Tosca, ENO, October 2016

Tosca is a classic and returns to the great stages more regularly than most operas. After writing my university dissertation on the topic and performing as the ‘Shepherd Boy’ as a child, I have a great fondness for this Puccini masterpiece. And so, when the invitation pinging into my inbox, I immediately knew I had to clear my diary for the occasion of opening night.

Tosca ENO

We took our seats (wonderfully central in the stalls) and my friend asked me to outline the narrative. I struggled to offer up anything comprehensive, despite once studying the score in detail. The truth is, this opera is not about the story so much, it is the all-consuming music which captivates the audience. For this Catherine Malfitano revival at the ENO the cast were lead by revival director Donna Stirrup and Oleg Caetani conducts the confident and boisterous orchestra.

As the overture blasted out from the pit I was instantly entranced, and the worries from the day melted away. I was relieved to see the period set as it always unhinges me a bit to see classics set in the modern day. The creative team, comprising of designer Frank Philip Schlössmann, costume designer Gideon Davey and lighting designer David Martin Jacques did a great job… setting a dramatic and atmospheric scene for the turbulent love story.

Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones reprises his role as Cavaradossi, and the part feels very safe in his hands. Gwyn’s voice is powerful with a velvety rich tone, it is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. He is matched by the alluring American singer Keri Alkema as Tosca, whose vocals are bold and beautiful though her spoken voice is more difficult to understand. Craig Colclough is suitably gleeful and chilling as Scarpia, though the volume of his voice is rather lack-lustre in comparison to the leading couple.

This acclaimed rendition of Tosca is powerful to watch, and wonderful to feel part of. As Tosca takes her final backwards leap I felt myself breathe out.. this opera is an emotional rollercoaster, but it is a journey I always love from curtain up to lights out.

Tosca opened on Monday 3 October 2016 at 7.30pm for 13 performances 3, 12, 14, 20, 25 October, 22, 24, 29 November, 1 December at 7.30pm, 8 October at 6.30pm, 22 October, 26 November, 3 December at 3pm.

Latitude Festival 2016

Unlike the poor Glasto crowd, Latitude 2016 attendees were blessed with brilliant British sunshine for the 2016 edition of the festival. Henham Park in Suffolk was looking its finest for the 11th year of Latitude, a festival which celebrates the best music, comedy, dance, theatre, film, cabaret, science, art and poetry.

Latitude Festival 2016Latitude Festival 2016

We lugged our tents, sleeping bags and provisions to the campsite, enviably passing the charming field of striped boutique tents. Thanks to my convenient pop-up tent, it took a matter of minutes to set up my little temporary home.

Latitude Festival 2016

It is impossible not to smile walking through the Latitude entrance gates, the cheerful neon pink sheep greet you as you walk over the bridge into a fairground of activities, food stalls and stages and tented arenas.

Latitude Festival 2016Latitude Festival 2016

French band Christine and the Queens performed on the BBC Radio 6 Music Stage on Friday, and was a real highlight for me. She mesmerised the enthusiastic audience with her unique dance routines and catchy pop tunes. Grimes performed a triumphant set on this stage too with her inimitable sound and impressive vocals.

Latitude Festival 2016

On the main stage headliners included The Maccabees, The National and New Order, who each illustrated the variety and range of their music with long 90 minute sets. The music didn’t cease till 3am and I had great fun dancing along to rave karaoke in the Cabaret tent.

Latitude Festival 2016

The comedy tent was always busy, despite the great weather, and was jolly and rumbling with laughter. On Saturday I watched Joe Lycett perform a wonderfully risqué set, walking amongst the audience and picking out people to victimise to rapturous applause.

Latitude Festival 2016Latitude Festival 2016

It is difficult to eat badly at Latitude with the huge variety of delicious cuisines dotted around the fields. I was delighted to discover Blixen were setting up a temporary restaurant serving indulgent brunch classics, filling lunch plates, dinner feasts, great coffee and cocktails. I popped over for an exotic juice, strong coffee and stack of waffles with fruit on the Sunday morning. It was as tasty as it looked, and definitely made me forget I was eating at a festival. Good and Proper Tea Co are one of my go-to breakfast cafes in London so I was glad to wake up in the morning with their fragrant brew and a cheesy marmite crumpet.

Latitude Festival 2016Latitude Festival 2016

Other foodie favourites at the festival included rich and creamy ‘Don Macaroni’ from Anna Mae’s truck, and the amazingly inventive Pan-n-Ice ice-creams, which I’m hoping will make an appearance in London soon.

Latitude Festival 2016Latitude Festival 2016

It is rare to find a festival with such a variety of acts and talents, Latitude caters to creative people of all ages and interests, a cultural weekend unlike any other.

More information on Latitude Festival 2016 here.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled to Latitude Festival with Abellio Greater Anglia trains, London Liverpool Street to Diss.

Abellio Greater Anglia offers Advanced Fares from just £9 one way. If you travel on the day for that last minute day out, you can still purchase a great value Off-Peak return ticket, and children aged between five and 15 also travel for just £2 (£2 tickets only available to purchase at the station). See www.abelliogreateranglia.co.uk for more information.

Barbu, Southbank

Every summer merriment and circus talent arrives on the Southbank to contribute to the weird and wonderful Wonderland programme. This year Cirque Alfonse from Montreal presents a wacky show which explores the origins of circus performing and curious eccentricities.

Barbu on Southbank

The company describe Barbu as ‘Electro trad cabaret’, a show which combines dry humour with astonishing circus performances. The cast is made up of four bearded men, two strong and flexible ladies and (a rather unnecessary) older man, used as the brunt of many of the show’s jokes.

Barbu which translates to ‘bearded’ is a patchwork of acts, which the team perform on a small circular stage surrounded by audience. It is a petite platform for many of the tricky routines, whether its on roller skates, precariously balanced human towers or aerial acrobatics. Sitting alarmingly close to the performers I often felt we, as the audience, could be most at risk of an act toppling over the edge of the stage.

There are some motifs in the show, which I just didn’t get. A hamster is a recurring theme, carrying around the stage frequently for no reason I could understand. And nudity plays an irrelevant and unfunny part in the storyline. Despite this I found circus performances exhilarating and exciting, especially with the feel-good accompaniment from the live on stage band.

Barbu runs at London Wonderland until 25 September, book tickets here.