Ariadne Auf Naxos - Scottish National Orchestra
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Lothar Koenigs conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in a filmed concert performance of Richard Strauss' comedy Ariadne auf Naxos.
It’s the party to end all parties. But two entertainments have been double-booked to mark the evening’s climax – a serious opera and a slapstick comedy. The star soprano is throwing a tantrum and the staff are hiding the chaos from the boss. There’s only one solution: perform both shows at the same time.
This is a brand new concert staging by brilliant young director Louisa Muller. Among the specially selected cast are revered German soprano Dorothea Röschmann as the opera’s wronged heroine, Thomas Quasthoff as the house’s major-domo and prize-winning Scottish singer Catriona Morison as the composer.
As an opera within an opera and as a sly commentary on the struggles between high culture and low entertainment, Strauss’s comic creation was far ahead of its time. Bursting with life, vigour and humour, it’s also an opera that shows you can rediscover love in even the most unexpected places.
Sung in German with optional closed captions in English. This is a digital performance that will be available to watch online from 29 August at 7.30pm to 27 February. Free but requires booking.
Islander - Dundee Rep
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Eilidh stares out to sea and dreams of a new life beyond her lonely island. Myth and reality collide when the tide washes a mysterious stranger onto her beach, changing her life forever. Epic storytelling intimately staged with a contemporary Scottish folk-inspired score.
The two-hander cast of Kirsty Findlay and Bethany Tennick perform a whole host of characters while weaving, building and layering their voices using looping technology to create an expansive, ethereal soundscape for the ears and imagination.
Dundee Rep presents a filmed reimagining of Islander, the award-winning folk theatre musical conceived and directed by Amy Draper with music and lyrics by Dundee-born writer and composer Finn Anderson with a book by Stewart Melton.
Originally presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019, this new version of the show was filmed on Dundee Rep stage, and on location, and will be on demand Aug 29-Sept 8. £15
Victoria – Northern Ballet
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Northern Ballet's new biopic brings the sensational story of Victoria to life in dance. Passion, tragedy, fierce devotion. Queen Victoria’s diaries revealed a life so fascinating that her daughter Beatrice tried to rewrite history. Her irrepressible love for Albert sparked a royal dynasty. But his untimely death brought the world's most powerful woman to her knees with grief.
Cathy Martson, whose sensational ballet, The Cellist, about Jacqueline du Pre was, for my money, the best new classical ballet in years, is on shakier ground with this one. It’s very mime-heavy and, even so, it’s not always clear what’s going on or who is whom. This company is racially diverse, which we’re not supposed to notice, but I think it helps to know in advance because then it’s less visually confusing.
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Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill - Audra Macdonald
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I recently had occasion to watch again Audra Macdonald’s stunning performance as Billie Holliday in what is so much more than a biographical and musical picture of a great artist who died much too young. It’s a heartbreaking and beautiful play which, while including all Billie Holliday’s famous signature songs, is also an insight into a society and a world that was not able to encompass her.
It’s March 1959, and at a small Philadelphia club, a star vocalist takes the stage for one of the last shows of her life. This powerhouse performance conjures jazz icon Billie Holiday, known evermore to jazz lovers as Lady Day, for an intimate cabaret evening featuring live renditions of her most beloved classics, and a revealing glimpse into the troubled history of the woman behind the legend. This play with music is a testament to one woman’s ability to mine humour from hardship—and to the transformative power of song.
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Dancing Nation – Sadlers Well and BBC Arts
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Twelve individual dance works selected from Sadler’s Wells and BBC Arts’ acclaimed Dancing Nation series. Featuring Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Akram Khan and Candoco Dance Company amongst others and now available digitally.
The Frick’s final Cocktails With a Curator – Arrangement in Black and Gold
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I’ve been hoarding the Frick’s last Cocktails with a Curator but I’ve finally come to the end of them and here is the very last one. Xavier Salomon, Chief Curator (with a hopelessly long official title he endlessly repeats) takes us on a riveting journey around James McNeill Whistler’s Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (a title nearly as long as Xavier’s) and, as ever, his apparently effortless art scholarship blends facts and description perfectly.
The official title of the painting is Arrangement in Black and Gold, a title which, like many of the artist’s works fails to mention its subject, but it’s a portrait of one of his best friends. Whistler met the eccentric poet and aristocrat depicted in the painting in 1885, and they soon become fast friends, with Montesquiou sitting for the portrait in 1891–92, making it the most modern work on display at the Frick.
Even regular visitors to museums and art galleries rarely get to meet the curators who select and take care of the paintings we look at. This series gave us the opportunity to meet and get to know two of the most knowledgeable and I, for one, am most grateful for everything this sessions have added to my sum of knowledge about art and art history. I keep complaining about the cessation of this wonderful series, Cocktails With a Curator, but my wails of protest have fallen on deaf ears.
Past episodes remain available on the Frick's website for us to rewatch and enjoy. So now all we can do is thank the Frick Collection in New York for having entertained and educated us throughout the pandemic and hope that, one day, we’ll see Xavier Salomon and Aimee Ng again on our screens.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.