Me and my camera at the ENO

Today, thanks to GodDaughter2, who is a singing student, I got to see a dress rehearsal of a new opera being staged by English National Opera called Jack The Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel. I had my camera with me, but these places don’t encourage photography, so I was assuming I’d emerge from the Coliseum with only the memories of what we’d seen and heard.

The story was, of course, gruesome, and GodDaughter2 grumbled about the lighting, which was relentlessly dark and depressing. However, the music was pleasingly tonal, drenched in melodies, and most especially in harmonies, of a sort that seemed, in my youth half a century ago, like they’d vanished from the world of new opera for ever.

Back in that stricken post-Schoenbergian musical no-man’s-land, posh music was thought to “progress”, like science. And it had progressed up its own rear end into unmelodious, unharmonious, unrhythmic oblivion, and because this was progress, no way back was permitted. But then, that was all blown to smithereens by the likes of Philip Glass and John Adams. Iain Bell, the composer of Jack The Ripper, operates in the musical world established by those two American giants.

So even though we were about a quarter of a mile away from the action, up near the ceiling, and thus couldn’t make out anyone’s face, just being there was a most agreeable experience.

And then come the curtaln call at the end, there was another nice surprise:

That being the final surtitle of the show, to be seen in the spot up above the stage where all the previous surtitles had been saying what they had been singing. So I got my camera out, cranked up the zoom to full power, and did what I could.

The curtain calls looked like this:

I was particularly interested in the lady in the yellow dress, on the right of the four ladies (guess what they all had in common), because that lady was Janis Kelly, who is GodDaughter2’s singing teacher at the Royal College.

Rather disappointingly, for me, was that most of the photos I took of Ms Kelly were better of the lady standing next to her when they were taking their bows, a certain Marie McLaughlin:

But I did get one reasonably adequate snap of Ms Kelly, suitably cropped (the photo, I mean) to remove Ms McLaughlin, whose nose had been sliced off in the original version that had emerged from the camera:

My camera now has much better eyesight than I do, and the gap seems to grow by the month. Okay, that photo is rather blurry. But there was a lot of zoom involved. I only managed to decipher about a third of those surtitles. One of the key members of the cast was black, but I only found this out when I got home and saw her in one of my photos (see above).

I hope a DVD, or perhaps some kind of internetted video, of this production emerges. And I think it might, because this is a show full of pro-female messages of the sort that appeal to modern tastes, and featuring one of the most spectacular exercises in toxic masculinity in London’s entire history.

I’m now going to read the synopsis of the show at the far end of the first link above, to get a a more exact idea of what happened.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Why England are getting better at football

I’ve just watched England beat Montenegro at football, in Montenegro, 5-1. A few days ago England beat The Czech Republic 5-0, in London, and I watched some of that too. England are looking good.

Here is the most convincing explanation I have found of why. In the bit under the subheading “More ball-hoggers”, it says this:

You know that lad in school who never passed the ball? Turns out he was on to something.

Ashworth says English players are already more technical than he has ever seen thanks to a revamp of the academy system in clubs and a more consistent playing style with England.

But the FA wants to go further.

Peter Sturgess, the FA’s foundation phase coach for five- to 11-year-olds, has been telling coaches up and down the country that mastering the ball is his number one priority. Passing can come later.

“We are saying that passing is important but it’s not a priority for foundation-phase children,” he told BBC Sport. “The priority is building a massive connection with the ball so their individual ability on it, in tight and pressurised situations, becomes as good as it can be.

“You put 11 of those players together on a football pitch and they can play any system you want, because they have less chance of losing the ball.”

Ashworth and Sturgess just might be onto something. To have a good football team, start by having lots of “foundation phase children” who are good at controlling a football, with their feat.

LATER: Meanwhile, in Scotland.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Be polite to autodidacts

I like this:

Never make fun of someone if they mispronounce a word. It means they learned it by reading.

One of many items of wisdom from that prolific memer, Anonymous.

And if someone misspells a word, I guess that means they learned it by hearing it.

I know what you’re thinking. How is “memer” pronounced?

And what acts did auto do?

I have a busy evening in front of me. Here, you get what you pay for.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Photoing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre

6k: (I know someone who will like this picture …) Who can he mean?

He’s talking about this picture:

I like it. And like I say, the Age of the Smartphone will be with us for quite a while yet.

I can remember when places like the Louvre used to forbid photoing. But they can hardly complain if students … take notes.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Transcendence

I am now listening to this conversation between Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson, about transcendence. While so listening, I found myself thinking back to this morning, when I listened to the first half of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, as recorded by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. I found listening to this recording to be an unsatisfying experience, which was why I did not also listen to the second half of it. For me (and I emphasise that this is only my personal take on this recording), what this recording lacks is … transcendence. To me, it sounds too brisk, too lively, too mundane, too earthly, too humdrum, too fussy. Too businesslike. Too lacking in legato. Not enough grandeur.

To repeat the point in brackets above: many, listening to this same recording, will hear exactly the virtues which, for my ear, it lacks. Gardiner himself was certainly aiming at transcendance:

That is the cover of this Gardiner recording, which is put out by Gardiner’s own label, Soli Deo Gloria, and Gardiner will definitely have approved that cover.

Neverthless, tomorrow, I think I will search in my CD collection for a different and older recording of this work, a less “authentic” one, the one conducted by Eugen Jochum. This one.

Pause.

During that pause, I conducted that search, so that tomorrow morning I won’t have to search, or to remember that I must so search. The CDs will be there, next to my CD player.

I also encountered, in one of the Amazon reviews of Jochum’s Bach B Minor Mass, praise for his recording of the Bach Christmas Oratorio. I also placed this next to my CD player.

Christmas is, after all, coming.

And, what do you know? The B Minor Mass gets an explicit mention in the Scruton/Peterson conversation. 1 hour 18 minutes in.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Surrey Docks Farm

At the end of that walk along the river with GodDaughter 2, the one when I took this photo, and these photos, I also took these photos:

This was Surrey Docks Farm. As you can see in a couple of the above photos (most clearly in 4.3), Surrey Docks Farm has (of course (this is the twenty first century)) its own website.

We were on the path beside the river, getting a bit bored with the sameness of it all, getting a bit tired, knowing that we would soon be done, and then suddenly we found ourselves wandering around in a farm. There were no humans to be seen, just farm animals. The sheep in particular seemed really glad to see us, and stayed to have their heads scratched even after it had become clear that we had brought no food with us.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog