Gilded Balloon Teviot
Until August 27th (15.15)
Now and then you see something so original and unexpected you will never see things the same way again. This is one such show. Right from even before the show starts when we are serenaded in our seats by the cheesy keyboard stylings of a song who’s only lyric is “Waiting for the show to start” you know you could be in for a treat. Then when an anemic, awkward, googly eyed creature with a Tin Tin haircut walks on to the stage and starts apologizing for the show before it’s even begun you know it could go either way. And, truth be told by the audience reaction, it went both. Either stunned into confused, uneasy silence, storming off in disgust or beaming and cackling with delight. Thankfully I fell into the later category and frankly see it as a damning condemnation of humanity to react any other way. What was not to love?
The music itself was a monumental achievement. Almost an hour of uninterrupted ebbing and flowing of Gershwin like melodies done through your little brothers shitty Yamaha PSR keyboard. Endless musical motifs, references and jokes. And jokes there were so many. Like the airplane films if there was one you didn’t find funny now there was bound to be one coming up that you’d find hilarious. Or as in much of this show’s humor, one you’d be clever enough to understand. And this was one of the beauties of the show. There was absolutely no attempt to dumb it down for a mass audience. And in these days of emojies, made in Chelsea and Donald Trump that is certainly a refreshing change. Lyrically he was outstanding. To be quite honest I don’t think I’ve ever heard wittier or better constructed comedy lyrics anywhere. One song was literally just all the expressions for being gay – but they all rhymed! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
A gay, autistic bulimic man singing a comedy opera about his time spent in prison and mental breakdown may not be to everyone’s taste but it damn well should be. Outsiders are often the only real voice out there and that’s why everyone should listen to them but then, if they did, I guess they wouldn’t be outsiders anymore. That being said Robert White should be the biggest comedy star on TV today. He is like no-one else before and I expect since. He should be hosting the panel shows and participating as all the contestants. Step aside Jimmy Carr, your time is (thankfully) up. And you can’t even play a decent trumpet! So remember this name – Robert White. If there is any justice in the world the star of tomorrow. Just come and see the show I implore you. You may love it, you may hate it, but whatever happens you’ll remember it. And isn’t that the important thing? Like Lars Von Trier said – “Great art should be like a stone in the shoe” and Robert White is a fucking great Boulder.
Reviewer : Steven Vickers
Aug 11-15, 17-22, 24-28 (21.50)
Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!
A unique and very clever stage production bubbling Andy Warhol Art Pop Panache. A love Story told in three parts that coexist together through the medium of Opera. With a String quartet and a Hip Hop band, blending classical music with funky electronica, this is a feast for senses, that is at once lovely to witness. The cast are all extremely good looking and the genius of the book and stagecraft is nothing less than entertainment at its very, very best. Like a sailor to a siren I had been drawn to the beauty of The Countess singing her part in The Marriage Of Figaro on The Royal Mile after afternoon prayers in Saint Giles. The Countess had a face that was equally as beautiful as her voice. but it was her voice that stole me. So I pleaded with the Mumble editor to arrange for me to review this magic piece work. What I witnessed in this capacity was not what I was expecting. But this made things delightfully entertaining.
It all begins with the heroes of the show settling in on the cuddle couch. Amelia has just secured a job as a Lawyer and Stephen is a struggling composer, both are at the end of a busy day & Amelia wants to watch Kim Kardashian’s televised 72 day marriage with NBA Basketball Star Kris Humphries , while Stephen wants to watch The Marriage of Figaro. At first compromise with the remote control for the telly is workable. Now this is when the stagecraft bursts alive and the switch between Rhythm and Blues and a chamber orchestra becomes palatable. When the remote control was pressed by Amelia, her choice was represented on the left side of the stage. Kim all figure hugging pants and lace sexiness, with the passion of a new married couple, Kris all butch muscular testosterone with one thing on his mind and it wasnae basketball.
