Richard 11 – Royal Shakespeare Company
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Trying to think of a suitable play to recommend in this week when our Queen has died, the line that popped into my head was totally inappropriate, "For God's sake let us sit upon the ground/And tell sad stories about the death of kings.“
No disrespect, Ma’am, but perhaps Richard 11 is not as inappropriate as it seems at first thought, being about the transition of power, the way power can shift from one leader to another in the blink of an eye.
“The Queen is dead, Long live the King”. That’s the way it happens. That’s the way it happened this week, in England. It’s not Charles’ fault that he has become King this week, simply an accident of birth.
In Shakespeare’s play, Richard is King: another monarch ordained by God to lead his people. But Richard's vanity threatens to divide the great houses of England and drag his people into a dynastic civil war that will last 100 years. The real Richard 11 was a dreadful King and he deserved to lose his crown to Bolingbroke (who became King Henry 1V) but Shakespeare’s version assumes it was a deliberate usurpation of power although history suggests a different story. No matter, they’re all dead now and, anyway, I prefer Shakespeare’s version.
RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran directs David Tennant in the title role of what is unquestionably the best production I have seen of this great play.
Bossabrasil - Birdland
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Birdland in New York has begun livestreaming some of their jazz events which is great for jazz lovers everywhere. However, Birdland’s press releases are disappearingly sparse. I guess we’re supposed to guess the rest of the information. This one merely says: “Bossabrasil at Birdland features Marcos Valle and special guest Paula Morelenbaum.” Interesting, but not much to go on.
Fortunately, we know that Marcos Valle is a major songwriter of Brazilian popular music whose songs have been recorded by Sarah Vaughan, Jay-Z, Diana Krall, Chicago, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, Toots Thielemans, Joe Pass, Astrud Gilberto, Babel Gilberto, Sergio Mendes, to name a few.
He is a multi-talented musician and vocalist, back in New York by popular demand, and accompanied by Renato “Massa” Calmon/Drums, Jesse Sadoc/Trumpet, and Patricia Alvi /Vocals, from Brazil and Itaiguara Brandao/Bass.
Paula Morelenbaum will be Valle’s Special Guest at Bossabrasil, the ongoing Festival at Birdland, a new home for Brazilian music. Paula was part of the Jobim Band for 10 years and continues to explore Jobim’s legacy in numerous recordings.
Sept 15 at 9.30 ET and then available until Sept 19 $15
The Modern Invention of Ancient White Marble
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On the day I first visited the Parthenon in Athens, someone, I’ve forgotten who, but someone who appeared to know his stuff, told me that the pristine whiteness of the marble had been only the starting point. He said that when it was built, every part of this amazing edifice was brightly painted and so were the sculptured figures that then filled every nook and alcove. Ever since, I’ve been trying to imagine how the ancient structures and sculptures that we see today must have looked to contemporary Athenians. As it turns out, I'm not the only one.
Now, at the Met Museum in New York, there’s an exhibition of Polychromy called "Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color". Archaeologists Vinzenz and Ulrike Koch Brinkmann have spent the last 40 years dedicated to the study of polychromy—or “many colors” in Greek—in ancient sculpture. Once a fringe area of study, their research combats the misconception of white purity in ancient Greece and Rome. They reflect on the marble bust of Caligula and other famous statues, and how the reconstruction of their former colours can help us better understand history.
Two hardworking scholars, Vinzenz and Ulrike Koch Brinkmann, have devoted their lives and scholarship to investigating the original colours of ancient statuary and reproducing them on plaster models of some well known friezes and sculptures, alongside their white marble exhibits. It’s fascinating.
To modern eyes these colours look too bright, too garish, too amateurish but, say the Brinkmanns, what they have uncovered through years of painstaking work, is how they actually looked when they were new. There isn’t room here to reproduce more of these startling artifacts but I looked them up online at ‘Vinzenz and Ulrike Koch Brinkmann images’ and they popped right up.
REGENERATE: Lost Songs from the Musicals
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This Sunday sees a one time only livestreamed online gala of songs by titans of musical theatre such as Elton John, Tim Rice, Toby Marlow, Lucy Moss, Masi Asare, Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boublil, Adam Guettel, Stephen Schwartz, Maury Yeston, Douglas Hodge, Stiles & Drewe, Irene Sankoff & David Hein, Don Black & Debbie Wiseman.
They have been retrieving their favourite songs cut from their classic shows and rummaging through their bottom drawers, selecting and repurposing beloved melodies and lyrics to premiere a substantial array of never-before-heard songs, regenerated for one night only.
REGENERATE, a fundraiser for Mercury Musical Developments, which supports new and emerging musical theatre talent, will be free for everyone to join and watch – with the audience able to donate as they watch via text, phone or online.
Sept 18 at 7.00pm GMT
Electra – Victorian Opera on demand
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This is a new Australian website which offers sensible access to live opera performances online and then gives you six months to watch what you purchase, anywhere, anytime. Each Victorian Opera performance is streamed live on the performance date and subsequently available on demand for six months. Watch when you want and as many times as you like.
Richard Strauss' Elektra yearns to avenge the murder of her father, King Agamemnon. Her brother, Orest, returns to cleanse the palace of its evil. From her obsessive beginnings to her final dance of vengeance and collapse, Elektra’s journey to catharsis is one of the great trajectories of character in operatic literature.
Soprano Catherine Foster, a veteran of Bayreuth and the major opera houses of the world, sings the title role alongside a stellar Australian cast. Richard Mills conducts the combined forces of Orchestra Victoria, Australia’s opera orchestra par excellence, and the very talented young musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music.
Sept 14, 7:30pm A$30
Lars Vogt – Waltz Op. 39, No. 15
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Lars Vogt died this week. One of my favourite pianists, the cancer that he had talked about so openly suddenly took him away. He was only 51.
Fortunately for us, he was as generous with his music as he was in his life and has left a number of fine recordings, both audio and visual.
Brahms was his favourite composer so it's only fitting that we say goodbye to him with an encore, his own recording of this Brahms Waltz.
He was a lovely man and a great pianist.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.