Thursday already. Heck, January already. Hey, it’s 2012...
It was, as I had hoped, a very peaceful Christmas and a quiet New Year (apart from the massive firework display down the road and the madly barking neighbourhood dogs this set off). Walking and relaxing with my family, doing a massive jigsaw, seeing a few friends, sleeping ten hours a night, eating too many Pringles... Sometimes it’s good for one just to do very little and simply rest, body and mind.
And now it is January again. Happy New Year, everyone. The weather has been all over the place today; one minute we have had sun falling across the grass of Kew Green and bare trees shining against a chilly blue sky, then next moment the skies turn black and rain lashes down in curtains. It seemed quite sensible to think of new beginnings and new resolutions without irony, each time the fresh-washed sun reappeared; but those periodic bursts of wintry rain make me want to hide my head and go to sleep underground instead.
I’ve had a couple of odd encounters over the last week. At a New Year’s party I thought I saw an old school-mate across the room – she was a tough lass in her youth, so I’ll call her Tuffisa. Tuffisa hardly seemed to have changed at all in almost thirty years; still the same curly black hair, girlish figure, casual clothes and determined expression. I wondered if she would remember me, and was hesitating whether to go over and say “hi” when beside me someone said “Oh, Imogen, Tuffisa Jones is here, do come and say hi” – and led me across to a totally different woman. The real Tuffisa had changed beyond recognition; she is now blonde, elegant, gracious and decidedly voluptuous (not that I can talk!). The weird bit came when she introduced me to her partner, since she was the woman I had thought was Tuffisa herself. She turned out to be really nice, and it was good to see Tuffy again after such a very long time; but it did give me a funny turn to start with. Is it odd of me to have been spooked by an old friend’s new partner looking so like the adolescent appearance of the old friend?
Then on Tuesday night I was at the wonderful “Slava’s Snow Show” (SEE THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T- IT’S BRILLIANT!!) and two rows in front of me was a chap with whom I could have sworn I used to do amateur drama, back in the day. He seemed to be with his family, and I used to have a terrific crush on him when he was single, so in the circumstances I didn’t like to butt in. The last time I had seen him was while I was a student, when he was a tall, handsome Malcolm in “Macbeth”, and I was doing costumes. When I thought about it I realised this must have been nearly fifteen years ago, and that gave me a funny feeling, too. It just doesn’t feel that long.
The moral of this (other than “Hi, ‘Malcolm’, if you’re reading this!”) is Tempus Fugit. Time flies, so have fun, do things that interest you, and don’t let life just slip away.
In the which spirit, I have decided to try and do something creative every day during 2012. I’m hoping that by making my definition of “creative” as open as possible I can avoid the usual backsliding and collapse of New Year’s Resolutions. After all, do something creative covers a pretty wide remit. So far I have made notes, written a bit more of a story, and made more notes about something else. Even if all I do is make notes, I’ll still achieve something if I make a few every single day... That’s the idea, anyway.
The other big thing I like to do in January is to think about the highlights of the past year. So here is my list of “Immies” for last year:
The Imogen Awards 2011
“Infernal Dance”, the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Bartok season, was everything one could wish - thrilling and revelatory; the Violin concerto no 2 with Christian Tetzlaff, Yefim Bronfmann showing off in the Piano concertos, the delicious “Wooden Prince” Suite, the complete “Miraculous Mandarin”, a marvellous performance of “Contrasts”... The whole thing concluded with a gobsmacking “Bluebeard”. Marvellous!
Prom 32 – Christian Tetzlaff (again – oh swoon) playing the Brahms concerto superbly, followed by the extraordinary “Das Klagende Lied” with the BBCSO under Edward Gardner.
Prom 41 – the BBCSO again, under Mark Wigglesworth, in a lovely programme, mainly of Britten, ending with a life-enhancingly energetic “Spring Symphony”.
Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, Dulwich Picture Gallery. No contest! This runs for a couple more days, finishing at the end of this weekend, so if you like powerful dynamic landscape painting, hurry down to Dulwich...
I have been seeing a lot of ballet this year. I’m not quite sure why, but for me it is perhaps the most consistently thrilling of all the performed arts. This year was particularly good:
“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Christopher Wheeldon for the Royal Ballet. This was simply gorgeous, and tremendous fun!
“Metamorphosis” by Arthur Pita at the Linbury Studio Theatre. An extraordinary new piece; deeply terrifying and deeply moving.
The ENB “Black and White” mixed bill was excellent, especially the revival of “Suite en Blanc”. At the risk of sounding daft I am going to say it - the moment the curtain goes up on that panorama of dancers is practically worth the ticket price on its own.
The many “Manons” of the Royal Ballet! I saw four performances in total over the year – three in the summer and another one in the autumn. All were excellent, and it was marvellous to have a chance to see the subtle differences of interpretation between performers.
The Royal Ballet’s mixed bills were excellent this year: Asphodel Meadows/Enigma Variations/Gloria and the one that included Ashton’s “Rhapsody” both epitomised everything that is going right for the RB at the moment; ravishing beauty, emotional truth, and technical mastery at every level, from the principals right down to the newest members of the corps.
Best World Music
Ealing Global Festival. What a great day out this local mini-WOMAD is every year!
La Bohème at the ENO. I caught one of the last performances of the run; it’s a lovely production with great sets and naturalistic direction. Elizabeth Llewellyn was a revelation; she certainly ought to wind up as a very big star indeed. She has a glorious voice and she can act. She’s also very beautiful. A perfect Mimí in a perfectly-judged production.
“Pelléas et Mélisande” at the Barbican (concert performance). No staging at all, just excellent singers lined up in front of an excellent orchestra, all led by an excellent conductor. Favourite Baritone was an intense, passionate Pelléas and Laurent Naouri a magnificent and tragic Golaud.
Best individual performers:
Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo in Swan Lake, for a partnership of regal scale and brilliance. La Rojo was even better in the beautiful in “Marguerite and Armand”, a real cry-into-your-lap performance.
Steven McRae; passionate and doomed in “The Rite of Spring”, febrile and anguished as Prince Siegfried in “Swan Lake”, or just showing off his bravura chops in “Rhapsody”; every little thing he does is magic...
Edward Watson, astonishing in “Metamorphosis”.
The lovely Hikaru Kobayashi getting a chance to shine, and seizing it with both hands, as Princess Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty”.
Elizabeth Llewellyn in “La Bohème” at the ENO – see above.
Kristine Opolais in “Madame Butterfly” at the Royal Opera was terrific and had me crying my eyes out.
Stuart Skelton, John Tomlinson and Iain Paterson, all deeply moving in “Parsifal”.
This has been rather a year for virtuosos:
Nikolai Lugansky’s fabulous solo recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, playing Chopin, Brahms and Liszt.
Christian Tetzlaff playing Brahms at the Proms and Bartok at the Festival Hall.
Gil Shaham restoring the Bruch violin concerto no 1 from saccharine to stunner in Prom 62.
Stephen Hough playing Liszt’s Piano Concerto no 1 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Ivan Fischer.
And last but not least
The ever-magnificent Sarah Connolly, heart-breaking in “Das Lied von der Erde” at the Festival Hall last February. Worth missing part of The DipGeek’s birthday party for (and I do not say that lightly, as The DipGeek throws a good party).
May 2012 be as good, culturally and in other ways!