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Review : In Parenthesis at the Royal Opera House – 29th June 2016

In Parenthesis_ WNO, COMPOSER; Iain Bell, Private John Ball; Andrew Bidlack, Bard of Brittannia_HQ Officer; Peter Coleman_Wright, Bard of Germania_Alice the Barmaid_The Queen of the Woods; Alexandra Deshorties, Lieutenant Jenkins; George Humphreys, Lanc

In Parenthesis – (WNO), Photo Bill Cooper

In celebration of the company’s 70th anniversary and to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, Welsh National Opera presents a new opera In Parenthesis at the Royal Opera House. The music for the opera is by acclaimed British composer Iain Bell and the libretto by David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins was based on Welsh poet David Jones’ epic poem.

The publication of In Parenthesis in 1937 with its allusions to the history of Welsh and English literature provided Jones with considerable critical acclaim and was admired by writers such as W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot. The epic poem was inspired by Jones’s own experiences as an infantryman during World War I.

In Parenthesis_ WNO, COMPOSER; Iain Bell, Private John Ball; Andrew Bidlack, Bard of Brittannia_HQ Officer; Peter Coleman_Wright, Bard of Germania_Alice the Barmaid_The Queen of the Woods; Alexandra Deshorties, Lieutenant Jenkins; George Humphreys, Lanc

In Parenthesis – (WNO) Peter Coleman Wright (Bard of Britannia) Alexandra Deshorties (Bard of Germania) and WNO female Chorus company, Photo Bill Cooper

The opera begins with two bards representing Britannia ( Peter Coleman-Wright ) and Germania ( Alexandra Deshorties ) and the Chorus of Remembrance who lament about ‘the many men so beautiful’ who went to war.

The stage then becomes a parade ground where the bumbling Private John Ball ( Andrew Bidlack ) joins the rest of platoon of Royal Welch Fusiliers on parade. We are introduced to Sergeant Snell ( Mark Le Brocq), Lieutenant Jenkins ( George Humphreys ) , Lance Corporal Lewis ( Marcus Farnsworth) and a number of other soldiers who undergo drill training before they march to Southampton docks before embarkation to France. Whilst getting on board the ship, Ball gets fearful and has visions of entering the underworld. The darkness of the set, the black clouds above the ship and the music give a deep sense of a dark foreboding.

In Parenthesis_ WNO, COMPOSER; Iain Bell, Private John Ball; Andrew Bidlack, Bard of Brittannia_HQ Officer; Peter Coleman_Wright, Bard of Germania_Alice the Barmaid_The Queen of the Woods; Alexandra Deshorties, Lieutenant Jenkins; George Humphreys, Lanc

In Parenthesis – (WNO)  George Humphreys as Lieutenant Jenkins and company, Photo Bill Cooper

The darkness lightens when the platoon arrives in France where the soldiers enjoy the peace of the countryside until an exploding shell reminds them of their mission and with some trepidation they make their way to the front line. Private Ball’s visions persist as the silhouettes of the soldiers marching suggest an unreal aspect to the whole enterprise. The singing of a carol by a German soldier on Christmas morning lightens the spirit as the platoon respond before bombastic Dai Greatcoat ( Donald Maxwell ) and the Marne Sergeant ( Graham Clark ) have a good natured argument about who has been in more battles both real and mythical. It is suggested that this is just one more battle in an endless cycle and ‘ old soldiers never die, but just fade away’.

In Parenthesis_ WNO, COMPOSER; Iain Bell, Private John Ball; Andrew Bidlack, Bard of Brittannia_HQ Officer; Peter Coleman_Wright, Bard of Germania_Alice the Barmaid_The Queen of the Woods; Alexandra Deshorties, Lieutenant Jenkins; George Humphreys, Lanc

In Parenthesis – (WNO) Donald Maxwell as Dai Greatcoat, Photo Bill Cooper

The mythical aspect of the piece is sustained from the beginning with the continuing appearance of the bards of Britannia and Germania and the Chorus of Remembrance bearing witness to the action and providing a commentary like a Greek Chorus in a Greek Drama.

