Friday, May 22, 2009

Stone culture

A day of double culture – as well as multiple teaching opportunities!

It has now been confirmed that my present contract ends at the end of June and my new (albeit permanent) contract starts in September. The summer months are therefore without pay. Although unfortunate, this is no more than I expected.

I do now have an official form of written confirmation from the school that I have a new contract and I hope to use this to force the thieving estate agents and the grasping owner to give me back my six months of rent which has been put in a form of criminal restraint known as an aval bancario.

This is ‘my’ bank (BBVA, aka The Worst Bank in the World) which is holding six months’ rent and charging me an arm and a leg for doing so. This form of ‘insurance’ for the owners is nothing short of a scandalous rip-off and should have been banned years ago, but there are far too many vested interests for it to be done easily. So, the outmoded sucking away of funds will go on happening. I do imagine that El Crisis must be making these unreasonable demands a little less easy to demand. I wait to see what happens.

I was able to revisit the Museu Monestir de Pedralbes which is a hop, skip and a jump from our school, but which is much more difficult to find if you are in the car.

Entry to this museum is (as I discovered when I said that I was a teacher and a Friend of MNAC) free to members of the profession.

The monastery church is only open in the mornings but the cloisters and the gallery are open until 5 pm so I was able to leave the hustle and bustle of our private school infested area and step back to the cloistered calm of a previous age.

The elegant columns which line the sides of the cloisters enclose an open courtyard with a central goldfish pool; a herb garden and various other pieces of architectural whimsy – or religious significance depending on your spiritual proclivities!

I was hoping to get some photos of the art works held by the monastery, but the gallery was closing by the time I got round to trying to get in. Good reason to plan another trip! The monastery is exactly the sort of calm location that everyone should have tucked away for use when times become a little crowded. Especially as teachers get in for free!

I went straight from my visit to the Monestir de Pedralbes to the centre of Barcelona. Straight is probably not the most honest word to use for the progress that I made trying to find the Plaça de Catalunya, but at least I drove past new bits of the city in my somewhat tortuous progress to my traditional parking spot.

Yet again I was dismayed and astonished (still!) at the dreadful attitude to driving, parking and overtaking which is demonstrated by so many of the drivers in the city.

Motor cyclists and scooter drivers are simply the scum of the earth and should be extirpated in a systematic and professional way by a governmental extermination squad, rather than waiting for the drivers themselves to winnow out their numbers by the homicidal and suicidal way in which they drive.

As I have mentioned before, my lip now curls in disgust whenever I see a young person on crutches or with limbs encased in plaster – these are reliable indications that the ostensible ‘victims’ are actually blatantly parading their self inflicted injuries gained from the idiotic way in which they have failed to thread their way through non-existent gaps in the traffic.

By the time I finally arrived at my destination I was more than ready for a self indulgent wander round my favourite second hand book shop and then have an overpriced, but more than acceptable menu del dia in one of the main thoroughfares of Barcelona.

All of the preceding was an attempt to delay talking about the opera that I went to see this evening.

‘Fidelio’ in the Gran Teatre del Liceu was directed by Jürgen Fimm around scenery designed by Robert Israel. I liked the scenery.

The opera was undersung by what I consider to be a second rate cast. Gabriele Fontana as Fidelio produced a, shall we say, mature voice with a most unpleasant vibrato. Her acting (like everyone else’s) was mannered, melodramatic and of course unconvincing. Her vibrato however faded to a mere irritation when compared with that employed by Ian Storey as Florestan. His vocal gymnastics reminded me of a two tone police siren.

Friedmann Röhlig as Rocco was acceptable and Elena Copons as Marzelline was positively enjoyable. Lucio Gallo, however in his presentation of Don Pizarro was positively awful. His wooden acting and unsteady vocal range bordered on the ludicrous.

‘Fidelio’ is a positive opera with true love and selfless devotion winning through in the end – perhaps not a convincing message for an age of cynical dismissal like ours. There were hints of a darker picture in the presentation of the narrative but they were not developed and were certainly not thought through.

The opening moments of the overture were depressing as the sound was lacking in resonance and reminded me of those dreadful recordings of Toscanini which sound as though they have been recorded in a shoe box. The sound quality also reminded me of the worst excesses of The New Theatre in Cardiff! Act II was better with a much warmer sound – perhaps it had something to do with the orientation of the seat I was in!

Musically Fidelio is a wonderful opera. I look forward to seeing another performance so that it can erase the memory of what I have seen and heard tonight!

At least I have seen a sufficient number of operas to be able to put it down to experience. An expensive experience though.

Roll on the next season!
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