Showing posts with label Henry Goodman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Henry Goodman. Show all posts

Friday, June 07, 2013

The New Creativity - a guest post from James Inverne


I'm away at the Ulverston International Music Festival in the Lake District, doing some nice concerts. More of this soon. Meanwhile, delighted to offer this guest-post from my colleague James Inverne, formerly editor of GRAMOPHONE, about his new Lorca Songs show, which is at St John's Smith Square next Tuesday (and unfortunately clashes with my Hungarian Dances concert at the St James Theatre Studio!) JD


Editor-turned-manager’s new show? The new creativity

James Inverne on jumping across to the other side of the footlights, and writing a show

What exactly is creativity? I remember a rather wonderful anecdote, somewhere in Stephen Glover’s compendium of essays about journalism, “Secrets of the Press” about a newspaper owner who, wandering through his own newsroom, complained to his editor about so many people “doing nothing but staring out of the window”. That, it seems to me, starts to define creativity pretty well – the art of productive window-staring. If you’re faced with a brief, or a challenge, or a job, and you can find a way to expand its possibilities by engaging imagination, context, presentation than you will be dubbed creative.

A few years ago this did not necessarily feel like a great thing to be. At least, as the recession bit and reality hit, the focus of everything seemed to be on number-crunching and belt-tightening. On the web, for instance, it was all about lists, about things that would come high in SEO (search engine optimisation) and those things remain important. But there’s something else in the air, a renewed sense of the importance of creativity. At times of crisis finding “creative solutions” is a phrase one hears a lot, and it usually means cutting budgets. But after that comes real creativity – a sense that we should see what we can make with what we have, of relying once again on our imaginations to make life interesting (and by extension to make things that other people might want to take notice of).

I noticed this a great deal at the big classical music conference in Vienna last week, Classical NEXT. Suddenly record labels weren’t talking (only) about sales figures, they wanted to find creative and distinctive ways to build their presence on the web, or live events that truly reflected what their artists were about. And that, as a fully paid-up creative person, fills me with joy. Because when I left the editorship of Gramophone I wanted to see how far I could push this idea of creativity. I felt sure that there must be a place for it in the traditionally hectic, overtly administrative world of artist management. I felt there must be a way to work with artists one admired in a way that would get across an idea of their artistic identities, their places in the world.

Sometimes that means working closely with conductors and record labels on repertoire and so forth. But occasionally it has allowed me to create exciting new projects and the first of these to come to fruition – called Lorca’s Songs gets its premiere at St John’s, Smith Square this Tuesday, June 11th (gulp). The original idea was to create a part-concert, part-spoken word evening telling the fused history of Spanish music and Spanish poetry – I created it for the violinist Alexandre Da Costa, who has a deeply authentic and idiomatic view of Spanish music (he looks for its darkness and intensity, which he says is the true heart of Spanish culture, as witness his recent, unusually trenchant recording of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole on Warner Classics).

But then something happened. I started putting it together and the writer in me took over. Suddenly I was creating characters, almost a plot. I became fixated by the Spanish notion of the duende, the sense that art can be so intense that one can sense death. It became a show that lived, it breathes and suddenly what had seemed creative in the idea became an act of creation. For perhaps the first time, I felt something of what (here comes a colossal name-drop, sorry) Johnny Depp once said to me about working with Terry Gilliam – “We turn up in the morning and it’s like you have the skeleton there and you throw bits of meat on it and see what monster comes to life”. Excited, I brought in the great actor Henry Goodman (pictured above) and the leading Spanish guitarist Rafael Aguirre, and we had our show – for violin, guitar and actor.

Writing articles, including reviews, has always felt to me like carving a statue – you have your material, your block of marble, and in fashioning a readable piece from it, well, it feels much like sculpting. Books are a bit different. But a play – to be honest I don’t even know that I would call this a play, and most of the words in it are by Lorca and the rest, but it is drama, I know that much. Maybe it’s even a monster, of a kind. Certainly you can’t fully engage with the dark genius of Lorca or the intensity of De Falla without facing them head-on. As the narrator says in the show, “If we are to experience, let us experience…” I did when I wrote the thing. And maybe to be truly creative you must be unflinching. And guess what – I think it’s a better show this way, and something people will want to see. And that’s not only creativity, not only good business sense, it’s artistically honest. All of which feels rather good.

