Digital editor, Boutique London
London – one lengthy history that tells a global story of innovation and resilience! There’s hardly anything this city hasn’t withstood; from invasions, to plagues, to fires, to bombings. Today, it holds the status of one of the world’s foremost economic powerhouses according to the Arcadis’ 2018 Sustainable Cities Index.
Editor, Boutique London
Last Wednesday, the Boutique London team had the privilege of attending the VIP preview of DRAW London at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. DRAW London is the first art fair in the UK dedicated to modern and contemporary drawing, creating an extraordinary platform where the capital’s art lovers and collectors are able to appreciate rare works by highly acclaimed modern artists as well as the more recent works from the 21st century “side by side”.
Opera has long been an artform that has divided opinion: there are those who love it, those who have had very little exposure to it, and those who express no interest in it at all!
In recent years, the media would frequently mention that cultural organisations are making it their mission to make opera more accessible and appealing to the masses. We are delighted to say that a few rather exciting steps have been taken! The English National Opera (ENO) has started to release free tickets for under-18s and there are small professional touring groups currently offering very affordable deals. There are even opera performances in English to assist new audiences with their introduction to this breath-taking artform. The Royal Opera House and ENO also provide stimulating education schemes and workshops for children to get them engaging with the world of opera from a young age.
Did you know we are at the heart of one of the world’s most vibrant opera scenes? The Royal Opera House and ENO are not the only places where you can enjoy the opera, especially with the summer months around the corner. At this time of the year, summer opera festivals are all the rage! You have probably heard of Glyndebourne, Longborough and maybe even Garsington, which all take place outside of Greater London. But rather than trekking miles (and spending hundreds of pounds in the process) to watch top quality opera, we have some suggestions for festivals and venues a bit closer to home.
Opera Holland Park
For those of you looking for an opera festival in the heart of London that rivals Glyndebourne, look no further than Opera Holland Park! Located by Holland House in the stunning Kensington Park, Opera Holland Park stages around half a dozen operas every summer, often starring the biggest names in the opera world, and some of the UK’s most talented young artists. The 2019 season will be taking place between the 4th June and the 3rd August and will feature a wicked line-up that is sure to make for stimulating dinner conversation. Be sure to have a look into Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera (‘A Masked Ball’, which tells the chilling tale of the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden), and Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta (which famously inspired the well-known G&S operetta Iolanthe).
Once again, under-18s are eligible for free tickets, with over-65s being offered the same privilege at Opera Holland Park. There is also a scheme for under-30s with INSPIRE £20 tickets available to increase access to the operas. For more information on tickets, please visit their website here.
Opera in The City
This festival has only been running since Summer 2017, but it has already become one of the most exciting opera festivals in the capital. In the last two years, the Opera In the City festival has created a new hub for classical music right in the heart of the City in Fleet Street’s historic Bridewell Theatre. Unlike many other opera festivals, Opera In the City seeks to showcase rarely-performed works, new compositions and experimental pieces, and English translations to increase accessibility of these lesser-known works – perfect for someone with a more acquired taste when it comes to anything theatre or music related. They have yet to release the programme for the 2019 festival, but for more information keep an eye out here.
Parodying the world-renowned Glyndebourne, Grimeborn Opera Festival features a hip, East London twist on the summer festival, and is great for younger crowds. Having been up and running for over a decade, Grimeborn features bold new versions of classic operas, rarely-seen and long-forgotten works, and brand new pieces, in a similar vein to Opera In The City. Former performances include Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, The Prometheus Revolution by Keith Burstein, and Onegin and Tatiana (a modern version of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin). They will soon be announcing their 2019 festival, so keep an eye out for tickets on their website.
Whilst the nation’s go-to websites for events are usually the first port-of-call for show tickets, look beyond the first page of Google as it provides some great resources for opera in London as well as blogs and social media. It may seem like a niche subject on first thought, but it is easy to uncover a wealth of influencers, reviewers and even opera singers’ pages once you know where to look. Here are some of our favourites:
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With over two million likes on Facebook alone, this young London-based soprano’s blog is a great portal for information on the opera world from ‘the other side’. Having studied at London’s Royal College of Music, Charlotte gives frank and insightful advice on the industry and information about her upcoming performances.
Diary of a Londoness
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This blog is a hotspot for reviews and information on London’s cultural scene, with opera and theatre being a key focus. She has recently written a fantastic piece on London Opera Without Breaking The Bank, and has reviewed operas everywhere from ENO to Garsington festival. Check her out!
An opportunity to admire London’s hottest baritones, and read articles about opera as well? Don’t mind if we do.
Finally, our recommendations for the best operas to start with (if you’re a newcomer):
Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) – Mozart
You can’t go wrong with Mozart, and this fairy-tale opera is a perfect one to start with. Featuring famous music and arias, including the notorious ‘Queen of the Night’ aria, follow Prince Tamino and friends as they embark on a mission to rescue the Queen’s daughter, Pamina.
Carmen – Bizet
Many who have never seen an opera will still know the music of Bizet’s Carmen – it’s featured in many film and television soundtracks. Set in Seville, Carmen is a beautiful gypsy, who enchants and attracts the soldier Don Jose – with dramatic consequences! Listen out for the famous overture, and Carmen’s signature aria, ‘L’amour est un oiseau rebelle’ a.k.a. the habanera.
Rigoletto – Verdi
A dark tragedy, but with some of the best music in the opera canon, Verdi’s Rigoletto is a masterpiece – but make sure to bring tissues! Rigoletto is a hunchbacked jester, working in the court of the licentious Duke of Mantua. When Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, falls for the Duke, things rapidly go downhill. There’s drama from beginning to end, and look out for the Duke’s famous aria ‘La donna è mobile’ in Act III.
