Thursday 25 June 2009

Die Fledermaus - Was it really over a week ago?

Company Bow

Producing a concert at this level is never easy and you are never certain how it will all turn out. So many elements to be considered ie Singers, Orchestra, Chorus, Movement, Artwork etc. Our recent Die Fledermaus was a major jump for us; not one but two performances plus the addition of a world famous concert pianist for good measure. I am happy to say that Die Fledermaus was one of LLO's greatest successes and provided a fitting end to our first season.

Charne Rochford - Eisenstein

"Charne Rochford, as Eisenstein, showed a special gift for comic roles: he has a huge talent for physical comedy, creating an expressive, hilarious and appropriately ridiculous portrait of the character." Seen and Heard. Margarita Mota-Bull

The performance was a great success on so many levels.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played beautifully. This is the RPO's third opera with us and each time they astound me with their dedication to the score and commitment to the performance. I don't believe that we would have reached such artistic heights without them. The scoring requires outstanding playing from all sections:

Leslie Howard with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

"The real stars of the night though, were not the solo singers but Strauss’s music and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, who delivered an excellent performance, under Madeleine Lovell's baton."
Seen and Heard, Margarida Mota-Bull

Philharmonia Chorus

"The Philharmonia Chorus did full justice to the music too, giving a solid, excellent rendition of their powerful pieces during Act II, as various guests and servants at Prince Orlofsky's party." Seen and Heard, Margarida Mota-Bull

Lise Christensen - Prince Orlofsky

"Lise Christensen created an interesting Prince Orlofsky, particularly when singing the difficult high notes of Chacun à son gout, as the higher register of her voice is solidly assured." Seen and Heard, Margarida Mota-Bull

Debra Morley - Ida
Nicky Spence - Dr Blind

"and of course Nicky Spence extracted every inch as the muddlesome lawyer."
Serena Fenwick, Musical Pointers

Garrie Davislim - Alfred

"Garrie Davislim was the attractively sung and personable Alfred, and he managed to convey that slight disdain of an opera tenor slumming it in operetta. " Peter Reed,

Simon Thorpe - Falke
Jeffrey Black - Frank

"Jeffrey Black’s warm baritone made an agreeable Frank and Simon Thorpe was a convincing Dr Falke."
Seen and Heard, Margarida Mota-Bull

Debra Morley - Ida
Ana James - Adele

Pictured above are Debra Morley and Ana James. Debra gave a wonderfully rich account of Adele's sister, Ida. I hope that she will work with us again as she truly gave this relatively small role life and was an asset in every scene she was in. Oh and her top notes are stunning and sounded superb in the big finales.

"Ms James delivered possibly the outstanding performance of the evening. She was a member of the Royal Opera's Jette Parker Young Artist Programme and its influence showed throughout. She gave an accomplished, dramatically expressive performance, playing a sassy, very funny Adele, with some superb singing, especially in her final big moment, during Act III."
Seen and Heard, Margarida Mota-Bull

Sarah Redgwick - Rosalinda

"Sarah Redgwick’s warm lyric soprano had the poise, good taste and understated humour of the role; her looks were a bit too English and wholesome for her to be entirely convincing as the mysterious Hungarian countess, but when she sang it was another matter, with the ‘czardas’ agreeably insinuating and instinctive." Peter Reed,

Leslie Howard played with the grace and style of a great virtuoso. His performance of the Liszt, Hungarian Fantasies was mesmerising. The change of mood was accepted readily by the audience who all sat back and watched and listened to one of the worlds great Lisztians playing a devilishly difficult piece for piano and orchestra. He was a revelation to us all. The reviewers all agree with me on this point:

Leslie Howard -

"The mystery guest was not a star singer but a star pianist, Leslie Howard, who continued the Hungarian tendency with a performance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy, very much in the heavily melancholic ‘rhapsody’ style and thrillingly played by this great Liszt virtuoso. It sat rather oddly within the context of champagne and decadence, but who cares? It’s a terrific piece." Peter Reed,

"Act II traditionally includes a guest celebrity making a cabaret appearance. On this occasion Liszt specialist pianist, Leslie Howard, gave a rare performance of the Fantasie uber ungarische Volksmelodien, one of the few works that Liszt composed for piano and orchestra, which raised the loudest applause of the evening." Serena Fenwick, Musical Pointers

We were terribly lucky to find Bernard Horsfall to play Frosch, the gaoler. Bernard has a rich pedigree acting with the RSC, Dr Who, James Bond etc He agreed to be our dialogue coach, in hindsight this was one of the most important decisions we made. He came to every rehearsal and took detailed notes which he methodically passed on to the cast. His influence was vital to the dramatic integrity we were seeking and ensured that the dialogue reached the same level as the music.

Bernard Horsfall - Frosch

"The speaking part of Frosch, the gaoler, was wonderfully played by Bernard Horsfall; his appearance though brief was unforgettable."
Seen and Heard, Margarida Mota-Bull

Last but not least I must mention our conductor Madeleine Lovell. This was really her baby. Her fingerprint could be found in every element of the evening. It was a pleasure to develop this project with her.

