Tripping in heaven and hell


The English National Opera have gone for a thematic season and then as Christmas approaches the crowd-pleasing Mikado. The theme however is quite the antithesis, much more heaven and hell. Four operas inspired by myth and I’m not talking about the historiez from your yiayia on one of your many holidays to Cyprus. These operas feature Orpheus, musical god, and his wife Eurydice who gets the calling from Charon in the underworld. First up is Christoph Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice (London Coliseum), which is in fact a version by Berlioz as Gluck’s original went through several metamorphosis’s. Adding further spice to this artistic alchemy is choreographer Wayne McGregor, chosen to direct it.

The production is quite a trip, as in “far out man” rather than journey. Purists may revile it whereas philistines like me, unfamiliar with the work, revelled in the daring and McGregor’s unashamed willingness to pull the story apart giving centre stage to his hand-picked company of dancers who inhabit the space like millipedes on speed. Then when dragged screaming into the underworld morph into elegant ethereal beings as though skating effortlessly on ice. All very enjoyable and then I remembered that I was in an opera house. What the hell…

The singers are tremendously good, left to their own devices on a desolate stage, devoid of a set, looking for all the world as though they had been abandoned and left to perish. Soprano Sarah Tynan’s Eurydice is a thing of beauty and anguish, a clear cut crystal voice, while Alice Coote gives a performance that drips in pain and passion. ENO Harewood Artist Soraya Mafi, a rising star, gives an assured performance as Love with excellent tonal quality.

On careful reading of the programme I realise McGregor takes several liberties – “theatrical license” – with the plot. However, in my ignorance I became a voyeur of a production that is striking in its vision – Louise Gray’s costumes would not have been out of place at Royal Ascot, matched and surpassed by Ben Cullen Williams’ freakily psychedelic videos. I told you it was a trip, one well worth experiencing.

Meanwhile Havana Stokeley is unimpressed…

Natalia Osipova is a principal dancer at The Royal Ballet. Her reputation is huge. Last week at Sadler’s Wells she put together a programme entitled Pure Dance, a programme of seven short pieces from contemporary dance to classical ballet. It also featured David Hallberg, a principal guest artist at The Royal Ballet who danced a solo. As talented as they are this was a disappointing show and failed to demonstrate why she is considered one of the best Classical dancers.

The 7 pieces each had a different choreographer yet there was a lot of similarity in each. It didn’t help having only the stage and spotlights as a set. Pure Dance maybe trying to focus only on the dancers but it needed something else to break up the monotony. The, at times, atonal music, didn’t help as it and it did become a bit depressing. By the end of the 3rd piece boredom started setting in. There seemed to be very little chemistry between Osipova and her dance partners. I was expecting exceptional and I got ordinary. The couple of pieces which had a more classical than contemporary choreography, I did catch glimpses of her talent but that was not enough. Shame.

Finally, Magdalena Praxiou loves Ol’ Blue Eyes…

Written and performed by Richard Shelton, Sinatra: Raw (Wilton’s) is what it says on the tin, a show about the man and the music; most shows are just the music. It’s 1971 and Frank Sinatra is preparing for one last hurrah in Palm Springs, California. Shelton has a great singing voice and it’s easy to understand why he is considered one of the world’s best Sinatra interpreters. He is also a funny raconteur and some of the audience, a little tipsy from one too many, loved his rapport as he played with our sensibilities.

As the evening progressed he also tried to introduce more edgy and controversial moments, such as the story about how his then wife Ava Gardner (Hollywood heartthrob) aborted their child. That attempt at grittiness, the raw part of the evening, worked less well. However, when he was improvising and being much more himself rather than pretending to be a down and out Sinatra, the emotion was truly raw and emotional. The backdrop of a large red curtain was minimalistic and effective. Ol’ Blue Eyes has been described as dangerous, unpredictable and brilliant and this show is a fitting tribute to those contradictions.


Orpheus and Eurydice – 020 7845 9300



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