nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I really did. I have just discovered the official video to I Would Do Anything for Love, which looks like it is the most expensive Phantom of the Opera fanvid ever made*. It features a falling chandelier, oodles of candles, and a miserable, deformed, and hooded bloke who skulks around in the shadows waiting for a woman who appears inexplicably interested in him.**

I would have unironically adored it in 1993, had I known that it existed.

*With make-up rather like Buffy's vampires.

**Christine Daaé at least had the excuse of free singing lessons offering a rather better career, not to mention the mind games.
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
Here I am in the bosom of my family (TM), which is very enjoyable and not really giving me any time for writing or relaxing with a book. My plans for a couple of Yuletide treats remain unfulfilled. But it is fun even though the weather isn't. Today involves the preparation of vegetables plus the Boxing Day ham, a walk during the dry bit in order to get outside, last bits and pieces, and early dinner at an Italian restaurant in order to give my young nephews something else to be hyper about. I am giving them foam swords; in my defence, their parents asked for them. Kids' fake swords these days are amazing, I have been going around the place striking ninja poses.

Anyway, it's Christmas Eve so time for some carols, which I've been listening to while wrapping presents. O Holy Night is a classic example of something that is good in the original (have Roberto Alagna) and got translated into Victorian twee English that carefully erases any political statement, but even in English it has an excellent tune. Oh yes, and it also needs singing by someone competent.

Enter, obviously, Jussi Björling. Really, no-one does it better:

Not quite as stupendously sung, but a lot of fun, is the HP Lovecraft filk version, Unholy Night:

Best of all, the scene from Frasier, in which Martin Crane attempts to sing it:

I am summoned to the parsnips and it has started to rain again. At some point I must dash to Morrison's, but clearly not yet.
nineveh_uk: photo of lava (volcano)
There is a crucial difference between Brexit and the plot of Götterdämmerung: though both have the leaders involved throwing their hands in the air and sitting doing nothing but wait until the house burns down around them, while elsewhere a bunch of people make some staggeringly stupid decisions despite the consequences surely being obvious from the start, the characters in the latter were actually gods, as opposed to just being bitter about membership of a school club. Also, a great redemption is definitely not spreading throughout this particular world as a result of their downfall. However George Osborne was present at both.*

Despite 6 hours** of Wagner feeling like a dubious decision 24 hours in advance, it turned out to be brilliant on the day. Indeed as the end approached I felt that 6 hours was far too short and it needed at least an additional hour. Nor was I alone in thinking so, judging by the comments from audience members near me at the end, and the general riveted silence.

It was a concert performance, being the only way Opera North can afford to do something like the Ring, but it felt as if nothing was lost thereby. Big screens at the back provided surtitles (good ones, thank goodness, no faux archaism. Whatever is lost in not distinguishing between du and Sie is more than gained in not sounding stupid when read in English in performance) and a degree of setting, of riverbank or water, wooden walls of a Dark Ages hall, fiery rock etc, with the aid of some coloured lighting. It doesn't sound much, but it really worked. No singer actually vaulting onto horseback and riding into the flames*** could have been more dramatic than a woman in evening dress standing in front of the orchestra in yellowing light, voice soaring seemingly effortlessly above it. And what an orchestra! I didn't manage an on-stage count, but as an estimate combined with a conservative reading of the programme**** I'd go for about a hundred (and I've just found confirmation - 101!). The orchestra of Opera North is always one of its strengths and this occasion was no exception, they were in magnificent form.

Wagner has a reputation of being hard-core opera. On the train in I was regretting that I hadn't had time to go carefully over leitmotifs etc in order to educate myself sufficiently to appreciate it. Reader, this is rubbish. Bad Wagner is probably incomprehensible torture on grounds of length alone, but good Wagner isn't hard at all. It's wonderful music that while I'm sure it greatly rewards study is very accessible without it and the leitmotifs leap up waving and shouting notice me! Alternatively, possibly I am simply well-trained in the School of Opera North, which has long interwoven Box Office certainties with more inventive repertoire. After all, Wozzeck is not only challenging and allows you to distinguish yourself as a company, it's pretty cheap to do. Back to Götterdämmerung. The plot is perhaps not one of its strength. Wotan doesn't turn up, and we get the new family to move into Eastenders (as the preliminary talk put it, very accurately). Hagen's***** Evil Plot depends entirely on his victims all being complete idiots. Fortunately for him, this is opera, and indeed mythology. It doesn't have to make sense in order to work. Hagen was sung by Mats Almgren looking like an evil thug in a Scandinavian detective drama - the more things change, the more things stay the same - and my favourite along with Kelly Cae Hogan as Brünnhilde.

A wonderful presentation of a wonderful work. I am converted, as you can tell! I wish I might have seen it all, I'm immensely glad I saw this.

