Hastings Philharmonic: Pergolesi/Scarlatti Stabat Mater

This will be a rare opportunity to hear Marcio da Silva sing counter-tenor.

Hastings Philharmonic Baroque – 7pm,  
2 December 2017 at Christ Church,
Silchester Road St Leonards TN38 0JB,

featuring Emily Armour, soprano, Marcio da Silva countertenor, Petra Hajduchova on Harpsichord, violins Eleanor Harrison and Ellen Bundy, cello Philip Collingham. tickets  £15/£12.50 concessions (Under 16 £5). https://www.musicglue.com/hastings-philharmonic/events/2017-12-02-stabat-mater-christchurch

WNO: Russian Revolution

Apollo Theatre, Oxford, 28-29 November 2017

It was a pleasure to see both of these productions back in the repertoire and so well presented. The link may have been a little tenuous but the experience of the individual works was never in doubt.

James Macdonald’s approach to Eugene Onegin becomes increasingly challenging as it goes on. We have little real sympathy with Tatyana in her letter scene, as she seems emotionally limited no matter how extrovert she claims to be, but by the end it is Onegin himself who troubles us as he loses all sympathy in a welter of self-flagellation.

This narrative is carefully constructed and set within the three large choral scenes which are expertly handled by the WNO chorus. The mistakes in the choreography were either brilliantly planned to look naturalistic or were covered in a highly professional way by the respective chorus members. Either way it was a delight.

Natalya Romaniw, as Tatyana, is actually Welsh despite her Ukranian name and matures intelligently as the evening progresses. The voice is never in doubt but her reaction to Onegin seems, on reflection, unnecessarily harsh. He does not come over as arrogant in the opening scenes even if he is a fish out of water. She is at her best in the final act where – like Trollope’s Lady Glencora – she has learned how the world works and actually rather likes it, even if she has a moment of self-doubt.

Nicholas Lester’s Onegin is suave from the start but seems, psychologically, to absorb all the worst traits of Lensky once he has killed his friend. In the final act we are led to believe for a moment that Lensky is still alive but it is actually Onegin, now tousle haired and unshaven. He has had a total meltdown, and if he was out of his depth with the peasants at the start he is even more so now with the true aristocracy. No such problem for Tatyana who has taken to the life as a duck to water.

Jason Bridges is a finely sung Lensky but one whose naivety lets him down to say nothing of failing the excellent Olga of Claudia Huckle.

Of the large cast Liuba Sokolova particularly impressed at Filipyevna, and though Miklos Sebestyen only has the one aria as Gremin he certainly made the most of it – setting the seal on Onegin’s fate with deft simplicity.

Ainars Rubikis handled his large forces with skill from the pit and was not afraid to allow the sentimentality to take over when needed.

The following night brought us to the darkness of Janacek’s From the House of the Dead in David Pountney’s moving production of 1982. It is as stark as ever and if anything even more relevant in the light of refugee camps and the rise of right-wing parties. The narrative is concerned with prisoners telling their own stories – a reality of many camps where the only way to remind yourself you count and are human is to retell your story, no matter how bleak or evil it may appear to be.

We learn very little of Goryanchikov, who appears to be the only real political prisoner, and the only one who is freed at the end. In Ben McAteer’s characterisation he is at once sympathetic but also a total outsider to the rest of the prisoners.

Alan Oke’s Skuratov tells of his love for Luisa – an affair which comes to nothing – and in the final scene Simon Bailey’s Shishkov insists on giving all the grizzly details of his marriage.

Nothing is comfortable in the work, though there are numerous moments when light seems to break through; none more so than the end when the eagle is released – a sign of hope even when the prisoners themselves have little or none.

Tomas Hanus drove the score strongly. The opening prelude was particularly impressive setting the emotional state of the work, but there are no easy moments. The stage design by Maria Bjornson is as effective as ever and strongly lit by Chris Ellis.

