Spitalfields Music: Solomon’s Knot

Spitalfields Music: Solomon’s Knot
Bach B minor Mass
Shoreditch Town Hall. 11 December 2016

The Spitalfields Music Winter Festival concluded in spectacular style with the welcome return of Solomon’s Knot, a group that had impressed previous Spitalfields audiences – and have also impressed me in the past with their innovative approach to music performance. Their full title is the Solomon’s Knot Baroque Collective, a name that sums up their approach. Founded in 2008, they perform with small forces, singing from memory, with no conductor and with a relaxed stage presence, helped by an informal dress code. For this Bach B minor Mass, they transfixed the audience with an extraordinarily powerful performance.

They used Joshua Rifkin’s edition of the piece, and his proposal that the work was intended to be sung as an ensemble piece for eight one to a part solo singers. The need for two extra singers for the concluding section led to Solomon’s Know using the 10 singers throughout to reinforce the choruses. The 20-strong orchestra, led by violinist James Toll, completed the well-balanced line-up of musicians. The fact that the singers do not use scores directly involves the audience in the music, as the singers eyes scan the audience and as they visibly respond to the music they are singing. Continue reading

Royal Academy Opera:Poppea

Monteverdi: L’incoronazione di Poppea
Royal Academy Opera
Shoreditch Town Hall. 21 May 2016

WP_20160521_18_52_23_Pro.jpgAwaiting the construction of their new concert hall, the Royal Academy of Music have been trying out different venues in the past year. For their final opera of the season, Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, they chose Shoreditch Town Hall (a space new to me) in the middle of a very lively and cosmopolitan part of London. There was some awkwardness in the staging arrangement as the audience enter past what would normally be back-stage, but they coped with this well. The staging was simple, a three-sided box with three entrances on either side, and five in the rear wall. There were very few props, with much depending on Jake Wiltshire’s excellent lighting to provide mood, most prominently at the end of Act 1 when Seneca’s death is depicting by a flood of red light.

Poppea is one of the more complex operas to stage, with many characters and a myriad of interconnections between the roles. Continue reading