Friday, 31 October 2014

ROH: Verdi's I Due Foscari with Plácido Domingo vocal 'colouring' ★★★★

 By Mary Grace Nguyen
I Due Foscari is one of those opera that isn’t performed often enough. Having seen it at the live relay in the cinema [27th October 2014], nicely hosted by Stephen Fry, I managed to learn more about Verdi’s earlier opera and unexpectedly enjoy it at the same time. I disregarding what online reviews had said about the production.
It was performed twenty years ago in Covent Garden and in 2012 the Los Angeles Opera presented a newer production with Plácido Domingo, the company's general director, to sing the role of the baritone Doge of I Due Foscari. Yet, we know Domingo as a world leading tenor from as far back as his opera career begun. In the 60s, he auditioned for a baritone role in Mexico National Opera but was requested to read arias and lines in a tenor range, which stayed with him ever since. In 2007, before deciding to take on the role of the Doge, he announced his desire to sing as the baritone Simon Boccanegra as well. So, the question on everyone’s lips is whether Domingo pulled off a baritone role or not? (I’ll come back to this later.)
The opera is based on true events, moreover a poem written by Lord Byron ‘The Two Foscaris’ when Venice was going through a mercantile high; most of the gripping action begins before the opera has begun. In the Royal Opera House’s production director, Thaddeus Strassberger ensures the audience is up-to-speed with italic captions projected onto a thin screen; a screen with video projections depicting a green murky sea representing the depth and darkness of the Venetian waters: a glimpse of a sinister Venice set in 1457.

As designed by Kevin Knight, these projections and stage sets denote the age of gloominess where punishment was gritty, bloodier and monstrous. This wickedness is represented through Strassberger’s use of battered and chained prisoners undergoing physical harm and persecution: being burnt, spat on, loosing a finger, etc. 
I Due Foscari is an emotional opera that bases its sentiments on family pain and tragedy; there isn’t any hope in sight. Verdi himself was going through his own personal trauma when his wife and two children had died in the 1840s, roughly, the same time he was compiling his musical score for I Due Foscari. Parallels with his own family loss are evident in I Due Foscari where the Doge looses many sons, the last of which is lost due to a warped and deeply corrupt justice system.
 During the interval Antonio Pappano gave glimpses into Verdi’s music discussing the use of leitmotifs and Verdi’s decision to couple particular sounds and traits to identify the three main characters. Throughout Pappano conducted in a way, which conveyed his surging and imminent passion for the piece. From the moment the overture begun, until the very end, Pappano persuaded the orchestra to play notes with might and boldness and they managed to relish and hug Verdi’s signature melodies delicately, instilling the betrayal, darkness and lingering emptiness shown on the bleak and torturous-looking stage. The strings, violas and cellos bring life and sensitivity to our family opera; yet this isn’t the type of family opera you’d want to invite your children to see.
On the contrary, the opening carnival scene in Act 3, which include fire-eaters and contortionists felt a little out of place. We know Venice for being inventive with their February Carnivale, yet this was a carnival scene that seemed to have gone wrong. The thrill of a fun and social event was bundled up against a pitch-black stage with the sadness and eerie prison scenes from the main storyline milling in the audiences’ head; it was difficult to appreciate these scenes, entirely. 
Domingo himself was a wonder to watch. You can only view him by also remembering that he is a legendary opera figure and his scarlet robes with red diamonds to frame his head only enhanced this. Often I have noticed that Domingo’s eyes water when he sings, which, I sense, is something he naturally does when he takes on roles that require heart wrenching and passionate arias. His ability to show a remorseful father was unbeatable. Domingo also being a father can empathise on many levels with the feelings of the Doge (I am sure.) Yet, his voice was still light and far from the baritone timbre expected for the Foscari role.
In an interview with Hugh Canning in 2010 he said, “I don’t pretend to be a baritone. But I always like to sing roles with different colouring” and this is something we may consider as:
(a) He wants to create his own version of Foscari in Verdi’s opera (and perhaps other baritone roles he decides to sing) or;
(b) He admits he is not a baritone and is aware that what he is doing may offend many, but wants to fulfil a life goal by singing baritone roles, of his choosing, irrespectively.
The problem lies in fact that roles are laid out with designated vocal ability. If we start making exceptions for world-leading figures now, where do we draw the line should other singers want to do the same and do an unsuccessful job of it?  It may upset and cause controversy with baritone singers yet somehow Domingo has managed to get away with singing baritone roles. From the way I see it, Domingo isn’t a baritone singer (which he acknowledges) yet sings roles in a different voice that makes it uniquely his own version of a role. It may seem like I am letting him off, but I was convinced of his performance as the Doge that he had the heart and zeal of a sentimental father.
As Foscari, in his own terms, he was refined, depressed and lonely as a father; yet this portrayal doesn’t require a baritone voice. As far as the opera is concerned however, perhaps, Verdi wanted Foscari to be sung as a baritone to carry the vocal traits of an authoritarian and representation of justice and law. In which case, Domingo’s tenor and non-existent baritone voice made his Daddy Foscari character more visible than his status as the Dodge as Domingo says, [he] ‘wears the mask of the Doge a father’s heart beats within.’Domingo, at 73, has no plans for retiring because, as he said in a recent interview, “I can still sing". 
Jacopo Foscari sung by Francesco Meli is another story. Jacopo’s qualities as an innocent, and handsome, son and husband are finely crafted to Meli’s mellifluous and semi-angelic voice. Despite having to sing in a cage or in handcuffs, he seemed to have harnessed this discomfort well for we, the audience, didn’t hear a vocal note of anguish besides his character’s final judgment: accused of treason by the Council of Ten.
Maria Agresta was very strong. In the first two acts of the opera, she is the most consistent and tenacious as the wife, Lucrezia who tirelessly begs for a pardon for her husband’s offence, which she never gets. Her voice never faltered and in some moments sparked a teardrop in my eye.
Evil Loredan sung by the bass singer Maurizio Muraro should also be credited for giving a hellish performance. I’d like to see him as commendatore in Don Giovanni one day soon, please.
The best scene however, goes to the very end where I found Domingo at his best. Forced out of his top position after the death of his son, underpinning the opera’s tragedy, Placido gives it all guts, tremble and glory with more tears in his eyes as he falls on the ground. This was awkwardly, but subtly done with Agresta shoving her son’s face under water conveying her ‘King Lear’ insanity and downfall. I am just a bit confused as to why Strassberger decided to add this.
I don’t consider myself a musicologist, (I stopped learning how to play the piano at age 10), but I’d love to know how Verdi’s less-known opera is ‘structurally flawed’ according to some critics. The music itself, in my opinion, was mesmerizing so, it's hard to understand this comment from experts. Also, to those who said that they felt that the Strassberger’s staging was ‘static’, well, hate to be the bearer of bad news but from a cinematic perspective, the movement of the cameras ensured we saw different angles; there was a great deal of action so, I’m glad I settled for the cinema viewing. 