When Stephen takes control of the box we are taken back in time to the Marriage Of Figaro. The Count is being a bit of a canute, wooing Wwmen with his literary skills, The Countess gets wind of this and this is where the problems start. Both the Count and the Countess looked fantastic. All period frills and elegant ball gowns. It was right up Divine’s street, Once a New Romantic always a New Romantic. So on the right hand of the stage a fully blown opera. With the Countess giving a mesmerising performance (Divine was awestruck) this is when the stage lighting was brought into full effect. Two marriages on the brink of collapse and one relationship struggling because of telly choices. All sung in fine voice. Sexy & marvellous & sexy entertainment indeed.
Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
Where were you born/where did you grow up and where are you living today?
Our bedroom’s window opened to Andrássy út across the Budapest Opera House. I spent my childhood watching this building where Gustav Mahler was opera director for a few years. When I was 8, I got my first subscription as a birthday present. I had a diary then, noting which singer I liked or disliked and why. Now I live in Berlin and Budapest.
When did you begin to understand you had a gift for music?
Coming from a musical and theatrical family this question was never asked. My father was a composer/conductor/ translater of operas into Hungarian and my mother should have become a singer. We discussed music, culture and literaure around the dinner table. I learned to read music before reading letters.
You have music in your bones. Is this natural or has it taken some training?
We were brought up by the Kodály method, an excellent school. Studying piano, violin and finally cello also helped. Training is very important at an erly age.
You play several instruments. Which of these would you say was your forte?
When I graduated with cello in Vienna, I realised that I am not really an instrumentalist. Repeating the same works and practicing for many hours didn’t appeal to me. I was interested in the meaning of music and art in general. And I was interested in working with people.
What does Iván Fischer like to do when he’s not being musical?
Now that I am also directing operas, this profession seems much more real: being responsible for the sound alone was never exciting. Being responsible for the essence of a work is really me.
You are the founder and Music Director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, can you tell us about the company?
It is an excellent and innovative orchestra. I achieve the best results with them, although I am fortunate: I can work with the best orchestras of the world.
What are the secrets to being a good conductor?
You need to be a good, well trained musician, and a good, responsible human being. Conducting means absorbing the work completely and passing t it on to an orchestra and an audience. The absorbing process needs musical qulities and the sharing process needs human qualities.
In recent years you have been steadily gaining an international reputation as a composer. What has motivated you to begin creating new music?
I discovered this gift relatively late because I was so busy as a conductor. Composing needs time and a quiet place. Now I always compose in a small Hungarian village. It is the greatest pleasure at the moment.
You will be performing at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, can you tell us about it?
Next to a concert I will present my Don Giovanni production that was first performed in Budapest and New York in 2011. Now I changed many details, extended the concept and I think this production can now be seen in a more mature version.
What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Ivan Fischer?
Many tours and the finishing of my new children’s opera.
9 – 12 August 2017 : Festival Theatre
Scottish Opera – Puccini’s La Bohème
Eden Court’s Empire Theatre, Inverness
13th June 2017
Director Renaud Doucet and designer André Barbe open this production of Puccini’s La Boheme with a prologue which brilliantly blends the past and present together by presenting modern day tourists, complete with mobiles, mp3s and headphones browsing through a timeless Parisian flea market inspired by the Marché aux Puces de St Ouen, the largest flea market in Paris.
We are then transported back to the 1920’s Paris, the Années folles (crazy years) and time of the Lost Generation which were a group of creatives such as Ernest Hemmingway, Man Ray and Jean Coctau. Rodolfo (Christopher Turner) a poet and Marcello (David Stout) a painter are struggling to keep warm in their artists garrett, but are joined by friends who bring wood and alcohol and the lads begin to celebrate Christmas eve before they head out to party in the Latin quarter. Rodolfo stays behind to finish writing and falls in love with his ailing neighbour Mimi (Nadine Livingstone) who calls on him as she needs to relight her candle. The story follows the relationship trials of Rodolfo and Mimi and Marcello and the flamboyant Musetta played by Jeanine De Bique, who somewhat stole the show with her amazing voice and homage to Josephine Baker. Appart from a minor moment when Christopher Turner was drowned out by the orchestra, the four main characters gave good performances both in duet and in ensemble.
