This is by way of being a review of Opera North’s 2008/9 production revived this spring which we saw a week+  ago . Particularly looking at other reviews to see photographs it seemed unclear exactly what was being reviewed . Shakespeare’s play purports to be historically based , Verdi’s opera has a libretto based on a prose Italian translation , Opera North did an earlier production – which I saw – with Josephine Barstow as Lady Macbeth , this production is a ‘revival’ & thus has a totally new cast …….

Layer by layer then ; Shakespeare’s play was written for James I of England who claimed descent from Malcolm , so Macbeth is portrayed as an out & out villain with no redeeming features at all . Just as important as the dynastic propaganda is the religious . Macbeth did live and rule in pre-Christian times but there is no sense of a living pagan landscape as in stories/plays set in Classical times – there are the witches and nothing else . Morally the only value is loyalty , enforced by vengeance when betrayed . Modern witches & other neopagans have pointed out the caricatured view of witches in Macbeth – what I noticed afresh was how much of what people think they know of witchcraft comes straight out of it . James was much exercised on the subject and remember that it was written at the beginning of the 17c which was the worst ‘burning time’  ( in England ) .

In the play and the opera Lady Macbeth is a gift – speeches or arias she has the best writing and thus the best rounded characterMACBETH; OPERA NORTH, MACBETH; Bela Perencz, LADY MACBETH; Kelly Cae Hogan, BANQUO; Paul Whelan, MACDUFF; Jung Soo Yun, Kelly Cae Hogan is currently singing the role . She has a powerful and perfectly controlled soprano – she last sang Wagner for Opera North – which is exactly right for the character of Lady Macbeth  although I will always remember Josephine Barstow’s performance . She is usually described as a singing actress , Kelly Hogan acts through her singing , Although all opera singers are required to do a lot more on stage than stand in the spotlight these days ! The other thing Lady Macbeth must have is believable chemistry with her husband – after all they are a childless ‘power couple’ who go on to be tied by complicity in regicide .MACBETH; OPERA NORTH, MACBETH; Bela Perencz, LADY MACBETH; Kelly Cae Hogan, BANQUO; Paul Whelan, MACDUFF; Jung Soo Yun, MACBETH; OPERA NORTH, MACBETH; Bela Perencz, LADY MACBETH; Kelly Cae Hogan, BANQUO; Paul Whelan, MACDUFF; Jung Soo Yun,MACBETH; OPERA NORTH, MACBETH; Bela Perencz, LADY MACBETH; Kelly Cae Hogan, BANQUO; Paul Whelan, MACDUFF; Jung Soo Yun, You can see there was no problem . I saw a televised production of the Shakespeare play once with Eric Porter & Janet Suzman which was utterly spoilt by the lack of chemistry , each acted as if on a separate stage .

Verdi’s version dispenses with the porter at the gate of Macbeth’s castle whom my father always saw a key figure , adds in Scottish refugees in England , and interestingly the 3 weird sisters become a whole chorus . He insisted that the 3 movers of action in the opera were Macbeth , Lady Macbeth and the witches . This production dresses them as cleaners and has them involved in all the castle activities onstage even when not singing – this has the double effect of showing the dependence of the warrior class on servants and underlining the power  & presence of the witches as Verdi intended .MACBETH; OPERA NORTH, MACBETH; Bela Perencz, LADY MACBETH; Kelly Cae Hogan, BANQUO; Paul Whelan, MACDUFF; Jung Soo Yun,  The Scottish refugees get a beautiful chorus to sing and are probably there because Verdi’s liberal nationalism required expression even in highly personal stories like this one . Not only is Macbeth a cursed regicide & murderer upon whom vengeance must be wreaked , he has to be a cruel tyrant whose people are to be delivered by an alliance with England (!) .

I guess you thought I’d never get round to the arty bit ! It is as you can see a sort of modern dress production . It was on a curved rather than raked stage – which avoids the sliding down worry – with rather drained colours and bleak lighting . This made all the red blood jump out at you  somewhat but added to the grimness of the world depicted . Seeing Duncan , Macbeth & Malcolm all depicted as military dictators in a totalitarian state is one way to deal with the lack of background morality but it’s difficult to rejoice at Macbeth’s comeuppance . In this production the Macbeths’ bodies are about to be burned in public when the lights go out at the end which could happen in any news report nowadays .

As you can see Lady Macbeth was initially in an inappropriately unflattering blue suit , maybe it was just the wrong size because she looked fine in the nightgown or the black lace number in Act 2 where Duncan holds court in their castle . My friend who sings church music told me that the stiletto heels she and her lady-in-waiting wore were very bad for singing in – surely this should be a design priority ? The men were either in dark grey uniforms or dinner jackets , which last looked very odd when it is supposed to be the morning when Duncan’s body is discovered . Perhaps ‘dress’ style uniforms would have worked better .

All in all it was worth seeing ; for Kelly Hogan’s singing , for the contemporary staging and for Verdi’s music . It’s on at the Lowry , Salford Quays until the 8th , then Newcastle until the 13th & then Nottingham until the 20th .

