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i fagiliniThe Birds Aristophanes/Glyn Maxwell/Ed Hughes

I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth
Glenville Hargreaves
The Opera Group/John Fulljames
City of London Festival, St Andrew's, Holborn 30 June 2005

Venues and presentation are important and can make or sink a show. Maybe it was the darkened and resonant church, which made it impossible to follow the libretto generously supplied or to hear most of the sung words, that made this compressed version of The Birds, a 'blend of slapstick, fantasy and political satire', so tedious, soon after enjoying a fuller version (with aerial acrobatics) at the National Theatre.

As Edward Dudley Hughes, I have enjoyed "Ed's" music on earlier CDs, but this post-modern show seemed better for schools than for an important London festival? The problem was compounded by the accompanying duo (cello and percussion & and electronic effects) which contributed but little; marimbas swallow words!

Preludial bird songs seemed a good idea, and Janequin's Le chant des oyseaulx made a good opener (I Fagiolini miming birdspotters with binoculars and in ornithological garb) but Ravenscroft's Ravens were dull, and Per Nørgård's demonstration that humans cannot capture birdsong was less than fully effective because of poor quality transmission of the recorded tapes.

Maybe this avian exploration will go better on tour at Salamanca, Buxton and Cheltenham Festivals, Oxford, Warwick & Iford? Better though to catch the revival of I Fagiolini's acclaimed The Full Monteverdi, which I reviewed at its Greenwich dress rehearsal; in that repertoire, they have no peers, and it should be magnificent in the keen acoustic of Conway Hall (19 July et seq).

"Pete Woolf" !

© Peter Grahame Woolf