"She is a young, graceful and exciting conductor who led the orchestra and the chorus into an intelligent, expressive and elegant rendition of this popular work. Ms Lovell had an intuitive understanding of Strauss’s witty score and ensured that the music made its full impact on a delighted audience. "
Seen and Heard, Margarida Mota-Bull

Madeleine Lovell - Conductor

"Madeline Lovell, who was highly praised for her “Fidelio” with LLO earlier this year, conducted superbly, with her fresh, springy and spontaneous approach to the Overture energising the whole evening with an instinctively light Viennese lilt that was very engaging." Peter Reed,

Post Concert Reception - Mick Hurrell, Wardour; Sarah Redgwick; Liz Hughes, HSBC.

Reviews to date courtesy of

Sponsored by Wardour
Venue: Cadogan Hall

Sunday 14 June 2009

A teaser from Act 1 - Recorded at the Vernon Ellis concert on Monday 8th June

I wish I had some clever excuse for offering only a small 'snippet' of the Act 1 trio with Eisenstein, Adele and Rosalinda but I am afraid it is nothing more exciting than running out of room on the memory card.

This was recorded at the Vernon Ellis concert on Monday 8th June. Once again I admit my bias but Sarah Redgwick is singing the role of Rosalinda beautifully. Sarah, a Guildhall Gold Medal winner, has made her reputation singing Marzelline, Susanna, Zerlina for Scottish Opera, Opera Holland Park, Clonter Opera, Welsh National Opera etc and has recently started singing Violetta for Scottish Opera and Opera de Bauge. Many singers reach a point in their careers where they have to change repertoire as their voices develop and grow. This is such a case. What makes us so happy is the fact that Sarah still performs with the joie de vivre of a Soubrette but with the voice of a Diva. I think this is evident in the clip attached.

Charne Rochford has been a revelation to Madeleine and me. His biography is impressive. He sang First Armed Man at Glyndebourne and for English Touring Opera and sang the 1st Priest in Kenneth Branagh's film of the Magic Flute but his strong assumption of the role of Eisenstein with a voice that matches his dramatic resolve is wonderful to see...and hear. Only a small clip here so you will have to come to one of our performances if you wish to hear more of this exciting young tenor.

Ana James is, to me, the perfect Adele but I think I have already made my feelings about this exceptional soprano clear in the previous post. Unfortunately you don't get to hear much of her in this clip. :( I really should get a larger memory card.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Introducing our lovely Adele, Miss Ana James

Rehearsals are in full swing and the cast are working hard to make our performances as good as they possibly can. Ana James was cast relatively late. Our original choice had a clash with the Buxton Festival so we reluctantly agreed that we had to find a new Adele. Luckily we were told about this beautiful soprano from New Zealand with the gorgeous voice and magnetic stage presence. A few days later Ana came, sang for Madeleine and was promptly engaged on the spot.

We have been incredibly lucky with our cast. Simon Thorpe and Charne Rochford work together as if they were brothers and Lise Christensen plays the bored and world weary character of Prince Orlofsky with aplomb. Jeffrey Black brings real experience to Frank with the bonus of a beautiful baritone voice and has a perfect foil in Bernard Horsfall playing Frosch.

Nicky Spence is a younger than usual Blind. He is playing him like a young turk lawyer who unfortunately... isn't very good at his job. Debra Morley who I have worked with on several occasions is luxury casting as Ida. Debra has sung most of the lyric coloratura repertoire with great success. The fact that she is a wonderful colleague is another matter.

Garrie Davislim has spent most of his career in Vienna, Milan and guesting in Germany singing most of the lead romantic tenor roles of his Fach. A graduate of the National Opera Studio he is a perfect Alfred and a very believable 'lover' of our Rosalinda, Sarah Redgwick.

I will stop babbling on and let you enjoy the film.

Wait until you here Ana sing...

Saturday 6 June 2009

Strauss' Waltz of Marriage: Sin, Satire and Spin...

Special e Offer to London Lyric Opera friends. Quote "LLO160609" to get a 20% discount on all ticket prices

Our performances of Die Fledermaus at Cadogan Hall begin in 10 days. First performance at 7pm on Tuesday 16th June & the second on Friday 19th June. Soloist rehearsals begin tomorrow and the Sitzprobe with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Chorus is on Sunday 14th...we are literally in the home straight.

Can't wait to see it all come together. Must admit hearing Leslie Howard playing Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy will be fantastic. His rehearsal with Madeleine went extremely will be quite a concert.

More about Leslies involvement here

Below is the article which our conductor, Madeleine Lovell has written for the programme. For those of you who don't know this operetta this is a very helpful and enjoyable form of introduction.

Strauss' Waltz of Marriage: Sin, Satire and Spin

After 135 glorious years as a mainstay of the operatic repertoire, it is all too easy to take Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus a little for granted. The warm familiarity of the score can perhaps endanger our appreciation of Haffner’s and Génee’s well-aimed satire – on marriage, fidelity, mid-life crisis, the aspiring actress, the self aggrandizing tenor, and the sore loser – when, in truth, Strauss’ music provides the perfect foil. It is hard to imagine a musical setting more focused on awkwardness and discomfort.