Inspired by the Natural History Museum’s ‘Whales: Beneath the Surface’ exhibition, featuring incredible illustrations from Sarah Maycock, we want to put the spotlight on the artists depicting London scenes.
Illustrator agency Handsome Frank was set up in 2010 by cousins Jon Cockley and Tom Robinson. The agency has grown exponentially over the last eight years and the pair now represent 35 illustrators across the globe. Handsome Frank also produces its own publication, Frank, which we love! Their roster includes some of the finest contemporary artists on the planet, including Maycock, Thibaud Herem, Jan Kallwejt and Emma Kelly.
These four illustrators have represented London in their work in various ways, be that a map, drawings of famous landmarks, or commissions from London galleries and museums in Maycock’s case.
About the Illustrators
Jan Kallwejt is a Polish illustrator and designer. Before working as a freelance illustrator, Kallwejt studied advertising and worked as a graphic designer and art director for agencies in Warsaw and Hamburg. Following this, he was based in Barcelona for five years before settling in Warsaw once again. Here he runs a studio and takes commissions for illustrations from clients all over the world.
What makes Kallwejt’s works distinctive are his incredibly detailed graphics, completed in a vibrant juicy, palette. He says that his ‘meticulous finish and cheerful vibe’ makes his work universal.
“I’m inspired by naive art and pop culture. Over the years, magazines such as Newsweek, Forbes or Financial Times share place on my client list with brands like Honda, Sony or Nike.”
Kelly says her artistic career started when she drew things onto a wall behind her parents’ sofa, aged two years old. She is now one of the most popular illustrators on Handsome Frank’s books and was also one of the agency’s first signings.
Kelly uses watercolour-like brush strokes and palettes to create a nice balance of precision and softness. Her depictions of London architecture and landscapes are instantly recognisable.
Focusing greatly on the tiny details, Emma can capture the realism of whatever it is she turns her eye to, be it buildings, electronics or even characterful portraits. These qualities make her ideal for clients working with luxury brands and editorial commissions.
View Kelly’s portfolio here.
With his distinctive monochrome line drawings of London landmarks in minutiae detail, French-born Thibaud Herem’s work is easy to lose yourself in. After working in graphic design in France for five years, he arrived in the UK in 2006 to learn English and work as a freelance artist, drawing insects, birds and buildings.
Herem is well-known for his work with Liberty, depicting its iconic façade, and for his work with NoBrow, which commissioned Herem for a book of London’s buildings. He claims that London’s architecture was one of the most appealing aspects of the city and the main reason he wanted to work here, rather than in France. Herem has never trained as an architect but loves studying and drawing buildings in great detail – each piece of his work is hand-drawn and can take weeks to complete.
“Everything about London was attractive to me before I moved here and its architecture was one of the most appealing aspects… after 10 years here, I still discover hidden gems every week. There is a very distinctive aspect to architecture in London; it is [messier] and less united than cities like Paris or Rome, but its heritage is cherished with pride.”
Hastings-based illustrator Sarah Maycock has become one of the most popular illustrators on Handsome Frank’s roster. After studying Illustration Animation at Kingston University and having been an It’s Nice That Graduate in 2011, she has carved a career out of painting animals, landscapes and still life.
Maycock, like Herem, was also commissioned by Liberty London and was the creative mind behind their hugely popular advent calendar 2018.
Maycock has also worked intensely with animal, since being inspired by nature documentaries such as Frozen Planet by David Attenborough.
Her unique ability to capture a creature’s characteristics or the forces of nature in simple swoops of ink has made her work a sensation. So much so that her famous image of a sitting bear was the best-selling print at Somerset House’s Pick Me Up in 2012.
In the winter of 2016, Sarah was commissioned by London’s Natural History Museum to illustrate a long list of whales, ranging from the Blue Whale to species that are now extinct. Each painting had to go through a complex sign-off process involving specialist scientists to make sure they were anatomically correct. Maycock’s artwork was approved and could be seen in adverts all over London for the exhibition.
Why Now is the time to Buy in London
Savvy investors are turning to London property, lured by a weakened Sterling and increased bargaining power. The capital’s prime residential property sector has always been attractive to investors during times of increased demand for haven assets – and now is no different.
Put dry January behind you! Here are our top 5 wine bars in London to pass those cold February nights
You made it to the end of dry-January, congratulations! Ok, perhaps not (we won’t tell). But now it’s February and we have officially survived the longest month of the year. So, what better way to toast the end of January than with a glass of wine? In London, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to wine bars, so we’ve handpicked our favourite five for you to work your way through. These bars are wine specialists, so they focus on the good stuff – no need for fancy cocktails or craft beers here, just the honest bottle of vino – although you might expect a cameo from a cheese board or two. read more
Rebecca Shaw, Author
Think of Stamford Bridge and what comes to mind? White and blue, José Mourinho, a slightly grotty stadium in what’s really Fulham more than Chelsea? Strange then we don’t often think of an actual bridge despite its name. So where does the home of Chelsea FC actually get its name from?
Once known to be the epicentre of punk-London in the 1960s, chic Chelsea today is unrecognisable but equally enticing; a hotspot for arts and café culture. Its bohemian roots planted a thriving environment for independent boutiques, cafes, galleries and restaurants. Scattered along the length of Chelsea from Lots Road to the Kings Road are some of London’s finest eateries.
More than 130 artists hand-picked from Africa’s vibrant arts scene, 43 of the world’s leading international galleries, and 18,000 wide-eyed visitors. Over five days, they were all brought together under one roof for 1-54 London’s Contemporary African Art Fair – a well-deserved homage to one of the world’s cultural capitals that marked the company’s sixth edition at Somerset House.
Digital editor, Boutique London