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Arias on Ice

Well-known arias and duets,sung live, accompany a captivating performance of ice dance.
Opera Anywhere @ Oxford Ice Rink

December 23, 2008
Arias on Ice: Christmas 2008
Following last year's sell out performance at Oxford Ice Rink, Arias On Ice has returned for four performances and even though the frequency and duration of performances has increased, the concept—classical and contemporary songs performed live by professional singers, accompanied by choreographed routines performed by members of Oxford Figure And Free Ice Skating Club - remains the same.

Following a slightly subdued introduction from the show’s compere, the night’s festivities began with gusto when Jeremy Vinograndov began to sing and a group of young skaters took to the floor, their varying ability clear from the outset, yet somehow adding to the genial effect of the show.

The lighting - predominantly a mixture of white, blue, purple, gold, and green profile spotlights - was more effective when seen from a distance, but the colour themes used evoked a sense of cool elegance, quietly enhancing each piece.

The first half of the night was especially enjoyable, packed full of wonderfully atmospheric scenes and familiar tunes - taken from a variety of sources including Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Bizet’s Carmen and the film score of Watership Down - expertly delivered by a group of fantastic singers and some extremely focused skaters. Although still enjoyable, the second half was not quite as much fun: the American spiritual songs and the works of Gershwin weren’t as well suited to the singers’ voices as the songs chosen for the first half.

Overall, I had a fantastic evening and, although by the time the show neared its conclusion the choreography had grown slightly repetitive and the songs had grown less distinctive, there were moments of beauty to be seen and heard right to the end.

December 23, 2007
Arias On Ice: Christmas 2007
I had forgotten that an ice rink was not likely to have central heating and had therefore not put on my thermal vest in preparation for the evening: two easy-to-digest half hours of ice skating to arias (an aria is a ‘melody performed by a singer’ – I like to call them ‘songs’) with mince pies and non-alcoholic mulled wine (‘hot juice’) served in the interval. I was really quite cold but the goose bumps were eased by what transpired to be a cute, festive, cheerful performance.

Opera Anywhere – an Oxfordshire-based small company of singers – presented Arias on Ice in conjunction with the Oxford Figure & Free Ice Skating club. The skaters ranged from around six to eighteen years old; the singers more accomplished but with the youngest being James Allen, a 13-year-old chorister from Radley College whose rendition of ‘Walking in the Air’ was fine enough to douse any whiff of Christmas cliché. The opening aria, ‘Largo at Factotum’, was performed elegantly by Jeremy Vinogradov who had been flown in from Russia (he still had snow on his boots).

There were 14 arias in total with each having a specifically choreographed skating routine including solo, pair and group performances. Some evidently challenging manoeuvres were tackled; the majority of which were carried off gracefully but there was the odd tumble – enough to make you appreciate how tricky the routines actually are. There was one particularly impressive stunt involving a young man swinging a young lady around as though she were rag doll – I was very impressed (she may not have been) but also a little on edge at this point – extraordinary stuff for such young talents.

I’m not sure whether figure skating is an art or sport; the skaters were prone to chat to each other mid routine, which implies that their interests are more athletic than aesthetic. Sadly, the lack of emotional involvement with the aria sometimes had the effect of deflating what would have been a deeply moving performance. The show was garnished with a cheerful selection of costumes. For ‘O Ruddier than the Cherry’ the skaters wore what looked like bright red monks' robes – a step away from the traditional flesh-coloured tights and glitter. The closing aria, ‘In the Bleak Mid Winter’ saw all performers on ice donning winter coats, monks' robes converted into choirboy’s cassocks and a few giant snowballs.

Arias on Ice’ was a sometimes disjointed blend of art with sport, but overall the show was a little festive treat.
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