Recently in Performances

ETO Autumn 2020 Season Announcement: Lyric Solitude

English Touring Opera are delighted to announce a season of lyric monodramas to tour nationally from October to December. The season features music for solo singer and piano by Argento, Britten, Tippett and Shostakovich with a bold and inventive approach to making opera during social distancing.

Love, always: Chanticleer, Live from London … via San Francisco

This tenth of ten Live from London concerts was in fact a recorded live performance from California. It was no less enjoyable for that, and it was also uplifting to learn that this wasn’t in fact the ‘last’ LfL event that we will be able to enjoy, courtesy of VOCES8 and their fellow vocal ensembles (more below …).

Dreams and delusions from Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper at Wigmore Hall

Ever since Wigmore Hall announced their superb series of autumn concerts, all streamed live and available free of charge, I’d been looking forward to this song recital by Ian Bostridge and Imogen Cooper.

Treasures of the English Renaissance: Stile Antico, Live from London

Although Stile Antico’s programme article for their Live from London recital introduced their selection from the many treasures of the English Renaissance in the context of the theological debates and upheavals of the Tudor and Elizabethan years, their performance was more evocative of private chamber music than of public liturgy.

A wonderful Wigmore Hall debut by Elizabeth Llewellyn

Evidently, face masks don’t stifle appreciative “Bravo!”s. And, reducing audience numbers doesn’t lower the volume of such acclamations. For, the audience at Wigmore Hall gave soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and pianist Simon Lepper a greatly deserved warm reception and hearty response following this lunchtime recital of late-Romantic song.

The Sixteen: Music for Reflection, live from Kings Place

For this week’s Live from London vocal recital we moved from the home of VOCES8, St Anne and St Agnes in the City of London, to Kings Place, where The Sixteen - who have been associate artists at the venue for some time - presented a programme of music and words bound together by the theme of ‘reflection’.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny explore Dowland's directness and darkness at Hatfield House

'Such is your divine Disposation that both you excellently understand, and royally entertaine the Exercise of Musicke.’

Paradise Lost: Tête-à-Tête 2020

‘And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven … that old serpent … Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’

Joyce DiDonato: Met Stars Live in Concert

There was never any doubt that the fifth of the twelve Met Stars Live in Concert broadcasts was going to be a palpably intense and vivid event, as well as a musically stunning and theatrically enervating experience.

‘Where All Roses Go’: Apollo5, Live from London

‘Love’ was the theme for this Live from London performance by Apollo5. Given the complexity and diversity of that human emotion, and Apollo5’s reputation for versatility and diverse repertoire, ranging from Renaissance choral music to jazz, from contemporary classical works to popular song, it was no surprise that their programme spanned 500 years and several musical styles.

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields 're-connect'

The Academy of St Martin in the Fields have titled their autumn series of eight concerts - which are taking place at 5pm and 7.30pm on two Saturdays each month at their home venue in Trafalgar Square, and being filmed for streaming the following Thursday - ‘re:connect’.

Lucy Crowe and Allan Clayton join Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO at St Luke's

The London Symphony Orchestra opened their Autumn 2020 season with a homage to Oliver Knussen, who died at the age of 66 in July 2018. The programme traced a national musical lineage through the twentieth century, from Britten to Knussen, on to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and entwining the LSO and Rattle too.

Choral Dances: VOCES8, Live from London

With the Live from London digital vocal festival entering the second half of the series, the festival’s host, VOCES8, returned to their home at St Annes and St Agnes in the City of London to present a sequence of ‘Choral Dances’ - vocal music inspired by dance, embracing diverse genres from the Renaissance madrigal to swing jazz.

Royal Opera House Gala Concert

Just a few unison string wriggles from the opening of Mozart’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro are enough to make any opera-lover perch on the edge of their seat, in excited anticipation of the drama in music to come, so there could be no other curtain-raiser for this Gala Concert at the Royal Opera House, the latest instalment from ‘their House’ to ‘our houses’.

Fading: The Gesualdo Six at Live from London

"Before the ending of the day, creator of all things, we pray that, with your accustomed mercy, you may watch over us."

Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen at the Oscarshall Palace in Oslo

The doors at The Metropolitan Opera will not open to live audiences until 2021 at the earliest, and the likelihood of normal operatic life resuming in cities around the world looks but a distant dream at present. But, while we may not be invited from our homes into the opera house for some time yet, with its free daily screenings of past productions and its pay-per-view Met Stars Live in Concert series, the Met continues to bring opera into our homes.

Precipice: The Grange Festival

Music-making at this year’s Grange Festival Opera may have fallen silent in June and July, but the country house and extensive grounds of The Grange provided an ideal setting for a weekend of twelve specially conceived ‘promenade’ performances encompassing music and dance.

