Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The garden today (1 November 2016)

This is what I saw in my garden today.


Late-flowering roses


Monday, 10 October 2016

The garden this morning (10 October)

This morning I looked out of my window and saw these fuchsias - an Autumn flowering!!

And one lovely late-blooming rose!!! 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

DIARY OF ANNE FRANK by Grigori Frid. Edinburgh Fringe August 2016

About Turn Theatre Company, directed by SEBASTIAN UKENA 

This opera based on the Diary of Anne Frank is a very sparse staging by director SEBASTIAN UKENA.

 One woman (POLLY OTT when I saw it, she shared the role with VERA HILTBRUNNER) sings the role of Anne Frank, starting on her 13th birthday, which is when she gets the diary. 
When it opens, she and her family cannot guess the fate that is in store for them, and so the first scene is a happy young girl, just emerging from childhood, enthusing over her lovely birthday presents. The change from the happiness and security of childhood to insecurity, fear, and finally going into hiding, is movingly depicted in the music of GRIGORI FRID, which is more than an 'accompaniment;. but music as an integral part of the drama, depicting the emotions that words can't quite accomplish (so Wagnerian in effect, if not in scale!!) The piano was played by the excellent and talented STAVROULA THOMA.

Anne's experience is tied up with all the varied and turbulent emotions of adolescence, and leads to a heart-rending scene in which she prays almost inaudibly for help, or perhaps just the strength and courage to continue. Then this is followed by a comic scene in which she narrates a quarrel between the Van Daans, the other couple sharing their hideout. No-one was a saint, and the pressures of living like this must have been incredible, but she manages to extract humour from this situation.

It is the story of one young girl who never survived into adulthood, as the voice of a generation of victims and sufferers, and during the performance she fills the stage with photographs of other victims of oppression and persecution. Anne never lost her faith in the basic goodness of humanity, though, in spite of everything.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The garden this morning (7 June 2016)




Thursday, 3 September 2015

Der Fliegende Hollander, Bayreuth, 28 August 2015




RICHARD WAGNER: The Flying Dutchman

(Romantic Opera in Three Scenes)

Bayreuther Festspielhaus, 28 August 2015

Daland                                                    Kwagnchul Youn
Senta                                                       Ricarda Merbeth
Erik                                                         Tomislav Muzek
Mary                                                        Christa Mayer
Steersman                                                Benjamin Bruns
Dutchman                                                Samuel Youns
Chorus and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
Conductor                                               Axel Gober                                       

I have finally achieved my ambition, and made it to Bayreuth...nothing will ever be the same for me after this experience.....my first Pilgrimage up the Green Hill!! (Well, I got a taxi, since I have a mobility problem, but the effect is the same....still a pilgrimage for me). There are these rather entertainingly kitsch images of Wagner throughout the town....
Nothing really prepares you for experiencing the Bayreuth sound in real life....yes, I've heard countless broadcasts and recordings, seen countless DVDs, but this time I really felt the effect of the way the sound is projected by the covered orchestra pit. Such an exciting performance of the overture, the idea of the turbulent sea very convincingly portrayed, and the music of Senta's ballad echoing it sympathetically.
Musically, the performance was dominated by Senta (Ricarda Merbeth), making it as much her opera as the Dutchman's......she was well-matched by Samuel Youn as the Dutchman.
All the roles were well sung, Tomislav Muzek very lyrical as Erik, and Benjamin Bruns making the Steersman perhaps more interesting than usual, for reasons I shall come to when I discuss the staging. The chorus, such a vital part of this opera, were superb, their actions were choreographed almost like a ballet.
The production was a bit quirky, but I liked it. There isn't a vast amount of visual reference to the sea, but that doesn't matter, as it is so strong musically. The first scene seems to take place in the control room of a state of the art nuclear submarine (?), with Daland and the Steersman in a boat (lifeboat) hanging over the side. Unfortunately, I could not find an image of this impressive stage set, but here at least are Daland and the Steersman.

As you see, they are not dressed as sailors, but in rather smart civilian clothes, as are the other sailors.

There is a reason for this, in that there is a sub-plot in which Daland and the steersman run a (slightly dodgy?) business importing electrical goods, which is what the girls are unpacking during the 'Spinning Chorus'. I don't have a problem with this, the Spinning Chorus is just a plot device to mark the scene change (and if it were a Spinning Chorus, it would give me a chance to nit-pick about whether the spinning wheels were in any sense authentic!!) The sub-plot is going to turn out to have relevance to the Senta/Dutchman plot in the end.
I want to move on to the Senta/Dutchman scene - the 'Not Love Duet', as it were. (Remember he sings - translation by me - 'This deep burning sensation I feel....may I who am so wretched call it love? Oh no, it's the yearning for redemption....may it be mine through such an angel').  Senta has worked herself up into a passion of obsession during the Ballad, and the Duet was unbelievably intense. There is Daland's jolly tune as he exhorts Senta to seize the chance to gain a rich husband, and then it gradually dawns on him......they're doing just fine, I'll make myself scarce. (They are standing on the boxes that the electrical goods came in....there is a point to this!)

