Visit London Blog » Opera Enjoy the very best of London Fri, 16 Jan 2015 16:06:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Best of London Theatre: 2014 Olivier Awards Nominees Announced Mon, 10 Mar 2014 15:24:20 +0000 Olivier Awards

The best of London’s theatre has been whittled down ahead of the Olivier Awards ceremony next month, with new musicals leading the way in the nominations revealed today.

New musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has gained seven nominations, while fellow newcomers The Book of Mormon and The Scottsboro Boys have six apiece.

Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka with Jack Costello as Charlie and cast members. Photo by Helen MaybanksIt’s not just new shows that are hogging the limelight however, with the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along also doing well with the voters, with seven nominations to its name. Nominees for the coveted BBC Radio 2 Audience Award include West End hits Les Misérables, Matilda the Musical, The Phantom of the Opera and Wicked.

Among the notable names up for individual gongs are Jude Law for his role as Henry V and Judi Dench as Alice in Peter and Alice, both at the Noel Coward Theatre. Renowned baritone Plácido Domingo also gains a nomination for his portrayal of the title character in Verdi’s Nabucco at the Royal Opera House.

The awards, which are run by the Society of London Theatre, recognise the best productions and performances of theatre shows, opera and dance over the previous year. This year’s glitzy awards gala will take place on 13 April at the Royal Opera House.

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Watch actor, voice-over artist, former model, author and human rights campaigner Joanna Lumley’s London Story in the video above.

During our interview Joanna told us more about why, even after nearly half a century in the UK Capital, London still excites and energises her life and work. We’ve used some of her favourite London experiences to populate our homepage from 20 Jan-23 Jan 2014.

Here’s Joanna’s top five things to see and do in London:

Battersea Power Station and Stockwell

“I have lived in Earl’s Court, near Holland Park and in Wimbledon and now I live in Stockwell. Stockwell has a lot of extraordinary treats. It has got the most beautiful war memorial which is painted with poppies and things. Stockwell has its own personal characteristics [and] it is now linked to Nine Elms and the immense new development there. [It’s also very close to] Battersea Power Station, one of the most iconic and thrilling parts of London, with its great four chimneys sticking up, you seem to see them all around, whichever side of the river you are. The power station is being developed into restaurants and places to live and offices and cafés and shops – a theatre even. Maybe [one day] I can walk to [work at] a theatre in Battersea.”

Holland Park

Holland Park is one of the best kept secrets in London. It is staggering, I took a Canadian friend there the other day and she was bewitched by it. It’s got parterres, winding paths, statues, its own little opera house. It has got a beautiful restaurant, an orangery. It has got formal duck ponds with ducks who have babies…little puffballs. It’s got peacocks which roost in the trees. It’s got tulips in springtime and magnolias. It’s got camellias coming out before the snow has even come off them, it’s a fantastic place. It sits between Holland Park Avenue and Kensington High Street. You can wander your way around – it’s got a football pitch, it’s got everything you could possibly want and wherever you go in it, you’ll find a new path and a new way. And you can wear smart shoes if you want to be a smart Londoner and not be muddy, or you can wear football boots.”

London in 24 hours: Open Top Bus Tour and Fish & Chips

“If you really have only got 24 hours, I think you should take one of those nice topless buses, they are terribly, terribly good, or go onto the river, where you get quite a different thing – the whole city sounds different. Take your camera and actually look at all these extraordinary places. If you can go to a museum, come to the British Library or the British Museum or the V&A or the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum. The Sir John Soane’s  Museum is packed with treats. Try to focus on something properly for an hour, then skitter about like a gadfly. Eat something, I know it’s England, but you have to eat some fish and chips.”

Knightsbridge, Piccadilly, Cromwell Road

“Whenever I come back to London after a long time away, the first thing I do is ask the driver to bring me straight down the Cromwell Road, towards Knightsbridge, veer off, round Hyde Park Corner, the great Quadriga of War – that fabulous chariot with four of them on top of the archway in the middle; a boy driving the horses furiously, and behind, aloft, holding the great wreath of peace, is the angel standing. Go round there, down past Buckingham Palace … and the great golden statue of Queen Victoria. Down Parliament Square, Big Ben, there it all is: still there, still gleaming. 

The British Library

“I think that I would die if I didn’t read books every day. Books are the most important part of my life and reading is the most important skill you can learn as a person on the planet. It doesn’t matter what else you have got. If you are able to read, you can learn everything that there has ever been known. You can read about everything, anywhere in any language, about every single thing that has ever been thought, or ever been invented, or discovered or dreamed of. So without reading, your life is dull, that’s what I say.

