adapted from the play by Sarah Kane by Philip Venables Royal Opera House at the Lyric Hammersmith May 2016
“On a bare, white-walled stage, six well-matched female singers - led by an outstanding Gweneth-Ann Rand - shuffle greyly distressed. Around them, phrases appear and dissolve in projected sound and video while, above, a superb CHROMA ensemble (sensitively conducted by Richard Baker) charts the disintegration of their hive mind. Duelling percussionists parley in a doctor-patient morse code. A tapestry of strings, accordion and saxes evoke polyphonies of yearning while tenderly but inexorably we encounter hopeless recesses of the mind. Knowledge of Kane's suicide shortly after writing the play can only make this humane and understated piece the more compelling.”
Steph Power, The Independent *****
“The revelation is how Venables has enriched her play through music. He challenges the conventions of opera. Via an array of resources he ambushes and refreshes an old art form… High praise to the 12 members of CHROMA, and the conductor, Venables’ fellow composer Richard Baker”
Fiona Maddocks, Guardian/Observer
“Venables’s high-pitched score is a soundscape that imaginatively penetrates and dramatises the heart of this darkness. Ferocious peremptory drum beats mingle ironically with cocktail-hour smooch broadcast from the radio; the vocal writing veers between monotonous chant and shrieking anguish; and there are even moments of melancholy beauty, when the women harmonise laments for a lost life of beauty, friendship, value. All praise to the CHROMA ensemble, conducted by Richard Baker, and the totally committed cast, who must find constant exposure to such negativity extremely draining. Framed by a clinically white box on to the walls of which fragments of the text are projected, Ted Huffman’s finely choreographed staging strikes the right note of unrelieved austerity. This is an urgent message from black-dog hell, and it should not go unheeded.”
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph ****
“But Venables’ achievement is bigger than that. He manages to enhance Kane’s groundbreaking format with his own unbuttoned imagination. His score lurches between chattering polyphony, sounds of sawing wood, and post-romantic arias, spiced up with eerie violin shrieks. In the exchanges between patient and therapist, two percussionists thrash out rhythmic speech patterns as the text appears on screens beneath them. Then, when the din fades away, we’re left with the indifferent tinkle of elevator music. It’s unhinged and chilling, albeit laced with Kane’s trademark humour. Most of all, it is dizzyingly colourful. Ted Huffman’s production does well to keep things simple, locating the action in a whiter-than white hospital room. The singers are similarly blank canvases; if anything, the CHROMA ensemble instrumentalists, under Richard Baker, play more of a starring role.”
Hannah Nepil, Financial Times ****
Minimalist Masterworks with Accordion
Kings Place 27 September 2015
"the tight, alive playing of the Chroma instrumentalists and the spiky, edgy sound of their arrangements for saxophone, accordion, double bass and percussion constantly lifted the performances ... Moondog’s joyous, canonic Chaconne, and Ayuo Takahashi’s exuberantly eclectic Eurasian Tango, wonderfully played by accordionist Ian Watson, stood out"
Andrew Clements, Guardian
La Grotta di Tronfonio
Salieri Bampton Opera at St John's Smith Square 15 September 2015
"the sensitive support and accomplished musicianship of CHROMA"
Jim Pritchard Seen and Heard International
Soren Nils Eichberg premiere ROH Linbury 14 November 2014
***** "Terrifying and terrific. I can’t remember a more gripping 75 minutes of avant-garde music theatre than Glare, commissioned by the Royal Opera from the Danish composer Søren Nils Eichberg ... a tumultuous beast of a score, embracing techno-beats and industrial-level noise as well as deceptively sweet moments for acoustic instruments. That may suggest musical anarchy, but Eichberg weaves all these complex elements together with scrupulous care. It’s not easy listening, but as performed by the ensemble CHROMA it is thrilling and disturbing."
Richard Morrison The Times
"it’s an intense, sometimes disturbing, experience, driven by Danish-German composer Eichberg’s throbbing, technoinfused and melodic score, brilliantly rendered by London chamber ensemble CHROMA"
Graham Rogers The Stage
"Eichberg’s score is all digital scuttlings and rustlings, blending live acoustic forces with electronics. Contemporary-specialists CHROMA are as tight as ever under conductor Geoffrey Paterson’s direction, mining every speck of Scandi-cool from episodic music whose foundations are in theme-and-variations and leitmotif but whose embellishments flirt with electronica, dance and rock music."
Alexandra Coghlan The Artsdesk
"Eichberg’s 75-minute score is often very fine, performed by the excellent eleven-strong CHROMA"
Mark Pullinger BachTrack
"Geoffrey Paterson conducts CHROMA... so many exciting musicians"
Mark Valencia What's On Stage
"incisive and committed playing from CHROMA"
Richard Whitehouse classicalsource
"mercurial, ear-tickling score – a veritable urban zoo-scape, laced with dazzling electronic ribbons, dub beats, and a spacey vortex of beguiling acoustic effects, vividly handled by CHROMA ensemble"
Helen Wallace BBC Music Magazine