Have some music:

*This would explain why each act started 5 mins late, if he was being ushered to his seat in the dark. Perhaps he might have borrowed the rather lovely guide dog I spotted stretched out on the carpet in the bar in the second interval. It's fair to say that Goldie, alone of all the beings I saw there, did not look wholly appreciative and wore a definite air of 'how long, oh lord, how long?'

**To be precise, 4 hours 40 mins of music, the rest intervals. That makes the first act equal in length to Tosca (2 hours), and the whole thing half as long again as an uncut Figaro.

***Now I need to check if that's every been done with (i) actual soprano, (ii) actual horse, (iii) actual flames. Checked! Though the examples mentioned don't specify flames...

****No need for ten anvil-players in this one, but I've never seen so many French horns (apparently some of them are 'Wagner tubas', which he invented because he needed an extra instrument...)

***** I first came across Hagen in my German GCSE textbook, which had a really good cartoon sequence of the Nibelunglied. We didn't read that bit, which tells you everything you need to know about the approach my high school took to engaging pupils in foreign languages.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
It’s the end of term, which means great busyness at work, plus a hectic weekend as my father came to visit. On the downside, I’m tired, though that is partly my fault as I keep not going to bed early enough. On the upside I’ve done some very enjoyable things, and I’m a lot less shattered than I have been at the end of every term for the past umpteen years, on account of my new tablets. Alas their miracle effects don’t include keeping the rain off, but you can’t have everything. It took 48 hours for my shoes to dry after a walk on Saturday in wet grass.

Some things I have seen this week:

Show Boat. Dad came down on Friday night and we went to the Sheffield Crucible production, which has transferred to the New London Theatre. It was utterly fantastic, and it’s a great shame that a production that has been so well-reviewed, of a piece that is not done that often, is closing in August rather than January due to lack of ticket sales. Clearly London audiences are just unadventurous… I admit that I watched the whole thing through a haze of nostalgia for the Opera North/RSC production of the late 80s/early 90s and subsequent family listening to a recording in the car, but everyone else seemed to be having a good time, too. A good solid case saw stand-out performances from Ravenal (a young American singer), Julie and Joe – the latter two understudies, it would be hard to imagine the leads being better. In short, if you’re in London and can see it, do. Here's the trailer, and here's Willard White in concert.

When Marnie Was There To describe something as ‘charming’ often seems a double-edged compliment, with an implication that it may also be rather slight. WMWT is utterly charming on every front, but it is also a serious and thoughtful film. I’d not seen a Studio Ghibli film before and I’m regretting that now, as it looked absolutely gorgeous and was completely worth seeing at the cinema. It’s based on a British children’s story that I’d never read, and which follows a fairly standard ‘lonely girl goes to stay with people in the countryside and meets a mysterious child who lives in an old house’ trajectory, but the depiction of the children’s friendship and their lives is done with a wonderful sensitivity. We saw the subtitled version, trailer here.

Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure It’s not that I’m not accustomed to attending performances in a foreign language – I like opera, after all. It’s just that they often have surtitles, and even then you don’t need to know more than the plot. Whereas this was in German, on account of the titles for the English hour of the three-hour show being sold out.

It turns out that with a little preparation to drag ye olde GCSE more to the forefront of the mind, Eddie Izzard is surprisingly easy to understand in German. For a start, he’s British, so he speaks with the “British person talking foreign” accent that I’m used to. But also the nature of his comedy works well even if you don’t get every world. The conceit of taking a concept and drawing it out to ever-absurder lengths means that as long as you can grasp the concept you can go with it. I got completely lost only at one point when I had absolutely no idea what sort of frantically-digging animal he was on about. The options my brain tried included werewolves, my neighbour guessed crabs – if only I’d stopped trying to think “what does that word sound a bit like?” and gone instead with “which animals famously dig in the way he’s doing an impression of?”, since the answer was moles.

There clearly were more sophisticated jokes and references that the native-speaker portion of the audience was getting and people like me weren’t, but overall I was quite chuffed with my ability to follow what was going on. All I have to do now is spend the weekend reminding myself of such technical details pronoun declensions, verb conjugations, and where you put the second sodding verb before my course next week...
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I have an unfortunate habit of recording television programmes on serious subjects that I don't feel quite up to / I am busy at the time they are on, and not getting round to watching them. Slowly the DVR fills with serious television. And then on a day when I am off sick and want to watch TV* I look at the options and they are full of such things as:

* Subtitled TV drama (can't be watched without glasses).
* Documentaries on historic atrocities.
* Thing that I didn't watch at the time because actually I don't care.

Which is why in the last two days, as April continues to pretend to be winter and I have a stinking cold, I have turned to elderly videos and to YouTube and watched two films about young women finding new worlds, with bonus music.

