Archive for the ‘Barbican’ Category

Last night’s St Matthew Passion: the very highest of high art

April 6, 2009
Bach’s St Matthew Passion at the Barbican in London last night was the very highest of high art.

Composer: JS Bach is the Main Man, the patron saint of all musicians. This is one of his finest works.

Orchestra: Leipzig Gewandhaus – the definitive interpreters of Bach’s sacred music.

Choirs: St Thomas’ Boys Choir (Leipzig) and Tolz Boys Choir (Bavaria). I doubt I’ll ever witness a superior choral performance. Each passage made you feel you were entering Heaven itself.

Soloists, notably Johannes Chum (Evangelist): outstanding.

Music does not come any more inspiring than this.

Bach’s St Matthew Passion was the second of a trio of sacred music gigs for Easter that I’ll be attending. To come: Bach’s St John Passion at King’s College Cambridge on Wednesday.

I’ll have to reconsider my policy of buying cheapskate seats at the Barbican, though.

Last night I was flanked by two objectionable septuagenarians. The one on the left – the greasy, lank long grey hair was the giveaway – stunk; his clothes clearly hadn’t had much contact with a washing machine.

The obese boy on my right had serious breathing problems, which intruded badly in the quieter passages, especially the soloists’ arias.

I’m all for access, but unfortunates with seriously anti-social conditions should be encouraged to stay home. Or someone less tolerant might be provoked to throw them over the balcony.

Gerry Smith

Handel’s La Resurezzione, at the Barbican tonight

March 31, 2009
Handel’s La Resurezzione, at London’s Barbican tonight, was a two hour delight: exquisite, uplifting, life-affirming.

The star was Handel himself. He wrote this masterwork, only his second oratorio, in 1708, at the age of 22. It’s a lyrical, driving, compelling work, packed with engaging leitmotifs and stunning melodic runs.

Tonight’s other star was conductress Emmanuelle Haim and her fabulous chamber orchestra, Le Concert d’Astree. They were equal to the task of interpreting such great music. But, then, they always are.

The quintet of vocalists was most commanding when singing as a choir at the end of both parts. In the arias, bass Lorenzo Regazzo (Lucifer) and soprano Kate Royal (Magdalene) were magnificent.

Tonight’s Handel was the first of a trio of sacred music gigs for Easter that I’ll be attending. To come: Bach’s St Matthew Passion on Sunday, followed by St John Passion next Wednesday. Not bad for an atheist!

Rave on those Baroque master musos!

Gerry Smith

Roberto Alagna, Barbican: disappointing

May 5, 2008

Well, you can’t win ‘em all. 


After a run of outstanding gigs, I expected another at London’s Barbican on Friday.  After all, Roberto Alagna is one of my favourite tenors.  And the programme was entirely Verdi.  The omens were good.


And if you went by the delirious reaction of the pension-age faithful, this was an Earth-shattering gig.  As the doe-eyed fan proudly confessed to me after the gig: “Roberto’s marvellous … he can do no wrong… “.


Despite my predilection for the singer – I’ve always been impressed by Alagna at Covent Garden, and warm to his easy, affable Sicilian  manner (he acts more like a Palermo midfield ball-winner than a precious keeper of the operatic flame) I felt Friday’s concert gig was well below the standard of other recent concert stagings I’ve seen, notably Bartoli and Fleming.




1.    setlist – some poorly chosen Verdi

2.    use of full orchestra and choir – Alagna had to compete with well over 100 other musicians on stage; at times, he was drowned out

3.    orchestra and choir had too many songs, sans Alagna

4.    performance – some of his tempi and pitch were hit and miss; he seemed to pull out of a few top Cs

5.    the singer’s shameless guying to the crossover popopera audience

6.    the fourth encore – a Sicilian pop song devoted to his lovely wife Angela, seated in row 10 – he will love her till he dies, apparently.  FerChrissakes, Roberto!


I really wanted to dig this gig, but it left me disappointed, despite four encores. It won’t stop me booking for Alagna every time he appears at the Royal Opera House, though.



Gerry Smith