Puccini’s themes of love, friendship, illness, and struggling to make ends meet are just as relevant today, the beautiful and vibrant art Deco set and intelligent movement between past and contemporary Paris really highlighted that connection. It was indeed a pleasure to discover La Bohème for the first time.
Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne
31st March & 1st April
Last weekend I had the immeasurable delight of catching two of Ellen Kent’s 2017 operas. Nabucco & Aida, both by Verdi. This composer has a special place in Ellen’s heart, & handling Nabucco especially is always an emotional experience for her, having been the first opera she ever produced. This was Friday’s opera, & seeing as my two daughters (ages 7 & 9) had invited their pals for a sleepover – I mused upon introducing them to the opera while they were under my wings, so to speak. So gaining permission from the other poems, we dressed accordingly & all went to the opera.
Nabucco is an Italian-language opera composed in 1841 by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto by Temistocle Solera. In essence, Nabucco is a collection of Old Testament tales which follow the adventures oof teh Jews as they are persecuted by King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar II). It is globally famous for the epic, cinematic, hauntingly melodic Va Pensiero – Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves – & Ellen Kent’s inescapable penchant & reputation for handling such potentially hot potatoes with professional & entertaining creativity was proven yet again. My girls simply adored the magic of the moment. ‘Mother, do they sing all the way through?‘ asked my seven year old, but then returned the gaze mesmerised to the stage. Enraptured by the spectacular visual feast before them – including a real horse & the startling burning down of Solomon’s temple – French soprano Olga Perrier ‘s brilliant Abigaille, Moldovan baritone Iurie Gisca’s moody Nabucco & the orchestra’s sublime emotions, four of us fell in love with the opera that night, while the other – myself – could not wait until the morrow.
Thursday 30th March
Is it that time of year already, when the fabulous Ellen Kent invites us all to her private operatic society, in order for us to become more educated, lets say, in what an opera should be. She & her Moldovan maestros are in Scotland for a wee while, of which stint Ellen told The Mumble in an earlier interview, ‘There’s something atmospheric about Edinburgh – I love the Playhouse – I always make a point of coming up to Edinburgh for the shows & this year I’ll be staying for all three. I do like Scotland, what is there not to like, I’ve got my shows there, we’ve just played Glasgow Concert Hall – I have to say we get well over a thousand people every night – its just a pleasure, people come in a big way. OK, Edinburgh is a bit of a mission to fill – its a bit big – but I do Glasgow, I do Dundee, I do Edinburgh – I just love Scotland, but particularly Edinburgh, its one of my favorite cities.’ As always she is serving up a three-course meal, with the starter being Puccini’s inimitable La Boheme. Set in Paris & sung in Italian, its four acts tell the story of a poet called Rodolfo, his musewoman Mimì, & her tragic early end. The title comes from Puccini’s activities in the early 1890s, of which Robert Beale told the Mumble; ‘he & a few friends formed what they called the ‘Boheme Club’, meeting in an old hut near Puccini’s villa at Torre del Lago in Tuscany. Some were locals & some from the group of painters who worked in the area. They got together to eat, play cards & drink & had a set of rules which included ‘The treasurer is empowered to abscond with all the funds’ & ‘It is forbidden to play cards honestly.’ By 1896 the opera was ready, & after its first performance in Turin, at the Teatro Regio, it has projected far beyond its early dilettante status into a true stellar satellite of the operatic pantheon.
La Boheme is also one of Ellen Kent’s favorites, & the care she has shown for the piece with this particular production reflects her love completely. Her backdrops are magnificent, & their place in this opera was described by Ellen in her interview; ‘I love art – my great friend is Ralph Steadman – I see opera in pictures – I am very filmic, accompanied by beauty. La Boheme indulges that, each scene reflects a French Impressionist style or painting – my act 1 is more Renoir, for example.‘ In fact, perhaps they were a little too magnificent, for the scene transitions did linger a little too long, I thought, but as soon as the transition was complete all was forgotten. You simply cannot rush genius, & Ellen Kent has something of Da Vinci’s eye when it comes to an aesthetic. In Act 2 we have the Jardin des Tuileries on market day, an exquisite scene with brilliant costumes, a brass band & marching children. Even better was melodramatic Act 3, which contained a constant & enigmatic snowfall. All in all, a spectacle showing how Ellen Kent applies her mind mind to a classic art form, & reinvents it with pitch-perfect vigour.
