Monday, 28 September 2009

To the the right...

I'll happily admit that I'm quite proud of the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), or The Armadillo by the Bay ©* to use an affectionate local moniker. In an age when most new buildings resemble giant out-of-the-flat pack designs it's quite pleasing to see the bronze / slate combo claiming a space on the vastly changed Cardiff Bay skyline. I'll hold off painting romantic images of it as there are plenty of photographs to let you see it for yourselves, but I will say that if you do pop along for a performance remember to turn around after you've walked away for a minute or so to catch sight of its living room lights shining out.

But the inside is what I want to tell you about.

More precisely little hints that will help you enjoy your evening / afternoon visit to The Armadillo by the Bay ©**.

Tickets / coat room. You'll find both of these at the main four-mile long reception area at the front of the building; if you've come in through the Welsh Assembly side of the building you'll need to walk straight ahead. Next up – how fit are you? I'm asking you this because there are many steps to be stepped on in order for you to get to your seats. If you're in the stalls you needn't fret too much as you've only got the one flight of steps to climb – but if you've got a lean, mean fighting machine of a bank account you may want to take either of the lifts that are situated beside the two staircases at either end of the main entrance. Don't worry if you think you're having to leave the comfort of the bar behind as you'll find bars on each of the levels – but for an interval time drink I'd pre-order as you won't have time to do anything else other than hand over your money before you head back inside.

Anyway, now that you're upstairs a few more pointers. If you're sitting in the circle, or upper circle, be aware that the floor rises gently and you may feel a slight case of landlubbers legs if you're not used to it.

If you can, try and find your way to the correct door, to save yourself being marked out for some Kung-Fu action by disgruntled audience members as you walk the length of the auditorium to reach your seat.

Unfortunately, on rare occasions in the upper circle, you may find yourself faced with people obviously used to grander surroundings, who find the concept of moving an inch beyond them as you head out to pick up your pre-ordered drink during the interval – don't, as many people do, test the pain barrier in your hernia and walk up the stairs (which can be steep if your school photographs were in black and white), but walk calmly towards the IO's (ignorant ones) and ask them to "excuse me" in your most polite voice. Generally most people are very polite – but there are one or two exceptions to every rule.

Now that you've drunk your drink you'll require the tŷ bach and off you set in search of it. This will probably save you a lot of time, so listen up people. On most levels the men's toilets are on the right hand side of the auditorium, and the women's are on the left hand side, both facing staircases. I'm not so sure about the stalls conveniences, but ask a member of staff and they'll point you in the right direction. On the ground floor the WC's are hidden behind the right hand staircase. Not exactly the most riveting bit of information, but judging by the amount of times I've been asked where the toilets are I thought I'd let you all know...

The performance has now finished (don't be surprised for there not to be huge amounts of clapping during the performance as a lot of the audience are newish to opera and unsure when an aria finishes...and if a baddie comes on stage at the curtain call he / she will be booed – you'll know if they haven't done a good job if they are merely applauded) – anyway, as I said before I interjected myself – the performance has ended and you're heading downstairs. You will, inevitably, be faced with queues on the stairs; I'm sure they tested the evacuation capabilities of the WMC using Olympic athletes. So there you are, stuck. Grumbling about how such and such a place is much better to get out of (I'd have to agree with you) – but if you're on the right hand side of the building all hope is not lost. Once you reach the mirrored floor (you'll know the one I mean) – head towards the far end of the building and you'll find a staircase that leads out into the bar at the Welsh Assembly side of the building.

End of public service announcement.

So no WNO news, but I hope some pointers that will come in handy for first time visitors to The Armadillo by the Bay ©***.

* I'll take £1.5 million.
** £1.45 million.
*** I'm not dropping below £1.45.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Butterfly reviews...the story so far...

Xavier Renauld's photographs of Oscar Lhermitte's X Days Project

Ever the professional, apart from openly admitting a dislike of a work, I thought I'd collect the various moneyed words together for you to see the difference between myself, and the world-weary cynics of Fleet Street. Ummm, apparently I'm the cynic because the majority of the scribblers who made it to The Armadillo by the Bay © * quite enjoyed WNO's Madam Butterfly.

Rian Evans of The Guardian saw Amanda Roocroft as graceful and impassioned and from a seat better than mine she pointed out Claire Bradshaw's DIY skills in fixing a looking glass. Writing for The Times, Hilary Finch sees Roocroft as being convincingly child-like in the role, and wise beyond Butterfly’s 15 years with Bradshaw delivering a formidable Suzuki. Russell Thomas is a resonant and ringing-voiced Yankee — the real thing, while Neal Davies delivers a a nicely detailed and beautifully sung Sharpless. Gavin Allen in the South Wales Echo, but taken from Wales Online, saw a stunning performance by American tenor Russell Thomas as bad boy Pinkerton opposite Roocroft's convincingly vulnerable Butterfly. All of the reviewers, so far, have lavished praise on Carlo Rizzi's conducting and have fallen suitably in love with the sets.

Why not make your own mind up? There are three more performances at the WMC before the show hits the road.

* I'm willing to sell this for £4.8 million.

Monday, 21 September 2009

From a King to beans - WNO in the news

Photo Regina F. Silva

It says a lot about Lothar Koenigs' attitude towards self promotion that whereas many people taking over a new company would have chosen more crowd pleasing fare to introduce themselves to the public he has gone against any spin doctor's advice (if the WNO have such a figure) and decided on Berg's Wozzeck as the opening to his tenure as WNO music director. In a recent interview with the Telegraph's Rupert Christiansen we get to hear from the man himself. I especially like Koenigs' closing lines, which point towards a fruitful future for music making at the WNO, “I don’t want to educate people, not at all. My only ambition is to show them the beauty of the music.”

A week from now Christopher Purves will have gone mad, but don't blame the beans. Set to reprise the role that in 2005 (kind of) made his name he spoke recently to (I assume) Emma Pomfret of The Times following a rehearsal of Wozzeck. If you'd like to hear more about his past (Um Bongo), his present (baked beans) and his future (Schubert’s Schwanengesang) then pop on over to The Times Online.

And a big thank you to Regina F. Silva of for permission in using the photograph of Barako Coffee's King Beans Coffee!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

La Traviata – WMC 18th of September 2009

Photo from The Times Online*

For the second day in a row I found myself getting off the little chug-a-lugger of a train that runs between the Bay and Cardiff Queen Street and setting off towards the Armadillo, but this time in a better state of mind than I had done the previous day – partly due to the fact that I was going to see my (probably) favourite opera and partly due to my wearing clothes that didn't smell of dog. Huzzah for working washing machines!

It had been over a week since I'd seen the dress rehearsal and I was keen to see what had changed in the meantime. Would Alfredo grow a moustache? Would Giorgio enter stage left on a unicycle? Would Violetta knit a scarf whilst singing Sempre libera? Fortunately for the audience none of the above took place (maybe Salzburg would like to contact me about directing a new production?).

Andrea Licata is a curious conductor – unlike the vast majority of his colleagues he shuns applause at the beginning of a performance, preferring to ninja style his way to the podium and begin affairs as soon as the lights dim – which I don't mind except that this being Wales several people were caught mid-gossip and continued to WHISPER very QUIETLY during the opening prelude.

Once everyone got the last of their whispers out of their systems the action returned to the stage. Alfie Boe (Alfredo) had been a minor cause for concern for me during the dress rehearsal, but he slapped my wrist for doubting his ability to pull a vocal shift. There was a passion to his singing throughout the night that had been lacking a week earlier and he became the third cog in the dramatic wheelhouse. Thankfully the de-kitted Alfredo was allowed to keep his trousers on during the opening of the second act that did away with the oohhs that erupted during the dress rehearsal – and I suspect Mr Boe was very glad as it must be seriously off putting for people to be ignoring your singing and concentrating on your backside.

Dario Solari again impressed as Giorgio Germont, although I could do with a bit more attack in his voice during the more dramatic passages. A curse of having such an apparently easy on the ear voice? Perhaps. Again his Act II scene with Myrto Papatanasiu was the highlight of the evening, even if he did sound a touch tired towards the end of the act as he shared the stage with Boe. A nice little detail in the confrontation has Alfredo reacting violently to his father, a change from the usual take on things that paints Snr in a less domineering light than is usual and perhaps explains the absence of dogmatism in his singing. A Giorgio not so in control of affairs is certainly an interesting prospect...

