Month: March 2014

Church.

Let’s have some church now because I might be too jet-lagged for blogging on Sunday. Open your red hymn books to page 1995 and let’s shake our asses to Biz Markie’s joyfully tuneless singing.

Biz Markie: Let Me Turn You On

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By the way, readers, just a little reminder. I live in London, when I am not bouncing around the world. If you live here too and you think I should be dating you, hit me up. Don’t be shy. You can’t possibly fail any more badly than some of the optimists who message me on the online dating site. If you love Biz Markie and you know how to get down, then we’ve already made a start.

Hong Kong, part 11 (last one): Lohengrin

So as you know by now, I was located practically on the doorstep of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. I didn’t take this photo, it is a publicity shot, but just so you know what it looks like, it is that wedge-shaped building.

hkcc

Inside, it looks like this.

opera house 2

opera house 1

I had the immense good fortune to see this: Wagner’s Lohengrin, performed by Opera Savonlinna, from Finland.

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I had a great seat and almost the last available ticket. A few minutes later, the posters looked like this.

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They are really strict about photography during the performance, so I cannot show you any, but I can show you this video clip of the same company performing Lohengrin in 2013. It is basically the same production; the same set, same costumes and mostly the same cast members, so you can see and hear a little bit of it.

Savonlinna Opera Festival: Lohengrin

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OK, so what you should know about me is that I know jack shit about opera. I’m not totally illiterate where music in general is concerned, and I had a lot of 19th century music around me when I was a kid because my mom liked ballet scores. So I’m not a complete philistine. But I know next to nothing about opera, specifically, and the reason I am saying all this is because it is a massive disclaimer for what follows. I will try to explain Lohengrin to those of you who, like me, don’t know how to talk about opera or really how to appreciate it. Those of you who do know about opera, I apologise in advance.

First of all, the music is great. It is not hard work in any way. It is not hard to like. Lohengrin is supposed to be a magical, romantic fairy tale involving castles, princesses, magic swans, Knights of the Holy Grail and suchlike, so the upshot of that is that the music is melodic and easy to get along with. There isn’t a lot of shrieking or battle noises.

Secondly, I obviously would not dare to fault the singing. Opera Savonlinna is internationally renowned and I am in no position to criticise. Everybody sounded like they were in fine voice.

Thirdly, it was a fairly spectacular production. The sets were impressive, there’s an exciting part where the huge, magic swan bursts into flame, the art direction was thoughtful, with interesting use of video films projected on to the set, for example, of hands painting relevant scenes and symbols, such as flowing water. Also the costumes were mostly very appealing.

Now shall we talk about the story, the casting and about suspension of disbelief.

I can get along with fairy tales when the occasion is right and I totally willingly suspended my disbelief right up until the end of Act 1. Allow me to summarise. There’s a prince and princess, brother and sister. They are waiting to inherit power in a part of mediaeval Germany. The young prince has disappeared, presumed dead, and his sister is being framed for his murder. The king drops by to try and sort things out. It looks as though the princess is guilty and she’ll probably have to be hung. But then, a miracle occurs. She’s been dreaming of a knight in shining armour, as one does, and lo! Just as she’s about to be put to death, a giant magic swan appears on the river, and it is carrying that exact knight in shining armour. He’s come to save her.

At this point, I was totally buying in to the magic fairy tale aspect of it all, and I need to perhaps apologise to Bryan Register and the rest of Opera Savonlinna for saying that the illusion was utterly crushed and ruined when the knight Lohengrin, played by Bryan, appeared, looking like your average, untended, severely overweight World of Warcraft player who lives with his mom. It was kind of a shock. Especially as Lohengrin’s knight costume involved a jumper knitted out of a tinselly yarn that’s normally reserved for Christmas decorations, and trousers with such an eye-wateringly high waist that even Simon Cowell would have rejected them. It was … it was … it was not magical or romantic, that’s all I’m saying.

From this point, the credibility of what was being acted out plummeted downhill. In brief, Princess Elsa instantly falls in love with Prince Fatty of Azeroth. I suppose this is just about understandable at first because when he initially shows up, she has a noose around her neck, so she was probably under some degree of stress. But even after he’s successfully defended her honour in a sword fight and she’s been set free, instead of screaming and running in the opposite direction, she continues to act as though she’s absolutely ridiculously in love with him, even though he looks a fright and has done nothing to deserve it, as the sword fight was the most half-hearted and lack-lustre ‘fight’ you ever did see, and involved Lohengrin and his adversary vaguely waving their swords at each other and then giving up almost immediately. Honestly. It was nothing she couldn’t have easily handled by herself. Her nan could have handled it.

So anyway, she’s ardently draping herself all over the scruffy fat bloke in the lurex jumper and high-waisted trousers, in a manner that would have been unconvincingly over the top even if he’d been paying her, and meanwhile the defeated adversary is blaming his wife, because what else is new. Then Prince Fatty says they’ll get married but Elsa has to promise never to ask who he is, because that’s reasonable. And she says yes, because that’s reasonable. Then there’s more swooning, and then they get married, in the most outrageously camp wedding you ever saw, conducted by the bridegroom, because he’s far too much of a diva to let anyone else be involved with it. I mean really. I know video game culture and consequently I’ve seen my share of hairy lard-arses mincing about in home-made armour, crowning themselves Sir David of Brent, in the absence of any real woman ever showing an interest in them in real life, but this set new standards of unreality. The Chinese guy sitting next to me in the audience started laughing at this point, and frankly I was relieved that I wasn’t the only person who thought it was funny. It was preposterous. It was the most preposterous thing I’ve ever seen.