“Lorca’s Songs” is at St John’s, Smith Square in London on Tuesday 11th June at 7.30pm. For tickets call 020 7222 1061 or visit www.ssjs.org.uk





Saturday, February 23, 2013

My first opera...

I've enjoyed taking a trip down an operatic memory lane for Sinfini, plus talking to a range of celebs about their first experiences of opera and what got them hooked - among them ballerina Zenaida Yanowsky, actor Henry Goodman and comedian Rainer Hersch. Read the whole thing here: http://sinfinimusic.com/uk/features/2013/02/my-first-opera-curtain-up/



What follows is a further ramble on the topic...

Thinking back, I owe my whole opera thing to my parents, who never talked down to me about music when I was a kid. They seemed to know how to encourage an enthusiasm without piling on undue pressure and when I picked up that Magic Flute box (tempted by the picture: left) and wanted to know what was in it, my mum showed me how to follow the translated text as if it was the most natural thing in the world (it was the classic Klemperer recording, in German, without dialogue). It was good of them to put up with my unfortunate singalongaluciapopp tendencies, too.



I’m not surprised they bought me an alternative. This was easier: just one LP, in English, much of it positively designed for singing along. It was The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britten: the story of a group of children and their nanny who rescue a small boy chimney sweep from his abusive employer. It was easy to follow and impossible to forget. Nobody ever seemed to perform it, though. At the time, I had no idea there could be anything sinister in a song about a boy in a bath and I still find myself humming that syncopated, swingy waltz melody now and then. I’ve never once seen this opera live. A footnote: one of the child singers on that recording turned up in my year at university and we used to have a whale of a time playing violin and piano music together (he’d swapped the voice for the fiddle long before). I enjoyed the notion that I’d cut my musical teeth by inadvertently listening to my duo partner singing.

I fell for Eugene Onegin on the car radio, but seeing it in the theatre aged about ten (starring a young soprano named Kiri Somethingorother) left me colder than I'd hoped it would. It was all a bit static, it was hard to hear the words and I couldn't work out why on earth Tatyana fell for Onegin in any case, as he wasn't exactly an appealing kind of chap. (Right: Kiri as she probably looked in those days...)

Eventually live performance did enchant me – but not as you might expect. It was comedy, courtesy of English National Opera. The gods in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld perching on their clouds; Lesley Garrett stripping off as Adele in Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus; and above all, the sight of my father reduced to complete screeching, weeping helplessness over the nuns in drag in Rossini’s Count Ory. This could only happen in the theatre. And when it happened, there was no point resisting. 

Interesting to see that while a lot of my interviewees cite Mozart and Puccini as their ways in to opera, Ed Gardner thinks those aren't such a good place to start. He plumps straight for Shostakovich and Janacek. 
 

Friday, November 30, 2012

OK, reviews...

A number of friends have been grumbling that they haven't seen the reviews of my play A WALK THROUGH THE END OF TIME, and why hadn't I put them up on JDCMB, etc, so here they are.

MARK RONAN: http://markronan.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/a-walk-through-the-end-of-time-orange-tree-theatre-richmond-november-2012/
..." the play stands on its own and should be performed more often. At one hour long it is only slightly shorter than another two-hander currently winning four star reviews in the West End, but it is far deeper and far more compelling. Let us hope this ‘rehearsed reading’ is the prelude to something further."...

MORE THAN THE MUSIC - MELANIE SPANSWICK:  http://www.morethanthemusic.co.uk/reviews/gig-reviews/18112012-a-walk-through-the-end-of-time-and-the-womans-orchestra-in-auschwitz-orange-tree-theatre-wimbledon-festival/
..."The result was dramatic and bold; the audience were privy to the couple’s spiritual journey, many of the questions raised applying to mankind as a whole. It was poignant and full of pathos."...

THERE OUGHT TO BE CLOWNS: http://oughttobeclowns.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/review-walk-through-end-of-time-orange.html

..."the play itself shows much promise, weaving together elements of scientific and musical theory with history and fiction into a sinuously interesting piece of work."... 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A moment in the sun

A few pics from yesterday at the Orange Tree Theatre/International Wimbledon Music Festival's staging of A Walk through the End of Time. Rehearsing with Harriet Walter, Henry Goodman and director Anthony Wilkinson - what a privilege it was to have such an incredible team to take up this piece. Then a quick curtain call. Huge thanks to everyone who came along and cheered us on! Really hope you enjoyed it.