Of course, to have a successful Traviata, you need a Violetta who can sing her green shoes off – and a second meeting with Myrto Papatanasiu was confirmation that she is a singer very probably heading places over the coming years. Although she isn't quite the finished article at this moment in time her voice needs only smoothing in small places, and perhaps a guiding hand here or there to suggest how she can best get the most of what is an impressive instrument. È strano! in Act I was superbly sung and deserved the applause that came her way. She followed this with a fearless Sempre libera, complete with high notes that escape many sopranos. Again she was a Violetta to be reckoned with, which made her decline in the final act all the more moving. Addio del passato was a poignant high (low) point that had the audience so enthralled that not a single one managed to raise an applause – but don't worry, she got plenty at the final curtain.

One or two rambles before you can go your way – could the management at the WMC hand out cough sweets at the beginning of the third act as Violetta's coughing was drowned out by the audience getting too much into the performance. As for Addio del passato – I'm not sure if we're getting the 7" version as opposed to the 33⅓ rpm LP version, or maybe I'm enjoying it to the extent that I'm wanting an encore. Okay – where was the chorus at applause time? It seemed a tad odd not having them to enjoy the fruit of their labours...

And that's all folks – I'll probably try and see another performance but will save you having to read all about it. What you can read though, if you're a member of the cheaper seats, away from John Lennon's jewellery rattlers in the stalls, is the inscription that runs across the black marble styled floor of the stage – Ici Ripose... (the ...'s are mine). Essentially the stage is a gravestone / tomb cracked at one corner playing out the last days of Violetta Valery, and if I were you I'd catch the last days of this production as I'm not sure if WNO will have another Violetta of such quality again. for the * bit - not wanting to run into trouble over copyright if the snapper who took the photo would like a credit please get in touch as I couldn't find a name on The Times Online...

Madam Butterfly - WMC 17th of September

Photo Neil Bennett from the WNO website

"Déjà vu dude," I thought as I bought my programme – weren't most of the cast present in the last production? Yes. Did I need to buy a new programme? Probably not, but at least I got to fan away the garlic devotee beside me who had obviously bathed in the stuff before coming on over to the Armadillo by the Bay©. To be fair he got a whiff of dog walking clothes (washing machine playing up) so I think we were about even.

Anyone who has read my meanderings below will know I'm not a big fan of Madam Butterfly, but out of a sense of duty I thought I'd better take in the tearjerker of all tearjerkers. (Plus the fact that I'm seriously double booked with both Wozzeck performances and won't be within one hundred and eighty miles means I won't have anything WNO flavoured to cover until February).

This was the first staged production of any opera I had seen several years ago and although it hadn't blown my socks off it did enough to get me hooked. This was partly due to Amanda Roocroft's superb performance and it was mainly her reprising her double-barrelled first name role that swayed my apathy this time round. Unfortunately I caught her on, what to me was, an off night. Maybe off night is too harsh. Uneven would be a better description. While she struck some lovely lines she struggled to maintain smoothness in her tone as she strived for her high notes. I'll doff my cap to her final scene though – riveting to the extreme.

One abiding memory I have of the first time I saw this production was the trouble the tenor had in being heard above the orchestra, and though this wasn't as noticeable a problem this time round Russell Thomas still had a fight on his hands when Carlo Rizzi pressed the volume button on his baton. Maybe a touch less oomph may have allowed a bit more finesse in the singing department? But returning to Mr Thomas – a gorgeous voice that begged to be listened to. I'm not so sure about the acting stakes – but to be fair Pinkerton isn't a role that's allowed to develop in sight of the audience, so it's safer to say – let's wait and see with regards to Thomas' acting. But for now the voice is more than enough.

Claire Bradshaw once again was a fine Suzuki who had spark aplenty. Neal Davies as Sharpless rediscovered his humane stride with ease as did another returnee, Philip Lloyd Holtam, as the wheeling dealing Goro. Yet despite all their efforts, and the wonderfully authentic sets, I left feeling the same way as I entered; untouched by a Butterfly.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Brava Marianna!

On my recent travels I saw a concert performance of Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix at Covent Garden - it's not blessed with the most coherent of plots and sometimes an aria or two can linger for longer than I'd like but it makes for a fun night out if the cast is up to scratch, which it was on Monday evening.

Among a cast that included Alessandro Corbelli (Mr Comedy Character Actor 2009), Ludovic Tézier and the upcoming Stephen Costello was Marianna Pizzolato - who played Sifare in the recent Mitridate, and the title role of WNO's 2007 production of La Cenerentola. I have to admit to feeling a sense of pride in seeing her on the stage at the ROH as she gave a warmly received performance that should ensure she gets a recall at some point in the future.

