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Handel – straight from the horse’s mouth

Mon 11 May 2015

As a famous person, you get all kinds of crazy stuff written about you. Poor George Friedrich Handel has articles, books and even a museum dedicated to him.

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Free stream: The Night Shift at the Roundhouse

Tue 28 Feb 2012

Our Night Shift at the Roundhouse last Friday, featuring Sir Mark Elder conducting Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet, was streamed live on the Guardian website and is now available to watch again up until Monday on 5 March – the first time we’ve ever done this with a Night Shift event. In coming days we’ll post up pictures from the night plus a further listening Spotify playlist. And of course don’t forget we have another Night Shift coming up on 4 March. Happy viewing!

Watch the Night Shift at the Roundhouse.

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Romeo & Juliet: Spotify playlist

Mon 20 Feb 2012

Our Night Shift at the Roundhouse is just 5 days away now – so to get you ready here’s a Spotify playlist of the music featured in the 9pm cocnert – orchestral highlights from Berlioz’s Romeo & Juliet.

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The Night Shift at the Roundhouse: Trailer

Wed 15 Feb 2012

We’re returning to the legendary Roundhouse on 24 February following on from a fantastic show there two years ago. We’re kicking of the 2012 Reverb Festival with a massive gig that features over 80 musicians playing extracts from Berlioz’s lush and passionate Romeo & Juliet. Our trailer gives you an idea of what to expect. Find out more about the show here.

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Hector & Harriet: love, tragedy and the Bard

Wed 15 Feb 2012

It’s Valentine’s day (well it was when I wrote this…).  It can be a rather grim, over-commercialised affair, but in an attempt to redress the balance, I thought it would be worth taking a look at the romantic trials and tribulations of Hector Berlioz, one of the nineteenth century’s great composers.  He was a man whose deep-seated love for the Irish actress, Harriet Smithson, coloured his adult-life with both ecstasy and tragedy, and this is reflected in some of his finest music, including his ‘symphonie dramatique’, Roméo et Juliette, which The Night Shift brings to the Roundhouse on 24 February.

Shakespeare was a fundamental influence on Berlioz all his life – it was in his plays that Berlioz discovered ‘the meaning of real grandeur, real beauty, and real dramatic truth’.  However, it was also through Shakespeare that Miss Smithson was revealed to him.  He wrote that he could not compare the effect ‘produced by her….dramatic genius, on my imagination and heart’.

He first saw Smithson perform at the Odéon Theatre, Paris in 1827 as the ‘fair Ophelia’, and some months later he beheld her in Romeo and Juliet.  Contrary to Berlioz’s own recollection of seeing her as Juliet, it was reported in the Illustrated London News that on seeing her he exclaimed, ‘I will marry that woman! And I will write my greatest symphony on that play!’

He pursued Smithson for five years.  She never met him in this time, and never wrote a line in reply to his voluminous letters.  The first time she set eyes on him in another of her performances as Juliet, when Berlioz, so moved, ‘gave a loud cry and rushed out of the theatre, wildly wringing [his] hands.’  She was undoubtedly somewhat disturbed by this fit, and asked fellow actors to ensure he was kept at a distance, as ‘she did not like the look of [his] eyes’.  Her troupe removed to Amsterdam, leaving Berlioz to wallow in dejection, saying that, ‘even Shakespeare has never painted the horrible gnawing at the heart’ that he felt.

Berlioz’s friends long suffered his ravingsabout Harriet.  They complained that on walks through Paris he would ‘fill the unsympathetic boulevards and the adjacent streets with his love laments.’ Girard, a conductor and friend, wrote that ‘if it were anyone else, I would show him the door’.  Berlioz’s letters to friends betray his almost delirious state – ‘today it is a year since I saw HER for the last time.  Oh!  Unhappy woman!  How I loved you….trembling I write, HOW I LOVE YOU.’

Finally, in 1832, after hearing Berlioz’s Lélio, whose monologues make it clear the piece was intended for her, Harriet granted him an audience.  It took further months to convince her of his love – at one point he obtained a passport, threatening to quit Paris forever and move to Germany.  In a rather more extreme gesture, he staged a suicide attempt, the effect of which was to leave him vomiting for two hours owing to the quantity of opium he had ingested.  Nevertheless, after overcoming opposition from their families, they were wed in 1833.  Berlioz remembered that ‘on the day of our marriage she had nothing in the world but debts, and the fear of never again being able to appear to advantage on the stage.  My property consisted of […]

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February podcast: Roundhouse, Bach pushes buttons & Pod Idol

Fri 10 Feb 2012

Our latest Podcast is now out, and focuses our two upcoming big events at the Roundhouse and Southbank Centre.
We hear from top conductor Sir Mark Elder who tells us about Berlioz’s incredible version of Romeo & Juliet which we’ll play at the Roundhouse on 24 Feb, kicking off the Reverb 2012 Festival. Plus Roundhouse Head Honcho Marcus Davey tells us about this iconic building.

On 4 March we’re back at Southbank Centre for a Night Shift as part of the London 2012 Festival. We’ll be featuring Bach and director Laurence Cummings tells us why Bach will push your buttons…

Plus there’s audience reaction from the first pub gig at the George Tavern and information on the return of Pod Idol, your chance to the voice of the Night Shift podcasts.

Happy listening!
The Night Shift February 2012 Podcast by The Night Shift

(For those that prefer it the podcast will be available on itunes next week…)

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The Night Shift at Reverb 2012

Thu 13 Oct 2011

We’re very excited to announce that The Night Shift will be returning to the Roundhouse in Camden as part of their 2012 Reverb festival on 24 February 2012.

After a sell-out performance at Reverb 2010, The Night Shift returns to the Roundhouse to open this year’s festival with one of our most ambitious projects to date. The 90 piece Orchestra conducted by one of the legends of the classical music world, Sir Mark Elder, will recreate the raw and revolutionary sounds of 19th century Paris in Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet. All in the radical and contemporary atmosphere of The Night Shift– classical music: minus the rules.

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