Last showing is Sunday 2nd November: Click here for more information.
(Photos courtesy of the Royal Opera House. I purchased my own ticket for the HD Live screening)

Friday, 24 October 2014

Memphis the Musical with Beverley Knight *****

Memphis, a small town in Tennessee, not too far from Mississippi, conjures a romanticised image of the1950s rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues era and its founding musicians such as Aretha Franklin and hip swaying Elvis Presley. Memphis the musical, which is directed by Christopher Ashley and now showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre, captures all of this in a electrifying, ground breaking production with platinum selling artist Beverley Knight as its main star.

Memphis, winner of four 2010 Tony Awards including Best Musical with an Award-winning score written by founding member of Bon Jovi David Bryan and Joe DiPietro, tells the story of Felicia (Knight) and Hugey, sung by distinguished musical star Killian Donnelly, who fell in love during the age of segregation with the burgeoning rise of racism slowly dissolved through music; it is loosely based on the career of radio disc jokey Dewey Philips and an amalgamation of known and unknown rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm ‘n’ blues singers of the time. 

The music, directed by Tim Sutton, is exhilarating and charismatically catchy; it makes you want to boost out of your seat, start singing and clapping with its fun combination of ballads, gospel singing, and musical genius. The production’s ensemble of dancers also get it down to a T; they are unbelievably talented, superseding the challenges of Sergio Trujillo’s fast and thrilling dance choreography.

Memphis, although touching on a very sentimental and highly political time in American history manages to add ounces of humour without overshadowing the deeper issue. There is much reference to racial slurs such as  ‘nigger music’, ‘race music’, ‘cracker boy’ or ‘all negro show’ which will undoubtedly make audiences gasp, as they did in my viewing, but its just a small part of why the writers wrote Memphis. As David Bryan explained it, it is ‘to show what hate looks like, how stupid it is and how wrong it is for humanity’ and this is essentially what makes Memphis clued-up, serious, yet enjoyable at the same time; you actually feel like you are getting an education.

