Ishrat Hyatt ( October 2010 )
In continuation of his policy to introduce the rich culture of Brazil to the residents of the capital and if possible, to people living in other parts of the country, Ambassador Alfredo Leoni hosted a performance by two of Brazil’s well known artistes, pianist Ivan Pires and baritone Victor Sgarbi.
The event — which was divided into two performances due to the lack of space in the venue — was held at the embassy of Brazil and was attended on Tuesday evening by members of the diplomatic community, who are aficionados of classical music. It was a small group — those who accepted and did not show up missed out on an enjoyable evening, not only as afar as the performance was concerned but also because of the warmth of Brazilian hospitality. As one diplomat put it before leaving, “Wasn’t that exquisite performance!”
Addressing the gathering the host thanked the artistes for accepting his invitation to perform in Islamabad as well as his deputy, Joao Belloc, who had arranged the whole affair in his absence. With a brief introduction of the artistes, he concluded by hoping his guests would enjoy the performance.
The programme was in two parts, with European music followed by Brazilian compositions and included excerpts from Robert Schumann’s ‘Liederkreis;’ Vaughn Williams ‘Songs of Travel;’ an introductory Brazilian piano solo, ‘Waltz of Sorrow’ by Hector Villa-Lobos; two numbers by Ernana Braga and another two by Antonio Carlos Jobim, the first person behind the conception of the ‘Bossa Nova.’
My favourite was the ancient Brazilian lullaby in a mixture of three languages — that of native Indians ‘Tupi-Guarani;’ that of the African slaves and Portuguese. Both artistes said they were pleasantly surprised after they arrived here to learn first hand that all the negative publicity given to Pakistan was just media hype — they found it easy to go around and every one they had met from all walks of life was friendly and hospitable. Conceding that it had taken their country a long time to reach its present status, they said Pakistan was a young country and would soon get over the problems it was facing. As we say, ‘in kay moo main ghee shukkar’ — in effect, may their words come true! Victors solo career began in the year 2000 when he was a student of classical singing at University Tom Jobim ( Sao Paulo — Brazil) performing the baritone role in the opera ‘Carmina Burana’ under the direction of maestro Parcval Modolo. The following year he joined the professional choir of the Sao Paulo symphony orchestra as a soloist, performing works by Mozart, Rossini, Haydn and Monteverdi among others. He has subsequently taken several roles in fully staged operas in and Brazil and the UK. His vocals have been compared to that of Jonathan Pryce’ by reviewer, Tremayne Potter while Barry Grantham thinks he has a ‘well placed baritone voice.’
Ivan Pires began studying piano at the age ten and acquired a Bachelors Degree in Piano from the School of Music of Arts of the State of Parana, Brazil. He has performed at several renowned theatres and concert halls in Brazil and has held recitals in France, Portugal, Italy and the UK.
In 2005 the ‘Year of Brazil in France’, he performed to great acclaim works by Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos at the ‘Casa do Brasil’ in Paris. He has recently made his first recording at the church of ‘St. Martin-in-the Fields’ in London where he now lives."
Off West End Announces 89 Finalists For 2019 Offies Awards OffWestEnd, the agency supporting the work of independent, alternative and fringe theatres in London, has now announced the 89 finalists for 28 of its Offies awards categories. The Awards ceremony will be held at Battersea Arts Centre on Sunday 3 February, 5pm.
In 2018, Offies assessors were invited to 400 shows across 80 venues across London, resulting in 430 nominations across 28 Offies categories. The Offies panel of assessors and critics have now agreed on 89 finalists. These 28 awards cover 5 design categories, 8 categories for plays, 9 categories for musicals & opera, and 6 other categories – for Ensemble, Performance Piece, TBC (shows that defy conventional categorisation), and shows for Young People (for ages 0-7, 8+ and 13+).
A full list of the 89 finalists appears at the end of this press release – including shows with several finalists such The Rink at Southwark Playhouse, as well as many at small venues across London, including the Hope Theatre, Jack Studio Theatre, Little Angel Theatre, Old Red Lion and the White Bear. It also includes shows such as Misty which successfully transferred from its original run at the Bush Theatre to a season at Trafalgar Studios. The full list of finalists is also online at https://offies.london/2019-finalists-shows-in-2018/.
Geoffrey Brown, Director of Off West End, said ‘2018 was another amazing year for Off West End theatre in London, and the Offies recognise the extraordinary talent and creativity of performers, designers, directors, producers and many others at these theatres across London – who are usually working with limited budgets and within many other constraints – and still producing all this wonderful work.’
In addition to these awards, the Offies also offer a People’s Vote, where the public can vote for their favourite venue across 9 categories – voting is open until 13 January 2019 and people can vote at: https://offies.london/peoples-vote/.
Offies Winners will be announced at the Offies 2019 Awards ceremony which will be held in the refurbished Grand Hall at Battersea Arts Centre on Sunday 3 February 2019. The public can purchase tickets for the event, which will be the 9th year of these awards. More information, including on booking tickets, can be found at https://offies.london/2019-awards-event/.
Off West End supports and celebrates the work of around 100 independent, alternative and fringe venues across London which are geographically or philosophically not part of the commercial West End theatre scene. Off West End helps to promote these venues and provides marketing services for their productions. Off West End also runs the Offies awards which celebrate the best of what these venues offer.
“Der Schauspieldirektor / Bastien und Bastienne” by Pop-Up Opera at various venues
“La Traviata” at the King’s Head Theatre
“The Rape of Lucretia” at the Arcola Theatre
New COllaboration with felici - a new way of producing opera shows, galas, concerts and workshops from 2018.
Felici means "the happy ones" and so we aim to provide high quality and creative musical events - bringing happiness to audiences and performers alike.
Supporting charities is central to our ethos and many of our events have a fund-raising element. Since 2015 we have supported a wide variety of charities including the NKF (National Kidney Federation), Macmillan Nurses and Medicins Sans Frontiers.
We seek to support and nurture young people by including them in our events, introducing opera and classical song to school-age pupils and offering all-age singing coaching workshop (rights reserved).
We understand that our performers have diverse commitments and we always seek to be as flexible as possible with our rehearsal schedules whilst never compromising on the quality of our performances.
Felici - fun, friendship, family.
if you would like to learn more about Felici, please visit our website clicking the link below
Earlier in November, I joined the Coral Municipal de Santos , the harpsichordist Regina Schlochauer and the String Quartet Martins Fontes, at the Pinacoteca Benedicto Calixto in Santos, for an experimental impromptu concert, which actually resulted in a very nice little recital. Our aim was to create more visibility to the choir of Santos which has been recently re structured by the Municipality and Nailse Machado (conductor). More than 60 people attended the concert at the Main Room of the house, exceeding its full capacity.
Nailse and I have a very long history of making music together, from the early 90's when we not only sang together at the Zanzala choir and the Faz de Canto Madrigal, but also formed a vocal quartet to sing Brazilian pop music . As well as Monica Peres, coordinator of the C.A.I.S, ,teacher of music and music theory, who got in touch before I travelled to Brazil, to make this crazy idea possible. Monica was also my acoustic guitar teacher at the Conservatoire in Santos in the 80's! A couple of rehearsals and many emails and whatsApp group messages later we had found the formula to make this concert to happen.
It was a wonderful opportunity for me, to make new friends in the Quartet and to meet Regina, one of the most prominent Harpsichord teachers in Brazil.
During my stay in Brazil I was also asked to speak about my experience in studying in the UK. I explained how Opera singers (like myself) left Brazil in order to study and gain more knowledge about music and art abroad. On that matter, see below my interview to A Tribuna Newspaper together with some other opera singers:
Interview in Portuguese for A Tribuna News.
Wesendonck Lieder, Schubert, Bohm, Rossini, Mozart and Brazilian Songs - St. Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, 30/1/16 -4:30pm
An Afternoon of Music in the City of London
On Saturday the 30th of January, Brazilian soprano Juliana Christmann will be joined by Victor Sgarbi and Ben Lathbury for a recital at the beautiful hall of the church St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate, in Bishopsgate, central London, 50 metres from the main exit of Liverpool Street Station.