While calling upon all the stock-intrades of comedy – mistaken identity, the battle of the sexes, class-warfare, as well as the requisite happy ending – Strauss never loses sight of the emotional core of the action. Consider, for example, the giddy succession of new themes in the Finale of Act 1 (the trio for Alfred, Rosalinda and Frank), spiralling out of control just as management of the situation spins away from Rosalinda. The middle portion of this Finale (‘Dear Sir, what can you think of me?’ … ‘It’s getting late, we’re tête-à-tête’) reveals what Rosalinda is trying her best to conceal, with a vocal line whose potential urbanity is undermined by sudden leaps, awkward breaks and deliberately fussy grace notes. She uses the sophistication of the waltz to paper over her anxiety.

The underlying menace of Orlofsky is suggested in a similar way. The vocal register of Chacun à son gout, largely based around the lower-middle part of the voice, suddenly erupts into the highest part of a mezzo’s range. Strauss’ music uncovers the erratic nature of this Prince, and, through remarkable use of the high part of the voice (whose timbre will, inevitably, be very penetrating) in this aria and throughout Act 2, shows us a domineering character.

Power play is also at the heart of Rosalinda’s Act 2 show-stopper Csárdás. Supposedly the moment at which Eisenstein’s wife is least sincere, Strauss produces music of unparalleled beauty and emotional strength. Her impersonation of a Hungarian Countess ceases to be an exercise in fabulous fakery (unlike, for instance, Adele’s Audition Aria) and becomes instead a lament for the marriage that she has just seen falling apart. This mesmeric music, with its virtuoso display of the singer’s legato line and dazzling coloratura, makes us appreciate the depths of Rosalinda’s character. This in turn sheds light on why Eisenstein in the end cannot live without her.

Eisenstein’s short temper, and the associated issue of his violent jealousy, are brilliantly evoked in trios at either end of the opera. The Act 1 Trio with Rosalinda and Blind begins noisily as Eisenstein storms in, biting out his criticism of his incompetent lawyer, and barely letting anyone else get a word in. Despite Rosalinda’s best efforts to calm him with two passages of soothing Andante, Eisenstein’s bad mood shows no sign of abating. Blind’s ill-conceived and long-winded description of how he will sort things out merely tips him over the edge. Strauss demonstrates an equally masterful handling of pace in the Act 3 Trio for Eisenstein, Rosalinda and Alfred. Time and again Eisenstein’s short fuse looks set to sabotage his ambush of his ‘unfaithful wife’ as he cannot stop his own horrified outbursts as more details of the story are revealed. The sheer rhythmic force of the final section, as well as the contrast between a heavily accented three-note ascent high in the voice (‘Ei-sen-stein’) followed by a legato four-note descent low in the voice (‘though I was cheated’) drives this Trio to its breathless conclusion. Strauss, of course, last used this music at the beginning of the Overture, cleverly rounding off the opera by identifying its main musical theme with the belligerent
main character.

No account of Strauss’ handling of pace in Die Fledermaus would be complete, however, without mention of the descent into paralytic drunkeness that is the multi-sectional Act 2 Finale. What begins with a champagne toast, quickly dissolves into hiccups and a joyous collective decision to invade one another’s most personal space. The lurching theme of the final section shows us the revellers in the last stages of intoxication. Bacchus would have approved.

© Madeleine Lovell
Queens’ College Cambridge

Please don't forget our Fledermaus launch concert at Vernon Ellis' House 49 Queen's Gate Terrace. Monday 8th June. 7 - 7.30pm.

As usual we have pulled out all the stops with appearances by Sarah Redgwick, Rosalinda singing the Czardas; Ana James, Adele will sing the Audition Aria; Simon Thorpe, Falke will sing the famous Bruederlein and Lise Christensen, Orlofsky will sing Orlofsky's famous aria.

Plus 30 members of the Philharmonia Chorus who will sing the final champagne chorus. A wonderful way to spend a summers evening. Madeleine Lovell will conduct and give a short talk about the piece, with Margaret Marinkovic on the piano.

Fine wines and canapes will be served. Seats are still available please book here

Please email us at if you would like any further information.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Philharmonia Chorus rehearsing Die Fledermaus

Last night I popped in to watch the penultimate Philharmonia Chorus rehearsal before the Conductor's call next week. It is wonderful to hear the music sung with such joy. This was recorded off the cuff with a very small camera but the results are pretty good. The Chorus Master/ Philharmonia Artistic Director is Edward Caswell ably assisted by Stephen Rose on the piano.

All other plans are going well but the complexity of mounting a production at this level never ceases to amaze me. Rehearsals for the principals start in earnest next week with the Vernon Ellis
event on Monday the 8th at 49 Queen's Gate Terrace as a taster for our friends and sponsors.

Tickets are still available.

I hope this will tempt more of you to come to our performances.