Thursday, January 26, 2012

REVIEW: Paris and Shanghai by HK Int'l Chamber Music Festival

City Hall Theatre, Wednesday January 18

Conceptually, “Paris and Shanghai” sounded quite romantic, but as a programme that combined Saint-Saens, Chausson, Franck, Debussy and Ravel with Huang Zi, it was a bit like a slice of smelly tofu sandwiched within buttery croissant!
I do love smelly tofu... but not with croissant! In this case, other than programming issue, it was another fabulous concert from the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival. You can read my review for Time-Out Hong Kong by clicking here.

Paris and Shanghai
City Hall Theatre

SAINT-SAËNS: Fantasie for Violin & Harp, Op. 124 Cho-Liang Lin • Naoko Yoshino
CHAUSSON: Chanson Perpétuelle, Op. 37 Ying Huang • Shanghai Quartet • Shai Wosner
FRANCK: Sonata in A Major (flute version) Marina Piccinini • Andreas Haefliger
FIVE CHINESE SONGS (arr. Yi-Wen Jiang) Ying Huang • Shanghai Quartet
DEBUSSY: Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp Marina Piccinini • Paul Neubauer • Naoko Yoshino
DEBUSSY: Danses sacrée et profane Naoko Yoshino • Cho-Liang Lin • Michael Ma • Andrew Ling • Desmond Hoebig • DaXun Zhang
RAVEL: Introduction and Allegro Naoko Yoshino • Michael Ma • Cho-Liang Lin • Andrew Ling • Desmond Hoebig • Marina Piccinini • Zhai Yao-Guang

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maestro Jaap van Zweden - New HKPO's Music Director

[16 January 2012 – Hong Kong] After a two-year search, the Board of Governors of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society is pleased to announce the appointment of Maestro Jaap van Zweden as the Orchestra’s Music Director for four years, starting with the 2012/13 season. Maestro van Zweden, Musical America’s Conductor of the Year for 2012, will succeed the outgoing Artistic Director and Chief Conductor, Edo de Waart.

“It is a tremendous step forward for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra to be joined by one of the world’s most sought-after conductors. When Maestro van Zweden steps onto the HKPO podium, there is immediate excitement from the orchestra and the audiences alike,” said Mr Y.S. Liu, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society and of the Music Director Search Committee. “We salute Maestro van Zweden’s artistic leadership, and entrust in him not only the future development of the orchestra, but also that of Hong Kong’s cultural advancement.”

“I can’t tell you how thrilled and honoured I am to be appointed Music Director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra,” said Maestro van Zweden. “This is an ensemble of 90 talented musicians which possesses great musicality as well as potential. It deserves its reputation as one of the best in Asia. My work as Music Director will go beyond the concert stage, and include what I think are essential elements for the growth of the Orchestra, such as the education program and advocacy for a world-class home for us in the West Kowloon Cultural District. I am very excited about the upcoming season we are planning, and I believe there is a great future ahead of us.”

Maestro Edo de Waart, current Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Orchestra, offered his congratulations and said, “I am very happy with the appointment of my fellow Dutchman Jaap van Zweden as my successor. He is a wonderful musician who I am sure will bring the Hong Kong Philharmonic to new heights. I wish him and the Orchestra all the best.”

Michael MacLeod, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra said, “Those who witnessed the four awe-inspiring concerts that Maestro van Zweden conducted last November know he is a musician of the highest calibre. His work with the Orchestra has been truly inspirational. His appointment is the best direction for the Orchestra and I would like to extend my warmest welcome to the Maestro, on behalf of the musicians and administration.”

Maestro van Zweden, currently Music Director Designate of the Orchestra, will officially assume the role of Music Director on 1 August 2012 and perform his inaugural performances on 28/29 September 2012 in the National Day Celebration concerts at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

*photo by Chow Yu Young

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REVIEW: Modern Masters - Ghost Opera by HK Int'l Chamber Music Festival

HKAPA Amphitheatre, Sunday January 15

When I told my friend, who went with me to the concert, that I enjoyed the performance, he mumbled, "... the emperor's new clothes..."

