Another evening of music theatre
This afternoon had been weird and intense - essentially I was helping Abigail's brother sort through her books and that left me thinking intensely about her life and the things we shared and the things we did not. She owned a vast number of Everyman editions of poets, for one thing, and, unlike some of her books, they were in good nick - I remember that one of those series, possibly Everyman, used to have on their jackets a schtick about how if after another flood, a box of Everyman editions or whatever were to float on the face of the water, Western Civ could be reconstructed. (This was long enough ago that this was seen as uncomplicatedly a good thing.) Looking at how all those books survived Abigail, they are clearly built to last - and probably indigestible by the cockroaches that will also survive atomic war.
I found - and this really freaked me - a copy of Alastair Mackintosh's book on the French Symbolists. One of my dead exes had a book by another of my dead exes - logical of course even if they hadn't known each other - but kind of a way for destiny to blow a raspberry at me nonetheless.
And a copy of Nights at the Circus
inscribed by me, not to Abi, but to Ashleigh (the amour fou of my mid-30s for those who are new readers or don't keep score). I just do not know how that was there - because, not the obvious...
So, thanks to Oliver and Nancy, off to Peter Grimes
as the first of many 60th birthday presents. I'd never loaved that opera before - part of the reason was that ENO did it with a huge chorus, so that the angry townsfolk are a genuinely scary part of the work, and at least as dangerous as the sea which dominates the orchestral writing. It's a portrait of the British in one of their periodic vicious fits of morality - Grimes is an anti-hero who is morally responsible for the deaths of his apprentices, but he is not a deliberate killer. People know that at some level and decide not to care - partly because of Miss Smedley, the nearest thing the opera has to a villain - she is being Miss Marple out of sheer ego.
It's the most full-bloodedly operatic of Britten's operas, partly because it is effectively his first - music theatre pieces before it, that aren't operas, not even Paul Bunyan
- and it wears its influences productively - and they range from Puccini's Turandot
to Berg's Wozzek
via Weill's Rise and Fall of the city of Mahagonny
while also being totally and recognizably Britten in every note.
Also, I thought I knew the score quite well - but there were bits like the female quartet in the second act that I had never really listened to in quite that intent a way before, and which broke my heart.
It was sung in English - well, obviously, given it is - but as usual who knew?