Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, May 28, 2010

A very operatic evening

Tonight began with a visit to Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre to see Edinburgh Grand Opera's production of Verdi's Macbeth. Perhaps surprisingly given my love of opera, it wasnlt a work I was familiar with even on record, so there was the special pleasure of hearing a great opera for the first time. Hilary was playing clarinet in the pit which was another reason to go.

The production was fairly good: there were certainly a few places where it showed it wasn't a professional company, but on the whole the acting was good, and musically (under the bation of Neil Metcalfe) it was first-rate. The orchestra, while a bit smaller than what Covent Garden would use, were well up to the task: I bet there are provincial opera houses in, say, Germany with orchestras no better. the singers were all excellent as well. The production is double cast so tonight's Macbeth was Phil Gault, with Macduff Paul Featherstone: both very good indeed. Banquo (Hugh Hillyard Parker) and Lady Macbeth (Susan McNaught) were both stunning. It was being sung in Italian, which makes it more of a challenge to learn if you're not a full-time opera singer: these are big parts. Anyway, they were really good (though I suspect what may stay in my memory longest is the surtitle for what in Shakespeare is "Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined", which after translation and retranslation emerged as "The porcupine howled at the wind". (We have porcupines in Scotland? Why have I never seen one? They're cool!)

Then we came home to find our daughter glued to the BBC's televised Marriage Of Figaro, which she had been enjoying so much she hadn't yet eaten. While I have been recording various of the Beeb's Italian Opera documentaries, I hadn't recorded this as I thought it likely I'd be the only person wanting to watch it and we have a lot of DVDs. OK, mistake, and so Hilary was on the computer ordering the DVD from Amazon fairly quickly. Vanessa asked if she could order the DVD of Operavox for her while she was on. Operavox, I should explain, was a series of half-hour abridgements of classic operas with animation rather than live action. It was televised when Vanessa was maybe five or six, and she loved them. We video'd them all: there was The Magic Flute, Carmen, Rigoletto, The Rhinegold, The Barber of Seville and Turandot. All with different kinds of animation, all in English with spoken dialogue rather than recitative. Very child-friendly (though she didn't like Rigoletto much!) She didn't like Magic Flute either because she loved the Ingmar Bergman film version (we brought her up properly!) and felt the abridgement left out the best bits. (If you've never seen the Bergman Magic Flute, BTW, get it. When I bought the DVD it was only on Region 1, but maybe there's a Region 2 now. Whatever: BEST opera film EVER.) So we got talking about Operavox and ended up watched Vanessa's (and my) favourite one on YouTube. So here you are. If you're not hooked by the end of the overture, well, you're very different from me:







And as for the Bergman Magic Flute (in Swedish, BTW), it contains the only version I have ever seen, filmed or live, of the "Papageno/Papagena" duet which is not insufferably twee. This is how you do it:

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