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BWW Review: LIVE FROM COVENT GARDEN, Royal Opera House

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BWW Review: LIVE FROM COVENT GARDEN, Royal Opera House

BWW Review: LIVE FROM COVENT GARDEN, Royal Opera HouseEvery theatre has a 'ghost light'. A light that is left on when the theatre is empty for the resident ghost, but mainly to make sure that those who are first in or last out do not fall off the edge of the stage. It's reassuring to think that no theatre ever goes dark, but you could not help but be moved by the shots of dark emptiness within London's vast Royal Opera House as they screened their first live performance since the shutdown of all theatres and live venues across the country.

The Royal Opera House's income has dropped by 60% since the lockdown. Despite its annual £24 million Arts Council England funding, the venue only breaks even when its houses are 95% full. You do not have to be a mathematician to realise what a challenging time this is for every theatre.

In response to this, the Royal Opera House is putting on three live concerts; the first one free-to-view and the next two on 20th and 27th June for £4.99 per household. Curated and accompanied on the piano by Director of Music Antonio Pappano, the concerts are aimed as showcases for the best of The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet.

In some ways, Antonio Pappano is to be commended for not relying on obvious or particularly well-known pieces for this concert. Folk songs such as George Butterworth's 'Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad' and Mark-Anthony Turnage's 'Three Songs' were surprising choices. As a showcase for what the opera house usually puts on, these were slightly underwhelming and may not appeal to some, despite engaging performances from Toby Spence and Gerald Finley.

Ballet and opera were both present. The evening's highlight was the ballet interlude; a new pas de deux, choreographed by Wayne McGregor, Resident Choreographer of the Royal Ballet, to Richard Strauss' 'Morgen!', accompanied by Louise Adler.

'Morgen!' was composed by Strauss as a wedding present to his wife and is a light and optimistic piece, full of hope and joy. Performed by Francesca Hayward and Cesar Corrales, who are a couple off-stage as well.

McGregor's choreography is lyrical, intimate and full of connection and joy as the couple come together. First soloist Corrales' movement is sinuous, almost snake-like as he shows incredible elasticity in his performance. There is great intimacy with Hayward, who danced with great emotion and poise. A short, but beautiful piece.

Gerald Finzi's 'Fear No More the Heat o' the Sun', set to a Shakespearean text, was brimming with emotion as it was sung by Gerard Finley. There is something rather sombre and maudlin about the use of Pappano's solo piano and this was a delicately performed and nuanced performance.

Operatic pieces feel and sound so much more familiar and suitable for the surroundings of the Opera House. Handel's 'Tornami a vagheggiar' from the opera Alcina was light relief with a stunning performance by Louise Alder. Her acting as impeccable as her perfectly-pitched soprano.

The finale saw the most well-known piece of the evening with a moving and emotional rendition of Georges Bizet's duet from The Pearl Fishers 'Au fond du temple saint', performed by Toby Spence and Gerard Finley. Their voices complement each other beautifully and the result was a passionate and powerful way to end the concert.

The reality is that it is strange and slightly eerie to watch these performances without any audience reaction or applause. Seeing only a few figures on the huge stage of the opera house feels unfamiliar. Nothing can replace being present at a live performance, but at the moment, this is the best alternative we've got.

Live From Covent Garden is available on the Royal Opera House's YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo channels until 27 June

Photo Credit: The Royal Opera House

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From This Author Aliya Al-Hassan