Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The whole tenor of this is...

La Boheme, Glyndebourne 2003. There I was, squeezing into orchestra last-minute spots whenever I could, lurking backstage whenever I couldn't, weeping fit to bust every time: David McVicar's magic director's touch turned Rodolfo, Mimi et al into my dearest friends and I felt personally bereaved every time it ended, quite apart from drooling over the gorgeous Nathan Gunn, who was Marcello. I was so busy eyeing him up that when Rodolfo sang, I thought 'wow, that's quite a voice', but didn't dwell on it too much. So, it was Rolando Villazon, just before he hit the headlines. Turns out Villazon spends his spare time scribbling cartoons - like this one. Yes, there I was in tears, but Rodolfo was scribbling the mickey out of the whole thing! More of Villazon's cartoons on his website, here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Southbank on Volga?

Note from colleague in organisation confirm we now write leading arts complex as SOUTHBANK CENTRE. No definite article. Harasho, guys, spassiba balshoy, we do best we can. Be warned, other halls have try this. Is not so long since Wigmore Hall tell us it never had definite article, though most devoted audience find big surprise. I think perhaps is Russian influence, growing in city of Moscow-on-Thames?

UPDATE, 1 Feb: Colleague in organisation has own blog, having started playing cello from scratch! Ochin priatna, Erin! Welcome to blogroll.

Nothing like a Dame...

Apparently Dame Kiri has pulled out of some concerts with Australian pop star John Farnham because his fans throw their underwear at him. She's in court for breeches of contract. Read all about it here. And get Opera Chic's slightly sassier take on it here.

Heck, why didn't I think of that in time for the JDF show?!? Admittedly Upper Amphitheatre to Stage at Covent Garden is a long way to chuck anything, but maybe if one took along a cricket-playing pal and weighted the lilac silk ever so slightly with non-damaging ball-bearings... For Kiri & John, I suspect there are some lessons about multiculturalism, assimilation and how to reach a fair deal - eg, accept the low-flying pants, then in return get him to try to wow La Scala. Though that isn't fair.

Norman Lebrecht featured music blogging on his Radio 3 programme the other day and it's available to hear online here for the rest of this week. Norman's been called many things in his time, but I think this must be a first for 'juicy awesomeness', again c/o Opera Chic who was special guest star and deservedly so!

Last but not least, here's NL's piece about the BBC's Tchaikovsky bonanza. He tells it like it is. Don't get me started on the Beeb's latest foibles (Jonathan Woss?? £18m of taxpayers' licence fee money when he can't even talk properly!?!) before my third cup of ethical African coffee.

Monday, January 29, 2007

By the way...

...announcing one of the South Bank Show Awards last night, Andrew Lloyd Webber said that he's going to turn Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita into a musical, and I can't work out whether he was joking or not. HELP!

South Bank rising

In today's Independent, Jude Kelly, the South Bank (or Southbank?) Centre's artistic director, gives the run-down on the gear-up, with reopening of the Royal Festival Hall scheduled for the weekend of 11 June, in grand style. There's a remarkable amount of good news, besides the Korngold stuff I just had to yell about first. The press conference the other day had one of the best atmospheres I've ever encountered at a SBC event; people were positive and excited, as well as broadly supportive of the new team including Jude herself and music supremo Marshall Marcus; the only slightly tetchy note was sounded by one journalist who wanted to know what's happened to the Lieder recitals we used to have in the Good Old Days (I'd like them back too, come to think of it). I'm particularly pleased that they're putting on Carmen Jones this summer, because the LPO will accompany and it means fewer late nights for me while Tom comes back from playing at the South Bank (20 mins) instead of Glyndebourne (1 hr 15 mins).

But the best thing of all was when Jude, wrapping things up, wanted to make sure everything had been included and said "Is there any fairy that's been left out?" The press conference must have consisted of at least 50 per cent gay critics, so everyone cracked up laughing. "I mean in the Sleeping Beauty sense," Jude added gracefully.

Seriously, though, this is laughing with, not at, because Jude is not only a Very Good Thing, but she's also emblematic of long-term, forward thinking. It's hard to believe that in over 50 years, nobody's thought of giving the SBC an overall artistic director before. Jude is the first. Now she's there, the absence of such a post beforehand seems all the more astonishing - and rather typical of 20th-century arts management British bungling. Let's hope that we're in a new era in which people are going to do things properly. The Royal Opera House is a good example of how matters can be turned around; now the South Bank has its chance; and if ENO can follow suit, and someone can transform the Barbican into a place that one actually wants to go (programming is the least of its worries), then London will be the all-round world class player that it ought to be.