Classical: Berlin Philharmonie, Live in HD


Operas and ballets from the Metropolitan Opera House and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre have become familiar, popular, welcome presentations at cinemas throughout the country. They are the next-best-thing to attending these venues and experiencing their remarkable productions — at reasonable prices. The world-renowned Berlin Philharmonic is the first orchestra in Europe to realise this potential. I doubted that I, a ‘live music snob’, would enjoy their concert in a cinema. Despite mild reservations regarding the restlessness of the camera, I loved the experience.

It was a privilege to see the state-of-the-art Berlin Philharmonic concert hall and to listen-in on conversations, about the music, between the conductor and players and then to see and hear that music being performed. Gustavo Dudamel, the brilliant, 32-year-old Venezuelan music director of Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, Caracas, conducted an imaginative programme of well-known and unfamiliar music.

The familiar music was by two Viennese contemporaries, Beethoven (1770-1827) and Schubert (1897-1828), who met once. We heard the 4th symphonies of both, one in each half of the programme, each preceded by one of Igor Stravinsky’s (1882-1971) Suites for Small Orchestra.

Each Suite is made up of several short, pithy, easily whistled tunes of great charm. It is the quirky harmonies and the scoring, however, that catch one’s attention. Stravinsky had a knack of making ‘wrong’ chords sound logical, along with a remarkable ability to create unique orchestral colours by combining the most unlikely instrumental pairings.

The symphonies were impeccably played, noticeable for the beautiful shading of orchestral colour, the obvious rapport between the players, and their total communication with their very undemonstrative, but marvellously communicative, sensitive, conductor.

* New Year’s Eve Gala, Dec 31, 4pm

Star Rating: 5/5

Theatre: The Colleen Bawn

Black Box Theatre, Galway

By Pádraic Killeen

By the law of averages, a Druid show will fall flat on its face. On the Galway theatre company’s current form, however, any such mishap looks a long distance off. Their new production, a revival of Dion Boucicault’s 1860 melodrama, The Colleen Bawn, is stupendous and reveals a company in rude health.

Druid’s director, Garry Hynes, make no bones about creating popular theatre — a theatre for the people, a theatre that entertains. In this, Druid are unrivalled. Yet, in the conceptual stakes, too, few can match the rigour Hynes brings to a text to make it sing. The Colleen Bawn is a perfect example.

The plot of Boucicault’s comic melodrama hinges on a secret marriage between an aristocrat and an Irish peasant girl. It ignites when a misunderstanding convinces the gentleman’s servant to kill the girl. Hynes cherishes the play’s humour, as she does its perfect plotting, and it makes for an exciting, hilarious show.

What makes it better still, however, is the way that Hynes quietly electrifies the play’s social commentary.

Thus, in Aaron Monaghan’s dejected ‘bad guy’, a cripple who adores the same authority figure that buckled him, and Maelíosa Stafford’s odious gombeen-man magistrate, we can see the origins of the postcolonial mire in which Ireland now wades. Hynes’s staging also makes clear that The Colleen Bawn is a battle over language.

The performances are thrilling. Aisling O’Sullivan delivers a dotty Anglo-Irish spin on Katherine Hepburn, Monaghan channels a full galaxy of comic darkness, and Marie Mullen gets great gas from swapping her two roles.

As subversive stage Irishman, Myles-na-Coppaleen, meanwhile, Rory Nolan is full of splendid wit and brio.

At one point, late on, his ‘deus-ex-machina’ character even becomes divine.

It all makes for a stunning slice of popular theatre and the only decent thing you can do is relish it.

* Until Dec 21; Tours in 2014

Star Rating: 5/5

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