Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Don't get me started on...

...people who include pets as "signatories" on their Christmas cards. The Season of Goodwill is stressed and strained enough as it is without extra provocation.

The ox and ass know their place in a Nativity scene, but a pony in Verdi's Falstaff? Well, at the outset of Act III, one puts in an appearance in Robert Carsen's syndicated production. It was relayed from The Met. to us amongst others - not that many, surprisingly - in our local Cineworld on Saturday evening. A riotously enjoyable evening it was too, discounting a few excesses (in addition to the pony): these so easily take attention away from a score that describes the action more than sufficiently. So, the wonderful orchestral accompaniment to "Mondo ladro" etc. was lost by my efforts to discern where Falstaff had ended up when he should have been "seated on a bench beside the door of the Garter Inn" (according to the stage directions).

As suggested in the interval discussion, Falstaff is a giant standing on the shoulders of others - Figaro and Meistersinger, but also Rosenkavalier. And something of the humanity, the stillness of a very great work needs bringing out, that was just a little lacking on Saturday. Nevertheless, for the first time in a while at these relays, I felt an urge to clap at the end.

This made me reflect again on a weird genre: the audience in New York is enjoying a live performance, but though we are watching it real-time, we might as well not be. It could be the Oscars on telly at home. I guess that's why I prefer the relative anonymity of Screen 4 (possibly Cineworld's largest auditorium) to the chi-chi of the more exclusive Screening Rooms downstairs. There you are in a full house, waited on with wine and nibbles while you wallow in leather seating alongside other regulars.

I discussed this over wine and (somewhat more than) nibbles with Robert Padgett, Chairman of the Cheltenham Opera Society, at lunchtime on Sunday. What was the effect of all these relays, I wondered, upon the audience for the actual performances (in New York, London, Glyndebourne, Stratford etc.); and upon the audience for less prestigious productions in the same towns/cities as had the relays?

Not much photography lately: so here instead is an image taken when out walking on an icy lane this time last year - it was a good few degrees colder then.

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