Tuesday, 26 May 2009

...And back again...

Crete was beautiful. What more can I say? Tranquil, sunny, and full of wildflowers and migratory birds; a tiny village with a couple of shops and a couple of tavernas and a big shingle beach edged with tamarisk and poplars and big golden-grey rocks... I wish I were still there. There isn't much more to say, truly. It was wonderful. And now I'm back in London.

However, had I stayed on Crete I would not have been able to get back to my garden. I now have five runner beans and three climbing french beans through, as well as clumps of spinach beet, chard and broccoli, two rows of beetroot, my seven lovely bonny tomato plants and a lot of annual flower seedlings. I would not have been able to get back to my beloved cranky old laptop and my writing.

And I would have missed a fantastic performance of "Peter Grimes" at the ENO last Thursday. It was an odd production; almost good but decidedly muddled, ideas-wise. I didn't like the mixture of expressionism and naturalism - the result is neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring. The big thrills were in the orchestral playing, and in the calibre of the cast, especially the astonishing Stuart Skelton in the lead.

I saw him singing Laca in "Jenufa" a couple of years ago and thought "This is a guy to watch", and was determined to see what he made of Peter Grimes; but my gods, I had no idea how terrific he would be. Quite simply, he blew me away. He has a gorgeous, magnificent voice, lusciously heroic yet capable of the most delicately nuanced subtlety; he is a very capable actor; he even looks the part - he's a big bloke with a mop of red hair [I know, I know, me and my weakness for men with red hair...], more than powerful enough to haul a fishing net or wind a capstan - and he was rivetting, giving an absolutely heartrendingly moving performance. I feel rather as I did when I saw Simon Russell Beale's Hamlet, seeing a fictional figure suddenly become a totally real person, as real and as dear as one of my brothers (though neither of them has red hair or the physique of a rugby prop forward!), instead of being just a familiar character in a familiar stage work.

For me, I think I can safely say, this man will now be the definitive Grimes; I sincerely doubt that I will ever see or hear a finer performance in this role. I gather he does a lot of Wagner, which is a delectable thought; Mr Skelton has the voice, the dramatic ability and the looks to be an utterly stunning Siegmund or Siegfried or Parsifal. I'm longing to hear more of his work, but - guess what - as far as I can find out from the internet, he isn't scheduled to be appearing again in the UK this year. Rats!


WANDERER said...

Skelton's 2004 Siegmund was captured, in SACD whatsmore, by Melba Recodings. There's a lot of excitement about his Peter Grimes here later this year, and he's following that up with Erik.

Imogen said...

Thanks for the info. Are you down under? Lucky you - a visit to my aunt in Sydney is sadly way beyond the holiday budget a Kew salary stretches too.
Wonder when he'll do Tristan?

WANDERER said...

Very down under, yes, in Sydney, and around, country place, cut-flower farm (natives) yadda yadda.

We may have come into the same orbit when I was at Kew, 2007, the year of the summer mediterranean display, and it rained all summer.

Scroll down that Melba link for a wee listen.

Visit aunty.

Imogen said...

I remeber that summer with a kind of bitter hilarity - it was the first wet summer in about six in a row, just bang when we had decided "Let's celebrate the flora of the mediterranean this year".

Will try that link when I've got a mo (probably tomorrow - fridays tend to be quieter...).

Do you own the cut-flower farm or just live near it?

WANDERER said...

Own, a two edged sword. Current row upon row planting is being reviewed with some conversion to a more permaculture affair as we try to conserve resources, especially water.

Intheknow said...

Scuttlebut around London is that Skelton will return to ENO as Boris in Kat'a Kabanova with Patricia Racette in 2010 and in the Lehnhof production of Parsifal (where I assume he sings the title role) in 2011.

Other rumours I've heard include new Parsifals in Zurich and Seattle (where his website shows he is currently, for the Seattle Ring) and appearances at the MET in Wozzeck and Walkuere.

I missed the Grimes in London, but if the reviews are anything to go by (and they're not ALWAYS!) the Grimes in Sydney is something to look forward to.

Imogen said...

Thank you for the heads-up.

Zurich, Seattle and NYC are all a bit beyond my finances (I love my job at Kew but it pays peanuts). But I try to get to most things at ENO.

I wasn't sure about the production at the Coliseum but VERY sure about the leading man. If you are in Sydney, go and enjoy yourself!