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.



Joshua Stewart (Charlie Parker) & Jorell Williams (Dizzy Gillespie). [Photo by Philip Newton]
26 Feb 2020

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

A review by Roger Downey

Above: Joshua Stewart (Charlie Parker) & Jorell Williams (Dizzy Gillespie).

All photos by Philip Newton


An assiduous scour through past reviews and You-Tube videos confirms that it has changed very little since it was reviewed for Opera Today at its opening by Andrew Moravcsik .

Curiously, its most detailed and analytical critique appeared in the official journal of jazz Downbeat, when that journal’s Chicago correspondent Howard Mandel reported on the two performances presented by Lyric Opera in its smaller Kimmel Theatre venue.

Or is it curious? Mandel was able to approach the piece from neutral ground, unconstrained by the burdens facing “classical” and “opera” reviewers covering a piece not only outside the standard repertory but outside in subject matter: the life and work of a hugely gifted drug-addicted black jazz improvisor who dreamed about fusing his art with mainstream classical music.

200219_YardBird_DR_ 2536.pngChrystal E. Williams (Rebecca Parker)

In his Downbeat write-up Mandel acutely analyses the components of composer Daniel Schnyder’s third-streamy amalgam of buried references to works by Parker and other jazz and classical composers, and the way that his busy, buzzy orchestration often blurs and distracts from his angular quasi-tonal vocal lines.

He doesn’t dwell on its effect on the singers and the audience. To penetrate the background instrumental muttering, the performers have to declaim every line, pedestrian or pompous; and since their material is undifferentiated and chanted at the same ponderous pace throughout, it soon ceases to have any particular emotional impact.

The thermostat is set at fraught. Each scenelet blurs into the next as the cast moves from one cafe table to another to denote the passage of time, forward and back. Dead at curtain’s rise, Parker revisits youth, fame, degradation, friendship, romance, only to end up on the same gurney they rolled him in on 90 intermissionless minutes before, while the remaining cast take turns mourning over him and the alto sax he brandishes from time to time but never plays.

The Seattle cast copes well with the material provided. The lights go on and off, the set goes up and down, time passes. The show ends. The compulsory standing ovation ensues. Curtain.

Roger Downey

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird : libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberly; music by Daniel Schnyder. Charlie Parker: Joshua Stewart/Frederick Ballentine; Addie Parker: Angela Brown; Rebecca Parker: Chrystal E. Williams; Doris Parker: Jennifer Cross; Chan Parker: Shelly Traverse; Dizzy Gillespie: Jorell Williams; Baroness Kathleen Annie Pannonica de Koenigswarter Rothschild: Audrey Babcock. Original stage director: Ron Daniels; Settings: Riccardo Hernandez; Costumes: Emily Rebholz; Lighting: Scott Zielinski; Choreoraphy: Donald Byrd; Sound design: Robertson Witmer. Members of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Kelly Kuo, conductor.

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