OPERA IN THE LIVING ROOM
Somewhere among us there are those who can afford £65 for
a good seat at Glyndebourne. as well as being organised enough to buy tickets at least four months in advance. For the rest ofus.
opera on video may be a more realistic option. CAROL MAIN assesses some new releases. albeit without the smoked salmon picnic
Glyndebourne revives John Cox‘s production ofStravinsky‘s The Rake '3 Progress on 30 July. and Pickwick have chosen to make a titnely release of the original production. which. if my working out of fuzzy Roman numerals at the bottotn of the screen is correct. was actually as long ago as 197‘).
It follows the decline of the innocent Tom Rakewell as he makes his progress through licentious London life. as portrayed in llogarth‘s famous series ofprints. It augured well. with sets by David Hockney. based on those prints. a cast including Felicity Lott. the American tenor Leo Goeke and Richard Van Allan. and the LPO under conductor Bernard l—laitink.
But what a disappointment. One
would reasonably assume that sound would be a priority in putting opera on video. but not in this case. It‘s just ordinary mono video sound. with (unless my copy is faulty) a distracting hiss more or less throughout. The balance between voices is poor. Stravinsky‘s earthy choruses lose their effect. and the orchestra. particularly the harpsichord. sounds tinny.
Hockney’s sets. though. are quite wonderful. from the picture book simplicity of the Truelove‘s country garden to the ugly seediness of Mother Goose‘s brothel. Cox‘s production fares better than many on the small screen. but I think I‘d rather blow the money on the real thing.
TVS achieve much better sound for Channel 4‘s La Traviata. again with llaitink and the LPO from Glyndebourne. but this time directed for stage and TV by Peter Hall. Here the visual advantages of video come into their own. The i opening shots straight into the boWels ofthe orchestra pit. and the close-ups of the sumptuous sets and costumes. expose detail totally lost from the back stalls.
The same goes for the expressions on the singers‘ faces. although some are better than others at meeting the extra demands this brings to already
Thomas Allen: a stunning Billy Budd
taxing roles. Marie McLaughlin is superb as Violetta. while Walter MacNeil is dramatically weaker as Alfredo. and for the most part Verdi‘s big chorus scenes don‘t take well to television.
Sound is also excellent on the Virgin Video Classics label. This series is being recorded in full stereo on high grade BASF tape. resulting in a quality close to that of a CD. English National Opera‘s Billy Budd
,is one of their most recent releases.
' Sadly. this darkly in production does not transfer terribly successfully to the small screen. and the power ofone of Britten‘s most dramatic operas is weakened by the difficulties in filming the chorus scenes — either everyone is there but tiny. or only part of the stage is seen. However. Thomas Allen in the title role. Philip Langridge as Captain ' Vere and Richard van Allan as Claggart all give stunning performances.
The Rake '3‘ Progress. Pick wick Video. £12.99.“ La Traviata, TVS, [12.99; Billy Budd. Virgin Video, [16. 99.
MAX AND MINGUS
Peter Maxwell Davies and Charles Mingus seem an unlikely pairing. I admit. but there is a tenuous link next month. Both will be the subjects ofChannel 4 documentaries focusing on their activities as composers.
Charles Mingus died ten years ago. leaving behind not only one of the most vital and idiosyncratic canons in jazz. but a recently discovered two-hour work for thirty musicans which was never performed in his lifetime. Scholar and musician Gunther Schullcr edited the recently discovered score for its first performance by a stellar orchestra (including John Abercrombie. Wynton Marsalis. and Randy Brecker) at the Lincoln Centre in June. with the cameras rolling. In Schuller's estimation. Epitaph provides an epic culmination of the bass player‘s compositional genius.
The snappin titled Sir Peter Max well Davies — Strathclyde Concerto No.1 for ()boe follows the adopted Orcadian composer in the writing. rehearsal and first performance of the work in question. written for SCO soloist Robin Miller. and in school workshop sessions with fellow composer and teacher Bill Sweeney. Max talks at length about his music. and the inﬂuence ofthe Orcadian landscape on it. in a film which provides a short but fascinating glimpse into the creative process. (KM)
Epitaph. ('4. 5 Aug; Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. (74. 9Aug.
MARTA & THE VUJICSICS
l low well up are you on Serbian and Croatian music? lfthe answerto that is lluh'.’. now is the time to make amends.
courtesy ofthe Bear Fair at llaylodge Park in Pecbles. which plays host to the leading exponents of that music. Marta Sebestyen and Vujicsics. Marta is already familiar to Scottish audiences from an earlier tour with Musikas. but this is the first UK visit for the even more impressive Vujicsics. Hungarian folk music also features strongly in their distinctive repertoire. and anyone already beguiled by the well—publicised success of the Bulgarian folk groups should check them out. either in the Borders or at the Edinburgh Festival. (KM) Marta Sebestyen & Vujicsics. Bear Fair. Haylodge Park. I’eebles. 5—6 Aug.
BREAKING THE BANK
While the Scottish jazz scene takes a pre~Edinburgh breather. an innovative programming initiative from the South Bank Centre will see the first ever week-long showcase
of Scottish jazz talent in
‘ London. Scots. ofcourse. [have been makingtheir
; presence felt on the
If southern jazz front since . the 1930s. but this season provides a unique opportunity for the notoriously insular London audience — and media— to take the temperature ofthe increasingly lively jazz scene on this side ofthe border.
To that end. the bill which Sophie Bancroft has ironed out in co-operation with the South Bank will feature several generations ofmusicians. some already widely
known in the south. others likely to become so in the near future. The former
category includes Tommy
Smith ( 14 Aug).
I expatriates Bobby Wellins
I and Jim Mullen. who are
joined by Fionna Duncan
- (15 Aug). Martin Taylor (16 Aug). (‘arol Kidd ( 18
Dcuchar ( 19 Aug).
The newer generation are strongly featured as well. with Tom Bancroft's ()rangc Iiar Iinsemble (that name will have to go. Tom) supporting Tommy Smith ( 14 Aug). Dick [ Lee‘saward winning I Chamber Jazz doing
likewise for Martin Taylor (16 Aug). and singer Melanie O'Reilly and
I Easy Street propping up
I the Jimmy Dcuchar
' Quartet ( 1‘) Aug).
I Best of all is the pairing of the John Rae Collective (who will also play the
? prestigious ()utside In
Festival at Crawley in
i September) with the
l ('hick Lyallv'Tore
Brunborg duo( 17 Aug).
while a repeat ofJohn
Surman's Glasgow Jazz
Festival concert with the
Strathclyde Youth Jazz
3 ()rchestraclosesthe event
' (leAug). Anyone in town
and planning to catch a
concert should also note
that Edinburgh blues singerTam White
‘ supports James Moody at
Ronnie Scott’s that same
, week(14»-l‘)Aug)to ' roundout the Scottish
invasion. (Kenny Mathieson) .S'ummerlazz, Purcell Room. South Bank
( ‘entre. 14-20 A ug. Tickets [5; information ()I 928 3002; telephone bookings ()1 928 8800.
Trevor Johnston on Jazz
DIRTY DDZEN BRASS
BAND: Voodoo (CBS) This octet of six brass and two percussion are an institution in their native New ()rleans. but here they try to transfer the live
magic oftheir bouncy
40 The List 28.Iuly- ll) August 1989