Of course this will mean that she'll be less likely to appear with WNO in the future, which is a shame for the audience this side of the Severn, but I prefer to think of it in a different way. Just as Ajax is a feeder to the big boys in football I like to think of WNO playing a similar role in the opera world. WNO are never going to be able to afford top of the heap singers (unless they're home grown) but it's pleasing to see singers who have appeared with WNO move on to becoming "names" as it shows the management can spot a good singer or two! And who knows, they might, like Simon Keenlyside, return to their old stomping grounds when they've made their reputation.

Brava Marianna!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Links, links, links and not a harem in sight....

Xavier Renauld's photographs of Oscar Lhermitte's X Days Project.

Standing in for any real writing I've decided to offer blue highlighted words that should take you to some interesting bits and pieces on WNO I've come across on my travels.

To begin is a pair of positive reviews on La Traviata that you can slip on your feet and take for a walk. First up is Rupert Christiansen's take on things, including generous praise for Myrto Papatanasiu's Violetta - "ardent and free-spirited...a lovely performance from a singer we should hear more of." Geoff Brown, of The Times was equally taken with the new visitor to these shores and rustled up the perceptive "strip of steel in her voice reinforces the character’s backbone" and four stars to boot.

Moving on from my lazy attempt at What the Papers Say I thought I'd point you towards another paper story, this time from Wales Online. Not my usual read I have to admit, but one I'm getting to know as I knuckle down to taking this blog seriously. Anyway, before I lose you the story shows to what lengths teachers will go to get a free ticket to the opera...only joking - most of my known acquaintances have to suffer the slings and arrows of the planet's future population so I'm all for them escaping the confines of a seriously soul sapping vocation. But this isn't a lifestyle piece and in short it's the story of how a Cardiff school has incorporated Madam Butterfly into their curriculum with the help of WNO Max - the WNO's educational arm. Given the lip service paid towards the arts in education over the past twenty / thirty years or so it's important to see such initiatives take place, even if they only reach a small number of students.

My final offerings come straight from the horse's mouth. People within reach of Liverpool will have an In Conversation with John Fisher talking about the autumn season (check with WNO for ticket availability) while Wozzeck is treated to an innovative post performance discussion at Cardiff, Llandudno, Oxford and Birmingham (no need to book tickets in advance but follow the link to check out the dates involved). Unfortunately, due to some decrepit booking skills I'm seriously doublebooked for both Cardiff Wozzeck's and will be missing out on what could well be a welcome new fangled addition to the WNO's meet and greet strategy.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

La Traviata Dress Rehearsal

Going against every grain of fair play in my body I thought I'd give a sneak peak of what to expect in the coming La Traviata at WNO. Of course, this was only a dress rehearsal and singers / orchestra (even the audience) rarely give of their best on these occasions, preferring to keep their powder dry until opening night – but as I'm otherwise detained for the opening performances I thought I'd foist my opinions on you to save me plagiarising proper reviewers work.

Where to begin? Singers? Obviously they count. The orchestra and conductor? To be fair you need both of these. How about director and designer...? Now, usually I tend to think of opera purely as a vocal entertainment and quite often neglect to pay attention to the visual side of things – but as has been pointed out to me by persons with a lot more experience in these matters – this is the McVicar / McCallin Traviata, so doffing my cap to experience I thought I'd start with the view and movement for a change...

The important thing to realise with this production is that essentially, unless I've got the wrong end of the stick and am holding a banana instead, it's told in flashback from, I assume, Alfredo's pov. It's this subjective take on the story that dictates the predominantly sombre colour scheme – if you're a lover of black then you're in for a treat. In fact, the whole of the stage is caught within a "final curtain" look with large drapes framing the view. Does it work? In a sense, if you "get", the premise then it does (assuming I'm not still holding the banana). However, if you don't, then the decadence, the whole fin de siecle portrayal may become a touch heavy to the eyes. But hey! This is opera, where happiness isn't in abundance! One or two stage directions (for props) are probably unneeded but I'll let you decide for yourselves. In all, it is a richly drawn setting with plenty of atmosphere for you to sink your melancholy into.

Escaping shaky ground to less shaky ground (no terra firma in sight though) I'll waffle on about the singers for a while...I beg their pardons already.

