What I regret about 2010
I made a huge gaffe once, by saying to someone who was probably an old girlfriend of his that I had assumed he was gay. One of the small felicities of his autobiography is the straightforward way that he confirms my first impression: my blushes could have been spared if I'd known then any of this boyfriends who were later to be members of Mrs Thatcher's cabinet.
My prejudice against him, which grew over his stand on the Iraq war, was wrong. Hitch is a hero. He has cheerfully faced down adversity, shown quiet courage (the best kind), and blown a cerebral raspberry to the god-bothering brigade who anticipate a death-fearing conversion to their childish theism. I wish him well, and I wish I'd always done so, as his example teaches me more about living a worthwhile life than (to quote Lytton Strachey) Mr Jehovah, Mr Jesus or any of their prophets or disciples.
What else have I been wrong about? Well not about Lord Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies (or, as we still think of it, despite his rewrite, Paint Never Dries). It was too feeble to go to Broadway, and though I haven't seen it again (and don't plan to, thanks) I'd be very surprised if it crosses the Atlantic even wearing its new clothes. Is it the worst thing I've seen all year? Probably.
One of the best, though unreviewed by me in the day job, was English National Opera's A Dog's Heart by the Russian composer Rastakov - though the real point of it was the raucously imaginative expressionist staging by Complicité, complete with puppets and multiple voices playing the title role. My Russianist goddaughter tells me that Mazzonis' libretto is fairly true to the original tale by Bulgakov. Director Simon McBurney's production had the good or ill fortune to be reviewed by a lot of non-specialists who were rude about the music. Unfairly, I thought, as the score was full of quotations that added greatly to the fun, and was not as difficult to listen to as one or two of my theatre-critic colleagues insisted. You have to wonder whether a production as expensive as this, with its big band, huge cast and elaborate sets can be revived. You have to hope so. Was this the ENO's best effort in 2010? Yes, probably, though I enjoyed the new Pearlfishers a good deal more than most of my colleagues, and was one of the few critics who really liked Rufus Norris' Don Giovanni. I note that Jonathan Miller's production of The Mikado will celebrate its 25th anniversary at ENO on February 26. As I have an anniversary of my own that day, I probably won't be there to applaud Sir Jonathan; but don't you think it might have been appropriate to mark this milestone by commissioning the great man to direct another production? After all, this, and his La bohème and Rigoletto have kept the house solvent through many a year.
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