling at unsuccessful performances of Greek drama that the assembled forces would have been better off doing a modern play, and here my choice would have fallen on the Beaumarchais (not Mozart!) Figaro as a more suitable sex comedy for these charming and good-looking young people. On occasions the pathos of Lysistrata (Michaela Coel) pitting herself against the massed ranks of men also recalled a modern misinterpretation of Antigone.

Ms Coel had some problems with projecting her voice sufficiently and also with dominating the playing area.  That’s what you need for Greek drama–none of this TV-style subtle malarkey.  The same issue of projection affected some of the other actors as well, but Lysistrata really needs to dominate the play named after her.

Overall, what you need is order opposing obscenity.  Nice young women getting their kit off was no more obscene to the Ancient Greeks than it is to us; but stubbly men with monstrous phalloi under their women’s dresses would be.

See here for other Greek plays I know about in London.

Rita/Iolanta GSMD 9 June

June 10, 2011


More interesting part of poster

The first thing to say about Rita is that the audience laughed frequently and spontaneously, a rarity in opera outside Gianni Schicchi in my experience.  In this Donizetti one-acter, Rita is the owner of a bar who believes in order and discipline and beats her husband Beppe.  Then her believed-to-be dead first husband Gasparo–who believed in beating her–turns up and they contend to see which one won’t have her.  With hilarious consequences.

There was a lot of inspired comic business–Beppe unvacuuming the premises in response to his sudden freedom, a fight in slow-motion, some other less tasteful things that Beppe got up to, a good gully catch by Bortolo the servant.  The singers were well-matched–perhaps Anna Patalong was still a bit too lovely even under her severe get-up, and Alberto Sousa as Beppe entered into the comic aspects of his role with such gusto that as well as enjoying an immediate rapport with the front row of the audience that he once or twice lost concentration as regards singing.

The orchestra played pretty well once they’d got started–the woodwind caused me some anxiety at the beginning.  The set was a corner representing the interior of a typical Italian bar, except that the signage was in English and you could get tea and sandwiches–perhaps that was one idea too many…

When we came to Iolanta, there were many ideas all too obviously on show.  The corner had transformed itself into a disused swimming pool in a Soviet-era psychiatric hospital with access from the upper level via a ladder you had to let down each time.  The swimming pool was adorned with some rose-bushes, a four-poster bed for Iolanta, and many tree roots for the poor blind girl to trip over.

The problem with all this is that Iolanta is very uneven–there are passages of strong passionate music like pure emotion and there is rather a lot of bombast, bluster and trash as well.  Enforcing all those breaks in the action as characters clambered into and out of the pool just underlined the unevenness.  I saw another production of this opera at the Guildhall a decade or so ago where the setting comprised a bare stage, a rosebush darkness, and darkness when required–that kept it going and it was wonderful.

On this occasion, I was impressed by how Natalya Romaniw (Iolanta) had completely mastered the vocal demands of her role.  I was also very taken by Sioned Gwen Davies as Marta–she genuinely seemed to be old and her Russian was very good as well.

At the end all the crap on stage tried to turn into stars amidst the darkness of night and it didn’t really work.

But all in all a highly enjoyable evening of opera, more so than the great majority of full-length productions I’ve been too recently.

(There are some interesting photos in Opera Britannia’s review here.)

House of Atreus: I manage one third (GSMD, 30 March)

March 30, 2011


I did say:  I think I’m most enthused by the Guildhall offering–not only is it cheap, but they’re basically a music school with drama tacked on, so I think they’re likely to approach it from the right or at least a different angle.

But in the event I left after the first act (Iphigenia in Aulis).  It wasn’t that bad–I would have been quite interested to see what they would do with Agamemnon once they’d started from Iphigenia’s miraculous deliverance–but I was much more interested in going home and having my tea.

Many of the usual problems of staging Greek drama went unsolved–everyone was obviously the same age, which may not be so bad where different generations are supposed to be friends and equals, but is sheer madness for the Greek view of the world.  When I was a lad, hair-dye and walking-sticks were allowed, not because they would convince everybody, but as a symbol.

My hopes of some useful musical contribution remained unfulfilled–at one stage Clytaemnestra ordered the female chorus to raise a mourning hymn for Iphigenia and they didn’t (probably they couldn’t!)  The unintentional humour of Agamemnon’s son being announced as Erastes (obviously a precocious lad) was appreciated by a good quarter of the audience.  Maybe not on the same level as ‘the weasel of the sea’, but nevertheless.

As for the actors–You know, we may not meet each other again, so just let me give you a word of advice on parting: “Don’t wave your arms about! Get rid of that habit of waving them about”. The young man playing Menelaus waved his arms about far too much, and also tended to swallow his words.  I can do that!  And the other actors suffered from the same problems, not entirely helped by a production that very often had them facing each other rather than the audience.  But Olivia Ross as Clytaemnestra was really quite impressive, and I thought Laurent de Montalembert made a good fist of the problematic Euripidean Achilles.

Dialogues des Carmelites GSMD 7 March

March 13, 2011


At the start of this production, non-singing rioters broke a stylised window in a stylised carriage, and that cued something like the shutter of a giant camera (but with a jagged hole in the middle) that closed off the scenes from each other and the stage from the audience.

Anna Patalong was very good as Blanche in both singing and acting, and I could also understand her French!  Of course the best French belonged to Sophie Junker as Constance.  She did rather threaten to steal the show with her perky portrayal of a character the audience could understand and empathise with. Charlie Mellor made an impressive Chevalier de la Force, especially when confronting his sister on his visit to the nunnery, while Koji Terada seemed uncomfortable as his father.