Discover more stories and enter a competition to win a fantastic stay in London at #TheLondonStory

What are your recommendations for visitors to London?

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What’s On This Weekend: 14-15 December Mon, 09 Dec 2013 10:00:43 +0000

We are counting down the days now and the Christmas events are stacking up in the capital. Take in some traditional treats such as Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square and The Nutcracker at The Royal Opera House, or head down to the O2 for a handmade Christmas.

Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square

The capital doesn’t get much more festive than this, as the famous Norwegian Christmas tree is lit on 5 Dec and Trafalgar Square is filled with carollers every night until 22 Dec. Carol groups will be singing all the classics, from Deck the Halls and Good King Wenceslas, to Ding Dong Merrily on High and The Holly and the Ivy, and it’s all for charity. 5-22 Dec

Handmade Christmas at the O2

Get hands-on this Christmas at Handmade Christmas at the O2. This indoor Christmas fair provides the perfect opportunity to pick up some unique Christmas gifts from hundreds of UK designers, crafters, and food and drink producers, as well as creative workshops and demos. 13-15 Dec

The Wind in the Willows

Will Tuckett and the Royal Opera House bring the beloved childhood story of The Wind in the Willows to the Duchess Theatre this week. Expect innovative stage design, choreography and songs in this adaptation of the fantastical novel, as it follows the adventures of shy Mole, debonair Ratty, wise Badger and hot-headed Toad. 11 Dec-1 Feb

The Nutcracker

See The Royal Ballet perform one of the world’s most famous ballets. The Nutcracker opened at The Royal Opera House this week, a perfect family treat for the festive season. Relive the classic story of Clara, who creeps down to the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve in search of her favourite present, only to embark on a magical adventure against the evil Rat King, all accompanied by the spellbinding music of Tchaikovsky. 4 Dec-16 Jan

The Jameel Prize

This exhibition displays the work of the 10 talented designers and artists that have been shortlisted for the third Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Jameel Prize looks to reward works that are directly inspired by the Islamic tradition and the top prize is £25,000. Artworks range from Arab typography and calligraphy to fashion inspired by Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia. 11 Dec-21 April

Louis Pearl, the Amazing Bubble Man

And now for something completely different… Louis Pearl is bringing his much loved Bubble Man show to the London Palladium. A perennial favourite at the Edinburgh Fringe, Pearl literally pushes the boundaries of bubbles in a 75-minute show that has to be seen to be believed. 12 Dec-4 Jan

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What’s On This Weekend: 30 November-1 December 2013 Mon, 25 Nov 2013 10:00:26 +0000

There are some great one-off events to get you in the festive spirit this weekend, including the Christmas Dollshouse Festival on Friday and a free Belgravia Christmas Market on Saturday.

Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park

The already picturesque gardens of the Duke of Northumberland’s London home have been transformed into a glittering enchanted woodland (above) this winter. Taking in the Arboretum of Syon, the path around the 18th century lake is lit up to magical effect, giving the surrounding landscape a mythical feel. Culminating at the Great Conservatory, which dates back to 1820, this is a unique way to explore the striking house and gardens of Syon Park. Ends 2 Dec

Belgravia Christmas Market

The exclusive London district of Belgravia is hosting a one off Christmas market on Saturday. Elizabeth Street will be lit up with festive lights and lined with traditional Christmas stalls selling arts and crafts, jewellery and homeware. Santa and his reindeer will also be in attendance and there will be carol singers and a traditional brass band. Be sure to head down to Pimlico Road for family-friendly entertainment including jugglers, trumpeters and stalls selling festive treats, including roast chestnuts and toffee apples. 1 Dec

Christmas Dollshouse Festival at Kensington Town Hall

Another, entirely different, one-off event this weekend is taking place at Kensington Town Hall. Peruse the finest craftsmanship of dolls and dollshouses and keep your eyes peeled for celebrity fans such as Jonathan Ross and Helena Bonham-Carter. Kids can also try their hand at painting miniature Christmas trees from 1pm. 30 Nov

Starring Vivien Leigh: A Centenary Celebration

The latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery shows Hollywood icon Vivien Leigh in more than 50 portraits, including rare vintage photographs, magazine covers, vintage film stills and press books. Leigh was best known for her Oscar winning turns in Gone with the Wind and opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as her glamorous marriage to Sir Laurence Olivier. 30 Nov-10 Jul

