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Better late…

May 10, 2010

 In past years I have tried to chronicle the blooming of the Canary Bird Rose as a sign that spring is on the way (it’s generally one of the first to flower).  But this year it was very late indeed…

Unfortunately the one outside my front door has been pruned back so hard that there is no chance of it flowering at all this year;  but the big one in the middle of the Green was suddenly profusely in bloom when I got back from a long weekend away last Tuesday, 4 May.

This is about three weeks later than in 2008!

Meanwhile I have just walked through the Rose Garden in Greenwich Park (very chilly! — swathed in scarf and gloves);  not a bloom in sight, except for a pretty ‘wild’ rose and a bush of what I would have sworn was Canary Bird but they call Rosa Hibernica

Garden Opera: Don Pasquale

August 27, 2008

Another August Bank Holiday, another Garden Opera performance in the magical setting of the Observatory Garden in Greenwich… (so it must be a year since I started this blog!  Hey!  Happy birthday to me!)

Alas, no idyllic weather this time, but at least the rain held off.  The audience was enthusiastic but not a full ‘house’ – where were the Burghers of Blackheath?  Not all in Tuscany, surely?  Perhaps put off by the weather, or by the relatively unfamiliar opera on offer?

Donizetti is mostly known for his prolific output of bel canto operas on serious or historical subjects, but he was also a dab hand at comedy, managing to combine swift-flowing action with hilarious patter songs, gentle lyricism and (as my friend Diana noted) some eyebrow-raising sudden key-changes.

Ernesto, the tenor lead, has probably the hardest task in Don Pasquale, having to play the soulful romantic while all about him are embroiled in comedy.  Alexander Anderson-Hall rose bravely to the challenge, having to work hard at times but to fine effect.  He could also ‘do’ the comedy when required.

Catherine May, as Norina, was a treasure – huge expressive eyes conveying every nuance of surprise, horror, complicity, teasing, play-acting and genuine affection.  And she could do the high notes too!

James McOran-Campbell, charismatic as ever (and with a green corduroy three-piece suit to die for), made Dr Malatesta into an untypically youthful but convincing and very funny conspirator.  Last but not least, as the eponymous Don Pasquale Deryck Hamon was a hoot – all arms and legs in confusion, infuriatingly pompous, ridiculous when trying to be ‘with it’, yet winning our sympathy for his plight.  And he had the low notes…

Bernie Lafontaine provided deft orchestrations for his hard-working six-piece band, which once again sounded convincingly like a whole orchestra.

Stage direction was by Duncan Macfarland (of the Royal Opera House) who updated the action to the ‘late 1970s’, explaining that it was a time when 1960s counter-culture collided head-on with the bourgeois values of middle England, thus enabling him to retain the conflicts of the original while playing down the now-unacceptable social stereotypes of Donizetti’s day.  (This did mean losing the bite of the final ‘moral’, in which ‘When an old man wants to marry, he’ll only make a fool of himself’ became something harmless about ‘losing a guidebook’…)

Designers Neil Irish (sets) and Dulcie Best (costumes) rose to the challenge brilliantly.  (more…)

Merry Christmas Card!

December 13, 2007

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Here’s my 2007 Christmas Card!

It’s the first two pages of the (39-page) score of my Christmas carol arrangements for ten wind players – we’re still arguing about whether the word is ‘Decet’ or Dectet’ – which received their triumphant premiere play-through last night, to the accompaniment of mulled wine and mince pies.

There are eight movements:

1 – The Mediaeval One (Gaudete)
2 – The Basque one (Atoz, atoz)
3 – The French one (Il est né, le divin enfant)
4 – The Old English one (The Coventry Carol)
5 – The One About The Holly (from Cornwall)
6 – The Other French one (Nous voici dans la ville)
7 – The Other Mediaeval One (The Boar’s Head Carol)
8 – The Very Traditional One (Dies natalis tibi felicitatis)

No. 8 is actually a joke – it was Grahame (the 1st flute)’s birthday…

Now my challenge is to find a way to (a) convert the score into a sound file, and (b) put it on here for your delight!

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Hello world again

August 24, 2007

The link to my old site (www.jonathanburton.co.uk) has now been redirected to this one — thanks, Eddie.

Hello to myself

August 23, 2007

Well, it’s getting there.  Phew.

Hello world!

August 23, 2007

Welcome to my new website.  My old site at www.jonathanburton.co.uk is still there but hasn’t been updated for a while; feel free to browse it while I get this one up and running!


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