This has been my third production of Traviata since May – taking in Vienna and London's main houses. Why am I telling you this? Well, to explain that I was carrying some mighty big baggage into this production that I hoped wouldn't have me thinking, "Well, they're okay, but they're not as good as...". So please remember this is a dress rehearsal I'm talking about...

Violetta came in the elegant form of Greek soprano Myrto Papatanasiu making her UK debut. She'd recently stepped into some rather large shoes when subbing for Angela Gheorghiu at Munich in the same role so she had plenty of credentials to pop on to her WNO bio. Would it be a worthy use of ink? I'd say so. Pardon the pun but she's no shrinking Violetta with a large voice that carried through the orchestra with ease. The danger of having such a big voice is that a singer can sometimes become too reliant on it, but Papatanasiu managed to avoid this trap. Once or twice she carried a note too long for my liking, but this is only a minor quibble. A touch more colour in her top notes, or even a softness to allow a variation for the ear to enjoy would be welcome – and judging from recordings I'd heard of her previous to this dress rehearsal it's something she appears to be actively working on. In short, if you've bought a ticket, she will not short-change you at all and she may well develop into a singer worth keeping an eye on (and she dies a lot better than some Violetta's too).

Playing the clueless Alfredo (does money grow on trees my boy?) is Alfie Boe. To begin with he seemed to be singing with his head in a pillow such was the difference in volume between himself and Papatanasiu, and as the rehearsal continued he seemed to be very underpowered. Saving himself? Perhaps. As it was things weren't looking grand for him and as we neared the final act the biggest response he had elicited from the audience was when he slid naked from bed and quickly into his trousers at the beginning of the second act (and judging by the amarous oohs and aahhs coming from the females all around me I suggest he leaves by helicopter come opening night). I'm not sure if he forgot about saving himself in the final act, or if he had been affected by dress rehearsal apathy, but suddenly, from being an Alfredo who had short top notes and little volume, he grew into his role in a way that suggests there is a lot more to come when the production opens for real.

Giorgio Germont was sung by Uruguayan baritone Dario Solari. To steal a phrase from a language tape I'm currently grappling with – "It pleases me" to report that Mr Solari is in good shape. A warm voice with a solid foundation he just about edged Papatanasiu in the dress rehearsal, and it was really their scene in act two that was the thoroughbred highlight of the afternoon. Of all the singers on stage he is the one who knows his voice best and it shows. Perhaps I'd like a touch more oomph in his high notes – but I'm just being greedy. Catch him while you can, because if he continues to sing like this then WNO audiences won't be seeing much more of him I'm afraid.

Honourable mentions too to Louise Poole and David Soar who made telling contributions with the little they had to do. The same too can be said of the dancers, especially the toreador and his bull, all shaped in a refreshingly buttock slapping original manner by choreographer Andrew George.

The orchestra, bedecked in shorts / jeans / leotards and conducted by a non-leotard wearing Andrea Licata, played quite well given that the tempi were a mixture of slow and quick; generally quicker than I've been used to, which made for some interesting passages. But honestly – unless they make an almighty mistake I'm not going to notice so it's best I leave them alone to do what they do so well...

Finishing off the show I can't forget the chorus who, predictably, as usual, the same old effect, were marvellous. If I could I'd like to take them with me to other houses to show them off because they are top drawer in my book. No, I don't know anyone in the chorus in case you're wondering.

From beginning to end this WNO, Scottish Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu co-production is elegant fare that ticks all the boxes. Papatanasiu plays a strong willed Violetta to Boe's slightly less authoritative Alfredo with their fates sealed by the impressive Solari as Germont Snr. If you've got a ticket you're in for a treat – if you haven't, take a punt on it because it's worth the admission fee.

Monday, 7 September 2009

For Hire - Escamillo Costume (BYO bull and senorita)

Sketch by Rubens (if he had hired me in his studio)

Just like an Old Master painter I prefer to live off the hard work of others – so without dwelling on the fact that this snippet of news was brought to my attention by a post on Intermezzo's blog I'll carry on as if I'd just discovered this WNO news article from Wales Online myself.

It seems that if you're in the mood to show up at work dressed as Don Giovanni or, if it's a drizzly January Monday morning, as Il Commendatore, you can pop along to WNO's costume department (situated a handy leap from a train window as you leave Cardiff Central) and hire yourself a new persona for the day.