Knight is consistently good at bringing the house down as she sings with passion and fumes power into the lyrics of ‘Love Will Stand When All Else Fails’, ‘Stand Up’ and ‘Someday’ (she received numerous standing ovations throughout the evening I viewed her). Knight’s role however didn’t require her to do anything outside of a singer’s life, which in many ways made her comfortable and well-matched for the role of Felicia and living up to the expectations of her last role in Body Guard. 

Hugey, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Felicia. Donnelly, also vocally talented for the West End stage, played an eccentrically dressed, fearless and politically incorrect Deejay who has an overwhelming streak of cheese, in him. There were certain moments where it wasn’t obvious if it was Hugey or Donnelly on the stage. Overjoyed and enthusiastic as he performed on stage, the cheese could have been added in subtler chunks as it didn't quite mirror the musical as a whole; yet he did a tremendous job of harmonising with Knight.

Claire Machin as Hugey’s mother is also a great watch bringing out laughter and a sadder, more realistic context and tone to the musical. Roland Bell as Felicia’s brother also did this who performed well.  Jason Pennycooke was also charming on the stage and Tyrone Huntley succeeded in shocking the audience with his ability to sing fervently like a hero from being presented as a mute character at the beginning. 

With a stage designed with vinyls, disco lights, moving pillars and black and white film projections by David Gallo, Memphis is entertaining for those who love rock ‘n’ rock and soul. It’s interesting how Hairspray was also produced on the same year as Memphis as there are many parallels and similarities with the show. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

ENO: Richard Jones' The Girl of the Golden West (La fanciulla del West) ★★★★★

It’s been an interesting year for English National Opera (ENO). Ever since the funding cuts from the Arts Council and onslaught of mixed reviews for their recent productions of Xerxes and Otello, it appeared that the ENO were getting a bit of a bad reputation. They were criticised for poor stage direction, lack of imagination and, repeatedly, denounced for their use of English in Italian operas; yet Richard Jones’ production of Puccini’s The Girl from the Golden West (La fanciulla del West) has bolstered up standards, reviving hope and optimism for the ENO stage. 

Puccini’s ‘magnus opus’ namely La fanciulla del West is said to be his best work and from the score alone there's no denying that the opera, which flourishes with melody, grandeur and influences from Debussy, Stravinsky and Richard Strauss, can captivate even the coldest philistine. The prosperity of the opera stems from Puccini's ability to capture the Western mysticism of the 1850s' Californian Gold Rush. Despite, the opera, having little prominence, like La Rondine, the ENO's production, with Susan Bullock’s masterful voice, Miriam Buether's tough Western set designs and delightful chorus singers, will make audiences’ emotions overflow.
The conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson, who had her UK operatic debut, instills grace and tenderness into Puccini’s score as he would have foreseen it. The music soars and reaches a climax in the overture, Minnie’s on stage entrance and the lovers ‘first kiss’ scene; yet this triumphant music interweaves nicely to compliment Minnie's self-efficient and heroine-like character. The ENO male chorus do an impeccable job too portraying homesick miners, parading in a saloon with guns and gambling cards.

Our cast is dressed close to a rough mining environment; but not as far back as the 1850s’s as Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini ‘s libretto describes it. Buether's stage is set up like a Western saloon with large letters that read ‘POLKA’ at the top with brightly lit beer bottles neatly displayed on the wall. By act II we are presented with a two-floor cut out home and a US Marshall office by the third act with nothing special attached to it; but this - just - demonstrates how profound the music and easy to follow the story line truly is.
Minnie (Bullock) is the woman of the miners' town who teaches stories from the bible and is loved by all particularly the Sheriff, Rance (Craig Colclough) who she rejects after numerous proposals including $1000 just for a kiss. She sings, 'Real love cannot be purchased’ and insists on waiting for the right man and then, enters Dick Johnson from Sacramento (Peter Auty) who bedazzles her with metaphors and adorable dancing though, it turns out that, Dick is actually the Spanish bandit, Ramerrez who the town want dead. This puts Minnie’s character under the spotlight, which is why she's an interesting prima donna: she's no damsel in distress. 

