Wednesday 20 July 2011


A dilemma: what can a person do who struggles with what she is pleased to call truth or reality or 'see it as it is' when confronted with the imagination of a present - and for a long while past - director of works of Theatre or Opera? At the weekend I was privileged to hear a performance of Handel's Rinaldo at Glyndebourne. Now, this is, indeed, privilege. First, one has to have accumulated the cost. The cost will include tickets, travel and dinner for two. Second, one would have to have the interest in Opera and in one particular Opera. Third, one would need a serviceable companion, with a dinner jacket if male and a best frock if not, and fourth, one would have to have a stout pair of shoes and a strong umbrella for the habitual, prevailing conditions at the venue. In total , you will agree, this amounts to privilege in spades. Anyway, I did accumulate all of the above and we presented ourselves in due course and in due dress. So far, so comme il faut. That which was not comme il faut was the way the director saw fit to present the spectacle. In case you find a prod helpful, I will remind you that "Rinaldo" is a tale of the Crusades. There are winners and losers, goodies and badies and love and thwartation. (I know, but words must have been invented at some point by someone). Nothing too difficult there, then. The music is exquisite, delicate, exciting and fitting to the story. Nor is it too difficult to suspend disbelief. However, the director found all this below his capacity to interpret. It left him with not enough to do. Therefore, he set the scene in a current Grammar school. An adolescent boy is being bullied. He is also the butt of his teacher's sick humour and, what's more, his whipping stick. At some stage in this unhappy situation, staring at the blackboard, he visualises the characters in the stories of the Crusade he is meant to be studying. They emerge as real people. So far, so creative. However, the ethos of his dream is pure pornography. (I know, I know. But why can't I take oxymoronic license, too?) Now, if a young boy/man is to let us in to his dreams we mustn't be taken aback if those dreams turn out to be pornographic. It may even be called 'fact'. Where we are allowed to be taken aback is when the charm, the adherence to the Trinities and the glorious music are subjugated to the whim of a puerile director with no original work to back him up. His evident lack of intelligence and sensitivity was overwhelming. Nor could one close one's eyes and just listen. Well, since you need to ask, people of more than three score and ten find that the inner world regards closed eyes as a signal for bed-time. So, Dear Reader, I watched as well as listened and could find solace only in the knowledge that the Guru, whom you rightly guessed was my companion for the occasion, would probably find the production more interesting than if it had been true to Handel's intention and the mores and the dress of the actual epoch.

Talk about green ink. (Those of you who have been faithfully keeping up, may remember that I wrote about green ink and Disgruntled Tunbridge Wells, a post or four ago). I am aware that the very fact of complaining could have me categorised as retrograde and stick-in-the-mud. But
I was not alone. For the first time in my life I did something I could never have done at forty. I posted a comment on the Glyndebourne website, where I found numerous others, and I put my name to it. The inner mind is still blogging. (Oh dear: does that qualify as a pun, I ask you? Or is it just a Freudian slip?). Blog or boggle, I remain amazed at my timerity. Having confessed it, you may like to know that when I looked to see if my comment had got passed the Glyndebourne censor sergeant, I found it had but it had been attributed to 'Anonymous'. Incensed, I telephoned in my 'look here, my man' voice and climbed hastily down when I learned it was a website glitch and those of us who had the courage to make public our views under our names would have this corrected as soon as possible. However, it remains one of the sorest of trials for the elderly to find that cherished and even revered spectacles have been vulgarised and shorn of their integrity in the service of the new and the inventive and, let's acknowledge it, the vainglory of those with too little humlity to seek out the essence of a work and give it the power to attract the current audience they think is diminishing - and may well be for that matter. Why does the production have to leave the 'script'? People have been coming back to music, and, for that matter, to books, they have heard and read many, many times without expecting them to have a different cardre or a different ending or be thrillers instead of love stories. Please, tell me where the added value is in changing all those things when producing plays - Shakespeare, for instance - and, more often, Operas: thrills for thrills sake? So, what is a person to do? Close one's eyes but then - sleep, sleep perchance to dream. Aye there's the rub: and there we are, back with our director in spite of ourselves.

Now, those pedants among you will have noticed that the green ink never managed a capital letter when referring to the director. Intentional, that was, if below the conscious at the time. Prynhawn da

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