Not a Ring Cycle to ‘keep’, I think.
I have just (well, yesterday, though it stretched into today by the time the curtain came down) sat through The Twilight of the Gods and thus have seen the whole of the Liceu’s present Ring Cycle. I know when confronted with such a towering masterpiece of musical genius (though very much a flawed man) I should set forth my analysis and remember my academic pretentions and write something perceptive and appreciative. Perhaps I will. But another time.
For me this Cycle was marked by a pleasing amount of real fire and a confusing amount of rubbish. I mean the latter in no pejorative sense, but rather in a literal one. The reforging of Northung, in a previous part of the cycle, was accomplished in a junkyard with the central prop being a dilapidated small caravan which exploded. The Rhine Maidens moved their sinuous way through tyres, a bath and other oddments that I took to be rubbish thrown into the Rhine, until Siegfried seemed to be able to move about through it with equal ease. The Norns appeared to be char ladies with mops with the ropes of destiny being looped around stacked furniture which looked as though it was in some depository, and so on.
The production was subfusc with gods and demi gods wearing ordinary to the point of tedium clothes. Seeing who was wearing heels and who was wearing flats and why became one of the more interesting design questions to ponder during the more tedious arias, because, let’s face it, it is very difficult to maintain full attention for hour after hour in what rapidly becomes and uncomfortable chair.
But such concerns were forgotten when the transcendent chorus of the Liceu came on stage during the second and third acts of the opera. Not that the orchestral playing before then was not of a superlative quality, but the wall of sound that the Liceu chorus produces sends shivers down the spine!
It was Brünnhilde’s night and deservedly so; her ovation was well merited. She had some opposition from the bass singing the role of Hagan, but the star of this performance of Götterdämmerung was Brünnhilde. Perhaps, in another post, when I have more time I will give a more considered view and actually write in the names of the great and the guilty in this production!
I have been backsliding this week. My diet has taken a hit because of the visit of Maggie. I felt it would be churlish to insist on agua fria when they were buying a bottle of wine, so I did not and drank avidly. But this is a new sort of avidity for me where one bottle was sufficient for three and at one notorious point in the early evening I put my hand over my glass to refuse a refill! Self-denial can go little further.
It was excellent seeing an old friend (and her friend, David) again, not only for the news that she had, but also for getting reacquainted with a conversational style that I have not heard for a frighteningly large number of years.
We are both older, but we talk as we always did and it is the way that the talk is structured, the way that we pause and go off at tangents, the cadences in the voice that bring back so much more than mere information. It was true time travel in the best way possible for me, via talking!
And Maggie bought a copy of my book, Flesh Can Be Bright, so I count the whole evening great success. I look forward to keeping more closely in touch with her, but with her sort of event filled life, it might be difficult. With golf, bridge, culture and travel she is constantly on the move and constantly ‘doing’ and I will have to run pretty hard to keep up with her. But worth trying I think.
One practical result of her visit has been to remind me that various arts organizations around the world now broadcast some of their live performances to cinemas. The NT does, though I am not yet sure if they have an ‘outlet’ anywhere in Barcelona. I know that there are ballet and opera opportunities, and I will keep my eyes open to try and expand my ‘live’ performance quota. I used to go to orchestral performances in Barcelona until my opera going claimed my time and cash. There is no reason why I cannot do both, especially as the Liceu is much more flexible about the changing of seats for their subscribers nowadays. This really is a note to self and a call to action!
On the degree front, we are now all waiting for our pro-formas to be returned. These are the OU approved ways of letting you tutor know what it is that you have decided to write your ‘long essay’ on for the last piece of work in the course. I have chosen to study a painter called Lluís Dalmau whose most famous painting is called The Virgin of the Councillors and was painted 1443-1445.
This is one of only two works which are unequivocally by him: one in Barcelona and the other, down the road in St Boi.
My pro-forma outlined my approach and cited works which I will use in the final essay. The tutor will look at what I have written and make suggestions which I will then take on board by modifying my approach in response to her guidance and then write the essay. All simple and straightforward. Not. You only have to read the forums for our course to see the panic which is setting in and the desperation which drips from some posts! I maintain a lofty position of superiority at the moment because I have found lots of references and I am ahead of the reading requirements of the main course which is still going on.
This will, of course all change as soon as I start writing the last normal essay of the course and start on the long essay. I will probably not post on the forums, but I will walk up and down in my shockingly untidy ‘office’ on the third floor – and will look longingly at the terrace as soon as the sun comes out!
Tomorrow a meeting with Suzanne, a few art exhibitions and a menu del dia in MNAC – overpriced, but worth it!