I'm not sure if there'll be much of a call for Dennis O’Neill's threads from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera among the basketball playing fraternity of Wrexham, but luckily, as height isn't a common gift among Welshmen born before 1978, I wouldn't be surprised to see an explosion of vocal duelling between Rodolfos and Alfredos in back street saloons throughout the length and breadth of Europe's answer to the Amazon rainforest (minus the heat of course).

Luckily I am no longer the drunken youth of my drunken youth who would have hired out a number and tramped around the pubs and clubs of Cardiff terrorising damsels into distress with my Mick Jagger impersonation – but now the thought has entered my head I wonder if there's a dress code at the WMC?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Hold on to your hankies - the Italians are coming! (oh, and hold on to your sanity, so is an Austrian)

With little over a week until WNO's 09/10 season begins I thought I'd better give a quick run down of what's on offer this autumn. Being a touring company WNO haven't got the financial clout to stage reams of works unlike the Shirley Crabtree's of this world, so its number of productions per season is small (usually three) to allow stakes to be upped as it moves from city to city in a general three month cycle.

Luckily for me it does hang around for a month at its home base so I can pop along to as many performances as I fancy, given that prices are extremely reasonable – especially compared with the visit of the Mariinsky in October, when it's sell your granny time if you want to see the whole weekend.

If you're not flash with cash you can see the three offerings of La Traviata, Madama Butterfly and Wozzeck for a combined £15, and as not everything sells out you can sneak down the sides into pricier seats in the upper circle and see the action even closer up. Whatever your price range tickets are still available from the WMC.

Photo by Drew Farrell from the WNO website

My own highlight of the autumn season is La Traviata. It's an opera that I can listen to time and again and having the David McVicar direction to enjoy is a double delight. On the casting front I'm intrigued to hear how Alfie Boe fares. It's good to see that unlike some "opera singers" who have made a pretty penny from solo discs he is actually taking up the challenge of doing the real thing on stage. His Violetta is the Greek soprano Myrto Papatanasiu, who recently deputised in the same role for Angela Gheorghiu at Munich opposite the Man's Man Tenor (TM) Jonas Kaufmann – it goes without saying that I'm looking forward to hearing her sing. Completing the triumvirate of main roles (Papa G) is Dario Solari, the Uruguayan baritone, who was the recent Prince Yeletsky during the company's superb Queen of Spades. Waving the stick for the band to follow is Andrea Licata.

Photo by Neil Bennett from the WNO website

The second big seller of the autumn season is the Joachim Herz directed Madam Butterfly with Amanda Roocroft reprising the role of Cio-Cio San she played to thunderous applause several seasons ago, and playing the mean so and so Pinkerton is Miami born Russell Thomas (who must be wishing he was back in Miami given the weather Cardiff is offering him). Playing the character with the motorbike name is Claire Bradshaw, who is also reprising her well-received role from the 2007 production. Now, I have to admit that this isn't my favourite opera, and I am debating whether to actually go and see it, but given that it's an opera that is being performed on my doorstep, and not two hundred miles away, I think I'll make the effort. Stick waver for (most) of the WMC run is former WNO Big Cheese / Head Honcho / The Main Man, Carlo Rizzi.

Photo by Bill Cooper from the WNO website

On a changing of the guard note the conductor for the final autumn offering is WNO's new musical guru, Lothar Koenigs. He'll be leading the cast, headed by Christopher Purves, through the Richard Jones directed Wozzeck, an opera I know absolutely nothing about. The bits I've heard on You Tube have prepared me for an experience I'm guessing will be musically on a different planet from the operas written by the Italian dudes. I've been ummming and ahhing for the best part of the summer (okay, autumn masquerading as summer) whether or not to buy a copy to get used to what I'll be seeing but so far I'm still undecided. It's not that I'm adverse to a bit of madness in music, but I'm not sure if I'll be settling down to an evening of Wozzeck with a recording after I've seen it. I'll probably do a Butterfly and crack. By the way, you may find the following link of use if you're partial to seeing a man singing whilst walking on baked bean tins.

So that's what is on offer from the WNO at the WMC this autumn. It goes without saying that I'll be providing more uneducated responses to professional musicians efforts and hope that wherever you are in the world, and whatever company is your own hometown favourite, I hope you'll be having an un-Marx Bros style night at the opera very soon!