Opening festival needed fine tuning, but what a wonderful resource

PUBLISHED: 16:07 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:28 07 September 2010

Opening festival Kings Place I wrote in the Ham&High several weeks ago about the prospective opening of King s Place, the new concert venue built into an office block just north of King s Cross station - and last week it happened with all the chutzpah a

Opening festival

Kings Place

I wrote in the Ham&High

several weeks ago about the prospective opening of King's Place, the new concert venue built into an office block just north of King's Cross station - and last week it happened with all the chutzpah and fanfare I predicted (it was inevitable) and the promised five-day opening festival of music virtually around the clock, starting Wednesday at 9.30am, finishing Sunday at midnight.

I doubt if anyone - not even Peter Milliken, the maverick developer who set the whole thing up - could possibly have seen it through from start to finish: like a tapas-feast, it was designed for dipping in (and out) at will.

But though I don't have figures, my own dipping experience tells me thousands of people passed through the doors every day: excited, curious, happy-to-be-there crowds who had picked up on the buzz about King's Place and wanted to be part of it.

The opening day, to give you an idea, began with contemporary music from the Endymion Ensemble in the main hall (there are two) with song and dance from India in the smaller, more flexible hall next door.

The afternoon brought a series of song recitals in Hall 1, with new electro-acoustic music in Hall 2. And the evening had selections from Mozart and Haydn operas done by the Classical Opera Company in Hall 1, plus a sequence of guitar and ensemble recitals in Hall 2.

For everyone it was a learning exercise. Some things worked well, some didn't; and to my ears the acoustic in Hall 1, though good, is hard-edged and unflattering for female voices. It could do with some adjustment, which is possible in the design.

But that said, King's Place is a wonderful resource for concert audiences across north London, with some fascinating projects scheduled for the coming months including a residency next March by the Classical Opera Co in which they'll give concert selections from no less than 15 Haydn operas: repertoire that doesn't work on stage and therefore doesn't get heard, although it contains music of surpassing loveliness.

Were I to bookmark the King's Place opening festival for one thing it would be a single Haydn aria, sung by soprano Sophie Bevan, from an unknown piece called Die Feuersbrunst. The aria was heart-stopping - bizarrely so, given that Feuersbrunst was a puppet opera. So much beauty at the service of some jerky bits of wood and wire.

Michael White

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