Bullock's Minnie is an outstanding one as her independent spirit radiates through Bullock's exuberant top notes. There’s always a thin line between screaming and singing; yet Bullock manages to give an astounding performance without crossing the line. Auty's Ramerrez was also charming and a good match for Minnie who released poignancy in their love duets, in act II, with the company of flutes and strings, even if sung with an American accent. Their voices gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling.  
Colclough’s Rance was a seedy baritone who lusted for Minnie’s body; yet what’s interesting is that although Rance plays the jealous bad cop, his character is balanced out through his reluctance to hurt Minnie, in the end, which proves he's not the token baddie after all. Other great voices included Graham Clark as Nick, Sonora by Leigh Melrose and Jake Wallace sung exquisitely by George Humphreys. Going back to the debacle on the ENO’s use of English, considering that the opera was set in the Wild West English was - perhaps - the most appropriate and ideal language to employ to The Girl of the Golden West, which was perfectly translated by Kelley Rourke. This made such an incredible difference that tops up the amazing and breathtaking score of Puccini. Well done ENO!

Click here for more details - Showing until 1st November 2014 at the ENO.
I purchased my ticket for the opera.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Opera Danube's Die Fledermaus at St. Johns Smith Square ***

Lauren Zolezzi and Dominic Sedgwick - Photos taken by Sebastian Charlesworth.
The overture of Die Fledermaus is a splendid treat often played in any party involving champagne and lavish festivities. Johann Strauss II composed this comedy opera in 1876 and was inspired by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy's play Le Reveillon. It represents the golden age of Viennese music and is a promising opera, which encompasses the ideal attributes of a fine 'Viennese' banquet experience.
Opera Danube has come a long way since the success of their last production The Merry Widow. They've put initiatives in place to teach opera to hundreds of local children through their Education Project. Their production of the tickling farce Die Fledermaus, a two-evening affair, at chandelier heaven St. Johns Smith Square was operatic as much as it was cosy and intimate. It wasn't engineered to shed deeper thoughts on the opera but to simply portray an enjoyable party of Strauss' glorious score.
Under the direction of Simon Butteriss, who also sung as the narrator, Opera Danube’s talented opera singers, Orpheus Sinfonia, and the London Oriana Choir proved enthusiastic and adamant to celebrate the New Year's eve ball through their separate roles done with glamour, heart and might, but in the silly lighthearted way. 
[Left to Right: Gildon, Buckland, Sousa, Sedgwick, Zolezzi and Symonds Joy - Photos by Sebastian Charlesworth.
With long dialogues replaced by a narrator to act as a go-between (to hurry the opera along), and with St. Johns Smith Square’s prop-less semi-stage, opera singers managed to get away with singing ceremonially, waltzing and committing fleeting acts of adultery. The setting is disclosed through the singers’ flamboyant dresses and dashing suits: dinner jackets; posh waistcoats; barrister wigs; demure; and sequined dresses too. However, nothing indicated it’s original mid-19th century setting. In fact, the humour was palpably circa 2014! 

There was a joke about Nigel Farage, the Euro, and, even, the Eurostar. There was also the fundamental cunning joke that brought the opera closer to home - possibly the question on everyone’s mind, ‘what's the opera got to do with a bat?’ since die fledermaus means ‘the bat’ in English. These jokes are added in equal measure to retain the audience’s attention and to ensure they're familiar with the drama.
Rosalinda (Johnson) and Eisenstein (Eisenstein) Photos by Sebastian Charlesworth.
The storyline of the opera is similar to The Marriage of Figaro, but only just. Our lead married couple, Rosalinda (Elinor Rolfe Johnson) and Eisenstein (Thomas Herford) are so fed up of each other that they are willing to commit infidelity. This leads them to conjure a  revenge plot to their supposed friend Dr Falke (Dominic Sedgwick). He was victim of a costume mishap that got him the nick name "die Fledermaus”. 