Hastings Early Music Festival 2017

Friday 24 & Saturday 25 December at Opus Theatre
Sunday 26 December at Kino teatr

The first Hastings Early Music Festival brought a wealth of fine musicianship as well as encouraging an enthusiastic following for all three events across the weekend.

Friday night’s concert given by the Rautio Piano Trio may have lain just outside the normal parameters of early music but served as an engaging context for the rest of the weekend. Introducing the three piano trios by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, the members of the trio drew links based on letters from the composers, the visits they made to each other and their friendships across the years at the end of the eighteenth century.

They also drew our attention to the development of the Piano Trio itself, pointing up the growing importance of the cello, mellifluously played by Victoria Simonsen, as one moves from the near simplistic bass line from Mozart to the warm cantabile of Beethoven’s flowing melodies.

They opened with Mozart’s trio in C major KV548, the first Allegro driven by the piano. Though there is more scope for Jane Gordon’s solo violin as the work progresses it is essentially all built around Jan Rautio’s muscular piano playing.

The balance shifts in Haydn’s G major Trio Hob XV:25, the gently flowing legato line of the Poco Adagio particularly impressing and the jaunty, almost raunchy, Presto  bringing the first half to a fine climax.

After the interval we heard Beethoven’s Eflat trio Op70No2. Here the balance was exemplary. If the acoustic in the Opus is on the dry side it helps to clarify and accentuate the sound, giving it an added immediacy. The final Allegro moved us securely into the romantic period, with its complexity both of texture and structure – we have come a very long way from the gentle simplicity of Mozart’s trio earlier in the evening.  As a brief, romantic, encore we heard a delightful Nocturne by Ferdinand Hiller, who himself bridges the time between Haydn and Wagner.

We were now ready to dive back into the heady excesses of the eighteenth century on the following evening, opening with a brief Prelude to Act V of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen performed by the full HEMF Baroque Ensemble.  This was followed by Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and highlighting the Festival Director, Jane Gordon, as solo violinist. So familiar is the work that it is all too easy to ignore the fact that this is effectively a virtuoso concerto for violin, and one which she carried off with considerable aplomb and impressive ornamentation. The Largo was taken at a more rapid tempo than might be expected but reflected the bleakness of the setting, to say nothing of one of the coldest nights so far this winter.

Soprano Charlotte Beamont joined the ensemble to sing the gentle but plaintive O Let Me Weep from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen followed instantly by a jaunty chaconne with violin obbligato.

The first half ended with a return to Vivaldi and his familiar Nulla in Mundo- though on this occasion we heard the whole work including the excessive and wonderful coloratura of the final Alleluia.

After the interval we moved to Bach and Handel, opening with an arrangement of one of Bach’s orchestral suites for Flute and strings. Flautist Neil Mclaren played through the Overture and then gave us a brief introduction to his flute which is based on a 1730 German model and one which he bought without even playing, knowing how good it would be and how perfect for eighteenth-century scores. They then played the six dance movements which make up the rest of the suite with a very slow and introspective Sarabande and a sprightly concluding Badinerie which seemed to defy the B minor setting of the whole work.

Charlotte Beamont returned for three vocal items to conclude the evening. Lascia ch’io pianga was the popular aria from Handel’s Rinaldo followed by the even better known Rejoice Greatly from Messiah.  In both the ornamentation was subtle and always apt.

The concert ended with the final aria from Bach’s Cantata BWV209, drawing on all the players across the evening for a warmly uplifting conclusion before we went out into a very cold night.

The final event of the Festival was held on Sunday afternoon at Kino Teatr where The Telling presented a programme of medieval carols, interspersed with readings. Where the previous two evenings had been carefully structured to lead us through and give us a deeper insight into the music we were to hear, the approach from the two singers and instrumentalist  was immersive and at times somewhat confusing. With no translations or explanations, no matter how beautiful the singing, we had no idea what we were listening too or the potential differences between the settings. More confusing still were the readings. Where all the music was medieval, the first reading was Laurie Lee’s experience of singing carols at the Big House in Slad in the early part of the last century. Only the brief extract from Gawain came close the period of the music. Kaisa Pulkkinen’s harp playing was most enjoyable but it would have been even more fascinating to know why she used two very different portable harps. There was some familiar music along the way but it could have been so much more enjoyable if we had understood more, rather than simply sitting back and indulging ourselves.