The second half of the opera begins with soldiers enjoying drinks in a French Cafe before singing a marching song as they make their way to the ‘Magnetic South’. When they finally arrive at Mametz Wood, the platoon rests before the final assault on German positions. At dawn, a Chorus of Dryads like Sirens are beckoning the men to their ultimate destruction and one by one the soldiers are killed. Only Private Ball survives, although he is shot in the leg, he crawls out of the wood leaving his rifle behind.

In Parenthesis_ WNO, COMPOSER; Iain Bell, Private John Ball; Andrew Bidlack, Bard of Brittannia_HQ Officer; Peter Coleman_Wright, Bard of Germania_Alice the Barmaid_The Queen of the Woods; Alexandra Deshorties, Lieutenant Jenkins; George Humphreys, Lanc

In Parenthesis – (WNO) Andrew Bidlack as Private John Ball, Photo Bill Cooper

In the final section, the destruction of the scene is replaced by a large green tree and the Queen of the Woods and her Dryads place garlands around the necks of the dead men suggesting that even from the worst of situations there can regeneration and rebirth.

In Parenthesis goes beyond the formulaic picture of the First World War to introduce mythical elements that explores wider questions of life and death and the human experience. Composer Iain Bell and Librettists David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins draw on the poem’s powerful message by creating an opera that interweaves the many different aspects to create a dramatic and intense  coherent whole.

The imaginative design of the set by Robert Innes Hopkins and atmospheric lighting by Malcolm Rippeth provided the light and dark for the drama to flourish and Director David Pountney allowed the piece to develop at a pace where the intensity gradually builds towards the inevitable climax. Conductor Carlo Rizzi responded to this pace and confidently led the orchestra through a number of often complex passages of music.

In such an excellent cast it is difficult to pick out individuals, however Andrew Bidlack’s sensitive portrayal of Private John Ball was convincing as a man enduring nightmares in fantasy and in reality.  Contrasting against the inner turmoil of one man was the introduction of the Chorus as actors and singers which brings a greater scale and a collective force to the opera, the male Chorus enthusiastically sing the marches and hymns whilst the female part of the Chorus provide the otherworldly soundscape for many of Ball’s visions.

This fascinating and thought provoking opera brings David Jones’ epic poem to life giving voice to someone who went through the living hell of World War 1 and survived to ask the question ‘ what’s the meaning of this ?’ It is a question that many of the events that mark the centenary of World War I ask, it seems a century later we still have few answers when we consider the pointless massacre of millions of people.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like more information or buy tickets, visit the Royal Opera House website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
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Horse Racing : Coral-Eclipse at Sandown Park Racecourse – 2nd July 2016

Horse Racing - Tingle Creek Christmas Festival - Day 2 - Sandown Park

French Guineas winner The Gurkha is one of 11 horses entered for the race, Irish Champion Trainer Aidan O’Brien has the Dante runner-up Deauville entered. Cougar Mountain, Bravery and Long Island Sound are the other entries from Ballydoyle. Other likely runners include Time Test who has only run once so far this season, winning the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park. Leading owner Prince Khalid Abdullah, will also be represented by Exosphere. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained four-year-old won the Jockey Club Stakes (Group 2) at Newmarket in April. Another Royal Ascot winner, Hawkbill, has been supplemented for the race. Clive Cox’s, My Dream Boat, heads into the race fresh from a victory in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

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Sandown Park is a horse racing course  in Esher, Surrey, the course opened in 1875 . Due to its proximity to Central London and the interesting character of the course it is one of the most popular racecourses for Londoners and visitors. It puts on high quality flat and jumps racing throughout the year. The course attracts the top jockeys and trainers for a number of high-profile races including the Eclipse Stakes.

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Directions

By Car: The course is 15 miles south-west of London just off the A307 and is signposted.

By Rail: Esher railway station is adjacent to the back straight of the racecourse. Racegoers can walk along the platform before taking a short cut at the end of the platform which brings them to the turnstiles half way down the back straight.