The libretto – by Luigi Illica & Giuseppe Giacosa – is a perfect thing, especially come the sweet-scented fragrance of Rodolfo’s love lyrics to Mimi. Lines such as ‘Because I am the poet, she is poetry,‘ & ‘in blissful poverty I squander rhymes & song of love like a rich man… I have the spirit of a millionaire,’ float down straight from the slopes of Parnassus. The singers were positively excellent, with Giorgio Meladze’s Rodolfo maintaining a sustained majesty through his rather difficult part. At times it seems as if his voice were a chamber orchestra, all playing the same note in perfect harmony. He also managed to pull of the gay opening, a difficult to perform romp through Parisian bohemia; but there was a fine bouncy rapport between the five actors, as if they were the operatic prototypes of the three-stooges. It was also adorable to watch Rodolfo sing with, act alongside & caress with much sweetness with his co-star, Alyona Kistenyova. There was an exceptional sweet chemistry between them, their voices interweaving like branches of ivy snaking up a single polar tree. Together they invoked in me a genuine pathos at the end, when Mimi boarded her death-bed just as Keats mounted the Spanish Steps. Another young English poem sprang to mind as Mimi stretched her arm with her final breath, & created an image I had seen before, concerning the Death of Thomas Chatterton, & I am curious to know if Ellen was aware of this in her conscious or subconscious mind. Kistenyaova’s soprana, however, was outdazzled I think by Olga Perrier’s Musetta, who looked, moved & sounded amazing. From the moment she glided onto stage in a pink dress in Act 2, leading a lovely white Scottish Terrier, she dominated the stage with her glitzy style & splendid arias. Her dog had won a recent competition advertised in the Edinburgh Evening News, & though a little bamboozled at times, was calm enough to let the opera flow about it with nothing so much as a bark. A tremendous effort from the insatiably high-standard-setting Ellen Kent.
Reviewer : Damian Beeson Bullen
One of the most important & influential figureheads in world opera is rolling back into Edinburgh with this weekend with three operas on three separate nights. The Mumble managed to catch up with her in the foyer of her Edinburgh hotel for a wee blether
THE MUMBLE : Hello Ellen, so when did your long love affair with opera begin?
ELLEN : About the age of about 6 I would imagine. I lived in India, I was born out there… my father was working for the High Commissioner down in the south of India. When I was born in 1949, my father worked for British India police. After the British had left in ’47, Nehru asked my father to stay on & control the whole of the south of India. So we lived in Bombay – or Mumbai, I remember it as Bombay. My mother was British Raj family, going back hundreds of years – my father actually was from Liverpool. My mother was totally in love with putting on the Operatic Society of Bombay Experience – she did Madame Butterfly, the local Christmas show, & at every opportunity she put me into it. I loved dressing up, I was always dressed up as some Maharashtran prince or something. There were the most wonderful costumes, I still remember them. Also, where mother loved opera, my father was equally as musical – he could play the piano by ear.
THE MUMBLE :For you, what are the key ingredients to a good opera?
ELLEN : A very strong story line. I like drama accompanied by beautiful music – which opera gives you. Yes, a combination of a strong story-line with a lot of melodrama… I love stories to go over the top a bit, I mean Ellen ‘over-the-top’ Kent is what people call me. Then of course there is the grandness, the largeness of it, the large scale-ness of it. The huge, massive epic-ness of opera.
THE MUMBLE : Does every opera have that quality?
