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Michael White’s classical news: I Fagiolini; Express G&S; City Music Foundation; Suite on Verses by Michelangelo

24 June, 2021 — By Michael White

The very model of fun – Express G&S

ON the whole I’d rather spend two hours in dental surgery than at a dutiful staging of Gilbert & Sullivan. But I get more interested when the duty gets ditched in favour of robust irreverence; and accordingly I’m almost looking forward to a show at the Pleasance N7 (close to Caledonian Road tube) called Express G&S which promises to be decidedly robust and maybe even fun.

Devised by Charles Court Opera, whose track record for camping up the Gilbertian repertoire is honourable, it mashes bits of every known G&S operetta (hopefully the better bits) into a parody-whodunnit: think Hercule Poirot with singing. In the golden age before coronavirus, CCO used to do comparable things with panto as an annual Christmas entertainment, and was brilliant at it. So here’s hoping this will be as good.

Their G&S show plays selected nights until July 2. Details and booking: pleasance.co.uk

When the story gets told of how music organisations coped under Covid, one of the star turns to celebrate will be City Music Foundation which has soldiered on heroically, providing spotlit platforms for outstanding young performers who would otherwise have struggled to survive. During the past year CMF has gone from strength to strength. And next week it launches a new relationship with Bart’s Hospital that will present CMF artists in the handsome 18th century space that is the hospital’s Great Hall.

It’s one of London’s hidden architectural gems. And 7pm on June 29 it houses a CMF concert, with audience, featuring Britten’s dazzling song cycle Les Illuminations, and Schubert’s compactly powerful Quartettsatz. Details: citymusicfoundation.org. Tickets (necessarily limited) from Eventbrite.

• Top of my armchair-viewing recommendations this week is a livestreamed concert from St Martin in the Fields by I Fagiolini: an elite vocal ensemble that manages to combine virtuosity with vaudeville thanks to its director Robert Hollingworth, who is not only one of the best choral conductors around but the most entertaining. In an erudite sort of way. He calls this programme The Ache, the Bite and the Banger – for reasons I don’t understand but he’ll explain. And as the repertoire runs from Monteverdi to Flanders & Swann, it covers a lot of ground. Online tickets: stmartin-in-the-fields.org

Other things worth watching from home include a dramatisation by English Touring Opera of Shostakovich’s Suite on Verses by Michelangelo: gut-punch settings of sonnets in which the great renaissance artist wrestles with his sexual and spiritual unorthodoxy in a disarmingly modern manner. Free access at englishtouringopera.org.uk

And for the thousands of us desperate to hear some choral music, the excellent mixed-voice choir of Clare College Cambridge has posted on its YouTube channel a complete service of Compline, enlarged to include a Requiem setting by the spiritually uplifting Icelandic composer Sigurdur Saevarsson.

But something not to forget if you’re in a mood to venture out is the annual Proms season that starts this Saturday, June 26, at St Jude’s, Hampstead Garden Suburb. I’ve flagged on this page over the past couple of weeks all the things that are happening: remind yourself at promsatstjudes.org.uk

It’s always a great event. And that it’s managing to happen in 2021 is cause for great relief.

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