I regard Blackheath Halls as an extension of my home, despite being a good twenty-minute car journey away. For about half the year I spend at least one evening a week there, singing; we had the party for our civil partnership there, and I am happy to turn up to be in the audience on a fairly regular basis.
The latest morsel of delight is a mini Last Night at the Proms, featuring some of my favourite collaborators from Blackheath Halls Operas – Grant Doyle (La Boheme, The Elixir of Love, Cinderella) and Nicholas Sharratt (Elixir, Eugene Onegin). Both great singers and lovely friendly people who treat us amateurs like equals. For some reason I cannot fathom, tickets are not exactly flying out of the computer – are people sated with Proms? Or is it just that you need the behemoth marketing skills of the BBC to promote this kind of thing? My totally biased opinion is that anything Grant and Nick are in has to be a good thing, and I don’t want to be doing a Henry V speech about we happy few.
So if you don’t want to be thinking yourselves accursed you were not there… phone the box office!
Haven’t written anything here (or anywhere else much) for a while, and I blame that pesky singing lark. It has taken over.
We are rehearsing Ramirez’s Navidad Nuestra, carols and RTR stuff for Blackheath Halls on the 16th December, end of term concert forRaise the Roof at the Horniman Museum TODAY!!!! 2.30pm,
and a selection of more unusual carols with Summer All Year Long in aid of Crisis for 17th December,
3pm at Crofton Park Library, 4pm at Hills & Parkes Deli 49 Honor Oak Park and 5pm at The Broca Cafe Coulgate Street Brockley, right by the station.
It’s all huge fun, but time consuming, and there’s always room to be made for just one more extra rehearsal, or (Latin American) Spanish to be written out phonetically and big enough to be read (Score is unreadable), or posters to be designed, printed, distributed.
Would I have it any other way?
No. But the garden is neglected, I was writing Christmas cards at 5am this morning, and Christmas shopping started yesterday – normally I’d have it all tied up by September!
That said I highly recommend Cockpit Arts in Deptford (and Holborn) for Christmas presents of a very classy kind. I won’t go into detail or everyone will get previews of what will be in their stockings on the 25th… but check out their website.
And when not rehearsing or performing I’m attending musical events.
Highlights recently Coope Boyes and Simpson at the Goose is out, Goose is out singaround at the Mag, two versions of Figaro… and yet to come Lewisham Choral Society at St Mary’s Ladywell on the 10th, and Nunhead Community Choir on the 11th
I had high hopes of getting to lots of the Spitalfields Winter Festival, which has some really exciting things on, but there’s so much on locally that I think I’ll be lucky to make it to even one, and then of course there’s the Welcome Yule at Southbank on the 18th, might try to squeeze that in.
And there’s been less successful outings, a disappointing Eugene Onegin at ENO, which was too static, under characterised, and had a very odd libretto although the sets were wonderful (I worry when the sets are what I’m praising – I also worry when people laugh at Onegin’s anguish when he realises what a disastrous mistake he’s made), I really think rough edges not withstanding our Blackheath production was vastly superior… followed by an APPALLING Castor and Pollux also at ENO, which by comparison made Onegin look like a shining light of dramatic excellence. I know I shouldn’t judge an opera by it’s dramatic punch, but I do, if I just wanted the music I could listen to a disc. Rameau’s music is exquisite and I can’t fault the orchestra nor the singers, particularly Allan Clayton as Castor, but the director showed very little respect for his singers, who were required to (I was going to say act, but really; no) behave like disturbed and sexualised toddlers. I winced for them I really did.
The storyline was rather throw away too, I didn’t much care which of the brothers died and I wasn’t moved by their dilemma, mainly because the production (and lack of it) detracted from the music in a depressingly consistent way. I can only assume the budget for scenery and costume had been blown on the other productions, This was naff, and I was not surprised that Roderick Williams (Pollux) was taken ill, the amount of compost and glitter they were probably breathing in, I hope no one sustained permanent damage… My dad was groaning in anguish and muttering imprecations through out. This would have been better as a concert performance, then we could have allowed Rameau to light our imaginations and conjured up Hell and Jupiter for ourselves, rather than having it channelled for us by Little Britain doing zombiesRus.
I found myself wisting after the productions of Handel (Xerxes, Ariodante) that ENO did many years ago, which were directed with wit and aplomb, and with a knowing nod to the audience; and still manage to move me; I still quote a tiny bit of recitative from Xerxes where Arsemenes is asked to woo his own beloved on behalf of his brother, the timing and phrasing of his ‘I’d rather die’ summed up his entire character. That was great singing, great acting and great direction. Handel had a hand in it too, but Rameau is good enough to deserve that kind of attention.
Most of my free waking hours since finishing the opera (apart from work, singing, partying, holidays…) have been spent fighting with the software to get the book to look beautiful. Anyone planning to do a photobook on Blurb be warned you need a lot of free RAM. It does very strange things, like randomly copying chunks of text and shoving them in somewhere else each time you try to format something. To be fair they do warn about pasting large amounts of text, but it kept crashing, and even when I put it on my new laptop, with nothing else loaded apart from the virus guard, and it didn’t save except when you shut it, so if it crashed you lost the lot- so I got in the habit of saving at the end of each page and after every loading of a photo. Its taken three times as long as it should have… But it is finally done, and I’ve ordered a proof copy. waiting eagerly!
UPDATE: Comment from Readers:
You chart the gradual emergence of the opera in such a lively and insightful way – it’s a kind of scraggy, no- hoper kitten that turns into a fat cat with presence. It’s a real window into how nourishing participation in the arts can be.
Lovely reminder of the intensity of that time in the summer. Great text and pictures, apart from me on page 10 looking like an elephant about to charge !! I sat up late last night chortling away and am now regretting it as eyes on stalks. Thank you Cherry. A terrific job.
Perhaps Damian Thantrey’s chisel-featured Onegin was not self-centred enough (after all, after the performance he opened the door for me as I left), but I liked the way he threw over most of the chairs in his final confrontation with Tatyana.