The glorious hot weather has broken thoroughly and we’ve had a lot of rain in the last couple of days, which is probably no bad thing as the soil in my little garden was as dry as dust. I haul cans of water and promise it further doses of compost come autumn, but in the meantime it is still basically London clay with a lot of stones, and it bakes hard as cement in next to no time. Mother Nature waters things a lot more effectively than I, anyway.
As for the last few days; well, “Pearl Fishers” was indeed hokum, with tumty-tum music and an inordinately silly plot even by operatic standards. Add on the fact that two of the three principals had throat infections, and the fact that my friend Alan hated it and went on about it at every opportunity, and you have a rather mixed evening. The best thing about it was the production itself, which was an intelligent and coherent updating and had a magnificent set and stage designs. Though I must admit the thought of the lovers escaping to consummate their passion soaked in petrol was a little yucky…
Saturday night, on the other hand, I went to see the programme of New Works by Royal Ballet Company Members at the Linbury Studio, and that was an out-and-out wow. I know I have a tendency to be wildly enthusiastic a lot of the time, so that sometimes anyone reading this must think everything I see is a wow! - in fact this is partly because I tend not to review things I didn’t like (just try and forget them asap), and partly because I am pretty picky about what I go to in the first place; music by A Lloyd-Webber? – I won’t bother; directed by C Bieto? – er, no, thank you; an iconoclastic and challenging production? – probably a yawn, then… But this really was an outstanding evening.
Even if some of the choreography had been dud, it would have been a treat just to see members of the Royal Ballet so very up-close-&-personal (I was in the second row, and had Thomas Whitehead’s perspiration literally flying around me at one point). There were no turkeys among the six new pieces (five premiers and an expanded version of something I saw at a gala in the winter); even the weakest piece was interesting, and tremendously well danced, and the best were downright thrilling. It’s very hard to single out highlights when standards are this high: “Hallelujah Junction” was a feast of incredible athleticism in sky-blue Star Trek uniforms; “Lieder” was a haunting pas de deux about longing and disconnection; “One Shade the More” made wonderful use of the chemistry between Steven McRae and Roberta Marquez.
I clapped so much my wrist watch stopped, which must be one of the odder tributes one can pay to a bunch of performing artists. Mind you, that said, I used to have a front-fastening bra that would come undone if I applauded hard while wearing it; I’d be clapping away madly and feel this sharp “ping” and think “oh dear, the puppies are loose”… Most embarrassing.
After that I had a lovely meal out at my local Turkish place, Lara Restaurant on Turnham Green Terrace; cold beer, tarator, which is basically tsatziki but with spinach instead of cucumber, and wonderful falafels with tabbouleh and a garlicky dip. My mouth is watering now just thinking about those falafels. I do love my grub…
Most of Sunday was taken up with gardening. I had a list of jobs that I thought would take a couple of hours, but I kept seeing more things to do, and it grew and grew until at 7 pm I was gasping as I tried to straighten my back, and the day was almost gone. Gone very satisfactorily, but gone nonetheless!
Yesterday evening we had a Work Do; a buffet and barbecue on the roof terrace of the naffly-named Inn The Park, in St James’s Park. Kew’s new caterers run this, so I think it was basically a charm-offensive; we enjoy the food, we tell enquirers the food is good, they eat and enjoy, everyone wins. Everyone would have won if it hadn’t been raining hard, but that did slightly dampen things down. Nonetheless the food was good, the wine was plentiful (and much better quality than I can normally afford), and the setting, looking out over soft green trees in the rainy dusk, was poetic in the extreme (but wet).
And on Thursday I am going to a behind-the-scenes “Meet the Philharmonia Orchestra” event before their concert at the Festival Hall; a wonderful opportunity – I like getting to see backstage pretty much anywhere. Of course I will probably go tongue-tied and be unable to think of anything sensible to say if I meet Maestro Salonen, who is conducting them that evening. But I’m hoping to have the chance to tell Andrew Smith and Peter Fry how much I always enjoy watching them at the timps.