A woman can’t possibly conduct this, bemoaned some. It’s a bit like asking one to reverse-park their Ford Ka into a not-so-tight spot. And an American? Good grief, it’s the end of civilisation as we know it, lamented others. It is as though the spirit of Wallis Simpson had returned from Baltimore to purloin the Crown of England. The Proms are international, sure, but the Last Night is a peculiarly British affair, and at all costs we must preserve this sacred institution from the BBC’s interminable trendy ‘modernising’ and its lefty notions of political ‘progress’. Continue reading →
Barbra Streisand Live at the O2 ArenaShe is the stuff of legend – still bewitching and beguiling at the vintage age of 71 (not that she looks or sounds it). Barbra Streisand has won a couple of Oscars, a Tony, an Emmy, a Golden Globe and been awarded France’s Legion d’Honneur. She has Grammies galore, with 51 gold, 30 platinum and 13 multi-platinum albums to her illustrious name. She even has an ‘effect’ named after her, which must be the showbiz equivalent of a political ‘-ism’. So it was no surprise that she got a standing ovation the moment she ascended the stage on a lift (not out of geriatric necessity). Continue reading →
No matter how much Beethoven, Bach, Berlioz and Bartók I take in at the Proms, I’m fast coming to the conclusion that no season would be complete without the all-singing, all-dancing Big-Band exuberance of the John Wilson Orchestra and the sensational Maida Vale Singers. Really, it’s not possible to use too many superlatives for these gigs. Yes, it’s a lot of showbiz glitter and utterly camp razzamatazz, but John Wilson is the Fred Astaire of orchestral conductors, swooning his way through each turbo-charged performance, and the feeling is electric, if not ecstatic. Continue reading →
Fifty years after its release, the MGM musical tragedy West Side Story has been digitally re-mastered on Blu-Rayand returned to… err… the Royal Albert Hall. It’s not the sort of cavernous gulf you’d naturally think of visiting for a cosy cinematic experience of romantic Romeo and Juliet themes transferred to the edgy ghettos of New York – even in high definition. But if you add in a live 90-piece orchestra and erect a screen the size of a tennis court, you’re actually onto something special.
In this techno-cinema-orchestral conjunction, the Sharks and Jets keep all their original vocals and dialogue intact, but (somehow) the musical score has been ‘scrubbed’ – completely excised. This permits the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra (RPCO) to bring Bernstein’s sophisticated score to life in an exhilarating experience. While you’re listening to such legendary showstoppers as ‘America’, ‘Somewhere’, and ‘Tonight’ played live on stage, the eye is captivated by the clarity and crispness now given to Robert Wise’s seminal images and Jerome Robbins’ stunning choreography: the grainy blurs of 1961 have been transformed. It’s a celluloid icon digitalised to theatrical heights: the first meeting of Tony and Maria is especially a masterful moment of re-pixilated pizzicato. Continue reading →