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Dolphingirl and I will be in London in early July, and I see that the English National Opera is premiering a production of Purcell's King Arthur , in conjunction with the Mark Morris Dance Group. Does anyone have any information about it? It sounds very cool.

Also: what other theatre productions (any genre) do you recommend?

Also: besides the TKTS booth, are reduced price tickets generally available? How and where?

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The ENO llisting implies that this is a coproduction with MMDG, NYC Opera, and Cal Performances. Does anyone know when or whether it is being done in New York? The MMDG website lists the following, with a US premiere scheduled for Berkeley.

King Arthur

A fully-staged opera production

directed and choreographed by Mark Morris (World Premiere)

Music by Henry Purcell

Bringing the company back to the U.K, English National Opera, in association with Cal Performances, presents

Mark Morris’s joyous interpretation of King Arthur, providing

London audiences with a rare chance to see and hear

Purcell’s richly lyrical work. ENO’s first-ever production of

King Arthur celebrates early English music and welcomes

dance as a centerpiece on the operatic stage, bringing

together the superlative Mark Morris Dance Group and an

impressive line-up of award-winning soloists. Designers

Adrianne Lobel, Isaac Mizrahi and James F. Ingalls, along

with conductor Jane Glover, collaborate with Mark Morris

to stage an unforgettable evening of spectacle, song

and dance.

Venue: London Coliseum

June 26, 27, 28 and 30, 2006 at 7:30pm

July 1 and 8, 2006 at 6:30pm

July 3, 4, 5* and 7, 2006 at 7:30pm

10 Performances Only

*Sign-language interpreted performance

Supported by English National Group

Premiere Cast

Mark Morris Dance Group

Seven soloists to include:

Gillian Keith, soprano

Elizabeth Watts, soprano

Iestyn David, countertenor

William Berger, baritone

Andrew Foster-Williams, baritone

Orchestra and Chorus of English National Opera

Conducted by Jane Glover

Lead Commissioner: English National Opera

Co-Commissioner: Cal Performances

World Premiere: June 25, 2006 – London Coliseum, London, England

Tickets available Spring, 2006

US Premiere: September 30, 2006 – Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, California

Tickets available Summer, 2006

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Anytime Mark Morris takes on a full-length worth, it's worth going to see, in my opinion. His collaborators are first-rate, if not first-rank, and his most inspired work, again in my opinion, is to grand vocal pieces, like Dido and Aeneas and L'Allegro.

I'm doing everything possible to get to Berkeley on 7 October (after being on vacation the week before), especially since MMDG is not on the University of Washington World Dance series for the first time in eons.

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Purcell’s King Arthur doesn’t get performed very often, possibly because chunks of the action are given over to Dryden’s prose as originally this very early work was more of a masque than an opera. Mark Morris knows just how to tackle the problem: he red pencils Dryden’s contribution and turns Purcell’s opera into a ballet.

What was the opera about? Don’t ask me – I haven’t a clue. It is definitely not anything to do with the familiar Arthurian legends. The sung arias are pretty much on the standard baroque themes: joys of love, the changing seasons, transience of youth and so on. Only a very patriotic finale gives us a clue as to the opera/ballets setting when the singers extol the virtues of England. No cast is given, just a list of singers and dancers. Identification of characters is almost impossible though Winter, (who lives in a refrigerator) and Cupid were easily identifiable; I never managed to work out who Arthur or Merlin were though. Incidentally the music that accompanied Winter was startlingly similar in form to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, could it have inspired Vivaldi later on?

This was a bargain basement production without any sets to speak of, with minimal props and a strange ragbag assortment of costumes. It opens unpromisingly with the singers making their entrance to sit in a semi circle on folding chairs to sing about a recent victory, although they look more like a group of dropouts assembling for an AA meeting. Once the dancing starts it all gets more interesting, the choreography is in part movement rather than dance to allow the singers to participate too, but as the work progresses the dance element becomes more dominant. The second half was stronger than the first and the dancing takes on a more English flavour with Morris dancing (how Morris must love that very English genre that bears his name!) and a maypole dance. We also get a pair of classical dancers interacting with the lovelorn singers and treating us to a balletic joke with the female carried off stage by the male exactly as Albrecht carries Giselle to her grave: Mr Morris’s sense of irony is as strong as ever.

Morris has banished the chorus to the orchestra pit presumably to provide more space for his dancers, but this I felt resulted in a slightly muted sound. The singing has to take second place in this production though and is very much subservient to the dancing. For me the result was an enjoyable enough evening of dance a la Mark Morris, but at the expense of a rarely performed opera from a major British composer.

Reviews have been mixed with dance critics coming away happier than opera critics, but the Coliseum was barely half full on the night I went and I have a suspicion that London’s opera fans don’t like their opera “mucked around with”. Good fun for modern dance fans though.

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