The comedy of scheming involves an old flame (Alberto Sousa), a chambermaid dressed in a French maid outfit called Adele (Lauren Zolezzi), a lawyer (Simon Butteriss), a prison warden (Robert Gildon), Adele’s sister (Felicity Buckland), and a wealthy Russian who is actually a woman (Kate Symonds Joy). Faulk concocts a variety of disguises which tempts Einsenstein into seducing his wife who he thinks is a Hungarian countess. In the end, happiness relieves the tension and all is forgiven. 
It was a calculated decision by Butteriss to cut out the dialogue and leave the singers to do what they did best - sing and awe audiences. As our narrator moved from one joke to the next, fine singing flowed sleekly from our talented crew. Sousa had the deep Casanova voice to entice any lady, not just Rosalinda. Sedgwick also had a handsome charm in his refined timbre and Zolezzi seemed to show love for her giddy role as she added flourishes to her high notes. Orlofsky, who I had seen before at Opera Erratica ’s Triptych, charged in with feistiness and chic even if she played the trouser role. And Buckland performed exquisitely as an actress but – unfortunately - didn’t get to test her vocals much as she did in Opera Up Close’s Marriage of Figaro. The London Oriana Choir were on top form too. 
[Left to Right: Symonds Joy, Sedgwick, Johnson, Zolezzi and Buckland. Photos by Sebastian Charlesworth.]
The Orpheous Sinfonia conducted by Oliver Gooch foretold a Viennese tale through an ingenious score, yet I found that some of the percussions instruments got in the way; the funny noises and use of a drum (which sounding like a military drum) drowned out the glossiness of 19th century decadence including the singers' voices. Perhaps a lighter touch would have welcomed a more finesse sound.
Johnson and Herford had the toughest roles as lead characters and although diligent and powerfully led there were moments of strain, which I heard. These moments, however, that didn’t counteract the overall effectiveness of their stage presence.  With Gildon too, I sensed he spent more time shouting than singing songs as a velvety baritone.
Nevertheless, these remarks on these operatic performance didn't destroy the entertainment or comic value of the show. The story was direct and clear. We knew who was who and what everyone was tying to achieve. As a result it was a fun evening and many of the audience members would agree.Welcome 2015!

These performances took place on October 17th and 18th. Click here for more information.
A press ticket was provided courtesy of Opera Danube's PR company used for this production.  

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Shoot, I didn’t Mean That and The Last Days of Mankind: Tristan Bates Theatre ***

Shoot, I didn’t Mean That and The Last Days of Mankind are two separate plays currently showing at the Tristan Bates Theatre and they center on the theme of war in various forms. To mark the centenary of WWI Pamela Schermann, Time Zone Theatre and British playwrights have teamed up to instil a plethora of war perspectives.
Catriona Kerridge’s comedy Shoot, I didn’t Mean That is an insightful piece that is divided into three narratives: Alexine Lafaber is a woman imprisoned for involuntarily shouting ‘Sieg Heil’ and giving a Nazi salute in Vienna; two secondary school girls acted by Jocasta King and Alexa Hartley prepare to fly into the war zones of Syria; and Emily Blairtow is a fearless interpreter sat in a secure glass box at an international tribunal, possibly the UN. 

Lafaber’s reference to basic Nazi and Jew jokes puts the audience in an awkward position but that is what her character is meant to do: to extract and provide insight into what war has done to us and the way we think of war like a taboo and partial stigma. Her character seems to have taken war subconsciously that it has affected her physiologically whilst King and Hartley display a disturbing scene of what foolish teenagers may be doing to themselves in locked classrooms such as re-enacting terrorist hostage scenes due to the, often, corrupted and hyped up media. Blairtow shows her bitterness towards the hypocrisy of governments by drawing devil horns onto her glass screen and singing disco songs to distract her; this is due to her accumulation of anger and frustration of having to deliver cyclical war solutions ironically in a place created as a result of international peace. 
Calling Shoot, I didn’t Mean That a comedy is misleading as there won’t be much laughter, only a few. The overall tone is serious and reflective of where war has taken us. The pace is fairly balanced and the gradual development of Kerridge’s characters is succinct. The constant too and fro of three narratives scattered amongst each other is interesting as it keeps the audience engaged and shocked at the same time. 
The second play is a new translation of Karl Kraus’s 1922-piece The Last Days of Mankind by Edward Tims and Fred Bridgham. The opening scene is smoky, set in a war zone with our four female actresses in gas marks. The tone is sinister, dangerous and scary. It puts you in no man’s land, instantly. Under Schermann's direction, it provides snippets from the trenches as told by soldiers, cut throat war journalists, innocent civilians and hyenas (or pirates of war.) With powerful video footage of WWII and Hitler, your heart will be racing at a 100 miles per hour. The constant rhyming couplets are, at times, hard to absorb it as it is set amongst horrible images of conflict, bomb artillery and the sound of guns.
Yet, startling and spine-tinkling as The Last Days of Mankind was, I also, felt nauseous and claustrophobic, but not in the negative sense, but in the dramatic. Listening to the rhyming and cold words brought the immediacy of war to the Tristan Bates Theatre, like a war camp. 
Both of these intriguing plays convey the consequences of war. It is not a show to be entertained, it is a visceral experience and audiences will either come out feeling as if they've learnt something or, feel, completely overwhelmed. With such stamina and talent from all four-cast members, booming loud voices and video projections, it may be lot to take in. I’d highly recommend you come in with your ears and eyes wide open with a sturdy war helmet - you're in for a ride. 

