It has been one of those weeks - but here we go for a quick catch up.
I was at Béatrice et Bénedict at Glyndebourne on Monday.
It was a real pleasure to hear a couple of years go that Glyndebourne was, at last, to stage this tricky but utterly charming last affectionate statement from Berlioz. We had discussed it often in the 1970s but it eventually came too nothing - too difficult to bring off. Well it IS difficult but that was not a good reason! But neither John Pritchard, the then music director, nor Peter Hall our resident Shakespeare genius, felt quite right about it - so fair enough, it did not happen. It was then given in concert version at the Royal Festival Hall in Glyndebourne’s off year in 1993 when the new theatre was being constructed. I did not see it alas as I was busy in Toronto at that time. And now at last it is here!
My own first delight with this piece was with the European Union Opera in Baden-Baden in 1998 - in the very theatre in which it was first performed in August 1862. We did a concert version - I can not imagine how it can have been fully mounted in that tiny gem of the Baden-Baden Town Theatre - how times and production expectations have changed. And then we had a notable production in Chicago, a splendid production by Nicola Raab with Sandy Eddy and Joe Kaiser in the title roles.
Stéphanie d'Oustrac as Béatrice - Glyndebourne 2016
We had a young cast chosen for the then 16 members of the EU - and the star was the very young Miah Persson, straight out of the Stockholm Operahögskolan. And then we had a notable production in Chicago, a splendid production by Nicola Raab with Sandy Eddy and Joe Kaiser in the title roles.
Glyndebourne had a fine line up, and the star was undoubtedly the remarkable Stéphanie d'Oustrac. She is now a Glyndebourne favourite after her Concepción and Carmen. May she return again and again.......!
Tuesday was something completely different - The Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre. And with the splendid Rory Kinnear as Macheath (seen centre above). This is a no holds barred production by the National Theatre's Artistic Director Rufus Norris - with no expletives deleted for those of a delicate nature. The Weill score under the editorial supervision of THE authority, James Holmes, makes a huge impact, and the transition from Berlin to London is brilliantly executed in the adaptation by Simon Stephens. Here we have the excellence and integrity of the National Theatre in view for all. A great evening.
Fionn Watson (Jack) and Judith Roddy (Nora) in The Plough and the Stars - National Thetre August 2016
I do not go to the National Theatre nearly enough so it was odd to be there again on Thursday, for The Plough and the Stars, Sean O'Casey's play revived to mark the centenary of the Easter rising in 1916. This was powerful stuff, superbly directed and acted and overwhelming at times in its emotional impact. But this was somewhat confusing for me. My father's 17th birthday was on Easter Day 1916 - he a Dubliner born and bred - and off he went a year later to join the Royal Flying Corps and fight in the Great War......an Irishman like so many others who served their King and country. Yet I feel a huge belief in the eventual reunification of Ireland. Maybe this will be the silver lining on the Brexit cloud!
There was a major star in this production, the extraordinary Judith Roddy. And not just because like me she is a former student at Trinity College, Dublin! Surely much more will be seen of this young woman. I hope that the general English audience could get the text - the largely Irish cast were giving it their all and I was glad that I was able to translate it!
My next stop was 48 hours in Suffolk - the primary target being a Snape Prom last night, but any visit to this most delicious part of England is an end in itself. The Friday evening treat was dinner at the famous Butley Oysterage in Orford. For those that know it I need say no more, for those that do not then the sooner you remedy that the better! It was a stormy evening, presaging some fierce winds on Saturday. The black clouds to be seen as we exited after dinner say it all!
A Saturday morning excursion to deserted Shingle Street provided a healthy dose of fresh Suffolk air, at times at Force 4. This was a perfect way to prepare the appetite for a long delicious lunch...........and for the joys of the Snape Prom on Saturday evening.
Aldeburgh has much more going for it musically than just its Festival. There is year round activity to draw music lovers to this place and the Proms at Snape in August are immensely popular as evidenced by the full house for the remarkable Britten-Pears Orchestra's concert on Saturday evening. OK - it was Tchaikovsky; but not the "war horses" but rather the second piano concerto and the Manfred Symphony. A feature of the former, and a welcome contrast to the noisy first movement, is the chamber music-like slow movement which in this performance showcased the exceptional leader of the orchestra, a young Canadian violinist Amy Hillis. Music education in Canada produces a disproportionate number of extraordinary musicians given the small population of this huge country. And here is another young player of special talent who will surely go on to great things. I am reminded of another outstanding Canadian violinist, older now but seeming to be cut from the same Canadian cloth, James Ehnes, who gave so much pleasure when I heard him with Leif Ove Andsnes and friends in Chicago earlier this year.
The Britten-Pears Orchestra has players from all over the world with a very strong contingent from the US and Canada. Semyon Bychkov was the inspiring leader of proceedings on Saturday evening and the Manfred Symphony was completely thrilling. This is not yet another "Youth Orchestra" - it is a collection of extraordinary musicians already on the verge of careers at the highest level.
So it was a great 48 hours in Orford/Snape providing musical and other pleasures, not least the opportunity to meet up with so many friends and colleagues who have gravitated to this beautiful part of England where there is so much food for the soul to be found in the geography and the music making.
I am now back in London - and will today be celebrating my elder daughter's birthday with her and her family in Warwickshire.