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Countdown to my play...

Here's the latest news regarding A WALK THROUGH THE END OF TIME at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, this weekend. http://www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/walk-through-the-end-time

As you know, the scheduled performance at 2.30pm sold out about six weeks in advance. Due to popular demand, the theatre and the International Wimbledon Music Festival decided to put on a second one, beginning at 5.15pm. This, too, is now sold out.

If you want to go and you still haven't booked, please call the box office and ask to be put on a waiting list for returns. Phone number: 020 8940 3633.

I've been having fun, meanwhile, working out how to incorporate some actual music. Originally the play was designed as a curtain-raiser for a complete performance of the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time, but for practical reasons the Messiaen itself this time will be part of the festival concert by the Nash Ensemble the following evening, 19 November. So we need a little sonic illustration. Hopefully what I've cooked up may find favour with Anthony Wilkinson, Henry Goodman and Harriet Walter; we'll see the outcome soon.

There's not much point my being nervous, because there's nothing more I can do - it is over to our expert team to make it all real. My calming-down mantra normally goes: "I don't have to play the piano... I don't have to play the piano... I don't have to play the piano..." Hope it works.






Saturday, November 03, 2012

How I put the story of music in a Nazi POW camp on stage

I have a piece in the Independent about how and why I wrote A Walk through the End of Time. It was out on Wednesday, but I spent much of the day travelling home from Wexford and didn't get a chance to blog it. Here it is. The picture, of course, is of Dame Harriet Walter, who is our star actress on 18 November at the Orange Tree, with Henry Goodman as her partner. Watch this space for further news about the performance.


Friday, May 25, 2012

A Music World Fair

Here's that bit of news I promised...

My play A Walk Through the End of Time is to be performed in this year's International Wimbledon Music Festival, starring Penelope Wilton and Henry Goodman. [with all the normal 'subject to availability' clauses.] It will be at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond-on-Thames, Sunday 18 November, at 2.30pm. The following night, 19 November, at St John's, Spencer Hill, Wimbledon, the Nash Ensemble will perform the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time. Alongside the play in the afternoon, there will be a talk by Anita Lasker Wallfisch about her experiences in the Auschwitz Women's Orchestra.

This year's IWMF is 'A Music World Fair' - a tremendously international job, lighting up South West London with performances by the Kopelman String Quartet, Alina Ibragimova, Nicholas Daniel and Sam West, Christine Brewer, Zuill Bailey, Cristina Ortiz, Mark Padmore and many more. Three special highlights are Patricia Routledge and Piers Lane in Admission: One Shilling, a music-and-words theatrical recall of the National Gallery wartime concerts of Dame Myra Hess; a newly co-commissioned work by Benjamin Wallfisch entitled Chopin's Waterloo; and pianist Mikhail Rudy in a new interpretation of Petrushka with the Little Angel Marionette Company and the piano as the ultimate puppet.

The site goes live later today and you can find all the details here.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Henry Goodman reads from 'Hungarian Dances' at the Proms!

Tasmin Little's Proms Plus literary talk with Anne McElvoy was broadcast in the concert interval on BBC Radio 3 yesterday, with extracts from her four chosen books read by no less an actor than the utterly lovely and amazing Henry Goodman. Catch it on the BBC iPlayer until 10 September, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01460bs/BBC_Proms_2011_Proms_Plus_Musicians_Literary_Passions_Tasmin_Little/


Tasmin talked about her passion for Hamlet, Hesse's Siddartha and the verses of Hillaire Belloc, as well as terming Hungarian Dances "gripping" and "very exciting", and telling a wonderful story about how she inadvertently made her debut in Budapest in a restaurant, playing Monti's Csardas with the resident folk band's cimbalom player after half a bottle of Bull's Blood... And she said some rather nice things about my writing about music that I am waaay too modest to repeat on my own blog, though you can hear them in the broadcast. What you won't hear, though, is Anne's priceless Freudian slip when, signing off at the end of the session, the wrong word emerged instead of "Belloc"! A fine time was had by one and all.