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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Baroquestock; Ernani; New Generation Festival

02 October, 2020 — By Michael White

Jean Philippe Rameau

ONE of the best things I did last year – and thinking back, it feels like another life, another world – was spending a weekend exploring the magnificently preserved 18th-century theatre in the Chateau of Versailles where they stage French baroque opera in period style with dancing, gesture, ostrich feathers, the whole works.

It’s an amazing spectacle, and the music (though not everybody’s tasse du thé) can be amazing too.

As you’ll appreciate, Hampstead’s Heath Street Baptist Church is not Versailles. But it will do its best this weekend when Baroquestock, a collective who perform there regularly, are in residence with highlights from one of the great operas of the French baroque: Rameau’s Castor et Pollux.

They had planned to do the whole thing, with or without ostrich feathers, except Covid intervened and forced them to postpone their complete production until next year.

But meanwhile, they’ve found a Covid-safe way to deliver some of the finest moments of the score as a sort of taster experience.

What the audience will taste is a score from 1737 about a pair of twins who, by some freak of ancient Spartan gynaecology, manage to differ in one material respect: Castor is human, Pollux is immortal.

Needless to say, this causes problems when Castor dies.

But they end up together in the sky as the constellation Gemini, so all is not lost.

And even when separated, they have some damn good tunes.

You can hear them this Saturday at 6pm, repeating 8.15pm. And the show comes as part of a Baroquestock weekend, running

Friday to Sunday with music by Beethoven and Bach.

All details on the website, where you’ll find an introductory video.

Advance reservation essential.

WHILE opera in France is off-limits to most of us, the same goes for opera in Italy.

But through the internet you can virtually visit some choice Italian venues; and one is the Teatro Regio di Parma, which was local to Verdi when he was growing up (he was born 30km down the road) and maintains a close link with the composer’s work.

His early opera Ernani has just been playing there, in concert. And you can watch the show, for free, by googling YouTube “OperaStreaming Ernani” where you’ll find a platform set up by a group of opera houses in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region to promote their work to a wider audience.

Check out the site, because there are other good things there too.

AND staying in Italy, how about a virtual trip to the Boboli Gardens, Florence, where a venture called the New Generation Festival, organised by three young Brits who have connections with a Florentine palazzo, has been managing to run despite the pandemic.

Their latest project is a staging of Rossini’s Cenerentola (an operatic take on Cinderella), and its accessible free of charge from Uffizi TV – google “YouTube Uffizi tv”.

The festival is geared to young performers, who inevitably have their strengths and weaknesses. But these are pretty good.

The show is attractive. And the initiative is commendable. I just wish the three guys who run it all would come back to Britain and get things going again here.

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