A hobbit’s morning at the opera

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So that was La Traviata, the end of the current Metropolitan Opera season.  I delighted in Natalie Dessay’s performance.  I found it fragile and moving.  The pared-down modern setting worked for me.  I was quite weepy by the end.

The highlights of this season for me remain Satyagraha with its combination of vision and music; and Gounod’s Faust, which set in the Manhattan Project was the discovery of a good opera.

Apart from that I’ve been to Parish Council this week, and I will have to act on meeting of the Pastoral Committee.  There is much for us to discuss.



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We are nearly at the end of the current season of operas.  Today was a French opera which I only remembered was playing last night.  It was one that I was unfamiliar with.  Manon Lescaut, played by the lovely Anna Netrebko, arrives in Paris.  Her fatal flaw is her high-spirits, which has compelled her family to send her away to a convent.  Almost instantly in Paris she encounters men: her ne’er-do-well cousin Lescaut; the wealthy Guillot who wants to possess her for her own; and the young Chevalier des Grieux, who looks like an accountant, who falls in love with her and they steal away together.  He is played by Piotr Beczala.

Paris is full of tenements and they end up in an attic.  Des Grieux is a poor aristocrat.  While Manon loves Chevalier, when she discovers that his father is going to kidnap her to end this mad affair she does not prevent it.  After that she is courted by the whirlwind of high society with powerful men and mercantile ladies.  She cannot resist when she discovers that Des Grieux has become a Abbé of the church.  They still love each other and when they meet she literally defrocks him.  There is something about a man under holy vows that women find quite irresistable.

Still Manon has a taste for the high-life and they spend his mother’s legacy in a month.  I would have thought that 30 000 francs was a lot of many in nineteenth century France but she manages it.  She convinces Chevalier that he can win against Guillot at the wealthy and unsavoury gambling den The Hotel Transylvania.  It’s not just for vampires any more.  Chevalier shows beginners luck.  Guillot is a sore loser, repeatedly shown in the opera, and calls in the law.  His ally is revealed to be the Count de Grieux and Chevalier cannot prevent Manon being carried off.

Lescaut and Chevalier bribe the prison guards and they free Manon.  Prison life hasn’t been healthy for Manon and she dies in Chevalier’s arms.  Thus ends the life of Manon Lescaut.  That’s all folks!!!

Yet again opera shows this mad love for the woman who must face her own tragedy.  What is with that?


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So that was Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.  I’m glad I’ve seen this series to the end.  The singers were excellent.  Oh, my, what a long story.  Twenty hours of screen time, four different operas, over two seasons.  That’s exhausting.  I don’t need to see this one again, unless someone does something radically different with it.  There’s little chance of that happening.  After a hundred years achieveing something new with Wagner is going to be a challenge.

My mother was here for the opera and I’ve put her on the bus back to Invercargill.  She has an appointment for a colonoscopy tomorrow and she is beginning the final stages of preparation for it.  Fortunately I know that family will be keeping an eye on her after the operation.

Not The Icons Tour

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Earlier this month there was a weekend bike tour where participants had to drive 2000 kilometres over two days.  The police were unhappy with this event.  When they heard that the Rusty Nuts Bike Club was organising a New Zealand Icons Tour over a week with 6000+ km.  They pressured the club to call off the event.  The club did so, but the news did not get out to everybody so there were a dozen people who were not doing the tour, which involved not motoring around the country and not taking photos of various public landmarks around New Zealand.  There are no photos of me holding a pirate flag outside the Speights brewery or the former Burt Munro house in Invercargill, and I did not take some interesting photos in Gore, nor did we cross over on the Tuapeka ferry.  We did not not go to Riverton in the end, and I decided not to travel down to Bluff for the gathering for the tour that didn’t happen as I had only not done one day of it.  Besides I remember how bad the weather was the last time I went out to Bluff on the back of a motorbike.

My mother showed me a new shirt that she found in a sale at a menswear shop and thought I would like.  It was thought by one person at the family clan-gathering on Saturday night that it was suitable grounds for a divorce for anyone’s partner to wear it.  I am looking forward to wearing it to work later this week, probably Friday.

I saw Southern Dave who is reduced to reading books as he doesn’t have a working computer.  It’s about time he read some of his collection in my opinion!

The return trip to Dunedin was made exciting due to heavy wet weather which made travelling positively dreich.  Not to mention that The Phantom left his belt containg his licence, wallet, cell phone, etc., in Invercargill and we lost two hours waiting for it to catch up with him.

Another half hour and I will have to go out and meet my mother who is coming up today to see Götterdämmerung at the Rialto.  My visit to Invercargill meant we had no opportunity to see it at the weekend.  So, six hours of Wagner, here we come.  Hope I stay awake!


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I ran out of flavoured milk.  I use it for making hot chocolate.  My recipe is spoon chocolate into a cup until the bottom is thickly covered, about three teaspoonfuls.  Add a little instant coffee.  Blend together into a syrup with flavoured milk to make it interesting.  Fill the cup with hot water.  Stir as the water is added to make a thick, even and strongly flavoured consistency.  It’s my favorite drink.  In the evening I make Milo instead.  About the same consistency of thickness.

When I ran out of flavoured milk I changed to tea instead.  Loose leaf, made with a spoon-like tea infuser with a hinged-lid.  That allows for a fresh tea  without the awful taste of tea-bags.  The taste of tea bags I consider to be a modern sin.  Unfortunately I find tea passes through me very quickly.  I’m getting old.  Also I went through the normal milk very quickly.  It meant I had an excuse to go to the shops to buy more milk, both white milk and flavoured.  Flavours with which I have experimented include Chocolate, Jaffa, Cookies and Cream, Lime, and Banana.

I’ve been to see the Metropolitan Opera’s The Enchanted Islandwhen my mother visited.  I confess I was disappointed with it.  I was expecting the same creative team would bring back the puppeteers that they used on Satyagraha.  That opera was magical for me and I loved it.  I was disappointed that not much of their work was included.  I think that they were in one scene where Caliban summoned spirits for his kingdom.

I was also unhappy with the make-up for Caliban.  Face painted like an Amazonian native, dreadlocks, and body suit like an orc.  The history of Caliban is complicated by changing attitudes to the treatment of the Native as Other.  I felt that this costume was confused and the libretto missed an opportunity to make a new statement about this character.  Despite that the character was more sympathetically treated than Shakespeare’s original play.

Lots of good things about this opera.  There is good opportunity to play with magic and steampunk in this story.  I loved the entry of Neptune to the fanfare from Zadok the Priest.  The computer generated scenery came out of the Metropolitan Opera’s work with Wagner’s Götterdämmerung over the last two seasons.  I am disappointed that it is not going on my highlights of the 2011-2012 season.

I’m listening to Love and Fear by Tom Russell again.  Stealing Electricity definitely belongs on my Top Ten at the Dayglo Disco.  I have loved that song ever since I heard William Dart using it as a trailer for his Pressing On show on Radio New Zealand Concert.  Not current on Concert’s website, but I see that he is still doing New Horizons.

Visiting with

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Inspired by a recent post on Omniglot I added a new reflexive verb to the Brithenig Wordlist: gwisitarsi cu.  It means ‘to pay a visit, to visit with…’, the act of visiting someone regularly for a good chat: Mam si wisitara cumeg: Mum will pay me a visit (which she will when she comes up to Dunedin to see The Enchanted Island, a Metropolitan opera at the Rialto this weekend).


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Faust by Berlioz put me to sleep last season.  I wasn’t expecting much better from Gounod’s version.  Especially since descriptions of Gounod dismiss him as being piously Catholic.  I couldn’t be more wrong.  I loved it!  The director placed Dr Faust as part of the Manhattan Project, haunted by the ghosts of Nagasaki.  Faust and Marguerite are projected onto a giant screen like an image of Big Brother: Faust as dystopia?  Despite working around bright young things for scientists, Faust finds no meaning in design and would rather drink poison.  Enter Mephistofiles, the devil with the dance moves, and the lies and despair, played by Rene Pape.  He is willing to take Faust into his service and they flee back in time to Faust’s halcyon days, which in this version seems to be the time of the Great War.

It is fun until death enters rather shockingly and Mephistofiles reveals his dark side.  There is a duel.  Walpurgis Night takes place in the shadow of a nuclear explosion and the fellowship of unholy fallout.  Mephistofiles’ temptation of Marguerite takes place in the framework of a church with a choir barely restrained from breaking out into Gospel.  That could have been fun!  Initially I thought that Marina Poplavskaya had to strong a face to play Marguerite.  She came into her own in the stark scene that ends the opera.

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