ELLEN : No, not every one, but I always see it in rather large scale modes – probably because most of the venues I play at are quite big. My sets are always rather grand, rather beautiful. Opera is perfect for artistic directors with that love of grandness. Even La Boheme, where Puccini is going into the realness of opera, its reality opera which both he & Verdi went into. Verdi with La Traviata & Puccini with La Boheme. La Boheme can be done in an intimate, but also in a big way. La Boheme is a strong story set in Paris in the Latin quarters, but it has all that beautiful French Impressionistic opportunities – so my sets are quite big & I indulge myself. I love art – my great friend is Ralph Steadman – I see opera in pictures – I am very filmic, accompanied by beauty. La Boheme indulges that, each scene reflects a French Impressionist style or painting – my act 1 is more Renoir, for example.
THE MUMBLE : Does this mean you have a hand in almost everything concerning the production?
ELLEN : Yes, I am very OCD. I’ve spent my life in opera 24/7, its become almost like I am an opera It is like who is the real Ellen Kent, am I real or have invented myself. Its hard to tell
THE MUMBLE : Can you tell us about your relationship with the Chisinau National Opera & the Chisinau National Philharmonic?
ELLEN : A very long love affair which began in 1996/97. For a few years I ha been working with the Romanian National Opera, & brought them back to England. A very wonderful conductor who was conducting the Romanian National asked me one day if I had heard of the Maria Biesu festival in Chisinau. I said no, I haven’t heard of it, & where is Chisinau? He said its in Moldova, & I said wheres Moldova? He said why don’t you come with me. So we drove over the mountains on an overnight journey form Bucharest, & there was this wonderful city & this lovely country that was reminiscent of Provence in France, with the vineyards, & the wine, & the heat, & it was very close to Russia, very heavily influenced by Russia. Lots of investment, major big opera house, very civilised & sophisticated people, with a great sense of opera – all their sets were being designed by people who came from Moscow & I thought, ‘o my god, this is a magic, fairy country.’ That is when the love affair began & it is still going on. At the beginning I was getting involved more more & I decided I would direct the shows because I wasn’t happy with the acting. The singing was good but I couldn’t stand their acting. I’ve had a long mission that has turned my singers into performers, I spend every summer in Moldova to do it, but I think the results speak for themselves – there is a lot of drama on my stages. Using Chisinau as the core, I made an opera company by cherrypicking the best across eastern Europe… I now have a french soprano, an Italian tenor…
THE MUMBLE : You have a penchant for using an international cast. There must be difficulties & also advantages, could you elucidate please?
ELLEN : The only disadvantage are some of the language issues – the international people I bring in have to come to Chisinau – I put them up in apartments. They fly in from all over the world – from California, Japan even, from wherever. They are all artists & I find that they are actually on the whole very easy to work with because they are artistic. They are also all top professionals, they like what I do, they like touring Britain & the big venues when we go abroad. You do get the odd difficult one, but there is nobody who looks down their noses at anybody, its a very professional team I’ve got… I can be be quite tough.
THE MUMBLE : You are always coming back to Edinburgh, how do you find the city?
ELLEN : One of my absolute favorite cities, so beautiful, so historical. I’m part Scottish, you know, my father moved down to Liverpool from the Argyle peninsular. There’s something atmospheric about Edinburgh – I love the Playhouse – I always make a point of coming up to Edinburgh for the shows & this year I’ll be staying for all three. I do like Scotland, what is there not to like, I’ve got my shows there, we’ve just played Glasgow Concert Hall – I have to say we get well over a thousand people every night – its just a pleasure, people come in a big way. OK, Edinburgh is a bit of a mission to fill – its a bit big – but I do Glasgow, I do Dundee, I do Edinburgh – I just love Scotland, but particularly Edinburgh, its one of my favorite cities.
THE MUMBLE : What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Ellen Kent?
ELLEN : We have operas already in preparation for next year. Madame Butterfly with a Japanese cast – I do like Oriental girls. Rigoletto in certain venues, with golden eagles, naked ladies & greyhounds. La Traviata another of my favorite operas. This Autumn I would also hope to be introducing a Russian-style spectacular – bringing in an an orchestral score, a named conductor 2-3 top singers, with the orchestra dressed in Traviata costumes. Should be special.