Spear pressure: ‘Parsifal’, Opera North

‘Here is where time becomes space’: this is one of the most famous – and mysterious – quotes from Wagner’s final opera, ‘Parsifal’, which at its best can make that scientific impossibility seem real. Unhurried, epic storytelling punctuated with moments of overwhelming beauty or horror that somehow transcend a mere auditorium in what feels like…

(P)review: African Concert Series update

A quick look backward and forward: into the recent past, recalling my most recent visit to an African Concert Series event, and ahead, to let you know about theilr upcoming events. * I collected a new venue in mid-May, on my first encounter with the Africa Centre, slightly hidden away (especially at the moment, thanks…

Body horror: ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, at English National Opera

This icy, subtle production presents Margaret Atwood’s terrifying vision with a clear-sighted, almost detached precision. Poul Ruders’s score gets under your skin, amping up the tension as events come to a head, while the heart-breaking performances relentlessly deal the emotional blows. Opera as commentary, catharsis and conscience: brilliantly done. * ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ the opera,…

Ice flows: Penguin Cafe, Barbican, London

Penguin Cafe’s recent performance at London’s Barbican Centre is likely to go down, in my own personal annals, as one of my favourite concerts of all time. It still feels like hyperbole to type that: it was only a few weeks ago. But how can I explain? – that wave of euphoria that carries you…

Close to the edit: Edna Stern, ‘Schubert on tape’

Edna Stern’s latest release is a fascinating find. Beautifully performed, for sure, but those performances are led by an intriguing, impeccably realised idea. The pieces on this disc are well-loved and oft-recorded: the first four ‘Impromptus’ (D899) and the ‘Moments Musicaux’ (D780). But Stern, following the courage of her convictions, has arrived at a new…

Continental lift: Rebeca Omordia, ‘African Pianism’; the African Concert Series

This marvellous disc contains multitudes. The variety of sounds and styles packed into its generous 77 minutes showcases not only the infinite intrigue of a music too little-heard until now, but the lightly-worn virtuosity of Omordia herself. (Important note: for the facts/background underpinning this post, I’m indebted to Robert Matthew-Walker’s invaluable booklet notes which, in…