Maybe this will be part of a learning curve for next year. As a first festival this has been immensely impressive and plans are already in hand for next year. Jane Gordon has to be thanked and congratulated – starting anything for scratch is difficult and getting this far so quickly shows a level of professionalism and stamina which should take her far.

Tenors Unlimited

Internationally acclaimed operatic trio Tenors Unlimited, the ‘Rat Pack of Opera’ will be performing Christmas charity concert at Opus Theatre Hastings on Friday 8th December 19:30 in aid of local charity The Little Hands & Art with local choir Guestling-Bradshaw C.E Primary School

The internationally acclaimed operatic trio Tenors Unlimited, the ‘Rat Pack of Opera’, will be performing a Christmas charity concert at the Opus Theatre, Hastings on Friday 8th December 19:30 in aid of local charity The Little Hands & Art. They will be joined by local choir Guestling-Bradshaw C.E Primary School. The group is currently touring the UK and will touring the USA and the UK next year. Jem Sharples, a member of the group, is from Hastings.

Jem Sharples from Tenors Unlimited who lives in Hastings says “We’re delighted to be performing in my home town and hope as many people as possible attend to support The Little Hands & Art, which is such a worthy cause. This will be a special Christmas concert with lots of favourites.”

Tickets cost adults £13; children under 16, £7. To buy tickets, visit www.tenorsunlimited.com (also available from Waterfalls, Hastings and Hastings Tourist Office, Muriel Matters House, Hastings.)

Tenors Unlimited – Paul Martin, Jem Sharples, Scott Ciscon – will be performing Christmas favourites such as “Oh Holy Night”, “Silent Night”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as well as diverse and fun songs from their current theatre tour “From Venice to Vegas”. This will include ‘Nessun Dorma’, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and songs written by the group themselves.

Tenors Unlimited has performed alongside such notables as Sting, Lionel Richie, Beyoncé, Hayley Westenra, Simply Red and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to name a few. During 2017, they have been playing to sell out shows in the USA and Bermuda and are currently touring the UK. See footage of their performances https://www.tenorsunlimited.com/media

Local charity The Little Hands & Art (formerly known as Hands around the World) was born after the tsunami in 2004 which struck Thailand. The charity raised money for children caught up in it and who lost everything. The charity bought a mobile art unit which provided art therapy for distressed children and continues to help other children from deprived areas or in stressful situations. The charity continues to provide food and medicines for poor families and supports an orphanage. More information: http://bit.ly/2ikZEa6

Guestling-Bradshaw C.E Primary School Junior Choir has performed at concerts and events in Hastings, performed at Hastings Music Festival and was runner-up in the 1066 Choir Competition last year.

For over ten years, Scott Ciscon, Paul Martin and Jem Sharples have entertained audiences throughout the world.  Using talents honed in their previous solo careers in opera and theatre, they bring their own blend of wit, charm and vocal arrangements to their performances. Alan Titchmarsh OBE said “21st century tenors, great fun, great voices and a great evening.” Tenors Unlimited sang at the memorial service for football legend Sir Bobby Robson and sang live at Wembley Stadium at the FA Cup final.

Jem Sharples from Tenors Unlimited says “We perform a wide repertoire of all music so there is sure to be something for everyone.”

Their latest album “The Journey” can be purchased online from their web site www.tenorsunlimited.com via iTunes, Amazon and GooglePlay.

For more information about the trio and other tour dates in the UK, visit www.tenorsunlimited.com


ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL 21 November 2017

A large audience gathered for this latest instalment in the series which deliberately presents different aspects of the organ repertoire by performers who are experts in their particular field. For this concert Anne Page brought her experience and research to present an interpretation of the complete Art of Fugue by JS Bach.