Juliana will open the recital singing the beautiful Wesendonck Lieder from Wagner followed by songs from Schubert and Bohm. On the second half, Victor Sgarbi will join in to sing some arias and duets from the Classic repertoire, Rossini and Mozart. It will be a great opportunity to compare those two amazing composers and listen to some of their best known pieces for soprano and baritone.
To close the recital, the two singers will alternate singing Brazilian music, from Bossa Nova to Folklore songs from the Northern regions of Brazil. Rhythm, colours and textures compose the background of these songs where the rich culture of the indigenous population and Imperial Brazil slaves meet the modern avant guard composers.
Juliana Christmann is opening in London a series of European recitals, after a successful operatic season at Teatro Sao Pedro in Sao Paulo in 2015. Juliana is an alumnus of the prestigious UNESP - Conducting and Composition School- and a MSc in German Language.
Victor Sgarbi's future projects include Sharpless in Madama Butterfly for Secret Opera, Amonasro in Aida for the New London Opera Players, Macbeth in Macbeth for Pavilion Opera on tour and concerts with the Professional Singers Scheme of the Philharmonia Chorus at the Festival Hall and Iturbi Hall in Valencia. Victor is also part of the newly formed Delphian Singers. Victor will be hosting the recital and welcoming the audience from 16.15.
Hailed as "a charismatic performer of sensitivity and panache" Ben Lathbury began playing the piano aged 6. A natural musician from a musical family, Ben grew up in the Midlands. Following early success in numerous competitions, Ben moved to Sussex in 2006 to study at the University of Chichester, where he established himself as a pianist of considerable talent. In 2009, Ben received a scholarship to fund his Master's Degree in Music Performance, studying with international pianist Jonathan Plowright. Since completing his studies, Ben has won several highly regarded competitions and has appeared as a special guest soloist with orchestras across the UK. He has been recognised as a champion of 20th century American repertoire, and his interpretation of Leroy Anderson's Concerto in C has garnered critical acclaim. Ben is widely respected as a concert pianist, choral conductor and piano teacher. He is the current Director of Music & Master of the Choristers at Holy Trinity Church in Bosham and is Musical Director for Havant Light Opera. From 2013, Ben had the privilege of building and leading the Music Department of Chichester Free School. Today, he lives in Chichester with his two cats, Persephone & Ozymandias and enjoys golf, chess and writing.
Tickets at the door: £6 children and concessions and £12 adults.
SECRET OPERA EVENTS MADAMA BUTTERFLY BY PUCCINI
Unreserved Seating/Admission Free/Retiring Collection
The Boys from Bohème: An Unexpected Opera Chat Show July 13, 2015
I have to start this review with a confession: the more you go to Unexpected Opera shows, the harder it gets to remain objective about them. As I’ve now seen more than one, I’m afraid my judgement on these is probably compromised already. This very seldom happens to a critic – opera critics most of all, who necessarily retread the same ground, the same works, the same singers many times in a year, and such familiarity usually breeds extreme pickiness. But Unexpected Opera gives us not so much a show as a communal experience, in which we are thoroughly implicated, definitely participating, and even occasionally starring (one bashful audience member this evening was amazed to find herself suddenly on stage, her gelida manina in Rodolfo’s, as he sang out his undying love to her; the rest of us watched with a mixture of schadenfreude and warm appreciation of her predicament, conscious it might well have been any of us). So I can’t adopt my usual lofty tone, or pronounce my verdict with calm decision, because to be honest, I feel more part of this show than outside it. I can only try to explain to you what it’s like to go, and why I keep going back.
The Boys from Bohème is the third in Unexpected Opera’s series of opera chat shows, the others being Carmen Chatter and Traviata Tells All (still on my wishlist). The chat shows grew from Unexpected’s brilliant, genre-defying Opera Naked (my review here). Chat shows and opera don’t immediately strike you as natural bedfellows; that’s only the first element of what makes each evening so Unexpected. Each show is the brainchild of Lynn Binstock, who also directs, compères, creates the subtitles, cajoles her sponsors, and holds everything together with unaffected, zany charm.