This concert can be quite divisive. It was one of those contemporary music that one tends to either love or hate. That's nothing new, good composer takes risks and sometimes the result can be a breakthough, a breakdown or just a break-even... and it doesn't stop there, the assessment continues and the fate of works change.

The highlight of this concert, as indicated by the title, was Ghost Opera; and it should be. I have a recording of this work by the Kronos Quartet and have seen a video of its performance, but last Sunday's performance was way better... perhaps because it was a live performance... but I believe it was because it has a better ensemble. The Knonos Quartet performance was very extroverted, there was a malevolent tinge to it, but for this HKICMF ensemble, it was spiritual... almost as if the concept of "ghost" was a reality rather than a proposition.

Read my complete review of MODERN MASTERS - GHOST OPERA in TIME-OUT HONG KONG.
Modern Masters - Ghost Opera
part of the 3rd Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival
presented by Premiere Performances of Hong Kong
January 15 2012, The Academy of Performing Arts Hong Kong Amphitheatre

BARTÓK: Duos for Two Violins (selection), Henning Kraggerud • Clara-Jumi Kang
CHEN YI: Fiddle Suite for Erhu & Quartet, Wong On-Yuen • Shanghai Quartet
BARTÓK: Quartet No. 3, Shanghai Quartet
TAN DUN: Ghost Opera, Cho-Liang Lin • Zhu Bei • Andrew Ling • Li Xiao-Lu • Zhang Ying

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REVIEW: Catrin Aur with City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong

HKAPA Amphitheatre, Friday January 13

"I love her singing, but she needs a stylist!” an elderly western woman quipped while walking out of the APA Amphitheatre. The subject of her remark was Catrin Aur, the Welsh soprano who was making her Hong Kong debut in a concert accompanied by the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong with Welsh guest conductor Gareth Jones. Aur had just finished a concert of Italian opera arias, interposed with Italian orchestral music and the Welsh soprano’s frequent costume changes (three gowns in seven arias!).

Read my complete review of Catrin Aur's performance with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong in TIME-OUT HONG KONG.

The thing is that I feel that she can do better! I think it has a lot to do with nervousness and the dry acoustic of the theatre. Catrin Aur's rich and gorgeous tone was at its better state toward the end of the concert when she sang Bellini's Casta Diva (Norma) and Verdi's Sempre Libera (La Traviata); and I would definitely love to see her in an actual staged production.


Catrin Aur at the Opera

January 13 & 14 2012

The Academy of Performing Arts Hong Kong Amphitheatre

City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong

Gareth Jones, guest conductor

Catrin Aur, soprano

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Friday, January 13, 2012

REVIEW: Oliver! (Cardiff)

Wales Millennium Centre (Cardiff), Saturday December 24

I first saw this Cameron Mackintosh production at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (London) back in 2009. In fact, it was August 6 and a Wednesday. During that time, Omid Djalili portrayed the role of Fagin and Jodie Prenger (via BBC1’s I’d Do Anything talent search show) portrayed the role Nancy. I remember enjoying it immensely thus more than two years later and I found out that the show is touring Cardiff, I didn’t hesitate to go… beside, what else does one do in Cardiff?

For this show, Neil Morrissey did the role of Fagin and Samantha Barks (also via BBC1’s I’d Do Anything) did the role of Nancy. Whether it was jetlag or familiarity (the surprise factor was no longer there) or editing (being a trimmed down version for touring), the show didn’t really come alive. Neil Morrissey’s Fagin tried to be both creepy and funny, but had difficulty in offering any sleek and nimble comic touches to the role. Samantha Barks’ Nancy, on the other hand, offered some gorgeous singing but a tad prim for the role.

The set and the lighting, while I can’t put my finger on it, definitely lacked the grandeur and sheen of what I saw in London. Don’t get me wrong, what I saw was still skillfully designed that facilitated smooth transitions from attractive town squares to shadowy alleys.

The highlight of the show, however, is the kids. Unfortunately, I can’t identify who played Oliver (shared by four actors) and Artful Dodger (shared by three actors). In any case, they were all (including the chorus) fabulous!