Monteverdi: The Ache of Love - Live from London

There’s a “slide of harmony” and “all the bones leave your body at that moment and you collapse to the floor, it’s so extraordinary.”

Music for a While: Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn at Ryedale Online

“Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.”

A Musical Reunion at Garsington Opera

The hum of bees rising from myriad scented blooms; gentle strains of birdsong; the cheerful chatter of picnickers beside a still lake; decorous thwacks of leather on willow; song and music floating through the warm evening air.



Scene from Bon Appetit [Photo by Duane Tinkey courtesy of Des Moines Metro Opera]
25 Jul 2019

Des Moines Cooks Up a Novel Treat

Des Moines Metro Opera delights in coming up with site-specific operatic presentations, and Bon Appetit was triumphantly produced in the handsome hall of the Iowa Culinary Institute.

Des Moines Cooks Up a Novel Treat

By James Sohre

Above: Scene from Bon Appetit

Photos by Duane Tinkey courtesy of Des Moines Metro Opera


Patrons lucky enough to score a ticket to the SRO soiree were provided an extensive, multi-course dinner with suitable libations, and the evening was first punctuated by snappy song performances from four appealing young Apprentice Artists.

As the crowd was tippling some bubbly, Catherine Goode’s poised soprano, Joyner Horn’s rich mezzo, Quinn Bernegger’s polished tenor, and Robert Gerold’s accomplished baritone warmed up the proceedings with an opening set of such novelty songs as I Can Cook, Too, Frim Fram Sauce, Tea for Two, and Peel Me A Grape. As the audience tucked into their main course, the quartet returned to position themselves amid the audience accessorized with cute costume pieces and props (including a rubber chicken), to divvy up the duties of Bernstein’s quartet of French recipes set to music, La bonne cuisine.

But artistically, the evening belonged to local favorite, mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle who was utterly engaging in her winning star turn as Julia Child in Lee Hoiby’s twenty-minute opera, Bon Appetit. To enthuse that Ms. Castle is a National Treasure is simply too weak praise for her perfectly calibrated, masterfully voiced “tour de farce.” Although she has a potent, full-bodied instrument, on this occasion, she modulated her delivery to convey Julia’s tongue in cheek personality, reveling in all its comic quirkiness.


And if there is another opera star that has Castle’s unique brand of charisma, musicality, and unerring comic timing I don’t know who it is. Together with director Nathan Troup, this singing actress mined a wealth of sight gags, takes, deadpans, asides, eye rolls, and comic business that kept the audience tittering and applauding in giddy delight the entire length of the piece.

Without slavishly impersonating the famous chef, she managed to push all the familiar buttons with an affectionate portrait that never descended into caricature. To name but one memorable moment, the slyly nonchalant appearance of Ms. Child’s signature glass of white wine was so comically shameless that the audience surrendered whatever was left of their composure and howled with glee. This lady knows how to keep and captivate a crowd.

The libretto by Mark Shulgasser is based on an actual airing of The French Chef in which a chocolate cake is baked. The sole suspense is whether the somewhat scattered cook will get the recipe together and the cake produced. Any guesses as to the outcome?

After the sustained, resounding cheers that were rained on Joyce finally diminished, and attendees resumed their seats from bestowing a well-deserved standing ovation, all were served a slice of Bon Appetit’s signature chocolate cake as their dessert course.

While the technical elements were of necessity simple, they were nonetheless all that was needed to present a polished effect. Adam Crinston’s TV Kitchen set was handsome, bright, and well appointed; Nate Wheatley lit it simply and evenly; Heather Lesieur’s costume conveyed just the right Child-like look; and Sarah Norton’s make-up and wig completed Ms. Castle’s transformation.

The skillful pianist Elden Little played with power, playfulness, and panache all evening long. For diners and opera-goers alike, Bon Appetit was a wholly delectable “happening,” a feast for eyes, ears and tummy alike.

One final note about the remarkable, enduring career of Joyce Castle: After a very long and distinguished run as one of Operadom’s most beloved, prolific, and successful performers, the mezzo continues to gift us with new role assumptions like Julia Child. She will next undertake her first Countess in next summer’s The Queen of Spades. Long may she rave! Mark calendars now!

James Sohre

Bon Appetit by Lee Hoiby
La bonne cuisine by Leonard Bernstein
Songs by assorted composers

Julia Child: Joyce Castle; Featured Performers: Quinn Bernegger, Robert Gerold, Catherine Goode, Joyner Horn; Pianist: Elden Little; Director: Nathan Troup; Set Design: Adam Crinson; Lighting Design: Nate Wheatley; Costume Design: Heather Lesieur; Make-Up/Hair Design: Sarah Norton

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