At the end the nuns stood in a line across the front of the stage and sang Salve Regina while revolting peasants fiddled ineffectively with a guillotine behind them.  When each nun was ‘beheaded’ the spotlight picked her out and she dropped her arms and relaxed.  So the finale didn’t het to me as much as it ought to have, but I was strongly impressed with the idea that killing people is wrong and moderately with the desire to weep.  But Blanche de la Force is my role model (along with Laura Wingfield), so the effect really ought to have been stronger.

The orchestra was your typical non-professional orchestra–the strings played very well, and the others didn’t always.  The staging had a slight feeling that the Technical Theatre students had to be given the same chance as the performers to show what they could do, instead of there being a unified conception to drive the production.

But well done GSMD all the same!

Opera at the London Colleges in 2011

January 5, 2011

Getting a brochure from GSMD with some interesting offerings has led me to wonder what will be on at at the other colleges in the Spring.

To begin at the beginning,


Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc), various dates 3 – 9 March; details here.

Rita (Donizetti) and Iolanta (Tchaikovsky), various dates 9 – 15 June; details here.

Royal Academy of Music

Kommilitonen! (new work by Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies), 21, 23, 25 March.  Their website hasn’t been talking to me for some time now, but you can find a Guardian article here.

Royal College of Music

Rodelinda (Handel),  14-17 March; details here.

So far, I think I’m still most hopeful about GSMD–the RAM offering looks dauntingly right-on…

And Now:  University College Opera

Die Drei Pintos (Weber/Mahler) 21st, 23rd, 25th, 26th March; listing here.  It doesn’t tell you much at present, but that will surely change…

A macaronic (or portmanteau) House of Atreus at GSMD

December 22, 2010

The Guilhall School of Music and Drama have this on their website for the end of March.  For some reason, I feel quite hopeful about it, and £ 8 for three plays (one of which has two authors and at least one adaptor) must be good value for money!

The House of Atreus

Wednesday 30 March at 7:30pm

A radical re-interpretation of a tragic cycle of family conflict, power and revenge

Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides
Agamemnon by Aeschylus
Electra by Euripides/Sophocles

adapted by Paul O’Mahony and Richard Twyman

Monday 28, Tuesday 29, Wednesday 30, Thursday 31 March at 7.30pm
Tuesday 29, Thursday 31 March at 2pm

Richard Twyman director
Simon Daw designer

A vital story of war and retribution in a thrilling new fusion of three of the greatest plays of the ancient world. The family of Atreus crumbles under the pressure of a seemingly endless war and the impossible demands placed on one family.

Unreserved tickets: £8 (£4 concessions, Guildhall staff & students, Equity) available from the Barbican Box Office 020 7638 8891 ( from 28 February.

Lads in Their Hundreds: Free and very very good

May 23, 2010


Rehearsal picture from

The title of this caught my eye since I had recently grown more sympathetic to A. E. Housman, and I went along for my first visit to Theatro Technis accompanied by my cold and headache but without any very great expectations.

In the event I was deeply impressed–the performers were students from GSMD, and the show consisted of four female singers and six male ones (and two pianists) performing songs and poems on the subject of war.  The songs were arranged so that (for instance) everyone got a turn in the title number (Butterworth’s setting of Housman) and even those whose native language was  not English speakers bravely contributed to the poetry.

What I found most effective were the changes of mood when music-hall songs were interpolated for contrast; the segue from Is he an Aussie, is he, Lizzie? to And the band played Waltzing Matilda; and the return of The lads in their hundreds at the end, transformed from song to poem, followed by Butterworth’s setting of With rue my heart is laden.  The cast showed absolute commitment to communicating with their audience in every way possible and no praise could be too high for them of for Iain Burnside, who devised and directed the whole thing.

There’s an interesting interview with Burnside here, and I’ve scanned in a list of the numbers below, together with some credits:


Glyn Maxwell from My grandfather at the Pool
Butterworth With Rue my heart is laden
Butterworth The lads in their hundreds
Somervell The street sounds to the Soldiers’ tread
Wilfred Owen The Send-off
Elgar War Song
Jessie Pope Socks
Darewski Sister Susie’s sewing shirts for soldiers
Britten Slaughter
Carl Sandburg Grass
lreland Her Song
Siegfried Sassoon from Death-Bed
lreland The Cost
Brian Elias Meet me in the Green Glen
Butterworth ls my team ploughing
Butterworth Think no more, lad
lvor Gurney First Time ln
Trad arr Hazell Ar Hyd y Nos
Lincoln Kirstein Snatch
lves He is there!
Edward Rushton Life’s an ocean crossing
Kerry Dinneen from Kurdish Blankets
Edward Rushton Agony
Jimmy Webb Galveston
Richard Swanson Baghdad Email
Bridge Journey’s End
lreland The Soldier’s Return
Flotsam and Jetsam ls he an Aussie, is he, Lizzie?
Eric Bogle And the Band played Waltzing Matilda
AE Housman The lads in their hundreds
Butterworth With Rue my heart is laden


Devised and directed by Iain Burnside

Victoria Newlyn Movement
Emma Belli Designer
Giuseppe Belli Designer
Jarnes Southby Lighting Designer
Pamela Lidiard Producer

Nazan Fikret Soprano
Katie Grosset Mezzo-soprano
Aurelia Jonvaux Soprano
Anna Livermore Soprano

lan Beadle Tenor
Adam Crockatt Tenor
Osian Gwynn Baritone
Barney Rea Bass
Ashley Riches Baritone
Luke Tracey Tenor

Maite Aguirre Pianist
Patrick Leresche Pianist

Jack Chandler Technical support
Fernando Pinho Technical support
Molly Sayers Technical support