Parsifal at the Royal Opera House

For a dose of high culture this weekend, be sure to see Wagner’s final great work, as Parsifal is being given an inventive new staging at the Royal Opera House. The opera was 25 years in the making and is based upon the classic story of the Holy Grail and deals with themes of prophesy and redemption. 30 Nov-18 Dec

Emil and the Detectives at the National Theatre

The latest family friendly production from the National Theatre follows the success of War Horse and His Dark Materials with the story of young Emil’s adventures in 1920s Berlin. When his money is stolen on the train by a mysterious stranger, Emil thinks he’s lost everything, until he embarks on a journey to catch the thief. 25 Nov-19 Dec

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What’s On This Weekend: 13-15 September 2013 Mon, 09 Sep 2013 09:00:58 +0000

This weekend features some fun free outdoor events, plus a great opportunity to learn more about baking delicious cakes!

Triathlon Square on Trafalgar Square

As the PruHealth World Triathlon Grand Final takes place this weekend, why not experience the excitement at this free Triathlon Square event in Trafalgar Square. The festival features lots of triathlon-related activities for the whole family to enjoy, as well as live BBC coverage of the elite races, an exhibition and lots of photo opportunities. 11-15 Sep

London Design Festival

The London Design Festival is one of the world’s most important annual design events. Over 300 events and exhibitions take place over the course of the festival, and you’ll be able to see some fantastic works of design placed throughout the capital. Many of the London Design Festival activities are free, see the website for the full programme. 14-22 Sep

The Cake and Bake Show at Earl’s Court

Inspired by the Great British Bake Off? The Cake and Bake Show is a great chance to learn about baking and stock your cupboards. Highlights include baking demonstrations by the likes of Eric Lanlard, cake competitions, classes, workshops and the chance to purchase top baking equipment and ingredients. Adult tickets start at £14.50. 13-15 Sep 

Feast 1st Birthday
Celebrating a year of serving up street food with a side of festival atmosphere, Feast is throwing a 1st birthday bash in Guy’s quadrangle. The event gives you the opportunity to enjoy food from a variety of renowned street food providers, such as Big Apple Hotdogs and Patty and Bun, as well as a selection of carefully selected drinks.Tickets are £9. 13-15 Sep

1513: A Ships’ Opera by Richard Wilson and Zatorski + Zatorski

As part of the last weekend of the Thames Festival, a spectacular and innovative opera will take place on the River Thames. 1513: A Ships’ Opera features an armada of historic vessels from the age of sail, steam and diesel, performing a work of music with their steam whistles, bells, horns, hooters, sirens and cannon. The opera is also dynamic: starting at the mouth of the Thames Estuary the floating orchestra will proceed up the Thames in a series of acts, culminating in the main performance which takes place in the company of HMS Belfast by Tower Bridge. See the website for timings and an idea of the best spectator spots. 14 Sep

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What’s On This Weekend: 6-8 September 2013 Mon, 02 Sep 2013 16:00:05 +0000 The Mayor's Thames Festival 2013: The Deluxe River Cruise, photo credit: Doug Fishbone (USA) This weekend you can celebrate the last vestiges of summer at a series of great outdoor events, which show off everything from sporting achievements to London’s river-based history.

The Mayor’s Thames Festival

The Mayor’s Thames Festival is always one of the highlights of the London calendar. This year is extra special as, for the first time, the festival will extend over 10 days, allowing time for a wider range of ambitious and exciting events. Centred on the stretch of water between Lambeth Bridge and St Katherine’s Dock, the festival features unique events such as a night-time river opera, a floating art fair and a rally of Dunkirk little ships. To discover the full programme, visit the Thames Festival website. 6-15 Sep

The Great River Race

Watch more than 300 boats compete in a water-based marathon that takes in many of London’s most famous landmarks on its way up the river Thames. The Great River Race is a fantastic annual spectacle in which any traditional-style boat, powered by at least four oars, can participate. You’ll see a colourful array of different nautical craft, many of which are raising money for charity, race down the Thames from the Docklands to Ham House in a bid for one of the 35 trophies available. For more information on timings and the best viewing points, see the event website. 7 Sep

Carnaby Echoes

Trace the century-old musical history of Carnaby Street and its environs with this fascinating exhibition and self-guided walking tour.  First. visit 20 Foubert’s Place for a free exhibition that features archive material from many different musical eras, then download the app and take a tour of the area, stopping off at each specially-commissioned plaque to learn more about key points in Carnaby’s musical history. 5 Sep – 20 Oct

