August 2009 Archives

Edinburgh Festival 2009 (1) 

Edinburgh, the capital of the devolved nation of Scotland, is the place to be this summer, partly owing to the fuss about the compassionate freeing of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Mr Al-Magrahi. I've yet to talk to a Scot who thinks  the Libyan actually did it; so much dinner-table conversation here consists of  conspiracy theories, and the wilder they are, the more people seem to enjoy propounding and rebutting them.    
Last year was the first time I missed the Edinburgh Festival in many years, and it was also the first festival for its new director, the Australian composer, Jonathan Mills. Mills is a friend of mine (that's the interest declared); so I'm very pleased that I've been able to come this year. I arrived at the beginning of the second week and, my god, it started with a bang.
(This is the visual emblem of the 2009 festival, toile de Jouy, with urban activities and scenes substituting for pre-Enlightenment bucolic ones,)

toile900_2-3.jpg
August 27, 2009 4:54 PM | | Comments (1)
Nikolaus Lehnhoff's minimalist production of Tristan und Isolde at Glyndebourne depends for its effect largely on Roland Aeschlimann's curving abstract sets and Robin Carter's amazing lighting effects. Andrea Schmidt-Futterer's mediaeval/Japanese warrior/Ku Klux Klan (in the case of the demented-looking Act III shepherd) costumes are the least successful element; though they do have the merit, when combined with Carter's shadow-casting lighting, of concealing the fuller Wagnerian figure. This is the third outing for this production, which everyone says reflects Lehnhoff's early association with Wieland Wagner, whose 1964 Bayreuth Tristan provided the template for all future abstract-ish stagings. Though I've seen Tristan done in 1920s/30s costume, aboard a cruise ship (or ocean liner) and in a casualty department of a hospital, there's a great deal to be said in favour of a production where the setting is not determinate. Thought it's always risky, as a permanent abstract set courts boredom, it does allow us to think Wagnerian deep thoughts (or feel alarming feelings) about annihilation and the just-conceivable pleasures of the extinction of desire. 

tristan_und_isolde321-lr.jpg
(Photograph: Alastair Muir)
August 8, 2009 2:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Not all that long ago I was going to attempt to go to all the many performances of Wagner's Ring taking place all over the planet, and write a book about the experience. My publishers decided it was uncommercial (I still think they were wrong), but not before I had been to complete cycles at Adelaide, for the first Australian Ring and to a wonderful and wacky Ring in the famous opera house at Manaus, near the Amazonian jungles of Brazil.

Mariinsky  Ring-500wi.jpg

August 3, 2009 4:49 PM | | Comments (0)

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