On Friday night I went to see Rameau's opera “Castor and Pollux” at the ENO. Fascinating music, beautifully played (far more exciting than the now-so-popular Handel – not a da capo aria in earshot), and a terrific cast, including the lovely Roderick Williams as an almost unbearably noble and heroic Pollux. It’s just such a pity that the actual production was so poor; spectacularly self-indulgent, incoherent, and farcically stupid.
I have seen some bad opera productions in my time, though I’ve also managed to avoid some simply by thinking “I don’t fancy that”. As I think I may have ranted before, I’m not against the basic idea of updating the time period or the conceptual basis of the production. When it works it is illuminating. A few years ago ENO had a “Pagliacci” in modern dress that was revelatory; their late-Soviet-era “Jenufa” likewise. I started off with this performance thinking it was acceptable; granted, modern dress is a bit silly in a story about classical gods and heroes, but one can argue that it is the culturally neutral clothing of our time, and so the obvious choice unless one is planning to use correct period costume.
But then the director had to start being clever. Only not logically clever, not coherently clever, not intellectually stimulating, not ground-breakingly visionary clever. Just a parade of tried and tested shock-tactic formulae, dredged up with a puerile lack of invention (and equally puerile bottom-fascination).
“Oh dear, this bit is a bit dull; I know, I‘ll have them all roll around on the floor all through it. This bit is more dramatic so I’ll add lots of irrelevant sexual imagery. Now I’ll have half the cast strip naked, and bring in several extras dressed as Grayson Perry’s alter-ego Claire. Masses of underpants. Dangling willies. Heaps of earth everywhere. People being buried alive in the heaps of earth. Lots of running round in circles. Deliberately inept and non-rhythmical dancing. And hey, how about a set that is hollow underneath and raised up, so that it functions like a huge sounding board; brilliant, now every time someone dances or runs around in circles the noise will drown out the music completely! – quick, quick, do some more running around!”
It wasn’t shocking, or challenging, or original. Actually the main thing it was was boring. Such a pity, when one has an opera that is so seldom done, and a cast of this calibre.
Saturday I tried to do some pre-emptive Christmas present shopping, and couldn’t find anything I was looking for, and got very tired and frustrated. It began to feel like the day when nothing would go my way. I hate that feeling, when life seems to crumble into an annoying mess, and one can salvage nothing from the wreckage.
Sunday I gave myself backache again planting bulbs and transplanting perennials.
Yesterday after work I went for my latest ultrasound exam, and it was inconclusive. My uterus is showing its age, but I don’t have any ovarian cysts at the moment. Since up until then everything was indicating that I did, I’m rather foxed. But I may have fibroids instead.
Oh well, you win some and you lose some. At least now know that if I’m ever offered an evening appointment for an ultrasound, rather than a daytime one, I should grab it. The last time I had a scan I was kept waiting for over an hour, no fun when you have a full bladder. This time there was only one person ahead of me. I was home and eating my reheated pie by 8.30. Evening clinics rock!