National Paralympic Day featuring Liberty Festival

This free event in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Copper Box Arena  marks one year since the London 2012 Paralympic Games took place, and celebrates the skill of top Paralympic athletes. You can see sports such as Boccia and Wheelchair Basketball, as well as participate in family activities, watch film screenings and see a range of outdoor theatre, music and dance performances. National Paralympic Day coincides with the Liberty Festival, which highlights the talents of disabled artists through exibitions and events across London. 7 Sep

Victoriana, The Art of Revival

Visit the Guidhall Art Gallery for the first-ever exhibition to examine the enduring popularity of Victoriana in all its forms. Featuring work from the last two decades by 28 renowned contemporary artists,  including Grayson Perry, Paul St. George and the Chapman Brothers, the exhibition demonstrates our ongoing fascination with the Victorian era and the pervading effect it has had on our cultural output. Tickets are £7 and can be purchased on the door. 7 Sep – 8 Dec

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Where To See Outdoor Theatre and Opera in London Fri, 17 May 2013 09:57:58 +0000 Not only does London boast a world-leading range of theatres and opera houses, but you can also watch many fantastic productions in the great outdoors, at a variety of stunning venues around the city. Some of them are even completely free, but for many events it’s highly recommended that you book in advance.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

One of London’s most popular outdoor entertainment venues is the enchanting Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. This amphitheatre is completely exposed to the elements, and there are few more atmospheric places to watch theatre than in the dusky confines of the Regent’s Park, with London’s bright lights seemingly a world away. Productions this year include To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice and The Sound of Music, and pre-theatre dining options include pre-packed picnics and a barbecue. Until 8 Sep

The Scoop at More London

Situated just by London Mayor Boris Johnson’s office by Tower Bridge, this sunken theatre is host to a plethora of free entertainment during the summer. From Wednesday to Sunday you can see free open air theatre here in the evenings, and this year there will two short productions based on the ancient Greek city of Thebes. A family production of the Prince of Thebes takes place at 6pm, followed by a more adult staging of Oedipus and Antigone at 8pm. 7 Aug-1 Sep 

Opera Holland Park

Every summer a marquee is erected in front of the glorious Holland House, allowing visitors the chance to watch wonderful operas in the grounds of Holland Park without getting wet! As well as seeing productions such as Madam Butterfly, the Pearl Fishers and new family opera Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you can also enjoy a pre-prepared picnic in their alfresco dining areas beforehand. 4 Jun -3 Aug

Fitzroy Square Opera

For one night a year, Fitzroy Square Opera brings the magic of traditional country house opera to London. This year, on 27 June, you can sit in this luscious square in Fitzrovia and enjoy a production of Bizet’s Carmen. You can also order a pre-prepared picnic (£22), enjoy freshly cooked paella in the interval or simply avail yourself of the cash bar.

Shakespeare’s Globe, Southbank

At this incredible reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre you can choose whether you have a fully outdoor or partially indoor theatrical experience! The stage is situated under the sky, but there are seats available within the covered theatre section if you don’t feel like standing in the exposed middle with the ‘groundlings’. Scheduled for 2013 are favourites such as King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, and you can buy standing tickets for just £5. Until 28 Sep

Theatre in the Square with Lyric Hammersmith

Watch live outdoor theatre for free in the Lyric Square, Hammersmith, thanks to a festival staged by five of the country’s most exciting theatre companies. A collaboration between HammersmithLondon, Lyric Hammersmith, Latitude festival, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival and Watford Palace Theatre, this festival is sure to offer innovative, enjoyable and eccentric entertainment. Keep an eye on the theatre’s What’s On section for more details. 12 Jun-5 Jul

BP Summer Screens

The BP Summer Screens bring one of London’s most exclusive indoor venues – Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House – to the great outdoors. Better still – screenings are free! You can see the ballet Mayerling (13 June) or operas La Rondine (11 July) and Tosca (18 July) in outdoor spaces such as Trafalgar Square, Canary Wharf and Woolwich.

Chiswick House and Gardens

You can watch both opera and theatre alfresco at the beautiful Chiswick House and Gardens, which stages a range of both as part of its excellent events programme. During July you can catch productions of Carmen, Gulliver’s Travels and A Little of What You Fancy! on the rear lawn of the House. Tickets are £30 and full details are available on the venue website.

Fulham Palace

On 7 July take the whole family to Fulham Palace for a theatre production of Babe: the Sheep Pig which is sure to delight both adults and children alike. Taking place in the Walled Garden, the production starts at 2pm and tickets cost £8 for children or £12 for adults.

