I went across to the Hackney Empire last Sunday to see Charlie Parker’s Yardbird:
A jazz-infused bebopera about deferred dreams and redemption, with music by Daniel Schnyder and libretto from award-winning African American poet Bridgette A. Wimberly, Yardbird is as bold in its artistic vision as Parker was himself. In a commission from acclaimed Opera Philadelphia and accompanied by the English National Opera Orchestra, Lawrence Brownlee stars as the legendary saxophonist, showcasing the effortless, improvisational style that makes him one of the world’s most sought after tenors.
In honesty, I have to say it was interesting and, overall, pretty good rather than blow-me-away brilliant but that sounds like faint praise. The cast are fantastic, ditto for most of the libretto, score and aspects of the production.
We stayed for post-performance QandA’s and it was fascinating to hear those involved talk about bringing this production to the stage, their involvement and hope to expand the repertoire of traditional opera into new and contemporary arena’s to draw in fresh audiences, keeping the artistic form relevant and popular going forward.
For those of us who welcome the experimental and the new, this piece of work, a crossover between jazz and opera, is genuinely enthralling. I was certainly happy to embrace everything positive about this event and ride with minor dissonance as it arose.
I guess my caveat would be for the jazz and opera purists who might be less comfortable with genre fusion or who come expecting something more orthodox. The woman next to me remarked, ‘I thought there’d be more sax …’
It’s only on for a week but it’s fantastic to see the Hackney Empire expanding into different types of musical production and their upcoming schedule looks like fun.
This was my first visit to Hackney Empire as a wheelchair user and, I’m happy to say, it was a breeze.
Lots of disabled parking around the adjacent square; smooth, resurfaced roads; easy pavement inclines and level auditorium access, via a side door with a manageable slope to spaces at the rear of the stalls. The rear stalls spaces are in a bar area – closed whilst the performance is on – so no tricky manoeuvring at all.
D did complain (to me) because his seat was sideways on to the stage but I was fine so do I care?
I’d have no problem returning to the Hackney Empire other than the time it takes me to get from West London to Hackney – thank the gods for GPS but the traffic! Totally unpredictable and uncontrollable – a real hindrance in terms of estimating travel time. Hopefully, interested others live closer.