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Ballet review: Woolf Works
Performance date: Wednesday 13 May 2015, 7.30pm
Run date: 11-26 May 2015
Royal Opera House – map
Bow Street, Covent Garden
London WC2E 9DD
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: ***** (out of 5)
Credits: Concept and Direction, Choreography: Wayne McGregor. Music: Max Richter. Costume designs: Moritz Junge.

New work. Three pieces based on the wriitng of Virginia Woolf. Electric, minimal, existential, inspiring. So glad I saw it. Worth your time and money. Hope it comes back next year!

Further information:
Royal Opera House (official site)
Swan Lake (Wikipedia)

Opera review: Krol Roger
Performance date: 7.30pm, Tuesday 12 May 2015
Run date: 1-19 May 2015
Royal Opera House – map
Bow Street, Covent Garden
London WC2E 9DD
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: ** (out of 5)
Credits: MusicKarol Szymanowski, Libretto: Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. Director: Kasper Holten.

Obscure Polish opera. Poor interpretation. Eh.

Thankfully short. Synopsis makes it sound substantial and worth seeing. Interpretation and staging so uninspiring you fall asleep.

Further information:
Krol Roger (Wikipedia)
Royal Opera House (official site)

Opera review: Madama Butterfly
Performance date: 7.30pm Tuesday 10 March February 2015
Run date: 20 March—11 April 2015
Royal Opera House – map
Bow Street, Covent Garden
London WC2E 9DD
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: ** (out of 5)
Credits: Music: Giacomo Puccini, Libretto: Giuseppe Giacosa, Director: Moshe Leiser. Cast includes: Cio-Cio-San – Ana María Martínez, Pinkerton – Brian Jagde, Sharpless – Gabriele Viviani.

Disappointing production and a waste of money. That’s all you really need to know. The singing was ok but the sets, costumes and staging were uninspired and utterly boring. The show also looks nothing like the advertising images for it. Waste of time and money. Was hoping for something beautiful as a former production was great and the Opera House has a lot of money to spend on these shows. However they skimped and it was poorly presented to the point where many around me were falling asleep. An expensive afternoon nap.

Further information:
Royal Opera House (official site)

Performing arts review: A Gala Celebration – Life Reimagined
Performance date: 7.30pm Wednesday 25 February 2015
Royal Opera House – map
Bow Street, Covent Garden
London WC2E 9DD
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: *** (out of 5)
Credits: Various composers and artists performing their work.

Hodge-podge fundraising production. A little of it was great. Most of it was boring. Shame as these things can be excellent. Favourite numbers were the ballet dances by: Soares and Nunez (“Diamonds”), Lamb and Acosta (from Carousel), Macrae and Osipova and the number for Elisir D’Amore with Bryn Terfel in it. A nice way to give money to charity. Actually, had forgotten I had gone to this till I found the programme a couple of weeks later. That sums up what I thought of it lol – forgettable!

Maybe I’d go again if I knew in advance what the programme contained. If you didn’t go, you didn’t miss anything!

It should aim to be more like The Russian Ballet Icons at the English National Opera that happens every year. [Actually I missed it this year due to little advertising – it was amazing – I am heartbroken! *sigh*]

Further information:
Royal Opera House (official site)

Opera review: Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
Performance date: 7.30pm Tuesday 10 March February 2015
Run date: 10 March – 4 April 2015
Royal Opera House – map
Bow Street, Covent Garden
London WC2E 9DD
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: ** (out of 5)
Credits: Music – Kurt Weill, Libretto – Bertolt Brecht, Director – John Fulljames

Written in the 1930s by Weill and Brecht, this opera has the potential to be interesting. It’s about convicts from Alaska going to a city named Mahagonny to start a new life. The city is based around drinking, gambling and prostitution. It is cut throat if you can’t pay your bills. Sound familiar? Sound like a take on Las Vegas – well it probably is?

The sets and lighting for this production were interesting. I liked this. However, other than that, there was no character development and it was  boring and uninspired. The characters were amoral and flat – oh big deal, they are gambling, womanising, drinking and killing each other.

I was glad when this production was over and I could leave. Waste of time and money. Save up your pennies for the upcoming Don Giovanni and Falstaff! Now, that should be interesting decadence!

Further information:
Royal Opera House (official site)

Leisure review: Horse Riding Surrey
Painshill Farm Stables, Dunsfold Road
Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8LF
Telephone: 01483 200 227
Horse Riding Surrey – map
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: ***** (out of 5)

Wow! That is the best way to start this review. Horse Riding Surrey takes hacking to another level compared to most places!

I stumbled across this place on Facebook and then looked up their website. The website for this stable is great and shows all the different types of riding they offer. It is one of those places I had never heard of and never would have found if I hadn’t stumbled across it. Either this place is very popular or is a hidden gem. I am not sure. Their website doesn’t have a phone number. To schedule a hack, I emailed them and then a couple of days later had an answer back. I have no idea if they don’t list the phone number because their phone would ring off the hook if it did! After a couple of emails with one of the owners, I was booked onto a hack for a Saturday. The price is reasonable for the area.