As soon as he leaves, the whole orchestral colouring changes, and any connection with ordinary life is severed......it isn't that they are actually communicating with each other, but that each is finding the fulfilment of their deepest dreams....she of the need to redeem him, he of the yearning for redemption. as soon as the duet is over, she goes up to him and grabs him, kissing him passionately.....just as Erik said she did in his dream narration.......and then they do communicate directly, and she reaches the height of exultation, as she goes to put on angel wings, and puts a crown (halo?) on the Dutchman's head. This was about the most intense performance, musically and dramatically, that I have seen...the production is perhaps built round Senta rather than the Dutchman, and I was impressed by the strong ringing tones, and the passionate characterisation.

For the chorus in the next scene, the girls have changed out of their blue overalls (about the only splash of colour in the staging), and put on party dresses in shades of while, grey and black.....it looks attractive, if somewhat stylised.
Then the final scene...no, she doesn't throw herself into the sea, she climbs onto the boxes on which he is sitting, and they are united in death.....the audience can see blood on his chest, earlier he tried to cut himself but of course nothing happened.......look at the blissful expression on her face as she cradles him.

In the final tableau, it looks as if Daland and the others have decided to make memorial statues of Senta and the Dutchman....that was the point of the packaging. I thought it was rather an interesting idea....they have achieved what they wanted out of life (i.e, death!!) but people will always remember them.

Such a splendid achievement by the Bayreuth team. Now I have to start saving up for next year!!!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

A very sad day for his many admirers - Terry Pratchett, author of the DISCWORLD series, has died aged 66. I can't believe there will be no more Discworld novels - he never seemed to run out of ideas, and was so witty and stylish.

This is my favourite quote:

The proliferation of iridescent crystals and luminous fungi in dark caves where the torchlessly improvident hero needs to SEE is one of the most obvious examples of the intrusion of narrative causality into the physical universe.  (The last Continent).

Can never decide which is my favourite novel, but I loved GOING POSTAL, which is really a polemic against privatisation. 

Oh well....off to make some of Nanny Ogg's Carrot and Oyster Pie. I expect Terry is already leading Death a merry dance.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Anti-TTIP Protest, Brussels, 3-4 February. Day 2

The second day started with the Trojan Horse Protest outside the European Commission. This protest was organised in cooperation with Friends of the Earth Europe, who made this video of the event. The speakers explain why TTIP is considered to be a Trojan Horse, and why we should protest against it.

After the protest, we all walked (yes, including me!) from the European Commission to the European Parliament, to meet with our Green MEPs.

Our Green MEPs are Jean LambertKeith Taylor and Molly Scott Cato. Here they are at a discussion chaired by a member of the German Greens. They were also joined by Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans, who sits in the European Parliament as a Green. (I could hardly believe that I was really in Brussels, attending a meeting at the European Parliament. And they provided us with lunch!)

The Green Group has consistently opposed TTIP from its inception, as have the Left groups, but apparently not the Social Democrats. The discussion involved pointing out that there is much more to TTIP  than a trade treaty, it is not merely about 'goods crossing borders'. As we had already learnt, it is more about lowering standards of environmental protection so as to increase the profits of multi-national organisations, There was more discussion on ISDS, to which we had been introduced on the previous day, and we were reminded of the fact that corporations can sue governments, but not the reverse.  The introduction of TTIP would mean multinational corporations making the laws, not governments, The measure of the special tribunal would be whether INVESTMENTS had been damaged.

Keith Taylor pointed out that bilateral trade agreements are only about money (profits), and wider social and environmental issues are routinely ignored. 
Molly Scott Cato also spoke on the theme of finance, pointing our that a 'trade' treaty is really a corporate power treaty, enabling corporations to move finance, not goods.The banks are still not properly regulated, but TTIP asks for reductions on regulation.

Jean Lambert reinforced the theme that had already  been discussed, that implementation of TTIP would pose a threat to the UK National Health Service and to public services in general (throughout the EU).

Jill Evans spoke on the threat to food safety standards, and the question of food labelling, Apparently there is very little food labelling in the US, and the treaty would require a reduction in the standards of safety and explicitness in food labelling in the EU. It is a very political issue! 

We then moved on to a discussion with Labour MEPs, led by David Martin, a Scottish MEP. The Labour group are less committed in their opposition to TTIP than the Green group, perhaps more prepared to give it consideration under certain circumstances, David Martin said that he did believe in 'free trade if possible, but only if it's fair'. He said that there could perhaps be a 'good' TTIP, which would be good for jobs and good for growth,  but it would have to enshrine labour rights in law. He claimed that the discussions have not reached the point where it's possible to be for or against TTIP since it is still 'a blank sheet of paper'. 

He then told a heckler, 'If you're not here to listen, just piss off', which some of us thought was quite funny, but he then had to apologise. The hecklers were quite annoying......how often does anyone get the chance to go to the European Parliament and discuss serious issues? 

That was the final meeting, and then we returned to London, with a lot to think about, and with the intention of continuing the campaign.

I'll just finish with something that  is not connected with the campaign, but I found rather amusing,....at one point a woman came up to me and asked where I was was from. I said, 'London - Green Left', and she said....'Oh...you're not from Shetland, then?' This is why!!

This was what I was wearing......I did indeed knit it for Shetland Wool Week, interesting that someone in Brussels recognised the design!!