Arts: Who's been sitting in my concert hall?

Roald Dahl's `Goldilocks' has been turned into a piece of music- theatre. Raymond Monelle fears it may all have gone over the children's heads.

The Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik obviously had a lot of fun writing his children's pantomime Goldilocks and the Three Bears. More fun, perhaps, than the children in Thursday night's audience at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, few of whom, presumably, would have recognised the clever parodies in his witty and sophisticated score: Chabrier's Joyeuse marche, Richard Strauss's Don Juan, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and Symphony of Psalms, and lots more.

In fact, it was hard to decide whom the piece was written for. It was commissioned on behalf of the Roald Dahl Foundation and based on a "Revolting Rhyme" by Dahl, adapted as some sort of a stage piece by Donald Sturrock. A rather fragile clue in the poem was seized on to support a court-room drama: Baby Bear is accused of the attempted murder of Goldilocks, after the episode in which she eats the porridge and breaks the chairs. The text is written in cod verse in the manner of a Christmas pantomime ("Maestro, if you please" is the cue for the orchestra to play) and the cast are all animals: three very credible bears, a lion judge and a crew of suffocatingly coy rabbits.

The director (Karen Howard) and designer (Caroline Grebbell) had organised an acting area behind the orchestra: actors mimed extracts from the "plot" and spoke their preposterous lines through body-mikes that made them sound like heavenly voices.

The children enjoyed, up to a point, the animal costumes, the corny jokes and the invitations to participate - at one point the conductor HK Gruber, that great old trouper (former Vienna choirboy turned baritone chansonnier and composer of Frankenstein!!!), pretended to go to steep, and we all had to shout "Wake up, Gruber" - but there were long stretches when nothing happened on stage and everyone waited for the music to finish. This was in spite of the fact that the musical numbers often had titles implying movement: "Goldilocks' sweet dance", "Criminal bears' dance", "Smelly melodrama". Perhaps Goldilocks herself (Sophie Dahl, Roald Dahl's generously proportioned fashion-model granddaughter, here making her stage debut) might have been better cast as a dancer, and the whole thing done as a quasi-ballet.

Nevertheless, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, whose record is honourable in commissioning new works, delivered Schwertsik's Toytown marches and bustling dances with point and flourish. A modernist who has renounced the avant-garde, he shadows Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Bartok in an eclectic style full of avuncular humour. When Goldilocks got into bed in her smelly socks, the contrabassoon blew raspberries and the strings played whistly harmonics - phew! - while the middle-class gentility of Mother Bear was pictured by a string quartet (which was, however, almost inaudible in the wretched acoustic of the GRCH).

The programme-editor was inspired to print photographs of all the protagonists as children. Gruber in a sailor suit! Even Aleksander Madzar, the very young soloist in Weber's Konzertstuck, was represented by a picture taken just a few years ago. His playing was a bit old-mannish, however; classical, restrained, straightforward. If this was a concert for children, somehow they were missing from the music itself.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride