Monday, April 20, 2009

How long to the hols? Dear God!

A sticky day today: definitely time for me to assume the mantle of the short sleeved shirt for my professional duties.

The pupils are (dismayingly) wayward as if the date were a damn sight nearer to the end of June than it is in depressingly real life. Or perhaps this is just a reaction to taking a Year 9ish class last thing in a long, long day!

The lunch we get still more than makes up for any student obstreperousness. I have now developed a meticulous approach to these meals and I refuse to have wine unless I am not teaching in the afternoon: such professionalism!

Still nothing about my continued contract, but on the other hand I have been encouraged to find an immersion course in Spanish to take in the summer –that surely is something of a good sign!

In the evening to the Liceu for what I think was a world premiere of ‘La Cabeza del Bautista’ by Enric Palmoar. The libretto was adapted by Carlos Wagner from a text included in the series of plays collected in the ‘Retablo de la avaricia, la lujuria y la muerte’ by Ramón Ma del Valle-Incián. The title, by its reference to the head of John the Baptist suggests that the melodramatic story of the opera (a stepson returning unexpectedly to blackmail his stepfather about his mother’s murder while flirting with his stepfather’s woman. It all ends in death of course with some fairly serious necrophiliac kissing!) should be seen through a fairly close reference to Wilde’s play ‘Salome.’

The action of the play is only tangentially ‘realistic’ though it deals with real enough human motivations which lead to tragedy.

The setting when first revealed reminded me of gaunt trees more suited to a Beckett play and the later appearance of a blind man and boy is an echo of Pozzo and Lucky in ‘Waiting for Godot’. The stage was almost covered by a whole series of snooker tables to represent the billiard hall that Don Igi (well sung by José Manuel Zapata) owns and which Alberto Saco (Alejandro Marco-Buhmester; good too) enters with ideas of extortion. As far as singing is concerned La Pepona (Angeles Blancas) carried off the main plaudits. She is asked to some fairly radical things with her voice, and she has to produce some fairly authentic screams while slutting her way across the stage!

A character who propelled himself around the stage in a small wheeled trolley added a rather nice touch of Bosch to the mis en scene but there was not enough of real interest to compell attention.

Musically I remained unconvinced. Josep Caballé Domenech and the Orquestra Simfònica I Cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu were excellent but I found the sound they produced unsatisfying. There were conventional harmonic sounds and what passed for arias, but I could get little purchase on the musical life of the piece.

The reception was luke-warm to put it mildly and around my section of the theatre at least four people walked out midway through the piece. The curtain calls were barely sustained by the applause.

It is a sad reflection of the production that the sound that will remain with me is not an element of the score but the clicking sound of the stage dagger as the point disappeared into the pommel as Igi stabbed and stabbed again a well killed Saco. And it is the only time that I have seen a grave dug on stage in which real earth was thrown out of the hole! But not enough to justify an opera I think!

Bring on the next!
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