On this occasion I took advantage of the pre-concert talk in which Anne Page was in conversation
with the curator of the RFH organ, William McVicker, about the work and different opinions about what instrument it was written for and the enigmatic way in which the published work ends. This was a fascinating talk, which could have gone on much longer, with excellent musical illustrations from the RFH’s organ scholar David Thomas. It certainly helped me in my appreciation of the music which followed.

Throughout the evening Anne Page demonstrated her commitment and understanding of this music and its relation to other genres, notably the French style of organ music from the likes of de Grigny, whom Bach admired. Her well chosen registrations and her decision to emphasise different interpretations to group the movements made for a very cohesive and immersive experience. The ease with which lines were performed on the pedals was very impressive. Clear delineation of voices (by registration) and careful articulation in each fugue made it possible to appreciate the structures and to attempt to follow some of the thematic material, although at times this was not easy.

The craftsmanship, mathematical genius and beauty of this music is without doubt. This organ is a wonderful vehicle for it. Anne Page’s knowledge, commitment, concentration and overall musicianship was impressive throughout. I found myself, at times, completely drawn in by the music. Unfortunately for this listener the overall experience was just too much. As the programme notes mentioned, the composer would not have envisaged a complete performance such as this, and for me, and I suspect others, despite wanting to enjoy the totality of this music, it didn’t really work.

Perhaps elements of the talk could have been interspersed with the music, or some contrasting music inserted partway through. I certainly would have welcomed some relief from what became a rather  cerebral and overwhelming experience. After the concluding “unfinished” movement (with a realised ending by Paul Binski) the evening ended with a beautifully understated rendition of Bach’s last composition, dictated during his final illness, Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit.

The next concert in the series is on 26th February – a varied programme from Daniel Cook.

Stephen Page


DVDs / CDs November 17

Wagner: Die Walkure
Salzburg Easter Festival 2017
Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann
UNITEL 742808

Those of us who have been attending Wagner performances now for over half a century will recall Gunther Schneider-Siemssen’s massive settings from the 1960s – none more so that the Solti Ring Cycles at the Royal Opera House.

This new release is a strange hybrid. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Herbert von Karajan’s opening of the first Salzburg Easter Festival with Die Walkure they have recreated Schneider-Siemssen’s sets but then added in new costumes and a new production. The second and third acts work better as the world of the gods sits more comfortably within the vast ring. Not so the first act where Peter Seiffert’s finely sung Siegmund sits rolling a cigarette before calling out to his father, very much at odds with the heavily stylised setting, which has no doors or sense of the domestic about it, dampening the intimacy of the music.

Thankfully Thielemann and his orchestra are in magnificent form and the end of act one thrills, as to many other key moments. Anja Kampe is an engaging Brunnhilde and a fine foil for the slippery Wotan of Vitalij Kowaljow. Christa Mayer’s Fricka has more to do in this production than is often the case and is only too happy to see Siegmund killed.

In the end, the compromise works, though it might have been even more interesting to have reconstructed and original production as an entity rather than in part.


Wagner: Siegfried
Hon Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Jaap van Zweden
NAXOS 8.660413-16

This is proving to be the finest Ring cycle currently available and I can’t wait for next year’s Gotterdammerung. It is excellently sung throughout and Jaap van Zweden’s conducting is light and flexible – just what the score needs and all too often fails to get. There are many magnificent moments. I particularly enjoyed Falk Struckmann’s Fafner, who hints at the lumbering stupidity of the giant even as he roars out his contempt for Siegfried. Matthias Goerne adds the Wanderer to his earlier Wotan, with a world-weary edge which is most convincing. Valentina Farcas is a sprightly woodbird and both dwarves are incisive and nasty. At the heart of the work, Simon O’Neill brings authority to the title role as well as flexibility to the musical line which always pleases. For this recording to be available on a bargain priced label makes it all the more worth snapping up.