* If by any chance you know, I would appreciate it if you can inform me

Book, Music and Lyrics by Lionel Bart

Creative Team:
Musical Director: Toby Higgins
Orchestrations: William David Brohn
Musical Supervisor: Stephen Brooker
Lighting Design: Paule Constable
Costume Design: Anthony Ward
Scenic Design: Totie Driver and Adrian Vaux
Choreography: Matthew Bourne
Direction: Laurence Connor

Cast includes:
Neil Morrissey: Fagin
Samantha Barks: Nancy
Iain Fletcher: Bill Sikes
Stephen Moore: Mr Brownlow
Jack Edwards: Mr Bumble
Suzie Chard: Widow Corney
Ashley Artus: Mr Sowerberry
CJ Johnson: Mrs Sowerberry
Emma Dukes: Bet
Victoria Hay: Charlotte
Stevie Hutchinson: Noah Claypole
Gwion Jones/Tritton Wheeler/Sebastian Croft/Harry Polden: Oliver
Joseph Potter/William Edden/Max Griesbach: Dodger

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

REVIEW: Ghost – The Musical (London)

Piccadilly Theatre (London), Friday December 23

Yes, this is the musical version of the famous movie starring Demi Moore, Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg. Oscar-winning writer Bruce Joel Rubin for the movie Ghost, translated it to a musical by writing the book and lyrics; and with Dave Stewart (half of Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard writing the music and also the lyrics.
After seeing so many musicals based on movies (in which Lion King has to be one of the best), I can see how Ghost can actually work. It worked, it entertained, but it didn’t wow me.

Ghost – The Musical is like a dish cooked with all the correct ingredients, but the ingredients themselves were just not of the best quality. The songs were enjoyable at that moment yet not exactly memorable afterward. The set design was simple and sleek and accommodated the illusions perfectly. The illusions by Paul Kieve, integral to the title of the show, were executed with mixed effect; the good ones were stunning, while the bad ones were sloppy. Personally, I like the scene wherein Sam (the ghost) slowly appeared up-stage, and while I was thinking that it was all mirror-reflection-lighting (Pepper’s Ghost) effect, he then suddenly walked down-stage and past where I believe the mirror was supposed to be… I don’t know how they did it. The video design gave the musical a sense of cinematic pace.

The weakest part of the show was notably the performers. They had the looks but lacked the skill to make their portrayal truthful and believable. Richard Fleeshman as Sam was right for the role, while alternate Philippa Stefani as Molly was out of her depth resulting to evident lack of connection and emotional weight between the couple. Alternate Da’vine Joy Randolph’s Oda Mae Brown (who have been cast in the role for the Broadway production in spring 2012) was a delight to witness with the right balance of empathy and humor. What thoroughly fell flat were Andrew Langtree’s Carl Bruner (Sam’s best friend and also the villain) and Ivan De Freitas’ Willie Lopez (Sam’s killer), both performances were caricatures of bad people in pantomime.

I wonder how it will be received in Broadway when it opens there, but my bet is that it will not do well.

Ghost - The Musical
First performance at Piccadilly Theatre 24 June 2011
First performance at Manchester Opera House 28 March 2011
Book & Lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin
Music & Lyrics by Dave Stewart & Glen Ballard

Creative Team:
Choreographer: Ashley Wallen
Musical Supervisor, Arranger & Orchestrator: Christopher Nightingale
Lighting Designer: Hugh Vanstone
Video and Projection Designer: Jon Driscoll
Sound Designer: Bobby Aitken
Illusionist: Paul Kieve
Designer: Rob Howell
Director: Matthew Warchus

Cast Includes:
Sam Wheat: Richard Fleeshman
Molly Jensen: Philippa Stefani
Oda Mae Brown: Da'vine Joy Randolph
Carl Bruner: Andrew Langtree
Willie Lopez: Ivan de Freitas
Subway Ghost: Adebayo Bolaji
Hospital Ghost: Mark White
Clara: Lisa Davina Phillip
Louise: Jenny Fitzpatrick

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