Greenwich+Docklands International Festival

London’s biggest festival of outdoor theatre runs from 21 to 29 June and brings performers to the parks and streets of Greenwich and the surrounding area. You can see everything from street dance to aerial theatre at the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival – take a look at our pick of the highlights here.

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The Passenger at the London Coliseum Wed, 28 Sep 2011 09:00:58 +0000

The Passenger is a bleak story, but through the medium of opera it resonated with the ENO audience last Wednesday to the extent that by the end many were on their feet applauding, touched by the melancholy account. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel Pasazerka by Auschwitz survivor Zofia Posmysz, it is brought to the stage by librettist Alexander Medvedev and composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg.

Set in the early 1960s and focussing on the effects of the Holocaust, it is, unsurprisingly, a heavy night. Johan Engels’ set is marvellous, a symbolic white ship that beneath the decks reveals a dark and dusty camp, home of the tortured prisoners. This visual juxtaposition is intensely shocking and makes the narrative even more appalling.

The opera documents an encounter between two women – one is a former Auschwitz guard, the other a former prisoner. We watch the story unfurl in the camp, while in the present (15years later) they unexpectedly meet again on a boat to Brazil, provoking feelings of guilt, terror, sadness and revenge.

Weinberg’s music is challenging and unexpected, and demonstrates a mix of influences. Expansive and complex, I was amazed by the fluency of the orchestra and conductor Sir Richard Armstrong. I was most moved by the folk tunes in the second half, especially the a cappella Russian song by Katya (Julia Sporsen). Vocally the cast are tremendous, and particular mention must go to leading ladies Michelle Breedt (Liese) and Giselle Allen (Marta) who both sing superbly.

Weinberg’s The Passenger is a modern masterpiece and the ENO delivers a staggering experience. I hope this opera gets the recognition it deserves, the massive effort and dedication is clear in every aspect of this production.

The Passenger at the London Coliseum until 25 Oct 2011. Book tickets

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The Elixir of Love at London Coliseum Mon, 26 Sep 2011 16:15:39 +0000  

I absolutely loved this production of Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love at the ENO.

Legendary director Jonathan Miller rarely disappoints and here he exceeds all expectations, reviving his popular production of this comic classic. Set in the 1950’s, inspired by the era of Marilyn Monroe, it feels as if Donizetti  precisely intended this setting and time, the modernity chimes with the fun and flirty storyline and score.

Sarah Tynan has the charm and attitude to make the perfect pin-up girl Adina. With a peroxide blonde hairdo and a cheeky pink uniform she shakes her hips and isn’t afraid to flirt naughtily on stage. Her soprano voice is bright and clear, and she controls it well during the fiddly arias, running up and down the virtuosic passages with elasticity. She is surrounded on stage by a cast of talented men, Ben Johnson is brilliant as the lovesick Nemorino; with a gorgeous bel canto tenor voice he suits Donizetti’s music well. Andrew Shore is hilarious as the fraudulent doctor, witty and full of life, his acting and singing are commendable.

The Elixir of Love, until 8 Oct  2011. Book tickets

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The Beggar’s Opera at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre Mon, 04 Jul 2011 11:22:06 +0000

Written in 1728, John Gay’s satirical drama, The Beggar’s Opera was the first known ballad opera, poking fun at the very popular extravagant Italian opera of the time.  It is a silly story, but one filled with vivid characters and popular folk tunes. Acclaimed director Lucy Bailey brings this raucous tale to the seasonal Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre for a limited run.

To one side of the stage a small band, the City Waites, provide the music using authentic instruments. Led by a lively Roddy Skeaping on violin and bass viol, the band is fantastic – rich in tone and characte,r adding depth to the narrative. The stage is appropriately decorated with beds and wooden carts, a clever and adaptable design from William Dudley.

The large cast are full of oomph, despite the wearying heat, and act and sing with a youthful energy. Jasper Britton is a suitably stern Mr Peachum, and Janet Fullerlove is hilarious as his wife; she seems to revel in Gay’s wickedly naughty script.

I loved watching the frantic catfights between Lucy (Beverly Rudd) and Polly (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) who certainly got the most laughs on the night. With a buoyant attitude and a belter of a voice, Rudd conquers the expansive Regent’s Park stage. Spencer-Longhurst, bright faced and wide eyed as the innocent but crafty little Polly, acts with great assurance and in addition has a bright soprano voice that soars in this theatre.

This is a charming production, Regent’s Park is the loveliest of settings, and The Beggar’s Opera is a witty, sometimes neglected work, the perfect summer’s evening out.

The Beggar’s Opera until 23 July 2011. Book tickets

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