If you would like further information or book tickets , visit the Sandown racecourse website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Exhibition Review – David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-life at the Royal Academy of Arts from 2nd July to 2nd October 2016

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The Royal Academy of Arts presents an exhibition of recent portraits by David Hockney, the exhibition entitled David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life has the artist revisiting the genre that has played a major part in his career. Although there are 82 portraits and 1 still life, Hockney considers it as one body of work which has been executed over the last two and a half years in the artist’s Los Angeles studio.

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The creation of the portraits was undertaken against a strict criteria laid down by Hockney himself, each portrait has been created within the specific time frame of three days, which Hockney describes as ‘a 20 hour exposure’. The portraits are painted on the same size canvas (121.9 x 91.4 cm) with each of the subjects seated in the same chair against a neutral background.

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Hockney’s subjects for the portraits are people who have crossed the artist’s path in the last few years,  they include friends, family, acquaintances and staff. John Baldessari, Celia Birtwell, Dagny Corcoran, Larry Gagosian, Frank Gehry, Barry Humphries, David Juda and Lord Rothschild are all featured as well as Hockney’s brother and sister, John and Margaret.

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Walking into the exhibition is quite a strange experience with all the vivid and colourful portraits looking very similar. It is only gradually that the personality of the sitters begin to emerge and you notice the often awkward body language of the sitters. Hockney use of acrylic as a medium adds to the immediacy of the portrait and the uniformity of each painting tends to highlight the differences between the sitters.

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The still life of fruit on a blue bench illustrates Hockney’s sense of humour, when one of his sitters failed to turn up , the artist turned his attention to what was available in the studio.

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This intriguing exhibition provides a snapshot of a group of mostly Los Angeles characters, in many ways they illustrate the artist’s endless fascination with people. Hockney’s challenge to complete this large body of work may suggest that his interest in portraiture is still as strong as ever. It is a genre in which he very often excels showing both the strength and the fragility of the sitter.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Tickets

£11.50 (without donation £10). Concessions available.

Friends of the RA, and under 16s when with a fee-paying adult, go free.

This is likely to be a very popular exhibition, therefore advanced booking is advised.

For more information and book tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

Exhibition Review – Wounded: Conflict, Casualties and Care at the Science Museum from 29th June 2016

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Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, Wounded: Conflict, Casualties and Care, is a new exhibition opening at the Science Museum on 29th June that explores some of the remarkable medical responses and innovations of the First World War through the personal stories of those who were wounded and those who cared for them. Many of the objects in the exhibition are part of the Science Museum’s First World War medical collections including stretchers adapted for use in narrow trenches to made-to-measure artificial arms fitted back in British hospitals.

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The exhibition tells the often untold story of how medics facing new forms of physical and mental wounding on a scale that had never been seen before, had to develop strategies to deal with the wounded. For medical personnel near the front line treating blood loss and preventing infection was the immediate priority in order to save lives.

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However it was the scale of the conflict that provided enormous and unprecedented medical challenges. There were 57,000 casualties were sustained by British Forces on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and during the First World War over twenty million combatants were wounded and millions were left disabled, disfigured or traumatised by their experiences. These medical challenges on the battlefields and field hospitals were replicated back in Britain as large institutions were taken over for military use to cope with the wounded. In the exhibition is the famous pastel drawings of facial injuries by Henry Tonks, from the Royal College of Surgeons and a painting by John Lavery in 1914 that captures the arrival of the first British wounded soldiers at the London Hospital.

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A large number of medical technologies, techniques and strategies were pioneered or adapted throughout the war to help the wounded along each stage of rescue and treatment. However after the war, it soon became clear that longer term treatment and care would be needed for the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who came back home with life changing physical and mental wounds. The exhibition  illustrates how the post war period saw the creation of new medical and welfare institutes and organisations and gradual improvements in the specialist forms of care and rehabilitation became available.

