The best classical concerts and opera in London
This review is from 2016. 'Akhnaten' returns to ENO in February 2019. In Pharaohic terms, 17 years is but a blink of a kohl-lined eye, but Akhnaten (hubby of Nefertiti, daddy of Tutankhamun) ensured a kind of immortality during his short reign by doing away with the whole multi-god thing and replacing it with worship of a single deity: the sun-disc, or Aten. Did he learn to juggle, too? That’s the question you may ask yourself during this new production of Philip Glass’s 1983 opera, directed by Phelim McDermot. Courtesy of members of Gandini Juggling, balls fly through the air in ever more complex patterns – growing in size from juggling balls to beach balls (symbols of the sun) as Akhnaten’s encounter with his solar deity draws near. Even the chorus gets involved, as if singing in Egyptian, Hebrew and Akkadian wasn’t difficult enough. Such is the production’s commitment to ball control, you half expect the pharaoh himself to engage in a spot of keepy-uppy during his extended moment in the sun. The Cirque-like tricks serve a purpose beyond keeping you visually entertained. They underscore the insistence of Glass’s music, as well acting as a kind of counterpoint to its complex cross-rhythms. Which isn’t to say that the music is especially challenging to listen to. Glass has always been the minimalist composer with the catchiest tunes, and ‘Akhnaten’ has the most hauntingly beautiful songs of his ‘Trilogy’, notably the pharaoh’s doleful ‘Hymn to the Sun’. From the first m
More classical concerts and opera in London
Each summer, Dalston's much-loved Arcola Theatre transforms into a hotbed of bold, experimental and genre-blurring new operas. Take any opera-related stereotypes you might have and bin them: Grimeborn is all about finding new ways that music and theatre can collide, over a series of up close and personal shows in the Arcola's two intimate brick-walled theatre spaces. 2018's teeming line-up kicks off with 'The Rape of Lucretia', a work by Benjamin Britten that pioneered a new, psychologically intense, more intimate style of opera. It's directed by Julia Burbach, who'll train her focus on the story's representation of women. In 'Carmen The Gypsy', Romani composer Dan Allum has reimagined Bizet's opera for a setting in Britain's traveller community. There's also hot jazz show 'Swing Sister Swing', which'll hop its way through female-led dance history using a line-up of lindy hoppers and champion chorus line The Dinahs. 'A Fantastic Bohemian' is a promenade reimagining of an Offenbach opera set in Mexico City's movie studios. 'Opera Mouse' and 'Jazz Cat' are animal-inspired shows for kids. And Patrick Kennedy's European premiere of avant-garde rock-opera 'Elephant Steps' is an occult, incense-scented spectacular that's probably best left to the grown-ups.