I suppose the most important thing to note is you really need a car to get here unless you can devise a way of walking 5 miles from Cranleigh to this place (after a bus journey from a train station) or unless you are happy to cycle from a train station or pay through the nose for taxis – Godalming and Guildford – the two nearest train stations and two places I have learned, that I do not like going. A taxi (and I called many) will sting you for over £20 to get there! Goldalming is closer but has few taxis. Really, you will need to pay between £24-30 each way for a taxi. It is disgusting as the place is only 6 miles away from Godalming – and if you do this, you will pay either more than your horse ride or about the same  (depending on the length of it). After calling many cabs and none being available (thankfully as they were too expensive), I wanted to cry and go home. Instead, I called the stable and forunately, someone was able to come and get me. They also didn’t want any money for the journey. I was so relieved and grateful!

So, I came to the farm and was put on a lovely thoroughbred named Eden. In her day, she was a racer and won a few races on the flat. She was a dainty horse – very thin and small-boned (as is common for thoroughbreds – she was well taken care of!). She was a good, patient girl and stood in the yard patiently. They nearly put me on another horse, but fortunately put me on her! I rode with two other people who were getting ready for a ranch holiday in America and a local teen who was a good rider and rode the fast, feisty mare. She was out front. Our guide was excellent and rode in the middle. The hack was two hours and it was amazing!

A lot of the horses here are used for jumping, hunting, eventing and they stable also offers something called “The Gallops”, which is galloping on a sand racetrack. So, these horses are fit and like to run. For the hack I went on, you had to know how to ride as we went fast quite often. In my opinion, myself and the guide had the best horses. They were all lovely. Just that, the two ladies who were to go on the ranch holiday and hadn’t ridden in a while, their horses bucked because they were excited and having a good time. Nothing major but you had to have a good seat. Some beginners probably would have been freaked out. If you are a beginner or do not want to canter or gallop you must tell them.

Our two hour ride was exciting and the countryside out there is amazing. There was minimal road work and we went through some nice fields and forests. My little mare was so cute. She had tiny hooves and a tiny frame and it seemed so strange seeing her take on these steep muddy and rocky trails. Thankfully she was sure footed. At the end of the ride there was also a gallop. I indeed had the perfect horse for me as she kept up but didn’t get too excited and try and race to the front. She also did not spook!

So, I had a fantastic, breath-taking time and would like to go back and try their other activities such as beach rides, hunting and the cross country. The people at the stable are polite and friendly. The guide was also kind enough to give me a ride back to Guildford station. This is one of my favourite riding experiences and frankly, I don’t feel like I have to find anywhere else in the area. This is the crowning place!

Further information:
Horse Riding Surrey (official site)

Leisure review: Horse riding – Wimbledon Village Stables
High Street, London SW19 5DX
Telephone: 0208 946 8579
Wimbledon Village Stables – map
Review by: Alexa Williamson
Rating: ***** (out of 5)

For those living in or visiting London that want to go for a good horse ride, then this is your place! This stable has been around for years and plays an active part in the community of Wimbledon Village (yes, this is the place where the famous tennis is every year – not in the village but in the same town).

Wimbledon Village Stables is a sweet little place nestled behind the Dog and Fox pub in Wimbledon Village. Your walk from the tube/station to the stables is 10-15 minutes up a hill, but you get to walk down that hill on the way back to the station. Or, you can take a cab for £4-5 pounds and that takes you about 5 minutes to get there. (Tell the driver you are going to the Dog and Fox pub and he will drop you off in the right place.) Apparently, there are buses that will take you to the village too, from the train station, but I have never taken one!

So, this is a small-medium size stable. They keep about 15 horses there at a time. It is clean and they have hats, boots and half-chaps (the things you put on your legs to keep your trousers in place so they don’t rub you while you ride). They run a club so if you become a “member” of the stable the prices are the standard London rate. If you are not a member, they are quite high! However, if riding with them is a rare occasion, then make a decision to pay it and go for a nice ride!

So, I went for my  one-hour hack with the stable and was taken out by an excellent guide from Spain. He was personable and knowledgeable. He rode one of their mares who loved to stop and eat the bushes! I rode a mare who was very sweet, quiet, and bombproof! As the stable is in the heart of the village, they are surrounded by traffic and loud noise all the time. Fortunately, their horses are used to this and do not spook at all! The hugest of trucks did not bother the horses. I was so impressed.

The good thing is that the road work to Wimbledon Common is a very short ride on the road. After about three minutes you are on Wimbledon Common and your real ride begins. The area of Wimbledon Common that we went on was mainly wooded trails. It was nice to see and ride through but the paths are narrow and twisty so you generally have to go slow on your horse as you can’t see what is coming around the corner.

On my ride, we went out mainly for a walk and trot and one short canter. This was my first time riding here so this was fine with me as I don’t know their horses. My horse was perfectly well-behaved no matter where she was in line. It was such a blessing. She was a good, brave girl and did what she was asked with no fuss. I had a wonderful time here and will come again. I felt, however, that the riding was limited unless you want to go on a 2 hour hack. The problem though is that 2 hours will cost you 3 digits unless you are a member here!

Besides hacks and riding lessons, the stable does many other events – from talks about horses to shows, charity rides and even a ball every year. If you live in London area and want to be part of a riding community then this is a good place to join! The horses and stables are in amazing condition and the staff are knowledgeable, friendly and professional. This place is cheaper than riding in Hyde Park but you indeed get a 5-star experience!

Further information:
Wimbledon Village Stables (official site)

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