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At the end of the war, treatment and attitudes towards psychological issues amongst the wounded varied greatly and often the ‘stigma’ related with these issues led to a reluctance amongst soldiers to seek outside help. Although warfare has changed over the last one hundred years, there are still similarities in how  the wounded have to deal with issues relating to their military experiences. The final part of the exhibition is a section that focuses on Army veterans who served in Afghanistan and have since been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The veterans worked with the museum to co-curate a section of the exhibition, shaping the contents (objects), and creating a short-film illustrating this ‘hidden’ wound.

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This is a fascinating and important free exhibition that concentrates on the reality of the industrialised warfare of the First World War. Whilst much was made of the ‘sacrifice’ of the soldiers at the time, the grim reality of providing long-term care and treatment to the hundreds of thousands of casualties imposed a massive strain on medical institutions. In the post war years, there was a realisation that it was a ‘lost’ generation in more ways than one. The huge loss of those killed was compounded by the enormous psychological cost of those who survived but had to live with being disabled, disfigured or traumatised.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and book tickets, visit the Science Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

Prom 1: First Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall -15th July 2016

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Tchaikovsky’s wonderful Romeo and Juliet overture launches the Proms celebrations marking 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. Argentine soloist Sol Gabetta makes her Proms debut in Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the first in a series of works throwing a spotlight on the instrument. Prokofiev delivered a score of new directness and clarity for his friend Sergey Eisenstein’s patriotic film Alexander Nevsky: the cantata he fashioned from it features the dramatic Battle on the Ice.

Programme

Tchaikovsky Fantasy-Overture ‘Romeo and Juliet’ 20’

Elgar Cello Concerto in E minor 29’

interval

Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky – cantata 41’

Performers

Sol Gabetta cello

Olga Borodina mezzo-soprano

BBC National Chorus of Wales

BBC Symphony Chorus

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Sakari Oramo conductor

For more information and book tickets, visit the Royal Albert Hall website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

 

Prom 2: Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov at the Royal Albert Hall on 16th July 2016

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Modest Mussorgsky created an epic of music and drama in his operatic masterpiece Boris Godunov, which tells of a Tsar hounded by fear, danger and intrigue. Bryn Terfel leads an illustrious cast with Sir Antonio Pappano conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

Programme

Mussorgsky

Boris Godunov (original version, 1869) 121’

(concert performance; sung in Russian)

Performers

Bryn Terfel Boris Godunov

Benjamin Knight Fyodor

Vlada Borovko Xenia

John Graham-Hall Shuisky

Kostas Smoriginas Shchelkalov

Ain Anger Pimen

David Butt Philip Grigory (Pretender Dmitry)

Andrii Goniukov Varlaam

Harry Nicoll Missail

Rebecca de Pont Davies Innkeeper

Andrew Tortise Yurodivy (Holy Fool)

Royal Opera Chorus

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Sir Antonio Pappano conductor

There will be no interval

For more information and book tickets, visit the Royal Albert Hall website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

 

 

 

Prom 4: Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and Valery Gergiev at the Royal Albert Hall – 18th July 2016

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Valery Gergiev and his Munich Philharmonic Orchestra open with Ravel’s hypnotic Boléro and close with a suite from Richard Strauss’s waltz-filled opera Der Rosenkavalier.

In between, Galina Ustvolskaya’s Symphony No. 3 pleads for redemption on raw brass and winds.

Young Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov – winner of the 2009 London International Piano Competition – is the soloist in Rachmaninov’s soaring Piano Concerto No. 3.

Programme

Ravel

Boléro (16 mins)

Rachmaninov

Piano Concerto No 3 in D minor (42 mins)

INTERVAL

Ustvolskaya

Symphony No 3 ‘Jesus Messiah, save us!’ (14 mins)

Strauss

Der Rosenkavalier Suite (25 mins)

Performers

Behzod Abduraimov piano

Alexei Petrenko reciter

Munich Philharmonic Orchestra

Valery Gergiev conductor

For more information and book tickets, visit the Royal Albert Hall website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here