Saturday, February 16, 2013

Silent Opera, Foxy Opera, Singing Kate Bush For World-Famous Fashion Designers, etc

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0
Watching / Listening: Daftly enjoyable enigmatic poshos in the new Poliakoff, 'Dancing on the Edge' / recommendations on Gorilla vs Bear blog
Hair Day: pleasingly short; am considering a dyed copper-top. Nice!

Pah. London's current prescription of cold rain and rainy cold has not been much fun, though the last couple of days have given glimpses of a good-weather renaissance. But how I long for the summer, for freckles and wild swimming! There's nothing for it but to hurl myself not into the warm, chlorinated fug of the municipal pool but instead into much culture...

Seeing as I'm writing one, I've started itching to see more opera. First up was Silent Opera's version of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, in a brilliant corner of London I've never ventured to before, a mile past Canning Town to Trinity Buoy Wharf. This feels a bit like the north-west docks in Amsterdam, looks south to the O2's startled yellow feelers, and includes super-cool, brightly-coloured live-work containers. The opera was in a lovely big warehousey wharfey space, and we were all handed wireless headphones at the door. The idea was that, with a reduced 5-piece band, we could hear the full orchestra in our ears, along with amplified vocalists and the live players. The singers, with very subtle radio mic clipped about their persons, were free to roam amongst us, and the audience was moved, faintly promenade-like into two different spaces for Acts II and III. I have to say, I found the headphones (and the core idea of silent opera-ing) pretty unnecessary: everything was being gently amplified through a PA anyway, and moreover, it was miles more thrilling to listen to the singers, unadorned, live. And it would have made much more sense to simply pare down the scoring to the harpsichord, harp, theorbo, etc, and be rid of the extra strings completely. It was too much like Renaissance-karaoke for me. The costumes - a sort of Camden-rave-in-1998 - were vile, and the bunch of gurning dancers ineffectual; that said, the singers were marvellous, and it was fabulous to have them sweating and bellowing up close and personal. But a flawed project, I feel.

To the Southbank, and a weekend amongst their epic The Rest Is Noise season. I caught the Aurora Orchestra doing George Antheil's very-ahead-of-its-time Ballets Mechaniques, which smacked barnstormingly of the fear and wonder of encroaching technological onslaught. And it was good to catch Barbara Hannigan showcase her duo role as soprano and conductor in an afternoon of, if I'm honest, soporific Satie and rather more zingy Stravinsky, in his mini-opera Reynard, performed with puffed-out glee by the likes of Roderick Williams. The aim with the season, as in the Alex Ross book, is to place 20th-century music in socio-political context; I'm not sure that, so far, this has been the most successful part of the concerts I've seen: pre-cursing the Antheil was a jazz singer rather uncomfortably attempting to seduce a Saturday afternoon crowd including an impressive amount of avant-garde-loving under-10s with Josephine Baker songs, and a too-slight cubist film of the Aurora. Harriet Walter read from diaries by the Russian princess who commissioned Satie and Stravinsky, which was fascinating, but too long.

To my own shizz!

juice have performed with MaJiKer in Wigmore Hall to an excitable crowd including many Tower Hamlets teenagers who screamed with sugar-high abandon at our Rihanna cover. I debuted by little suite of songs on London's forgotten rivers, lostriversongs, with loop station and killer acoustic improvising trio 7 Hertz at Handel House. Most recently, I did another hymn-leading stint at The School of Life's Sunday Sermon, fulfilling a personal and flatteringly insistent request for my services from the day's lecturer, high-art fashion designer/filmmaker/artist Hussein Chalayan! He also wanted a Kate Bush song, so I learnt 'The Man With The Child In His Eyes', to sing to the 500-strong intellectual massive. Hussein casually informed me before the show that he'd told Kate I'd be singing it today. WARGH! I tired to dismiss daydreams of Hussein providing me with clothes for all award-going occasions for the rest of my life, passing my number along to Kate, etc. Just another usual Sunday for moi, then!

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