Thursday, February 26, 2015

REVIEW: Theatre Weekend in Cardiff

In my recent trip to the United Kingdom, I managed to see 3 performances in Cardiff and 9 performances in London. Here is a rundown of the shows in Cardiff and my impressions of them:

St. David's Hall (Cardiff), Friday February 13

Though I have been to Cardiff several times, this is my first time in the St. David’s Hall, which is known for its great acoustics; and indeed the acoustics was balanced and clear, though the facility do really need refurbishment.

Christopher Monks, director of the Armonico Consort, started the all-Vivaldi concert notifying the audience that Benedetti was not feeling well, but has agreed to perform. The Concerto in D, ‘Grosso Mogul', RV208 was disturbingly bad with problems in pitch and balance. However, the Beatus Vir was a complete contrast. The choir and the orchestra came together beautifully and provided a performance that is grand and elegant.

The second half was composed of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons with violin superstar Nicola Benedetti. Benedetti delivered a competent, safe and pleasant performance. grandeur of the Beatus Vir and the drama of the Four Seasons, with rising violin superstar Nicola Benedetti.

St. David's Hall (Cardiff), Saturday February 14

As if the title was not long enough, there was a subtitle to the the subtitle… "a spectacular performance of Celtic song, music & dance". I thought that since I am in Wales, I ought to check it out specially since Welsh people are somehow known for their musicality and choir. The truth however is, this must be one of the worst show I have seen for the longest time!

It was an extremely odd show, conceptualized and directed by a Frenchman Roger-Paul Cardot. It featured the L'Orchestre D'Arverne, a group of French dancers, and some French compositions by the son of the director. The only Welsh thing about the show is the combined choir of Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir and the Dowlais Male Choir. Also Welsh is the featured guest, Only Boys Aloud… and also perhaps the venue!

The worst aspect of the show was the concept and the direction. I don't understand why people in Wales would be interested to know what a Frenchman thinks of what Wales is about. The show was slow, with extremely tacky dance and miming. Even when the local choirs sang, they were out-volume by the orchestra. It brought back all the bad memories of watching regional French theatre performances.

Wales Millennium Centre, Sunday February 15

I entered the theatre thinking that the opera will be sung in German, and totally forgetting that of course it will be sung in English; it is after all a Welsh National Opera production! The English lyrics were amazingly good! Unfortunately, there were no indications in the website or program on who wrote the English lyrics. I can only assume that it is by Jeremy Sams who did the Chandos recording of Opera in English.

Listening to the opera in English was a different experience. Because I understand the language (I don’t speak German), I tend to appreciate the opera on its totality. The feeling was more immediate and my mind was more in pace with the development of the piece.

The experience was most pleasant. While the production was surreal (think Magritte with appearances of bowler hats and blue sky), the story flows beautifully. The cast was competent, what they lack in voice were amply offset by their stage presence and acting. It was a performance that is worth traveling for.
Conductors - Lothar Koenigs
Director - Dominic Cooke
Set Designer - Julian Crouch
Costume Designer - Kevin Pollard
Lighting Designer - Chris Davey
Movement Director - Sue Lefton

Tamino - Allan Clayton
Pamina - Sophie Bevan
Papageno - Jacques Imbrailo
Sarastro - Scott Wilde
Speaker - Ashley Holland
Queen of the Night - Samantha Hay
First Lady - Camilla Roberts
Second Lady - Máire Flavin

Third Lady - Emma Carrington

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