Monday, 20 June 2011

The last of Cardiff Singer (& possibly the last of the summer, too)

Cardiff Singer is over for another two years, and I am bereft. For a whole week I have had the chance to listen to a bunch of talented young opera singers every night. Some of them were good, some were very good and some were really great. Some were absolutely wonderful. I now have bad withdrawal symptoms.

What a feast of glorious music it has been, and what a pleasure all those hard-working young people were, with their fine voices and their hopes for the future writ large on eager faces. I feel very dull and rather old when I listen to a twenty-four year old with more musical talent in their little finger, and more self-discipline and determination to succeed, than I have in all five foot nine and fourteen stone of me; but I also feel privileged to get to see them in action, so early in their careers, these kids. They are so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and full of delight in everything they do.

The Moldovan soprano, Valentina Nafornitsa, won the Grand Final. My favourite, the Ukrainian baritone Andrei Bondarenko, won the Lieder Prize. I would have given him both prizes, but then I do love my baritones. Mr Bondarenko’s song recital was a sheer wonder from start to finish; effortlessly beautiful singing full of subtle, unforced sincerity and dramatic nuance, and with that incredible feeling of intimacy that a great recitalist can bring even to a big concert hall. At last Favourite Baritone has a worthy successor.

I’m going to see if by some miracle I can get a ticket to Glyndebourne next year – he is singing Marcello in “La Boheme” and I go slightly fluttery inside at the thought. As my late father used to say about certain sopranos, “Gulp, I think I’m in love”.

Despite the vital but restrictive necessity of being in for all the Cardiff broadcasts, I managed to get a good deal done this weekend, too. On Saturday I visited a lovely exhibition of modern Australian prints at the BM, and had a mooch afterwards in the minor Greece and Rome rooms – the ones with real things from real people’s lives and homes in – then spent a happy hour in an art materials shop (& didn’t buy anything stupid – just a few sensible things like a new sketchbook) and then in a sale at HMV on Oxford Street (& only bought one thing, a Dvd of “La Fille mal Gardée”), and had lunch out, and listened to a very good Hungarian band busking outside the church of St Martin’s in the Fields, and bought some concert and ENO tickets for the autumn.

On Sunday I sewed; I finally finished the poppy-print top, then cut out, pinned and tacked two more jobs, a plain straight summer frock in panels of two shades of blue, and a blouse I need to let out. Opening the under-arm seams and piecing in extra fabric on either side is a miserable, fiddly job, but I just relax, listen to the radio, and tell myself I am channelling my grandmothers’ spirits. To throw away a favourite blouse, in silk patchwork in shades of chestnut brown and burgundy, that always looked good, simply because I’ve put on so much weight, offends me. Realistically, I’m unlikely to lose the weight, and the sewing practice is good for me, so I’m going to let it out and get some more use out of it rather than beating myself up about getting stout. With the really twiddly parts, the cutting out and fitting and pinning and basting, all done, it’s just a question of mindlessly plying my needle now, and I can do that peacefully over the next few weeks while I watch tele or listen to music.

It’s just started to pour with rain; now that I can go home, it does this. Guess who didn’t bring an umbrella today? Really, after all these years living in my dear wet native land, you’d think I’d be more Great-British-summer-savvy!

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