Legally Blonde - the Musical

This was broadcast on MTV a few years ago, and some kind person has put it on YouTube, and the equally kind copyright holders haven't taken it down. It's a fairly straight adaptation of the film (a terrific comedy), very pink, and I found it a lot of fun.

Legally Blonde was always a film not only about sex, but about class. Elle is marked not only by her particular style of pink femininity, but by her West-coast-ness, her evidently very new money, her not being a 'natural fit' at ye olde establishment Harvard Law School. The major change** in the adaptation draws on this in its depiction of Emmett, from a posh bloke played by Luke Wilson who is also a partner in Callaghan's firm, to a TA who is himself also an outsider, on grounds of class. The alliance between Elle and explicitly working class characters (and working knowledge) was always one of the interesting parts of the film, and the explicit focus on it in the musical adds narrative heft to the book. Emmett and Elle's shared outsider status gives Emmett clearer motivation for his friendship with Elle beyond the film's "he's a nice person" and allows Elle to mirror the benefits she gains from his insider knowledge of Harvard and law with her insider knowledge of the transformative power of dress (and the money to pay for it).

Musically, it's not particularly interesting. The tunes are light and catchy, it moves with zip, but the music is of the kind that adds entertainment rather than depth. By far the best songs are Callaghan's jazzy Credo-like Blood in the Water and the courtroom Gay or European (2.35 for the song), which together steal not only the best tunes, but the best rhymes. Both, interestingly, are about categorisation, the first about how the (would-be) lawyer sees themself, the latter the challenge posed by the person who defies categorisation - and in its ultimate revelation of its subject as both gay and European heralds the thematic resolution of the show, in which Elle can be herself as well as a successful lawyer.

Beauty and the Beast

The 1991 Disney cartoon version, which has its own musical adaptation that I am now kicking myself for not seeing when it was touring a couple of years ago. This is an old favourite, and having not watched it with nephew in the end, I felt I would see it anyway. I can't remember if I saw it originally at the cinema or when released on video, in any case I thought it was good then and I still do. Watched on video, the age of the animation shows, though I suspect it would look less old with the sharper definition of a DVD (checks YouTube, yes it does), but the visual inventiveness holds up nonetheless. It was the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and while I won't claim it should have won*** it is certainly on a level with plenty of Oscar nominees over the years.

Belle is a charming heroine, intelligent, resourceful, a book-lover, and kind, and she and the Beast's cathedral-like library are clearly a match from the start. The Beast himself is a great cinematic creation, an exaggeration of every macho cartoon hero ever, bristling with muscles, hair, and temper, who must go through a process of civilization, but crucially one he achieves for himself. Disney is traditionally good at villains, and Belle's ruthless would-be spouse Gaston is a suitably monstrous contender. With pot-shots at anti-intellectualism, gender roles, fear of the outsider, and the way a charming small community can become stifling and predatory, the witty script is engaging throughout and there's not a dud song in the piece. It has become a cliché to deride the fairy tale prince the Beast turns into compared to his furry start, and it's true that the prince could never live up to him, but he's not bad, just conventional, and that was never going to win over viewers. I suspect that part might work better in the stage version, if played by a sufficiently handsome real human being.

*I have worked out why I for the past couple of years I have been reading for pleasure much less in than I used to: because I find it difficult to read when my eyes hurt. This came to me yesterday as I realised that I had read more in the last month than I have recently, and yet somehow I didn't want to read yesterday. And then I put 2 and 2 together...

**There are a couple of important minor ones as well, in the change in the finale proposal from being made by Emmett to its coming from Elle, and Brooke Wyndham's accidental public revelation of her alibi (is this also necessitated by the greater class focus of the show, given that Brooke is to some extent a snake oil salesman, whose products make her rich, but can't deliver their promise, even for her.)

***The Silence of the Lambs did. I can't remember if I've seen it and forgotten, in only clips.

****Tale as Old as Time may give the ballroom scene, but Gaston is surely the best character song.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (sheep)
Ages ago [personal profile] marginaliana asked if people had favourite folk songs, and I meant to respond, but didn't. So now I am.

No-one else's version of a folk song you first hear sung by your mother can ever be perfect*, but this one is as close as any could get. The photos of Roundhay Park do it no harm in my eyes.

*Especially when you're the sort of person whose head shrieks "IVY tree, not rowan!" at every chorus.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Christmas cometh, and the family programme puts itself together. A lovely review for Scottish National Ballet's Cinderella, and it looks like I can put off being organised and getting myself to see Carol and go with my Dad and sister (2).