We sit in cabaret-like clumps on small rows of seats, drinks in hand, around two sides of a simple stage with a grand piano to one side (played with flourish throughout the evening by Music Director Eda Seppar), in the bowels of the St James’s Theatre. Lynn, in ringmaster’s red tailcoat and top hat, welcomes us warmly, even picking out certain groups within the audience, a female acappella choir and a group of scientists (“What’s the collective noun for a bunch of scientists?” Cue various shyly witty guesses from the crowd, my favourite of which has to be “a nerding”). We even practice our different types of on-cue applause, just like a real chat show, before the official opening of proceedings: but the fourth wall is down from the start, and stays down. The imaginary parts of the evening, the acting of character and scene, happen within a live scenario which recalls the “directed reality” of shows like Made in Chelsea; it’s a disconcerting mood, but fun. Even when it doesn’t work (if one character or scene doesn’t quite come off, which can happen), it’s still fascinating for opera, usually the most dictatorial of all art forms, to be occupying this new, humbler, unexpected space.
Bromance: the theme of the evening
The first half of the evening keeps us more in imaginative suspense than out. Tony LaScala is our host, played by comedian Tony Harris in a New York drawl: “I’m going to make you an opera you can’t refuse.” The puns keep on coming. LaScala interviews Rodolfo and Marcello in character, discussing how Puccini made them famous, what they have in common (the pursuit of women) and how they came to meet (an imaginative shaggy dog story which fittingly combines being evicted, being destitute and a drunken lads’ night out). Rodolfo and Marcello then morph into Nadir and Zurga from what LaScala calls Bizet’s “Poyle Fishers”, whose famously terrible libretto is hammed up hilariously in wooden dialogue with pantomime Indian accents; not very PC, but performed in a loving spirit. They are in turn interrupted by Lensky and Onegin from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (“or, as they call him in Peckham, Eugene One-Gin”); here Lensky talks alone of Onegin’s betrayal (in an excellent Russian accent), while Onegin appears for their duel duet. Each duo is accompanied by a couple of arias from their respective opera, the music weaving in and out of the conversation, very like a modern chat show.
But it’s after the interval that the heart of the show really shines: Tony Harris, as himself, interviews our two singers (lyrical Brazilian baritone Victor Sgarbi, and Purley-born tenor Daniel Joy) as themselves, talking about how they became an opera singer, and taking audience questions. Here Sgarbi and Joy still sing a couple of arias each, chosen personally from their own repertoire, while telling their stories with self-effacing openness. The myriad paths to opera – Sgarbi started out as a successful dentist and maxillofacial surgeon in Brazil, before selling everything he had to go to music college – are humbling and fascinating. As an audience member, it’s all too easy to forget the level of skill, struggle and dedication needed to succeed in the super-competitive, thoroughly unlucrative world of opera: did you know the arts budget for the city of Berlin (alone) is as big as the entire Arts budget for the whole UK? Without the near-insane and certainly near-insolvent gambles these people take with their lives, driven by their obstinate vocation, we would have no art to enjoy. These Chat Shows offer a crucial opportunity for us as audience to register and respect the sacrifices all opera singers make, and to make us more appreciative not just of their performances, but of their courageous dedication to performing. It’s this opportunity, to take a moment in conscious gratitude, to imagine the life-changing decisions that allowed me to see Puccini, Bizet and Tchaikovsky in this intimate setting, or to see any opera on any stage on any night, that keeps me coming back.
What Unexpected Opera are doing is, to me, almost more important than whether they do it well. While Opera Naked is polished and slick, The Boys from Bohème is still a bit rough around the edges: it doesn’t always flow, the acting burden on the singers is heavier than usual and they’re not always ready for that, and we had a few first night glitches. But “we” had them – by the end of the evening, we feel a collective sense of celebration and achievement, a shared sense of showbusiness survival.
Binstock’s fresh, unstuffy and truly original approach breaks down all barriers to opera: each Unexpected show is a masterclass in outreach and accessibility, though they are becoming so popular with regular operagoers that this evening’s audience contained only one true ‘opera virgin’ (“Who’s going to admit to it?”, asks Tony LaScala with irreverent charm). Where else can you find yourself singing along to “It Was an Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” – oh yes, we did – and “Toreador!” on the same night? No one expects it. That’s why it’s Unexpected Opera.
Victor Sgarbi, Baritone - Living in the UK since 2007