Saraghina, la rumba!

It’s Friday evening at 7pm, and I have actually finished work, for a change. I am doing no work this weekend. The next several days are going to feature cute boys, arts & culture and exotic locations. Stay tuned for more news.

I would like to celebrate this situation with a clip from Fellini’s 1963 film 8 1/2.  There are many things one could say about this important film but I will be concise. One of the most memorable figures in the film is La Saraghina, a woman who lives in a hut on the beach. In exchange for a coin, she dances. She is – well, I will let you decide.

Saraghina, la rumba! La rumba!

The Magic Flute

OMG. That was possibly the best thing I have EVER seen.

OK, so I am an opera aficionado now. I have been to many official, impressive and very expensive venues such as the English National Opera and the Royal Opera House to see world-class performances. Everything has been magnificent. The singing, the orchestras, the set design, everything. It’s all been the very pinnacle of refined culture.

Today, I went to see Mozart’s Magic Flute, an opera I knew nothing about. I went to see it at the King’s Head Theatre, a theatre that I had never heard of.

OMG. It was AWESOME. I was BLOWN AWAY.

First, the theatre. When they say ‘theatre’, what they mean is ‘back room of a pub in Islington’.

Pub exterior. A typical London pub.

kings head ext

Inside the pub.

kings head interior

Where’s the theatre? Oh, it must be back here.

kings head entrance

It is a miniature theatre! It is amazing! It seats maybe 120 people, at full capacity. It is a real theatre, it has proper lighting and everything, but is tiny. 120 people might sound like quite a few, but let’s take into account that the Royal Opera House seats 2,500 people and that means you are going to pay £200 to sit approximately 8 miles away from the stage. At the King’s Head Theatre, you pay £30 and you have actual Mozart performed by people who are less than three feet away. It was absolutely unbelievable. It was like having a private performance. The Magic Flute was performed in the round, which is to say, in the middle of the room, with the audience no more than four rows deep around the perimeter. Here’s a cheeky photo that I took during the interval so you can see the tiny scale of the place. I’m sitting at one end of the room, facing the scenery on the back wall, and then there are more seats and audience members to the left and right. As you can see, one is basically on the stage with the performers.

magic flute stage

The Magic Flute is a fantastical tale set in “a distant land”, according to Wikipedia. The highly imaginative Charles Court Opera production that I saw today transplanted the action to a South American jungle. Mozart wrote it for a full orchestra, with the original libretto in German; today’s slightly abridged production was sung in English with the accompaniment of a single piano. Mozart intended it to be a comic opera – if you’ve ever seen any opera you’ll know that the comedy element can be a little bit elusive. There were no such problems here. The Charles Court version of The Magic Flute that I saw today was hysterical. I absolutely laughed my head off. It has hand puppets! It has singing birds and snakes! It has the most glorious, over the top costumes! It has hammy acting and joyfully camp dancing! It was by far the most fun of any opera that I’ve ever seen and indeed the best time I’ve ever had at the theatre in my adult life. I split my sides laughing. I clapped my hands over my mouth because I couldn’t bear the moments of suspense. It was a riot. I didn’t know opera could be like that.

If you are within reach of London, you really must go, I cannot say enough good things about it. I have already raved about it to a bunch of people and persuaded them to buy tickets immediately.

Links.

Charles Court Opera: The Magic Flute

A review of this same, fabulous production when it first appeared in 2016.

Go here to buy tickets: Kings Head Theatre

The show is on until 3 June.

Here is a larger, more traditional and serious production that was at the Royal Opera House in London in 2003, with a full orchestra and everything. I will go and see this type of version of The Magic Flute at some time, but nothing will ever take away from my first experience of that intimate production in that tiny little place. It was magical. Mozart would have approved.

Jewels

I may not be able to retire, but no-one can say I didn’t go out and enjoy London.

I was at the Royal Opera House again tonight, for the second time this week.

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It was ballet this evening, I felt extremely fortunate to see George Balanchine’s Jewels, which is now 50 years old, just like me (sigh).

Here’s the official trailer for the version I saw tonight.

It goes without saying that the dancing was amazing, this is the Royal Ballet, they are world famous.

Thanks to my mother I saw many 19th century classical and romantic ballets when I was a kid. Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Coppelia, La Fille Mal Gardee. It was a treat for a little girl. The last time I saw a ballet performed could have been 30 years ago. So it was a very interesting experience going to this 1960s ballet (in fact, 1967) as a mature adult.