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Exhibition of Prints

On Monday I visited Lincoln with a friend to see a V&A travelling exhibition ‘Modern Masters of Print’ at the Usher Art Gallery which is now part of ‘The Collection’ ,  just itself + the museum really . The pieces were in 2 rooms with the usual subdued lighting making it difficult to read information ; Matisse was with Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol with Picasso .

matisse-tampa-museum As we came in to the first room there were 3 prints of this model in different poses ( this was the 2nd ) – later on we thought at least one of the nudes was also her . I think of Matisse as a pattern maker and colourist so it was instructive to see so much black & white linework . He is at least as good a draughtsman as Picasso or Dali and like many , I find his rendering of women more sympathetic .

daliparis1 daliDonQThe Dali prints were from commissions ; a set of posters for French Railways and illustrations for books . The Paris poster was the most beautiful – starting a butterfly theme for the others . The illustration above was , of course , for Don Quixote . You can just see Sancho Panza on his donkey in the bottom left hand corner . The Don is not so realistic but then he wasn’t was he ? Every part of his body is spinning – a reference to windmills ( in his head ) ? Or just his incompetence at fighting ?

I didn’t like the other room so much . Picasso was a master of line , of course , but I increasingly don’t like his subject matter – even those doves are so ubiquitous …! As to Warhol I used to like him more . This time I noticed the horrible colours on the Marylin Monroe silkscreen – why make such a beautiful woman look so awful ? Actually the garish colours and smudgy style was all over 1960s graphics so if he didn’t invent it he must still have been an early trendsetter .

I think the exhibition is on until the end of March and it is worth seeing . So is the rest of the gallery – there is a room with work by past & present students & staff at Lincoln College of Art & Design . It is now part of the University but predates it considerably . And the cafe is good !

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2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 510 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Jewish Artists – modern era

Jewish Artists in Yorkshire at The Stanley and Audrey Burton GalleryJewish Artists in Yorkshire at The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery

Lydia Bauman

The exhibition forms part of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Leeds Jewish community. The exhibition is based around the major Jewish artists in the University of Leeds Art Collection (Jacob Kramer, Philip Naviasky, Willy Tirr) and loans from other public and private collections, including works by Joash Woodrow. Contemporary artists are also represented by Lydia Bauman, Gillian Singer and Judith Tucke.

View key to symbolskeyAccepts groups Baby changing facilities Coach parties accepted Disabled access Disabled toilets Education/study area Facilities for conferencing Facilities for corporate hospitality Facilities for educational visits Facilities for groups Gift shop On-site catering On-site light refreshments Public toilets Children welcomeDisabled accessSmoking not allowed


Free entry

Jacob Kramer, The Jew (Meditation), 1916
Yorkshire  © Estate of the Artist

Event details

Dates and Times
Dates Times
Wed 17 Apr 2013 – Sat 20 Jul 2013


The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery
Tel: (0)113 3432778
View the Jewish Artists in Yorkshire
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The Stanley and Audrey Burton GalleryParkinson Building, Woodhouse Lane, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT

View the The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery

See location of The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery on Google maps.See location on Google maps.

Map reference: SE 295347  Lat: 53.80775  Long: -1.55350
By Car:

From Leeds city centre take the A660 towards Skipton. After one mile the main University building is on your left. The Gallery is situated in the Parkinson building on Woodhouse Lane. The entrance is off the south end of the Parkinson Court (turn left at main reception desk). There is wheelchair access to the gallery from the north entrance of the Parkinson Building (via Chemistry) with a disabled parking space nearby.

By Public Transport:

Buses 1,56,85,96,96A,97,97A and X84 from Leeds city-centre stop outside the Parkinson Building. 

I went to this exhibition yesterday and was impressed by the other work of Jacob Kramer – drawings , mostly – which were shown along with some less well known artists’ work . There were also contextualizing documents – lists of prizes won by Leeds students , correspondence with Sir Michael Sadler ( an early Chancellor of Leeds University who collected early 20c paintings and helped him with loans ) , some photographs etc .

If you are within striking distance of Leeds before the 20th , do go as it is very well worth while .


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One per day


Finally I finished another square . I think I shall have to try to do 1 every day rather than have vague and unrealistic plans to complete all the beige & brown ones in ~ 10 days and end up doing none . Which was why I missed another weekly post ! A few years ago I was advised by a life coach working with creative types to do 1 drawing every day simply to get back into things . ( Actually I would recommend her ; Alissa Juvan can be found on Facebook & LinkedIn as well as by googling . ) It did work and I built up a considerable portfolio surprisingly quickly .


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Last 6 squares


So these are the latest squares to be finished and I note that the scanner is more effective at showing the 3 different dark velvets than Photobooth last week . I haven’t got on as well as I might because of right thumb problems and looking for other photos which I have mislaid !

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Hand embroidery

Photo on 2013-05-14 at 09.56

Last week I did these 2 x 8cm squares . The background colour is actually different – the right hand one being dark brown with the other dark red . They look the same under artificial light and so presumably also with the flash on Photobooth . I’ll have to do more to the right hand one – it still looks incomplete . ‘Velvet & cord squares‘ from 14 July 2012 was the last post on this project .

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