So anyway, if you want to know what happens after that, the adversary’s wife tricks Elsa into asking Prince Lardarse what his name is. So she does this, and then he announces that even though their love transcends any love known to humanity, he’s walking out on her, because that’s reasonable. So he flounces and minces off, her brother the young prince suddenly returns, and Elsa promptly falls down dead out of grief or something, despite being a perfectly strong and healthy young woman, because seemingly there wasn’t another way to finish the story. So there you go.

And that is the last time I ever let anyone mock World of Warcraft players for being fat, campy losers with over-active imaginations without checking to find out if that person likes romantic opera. And that is all I have to say on the subject. You are welcome. 1 Art point.

Let’s quickly update the to-do list.

  1. Laundry. Priority. Done.
  2. File receipts.
  3. File all my photos, a lot are for work purposes and they need careful sorting, tagging and filing. Pretty much done. Good enough. Uploading now.
  4. Finish cleaning my house, I did a pretty good job just before going to China but there are still some areas in need of attention. Also good enough. Bathroom and kitchen are clean. I should give myself a Home point, considering I did laundry as well.
  5. Urgent financial paperwork on my desk. A colossal bill that I need to dispute. Shit like that. Nasty.
  6. Must see my hairdresser first thing tomorrow if possible because grey bits. Done. Looking foxy.
  7. Socialise with boys. Doubtless there will be dating news of some description before I leave town again. There had better be. I am actually a bit desperate for some sex. If you don’t count that one disappointing encounter with Xiaoyun then The Hills Are Alive season of celibacy has at this point overrun by three weeks already, and now I have to go away again. It’s really getting beyond a joke. Right, okay. I actually did manage to get what I was looking for, and I shall go into no more detail than that. Also there is a date tomorrow with a very tall and fit German.
  8. Go to the gym. I had one more swim before leaving Hong Kong, scoring 1 Health point. I have been for one swim here in London at my familiar gym. I think there may not be another before gettig on the next plane. So that’s 2 Health points that I need to add now, as well as 2 Art points.
  9. Resume sensible eating. Oh, this is just going terribly and I don’t even care. I am trying to stay off bread but then all I do is eat cheese. And right now I am craving chocolate cake so badly, I might just have to go and get some, even though I know I will regret it when I am getting ready to meet the hunky German guy tomorrow.

New items:

  1. Pack suitcase and travel documents for upcoming trip.
  2. Finish reading all my work books about China so that I have headspace to think about the next thing when I’m away travelling again.

We are getting there, aren’t we. I really need to go and get chocolate cake right now and I’m not even going to feel bad about that. Then I am going to make one final post about Hong Kong and then TLYW is all up to date.

Hong Kong, part 10: Ju Ming, Sculpting the Living World

A huge, very impressive exhibition of recent sculptures by Ju Ming, displayed at the Hong Kong Art Museum. I just loved this exhibition and saved my visit until the last day in HK. This exhibition is on until 15th June, if you happen to be in town. I really recommend it.

Parachutes.

parachutes 2

Acrobat.

acrobat

Children walk along a wall.

white figures balancing

Resting.

rest on a bench

See that lady at the back of this queue? Ju Ming designed some of these sculptures to include spaces for human occupants, an offer that the viewing public instinctively accepted.

lining up

More audience participation.

gentlemen

06 ice cream

Perhaps Ju Ming is inviting us to tell a story about why this one woman seems different from all the others.

women

women close up

Mothers.

mothers

Children.

children

People doing Tai Chi (life size).

tai chi

Swimming. A series of sculptures, in which no-one is actually swimming.

swimmers 2

Human Cube. China is crowded.

13 human cubes

14 cube close up

Sculptures from the Imprisonment series (life size). A bride and groom. Wedlock.

bride and groom

You will observe that the key of their cage is on the inside. They have locked themselves in.

16 key

This cage is half white and half  black. The black side represents a person who has been physically imprisoned, the white side shows a man in a suit, perhaps a businessman, who is voluntarily and psychologically locked in. Again, the key is on the inside, in the white half of the cage, and there is no wall between the two.

prison

Phew! Sorry that was such a lot of photos all in one go. 2 Art points.

Hong Kong, part 9: Heaven, Earth & Man

Heaven, Earth & Man is an outdoor exhibition of sculptures by the HK Art Museum.

Heaven: Water Drop, Danny Lee, stainless steel.

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Earth: Big Apple, Kum Chi-Keung, stainless steel.

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Man: Happy Folks, Rosanna Li, Fibreglass, imitation sandstone.

happy folks

Right, that’s all for now. I need to go and get some sleep. A little bit more art for you in the morning, and then we are all up to date and ready for me to set off on my next trip.