The last month has been something of an experiment - a trial to see what might happen if I went silent for a few more weeks following my time away during the holiday month. Well there was nothing much although there were some indirect messages from all over the world asking other friends whether I was ok! These included most recently someone from Hong Kong, someone I have not seen for years, who evidently was a regular reader and was feeling deprived!
Well the few weeks have turned into five, and I think that it is about time to get going again. You have missed out on very little really but there is action coming up, beginning with the opening of ENO's Porgy and Bess last night. And next week I will be in Wexford, then Amsterdam and Gütersloh, so there should be some good stuff to write about. In the meantime I have been feeling guilty on the one hand (at first) and then relieved (of the self imposed obligation). But this thing has been going now for more than 13 years so I guess I can't just give it up!
My last posting was on September 6th. The memorable events since then, ones of which I would normally have written more detailed accounts, began with the magnificent celebration of the life of Peter Hall, part one in Westminster Abbey and part 2 at the National Theatre. That was September 11, the anniversary of Peter's death. I was fortunate to have worked with Peter closely for 20 years, far less though than so many of the others there whose professional lives had been intertwined with his for up to six decades. For us all it had been a privilege and a joy. It was a very moving day of celebration of the life of a remarkable man and colleague and friend.
Eric Greene and Nicole Cabell in English National Opera's Porgy and Bess October 2018
But now we go forward......and I was fortunate also to have played a small part, together with my dear friend and colleague Sarah Playfair, in putting together, at the early stage, the cast of ENO's Porgy and Bess which opened to tumultuous applause last night, a standing ovation comparable to that we experienced at Glyndebourne on that July evening back in 1986. Sarah and I had been standing in for three months pending the appointment of a new casting director. And that was Michelle Williams who joined to company in March of 2017 and did a magnificent job in completing the work that we had begun. She did all the really difficult stuff, dealing with replacing those that dropped out, and above all building the remarkable ensemble upon which a successful production of Porgy has to be based.
Our process was complicated by the fact that there were two co-producers, the Metropolitan Opera and The Dutch National Opera, each with different requirements and constraints. Anyway we were thrilled to end up with the company we engaged. If you want to see alternatives you can go to Amsterdam in January and New York a year or so from now! Eric Greene, the Porgy, is well known here for his exceptional work with Graham Vick's Birmingham company, and Nicole Cabell, winner at Cardiff in 2005, is an old friend and colleague from Chicago where she was a member of the Ryan Center a good few years ago. We also had the special opportunity of having John Wilson to conduct, the best possible person to get this piece off to a flying start. He will not be with it in Amsterdam, nor in New York I think.
St Louis's James Robinson, whose production of Nixon in China with my company in Chicago in 2006 was one of our great hits, makes a long overdue ENO debut - perfect "casting" for this piece in the Coliseum. And his creative team blended this whole ensemble into a memorable evening which you must ALL manage to get to, be it here in London or Amsterdam or New York. George and Ira Gershwin would have been thrilled that their vision has once again been realised with a proper opera company lavishing its unique expertise on this truly great American opera.
That is all for this week. Things get hectic in Wexford a week from now! What a joy it will be to be back there.