But most importantly, a bit of arm twisting has got everyone signed on the dotted line for karaoke! I love karaoke, because inside my reserved exterior lurks the heart of an total exhibitionist. All I need is a microphone, an excuse, and the knowledge that I'm not going to embarrass myself more than anyone else, and I'm off. My sisters were a done deal. My father simply needed introducing a youtube vid of Don't Cry for Me, Argentina with lyrics and the assurance that you can alter the pitch and the concept was sold*. I'm not sure what was said to my brother-in-law, but it worked - possibly that this was the opportunity to see my father singing Don't Cry for Me, Argentina. And so my mother decided that she wasn't going to be left out.

Now you must excuse me, I'm going to be practising Let It Go and I Know Him So Well and pretending the TV remote control is a microphone until Christmas. In the meantime, tell me your karaoke favourites! I need to come up with suggestions for Mum.

*Admittedly I did this on returning from my parents' 70th birthday meal, so the digestif might have helped.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Did you know that Total Eclipse of the Heart was originally written as a love-song for a never-happened musical version of Nosferatu? Me neither. Nor did I know that it had subsequently been used in a different musical, the Austrian Tanz der Vampire (link in English), a musical version of Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, of which I was a teenage fan* in my ‘read/watch everything about vampires’ stage.

I learned this fact at the end of last week, and inevitably therefore have been enlivening working through the massive ironing backlog** while watching said musical on YouTube. Fortunately I don’t know Meat Loaf’s oeuvre, so I haven’t spotted the songs recycled from that. It’s all magnificently bonkers and surprisingly entertaining, and I really want to see it live, except that would mean going to Germany because there was a disastrously re-written Broadway production in the early 2000s that has torpedoed any further English language attempts for the foreseeable future. Anyway, Total Eclipse of the Heart makes far more sense once it’s about vampires, the German version would be an amazing karaoke duet, here it is. This version doesn’t have subtitles, but you don’t really need them to get the sense of the massive OTT-ness, complete with swirly cape action.

Sadly I fear the literal video version of this song, fun as it is, would be less engaging:

(Long intro)
Sometimes in the night I wander round on the stage and there’s nothing much to do.
(Long intro)
Sometimes in the night the audience wishes that something else would happen on stage.
(Long intro)
Sometimes in the night I cling onto a pillar that looks randomly like a totem pole.


*I have also just realised that the plot of TFVK is a sort of mirror version of Keats’ Eve of St Agnes.

**All summer clothes now washed, ironed, and put away, hurrah!
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
(1) This is a rather charming little Wimseyfic vignette, a missing scene set directly after the end of Strong Poison: Aftershock, Mary and Peter (there should be more fic with Mary in).

(2) Every morning at the mine you could see him arrive... My father is prone to sing the first verse of this. If only he could remember more of it - or the internet had existed in my younger years.

(3) Not so random, a short and lovely extract from The Merry Widow.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I think this one is for [personal profile] el_staplador. The Daleks sing G&S....

It's also pitch-perfect on ye generick Classic FM adverts.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
With the possible exception of something by Abba, I think that Uptown Girl is the first pop song I remember. Yesterday I watched the original video for the first time. The song is a lot of fun. The video - is of its time. I lost it with the initial synchronised spanner use.

Today I took the car to the garage for its MOT and biannual* service. I can confidentally say that the two had nothing in common.

Also today I learnt that there's an Ashes to Ashes sequence of it. How did I not know?

In other news, I also went blackberrying and managed to catch my forearm not across a bramble, but a still very lively stinging nettle. Serves me right for forgoing my usual protective blackberrying leather jacket in favour of enjoying the weather.

*I do not do a lot of driving, and this year I did even less than usual. I am exactly the sort of person who ought to belong to a car club, except that there wasn't a convenient one when I was at the point of being interested, and personality-wise I am a lot better at dealing with sunk costs than paying each time I hire.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Or not. Because in fact I'm enjoying a blast from the past: the Sir Jack Lyons concert hall*, and Peter Seymour conducting, the only man I've ever heard make "as the bishop said to the actress" (and vice-versa) jokes sound funny, when he conducted the university choir to which I belonged as an undergraduate. Justin Bieber's "Beauty and a Beat" done as baroque music. With a counter-tenor (I like counter-tenors. I think I saw "Farinelli" at an impressionable age).

The reason behind the madness is here.

*Which unlike the man himself, has not been stripped of its title.


Dec. 4th, 2012 12:26 pm
nineveh_uk: picture of holly in snow (holly)
A bit random this one - has anyone any experience with Stentor violins?


Apr. 8th, 2012 06:10 pm
nineveh_uk: Photograph of a bluebell wood (bluebells)
It's Easter, which means it must be lamb: seeing them, on a couple of trips to the Dales*, and - in about 45 minutes - eating one.

And also, thanks to my father's introducing me to the Desmond Carrington show on Friday night on Radio 2 , listening to them. I give you The Singing Sheep:

*One of which yielded no fewer than 8 unread Georgette Heyers in a book sale.


nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)

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