Lehar: Schon ist die Welt
Munchner Rundfunkorchester, Ulf Schirmer
CPO 777055-2

This was the last major work from Lehar and the most operatic. The second act is effectively through-composed, a fact which did not go down too well with some of his followers who preferred a more conventional operetta format. There are some lovely melodies however and more to enjoy here than might at first seem obvious. It is certainly worth a second hearing.

The only minor flaw is that the dual casting means you need to have an idea of the story line to ensure you know which character you are supposed to be listening to at any one time!


Silver Voice
Katherine Bryan, flute, Orchestra of Opera North, Bramwell Tovey

While there is much to enjoy here and some very fine playing I am unsure just who the audience are for this recording of operatic arias arranged for flute. The tunes range from Gershwin to Mozart and are all instantly recognisable, but am I simply being snobbish to suggest that if I wanted operatic arias I’d rather have them sung rather than played here as what comes close to background music rather than a cd I would deliberately sit down to enjoy.


Debussy: Preludes Book 1 & 2
Angela Brownridge, piano

A full recording this, with both books of Preludes plus L’Isle joyeuse. What impresses is the range and delicacy which Angela Brownridge brings to the recording, meaning that we can indulge individual pieces but equally experience the books as a whole, moving from one emotional encapsulation to another. She seems to create links with ease, enticing us even when the content is complex and challenging.

A fine recording with hopefully many more to follow.


Arturo Benedetti
ORFEO C 943171B

This recording dates from 7 August 1965 and was recorded live at the Salzburg Festival. Arturo Benedetti is at the height of his career at this time, and here performs Busoni’s arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne aus Partita BWV1004 and Beethoven’s Sonata No3 in C major Op2 No3. The quality of the recording is not an issue, and the quality of the playing radiates throughout. it may now seem a dated approach to the scores, in terms of what we have come to expect from current pianists, but the magnificence of the sound is never in doubt.


Shostakovich: The Gadfly – complete original film score
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Mark Fitz-Gerald
NAXOS 8.573747

The Gadfly is best remembered today for the longer arrangement of Youth though the score as reconstructed here has a good deal of music which is equally impressive. It also draws on the full orchestral resources Shostakovich required for the film – including church bells, organ, guitars and mandolin – which are absent from the normal orchestral suite. There is also an added bonus in the inclusion of The Song of the Counterplan from the score of that name.


Mahler: Symphony No 5
Bayerischen Rundfunk symphonieorchester, Mariss Jansons

Maris Jansons finds the joy inherent in this score and brings it out time after time, lurking even in more sombre moments. The familiar Adagio has a warmth to it which carries us easily into the romp of the finale.  As with his other Mahler cds, this benefits from being a live recording with the added sense of atmosphere and tension.

‘Aqua’ – Arta Arnicane

‘Aqua’ – Arta Arnicane
(Solo Musica label on Sony Music)

The planet looks likely to need artistes like Arta Arnicane. The Latvian pianist’s ingenuity and imagination combined again to create an enriching and rewarding songlike programme by her piano-cello DUO Arnicans at their International Interview Concert at Worthing in November 2017. But few places in Britain have yet tasted her appealHer new CD album ‘Aqua’ is a beautiful piece of work. Do not be surprised at its class. The disc, the music, the booklet, the personally-written narrating booklet accompaniment, the guest photography, the packaging, indicate that Arnicane promises a future flow of contributions to the wellbeing of her listeners.

‘Aqua’ amounts to a sort of soul hydrotherapy. We know of the physical and spiritually therapeutic effects of water, and here she presents a 16-item sequence of solo piano music designed to seep inside ourselves. Our majority-water composition as human beings subliminally determines our  affinity and receptiveness to that – and if science has yet to research this process, Arta Arnicane here issues their prompt.

Scientists now confirm the imminent increased water domination of our existence: the oceans are on their way upwards to meet us. Indeed, prescient on this album is Waterfall of P?rse, which portrays an actual waterfall lost to the rising level of the river Daugava. It is one of seven pieces by Latvian composers, some actually acquaintances of Arnicane, and who on ‘Aqua’ are rubbing shoulders with music’s already established master water painters.