Last showing was Saturday 18th in Covent Garden - Click here for more details

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Gala evening : Salon Du Chocolate 2014 - Olympia West

            This was another delightful evening that took place at London’s Olympia West of chocolate tasting and fashionable chocolate watching all smothered into one succulent and superb Gala evening for VIPs and journalists. This is the second year that Salon Du Chocolate , (or the Chocolate show in English) - is being hosted in the UK; however for Salon du Chocolate, they are celebrating their 20th birthday. This evening’s gala gave a glimpse of the weekend including the chocolate fashion show; luckily, this time round, members of the public will be able to see the fashion show live everyday at 5pm.

In celebration of Chocolate week, which is held in the middle of October, Salon du Chocolate brings chocolate companies, chocolatiers, exhibitors and those who love chocolate together. It is an opportunity to learn about the newest range of chocolate, other delicious chocolate series and brands through demonstrations, tastings, truffle rolling and much more. As you can imagine there are many French speakers as the French and Belgians love their chocolate, ooh la la!

This evening, before the fashion show begun, Willy Wonka, from the musical Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, performed ‘Pure Imagination’ to set the chocolate tone for the evening. Lindt Master Chocolatier, Paul Wayne Gregory and Downtown Abbey costume-maker, Caroline McCall designed Deco Diamond. It took three months to create and weights 60kg. There is also ‘Fairy Choc Mother’ by Mark Tilling and Sue Hodges from Squires Kitchen. 

Alexandra Harper Millinery who is renowned for her unique dress techniques, following her collaboration with Disney, applies her luxurious head wear with Andy Blas, Executive Pastry Chef at the five-star Café Royal Hotel. Aneesh Popat also incorporates the Chocolatier range and Anita Thakker uses Fruitful Blooms Chocolatiers for her mouth-watering outfits that come with a hand-made chocolate bag.

Bruno Mirmont with Maison Boissier chocolate introduce a beautiful pink mesh-made dress and Quentin Gianora and Lucie Bennett introduce a cheeky autumn themed couture. And to add to the fashion show Carolyn Roper painted chocolate designs onto the dancers of the AOFM Pro who gave an outstanding performance. 
This year there are up to fifty exhibitors with names that reach far and wide the globe including UK’s own Hotel Chocolate, Lindt, Artisan du Chocolat, Paul a Young, Rococo, Marc Demarquette, Melt, Divine, Prestat, Lindt, Valrhona, Pralus, Bonnat and many more.

There is also a chocolate theatre, which allows chocolatiers to prepare  demonstration that showcase their range of chocolates, which include Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar, Great British Bake Off champions Edd Kimber and John Whaite, and chocolatiers Paul a Young and Will Torrent. Pastry chefs will also be exhibiting their patisserie skills including France’s 23-year old Guillaume Sanchez, 5-star chefs from The Berkeley Hotel and Café Royal Hotel as well as the former Fat Duck pastry chef Hideko Kawa.

There will be tasting theatres available and activities for children. York Cocoa House will host activities including chocolate painting, chocolate bar creating and chocolate lollipop making. 

There is also a downloadable app that provides schedules and chocolate show offers. Click here to access the app on your device. For more information, click here. More photos available here.

Dates: 18-20 October Times: Friday:  2pm to 6pm 
Saturday: 10am to 7pm 
 Sunday: open from 10am to 6pm Venue: Olympia National Hall, Hammersmith Road Kensington, London, W14 8UX Nearest Tube: Kensington (Olympia)
Sylvie Douce and François Jeantet (founders of Salon du Chocolat)

Willy Wonka from the musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The Chocolatier - Aneesh Popat

Anita Thakker of Fruitful Blooms Chocolatiers

Anita Thakker of Fruitful Blooms Chocolatiers


Bruno Mirmont for Maison Boissier

Lindt Master Chocolatier and Paul Wayne Gregory & Caroline McCall

Quentin Gianora & Lucie Bennett

Mark Tilling for Squires Kitchen

Carolyn Roper for AOFM Pro

Café Royal & Alexandra Harper Millinery