Latvia gave us Mikhail Baryshnikov, Mischa Maisky, Mariss Kansons, Andris Nelsons, Gidon Kremer. Like all these, who were born in the winter by the Baltic Sea, at the mouth of the Daugava, Arnicane hails from Riga. I have named only male compatriots. But Mirga Gražintye-Tyla from neighbouring Lithuania has lately broken through the glass door of recognition and now chief-conducts Birmingham’s famous orchestra.

No Latvian woman has hit full international musical consciousness outside opera. But Arnicane could emerge from that shade with her own angle on great music. In ‘Aqua’, she creates both an alluring and invigorating ambience, and a refreshing and rejuvenating listening experience. Relaxation comes in the knowledge that, heard end-to-end, ‘Aqua’ has taken the hearer to a new plane of perception and understanding – even repose.

I firmly recommend that your first listening is done without knowing all the titles, or the running order, nor having read the inside booklet. Failing that, not having them in front of you.

This greatly empowers the undulation of the programme’s trajectory and energy, and increases the listener’s feeling of discovery, for discoveries lie in wait. Approach ‘Aqua’ like a 1970s concept album heard in the dark.

Arnicane, to use circus billing, is already a virtuoso. But in’Aqua’ her prize gift to the hearer is not from the necessary servant dexterity and strength but the priority of the scenic depiction and the poetry. She wants you to shut your eyes and visualise, not to seek bedazzlement. And her instinct and innate sensitivity of planning leaves you with the final feeling of ‘and so to bed’. Magic is abroad and know also that this is a record you could give unhesitatingly to a child.

From our wealth of sea, lake, river, stream, brook and rain music, Arnicane draws on Berio, Debussy, Ravel, Liszt, Schubert, Chopin, Grieg  (people you’ve heard of) and Jazeps Vitols, Arvids Žilinskis, Janis Keptis, Pauls Damis and Romualds Jermaks – the important newcomers who make this record the treasured one it will become. Providing that you, I trust – like everyone else – are made of water.

Richard Amey

Details and special video: https://www.artaarnicane.com/aquacd

DUO Arnicans’ self-titled CD of Chopin and Dohnanyi Sonatas, plus two other unexpected Chopin items is out on the same label.

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra concert at Brighton Dome: Sunday 3 December, 2.45pm

The third concert of the Brighton Phil’s current season at Brighton Dome on Sunday 3 December takes us from the sun-drenched Italian Riviera to the jazz clubs of pre-war America courtesy of three great Romantic composers: Elgar, Ravel & Rachmaninov, in the company of Conductor Laureate Barry Wordsworth and the illustrious pianist Melvyn Tan.

Elgar’s concert overture In the South is a fabulous evocation of a family holiday in Alassio that perfectly captures the delights of an Italian town and the grandeur of the Italian coast.

Sumptuous and punchy, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major is infused with the jazz-age glamour that he experienced on a concert tour of America and in the clubs of Paris – a heady juxtaposition of jazz syncopation and neo-classical elegance.

Barry Wordsworth, Conductor Laureate, Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra, says “The Ravel is one of my favourite piano concertos as it shows the genius of this great composer to perfection, and with a soloist we will be so proud to have with us again in Brighton. Three masterworks of the most contrasting mood and character will make up a wonderful afternoon of symphonic music.”

Epic in scale yet intimate in mood, Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony is surely one of the best loved in the repertoire. Its hauntingly beautiful central theme is one of the most exquisite by a composer noted for his luscious melodies, and ends this concert on a torrent of romantic ecstasy.

Tickets (from £12-£38) are available from Brighton Dome Ticket Office in Church Street, Brighton, (01273) 709709 and online: www.brightondome.org – 50% discount for students and Under 18s.

Discounted parking is available for BPO concert-goers at NCP Church Street – just £6 between 1-6pm.

ENO: Marnie

London Coliseum , 18 November 2017

The world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie should have been a great success. Everything was in its favour. The casting was strong, the composer is one of the foremost of his generation and greatly admired, the designs and costumes were strikingly impressive – in fact everything, on a superficial level, seemed fine. The real problem was with the adaptation of Winston Graham’s novel and the persona of the heroine herself.

The programme notes implied that Marnie has an enigmatic quality; that she is a sister to Melisande or Lulu. However, both of these – and many more – are strongly characterised to the point where we are swept away by their impact, even if at the end of the evening we know no more of them than we did at the outset. Marnie remains an enigma, but one who rouses little interest or sympathy. No matter how much new information about her comes to us as the evening unfolds, we are never drawn to empathise with her, even in the attempted rape scene at the end of the first half. She remains an outsider but one whom we can all too easily ignore.

The large cast create a highly credible world within which the narrative unfolds. The chorus are particularly important here and the sense of London in the late 1950s is extremely impressive. Arianne Phillips’ costumes are spot on – the four shadow Marnies gloriously apt – and the shifting visual world moves effortlessly between venues and between the real and illusory. All of this is excellently done. Michael Mayer’s direction within this is naturalistic for most of the intimate scenes but allows the choreography to open out the points of reflection. Here Marnie’s moments of self-reflection should be keys to the work as a whole but they hardly ever move beyond the banal.

Sasha Cooke looks splendid as Marnie and sings with finesse, though there are occasions when the text gets lost. The three older women – Kathleen Wilson as Marnie’s mother, Diana Montague as Lucy and Lesley Garrett as Mrs Rutland – were classic exemplars of singing actors who convey the whole text with ease as well as producing fine vocal sound and incisive characterisation.

Daniel Okulitch looked suave enough as Mark but occasionally lacked impact – a fault which may ease as the run progresses. The operatic version makes more of Terry than either of the sources and was sympathetically louche in James Laing’s hands.

Martyn Brabbins brought a great deal of detail to light from his large orchestra and his handling of the narrative was always well focused.

The first night was ecstatically received and the production moves to the Met next year where it is sure to be equally popular. As the excellent choral passages and much of the orchestration suggested, Nico Muhly is a natural opera composer. Hopefully he will soon find a subject which grasps the attention of the audience as well as his fine abstract qualities as a composer.

LOOKING DOWN BOTH BARRELS with Adrian Manning & John D Robinson


© Adrian Manning 2017
© John D Robinson 2017
© Janne Karlsson  Cover Art 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9932068-6-3
Published by John D Robinson: Holy&intoxicated Publications: UK;

There are times when this new collection of poems from Adrian Manning and John D Robinson makes for difficult reading, for it is honest – and confrontational in its honesty. Many of the poems reflect loss and the contemplation of failure, but equally the overriding necessity to wrestle with the depths we find ourselves in and to rise above them.

As such it is ultimately optimistic in the face of potential despair. AND FAHRENHEIT 451 EVENS THE SCORE and THE BLANK PAGE (pasted below) sum up the approach to the eternal problem of being driven to write yet always facing the reality of trying always to write something worth saying.

The two writers complement each other and as such the collection makes for a highly satisfying whole.

Poet Rob Plath in an end note says Each poem is truth drilled into the page. Highly recommended.  A sentiment I would entirely endorse.




if you’re gonna
write a poem
write words
that will burn
words that will
the paper they are
written on
the eyeballs
that read them
and leave
but the message
into the
and the



the blank page lies
a sea of possibility
sometimes a friend
sometimes the enemy
who knows what will surface
pale headed horses
grinning wide
mouthed happiness
or dark ghosts
treading the waters
of fear
limited days
and time


I choose not to socialise, I
have always felt awkward
and increasingly
uncomfortable in such
situations: I stay away
from the bars and
parties and refuse
every invitation: I lead a
quiet life now and I
think of the words of the
armed robber and poet,
Ray Bremser
when asked if he had
any grandchildren:
‘I don’t know, I don’t
want to know, don’t
want no more pain’
fucking right, keep the
people at a distance
because for sure, only
hurt can come of it.