Jewels is an abstract ballet in three acts; there is no story-telling. It is divided into three sections: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds. Dancers, performing solo or in groups as large as 35, are elegantly arranged on the stage in geometric configurations. The effect, especially in their sparkly and bejewelled costumes, is kaleidoscopic. Each dancer is a jewel and they form chains and make squares and triangles on the stage. Music by Fauré (emeralds), Stravinsky (rubies) and Tchaikovsky (diamonds).

I also want to remark on the set design, which is gloriously 1960s. There are ostentatious chandeliers and pillars that make the stage look like a grand American hotel.

Royal Ballet dancers and members of the creative team who worked on this 2017 production discuss why it is a special ballet.

See the whole thing in this Russian production broadcast by Euro Arts Channel:

Mahler 5

I was so relieved when they let me out of that horrifyingly awful hospital, you can imagine. That was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. As predicted, I missed the opera on Sunday evening but I did make it to Royal Festival Hall last night to hear Mahler’s 5th Symphony, which went SOME way towards redressing the horrible sense of injustice that distressed and hurt me more than my actual illness. My face is going down, by the way, so I’m not worried about that, the infection is retreating almost as fast as it arrived. I’m more inclined to cry about the secondary injuries that they inflicted on my arm when they forced in a cannula that was too large.

ANYWAY, you can imagine how deeply glad I was to be back in the world of the living, away from that screaming house of horrors. I am never going to hospital again, I will just let myself die next time. I will put on some Mahler and die with dignity. Here is Mahler’s 5th, being performed in Switzerland in 2004, and here is Mahler’s annotated conducting score. Apparently he was utterly obsessive about detail, authoritarian and prone to anger and so he was “regarded with respect, if not affection” by the orchestra, according to the concert programme. I have a lot of sympathy for him. I’m not interested in being popular, I just want everything and everybody working to a high standard. Do your bloody job bloody correctly or go home.

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Marc Almond

I ticked another item off the bucket list by seeing the glorious Marc Almond in concert in Camden on Wednesday. He is going to be 60 this year, his voice remains incredibly powerful and seems unspoiled. He is a vocal athlete who has somehow preserved all of his abilities. He was a big influence on me circa 1982 and I was glad to go and pay homage at long last.

almond poster

 

Soft Cell ft. Marc Almond: Where The Heart Is (1982)

I am still dating the stunning red-haired model and another guy who’s also young and extravagantly good-looking but my heart isn’t in it really. I am still attached to the Person from last year. I personally think it is a bit cruel to text me and ask cryptic questions about how I am and then don’t ask to see me.

The church didn’t burst into flame, so there’s that.

I sang in public today. It was freaky-deaky. It was very fucking freaky indeed.

I thought I’d joined a community choir but I’m honestly not sure whether it is one or not. I’ve got a feeling it sort of might be a church choir that lets in non-church members to boost the numbers. You do see one or two people in religious jewellery at rehearsals and quite frankly you can tell that a couple of the poor dears are Christians from the abysmal way they dress but no-one ever talks about Jesus and we sing popular music so it’s all cool.

This event came up, there was going to be some sort of memorial service at this church. I didn’t know what ‘memorial service’ means, I assumed it was basically a funeral for somebody specific. The musical director of the choir kept emphasising at rehearsals that she wanted as many choir members as possible at this event so that’s why I showed up. I had the impression we were basically hired help. Turn up and sing at someone’s funeral, okay, I can do that, it doesn’t matter to me what religion they are. When I was a child I used to sing at weddings and I had no emotional investment in that either, I was mildly interested to see what dress the bride turned up in (sometimes it was the same as the bride from the previous week, haha) and I just wanted to sing and get my pocket money.

Wow, this thing today was something else. It wasn’t a funeral for someone specific, it was a general-purpose religious service with a theme of death. It was a bit mental. A whole lot of people in the congregation were publicly emoting, there was a ritual involving a giant cross on the floor and supernatural entities were invoked. It was a kind of voodoo. I was considerably less freaked out when I was in South Africa visiting the sangoma, at least there was only one of her, and she wasn’t crying. The most freaky part was when it got to the prayers. As I mentioned, I was under the impression that the choir was there for professional reasons to provide musical services. I was mildly alarmed when what seemed like the whole choir started praying under their breath. I’ve never felt so conspicuous in my whole life. I’d better not go to any more of those events. I’m not such a strong singer that they will miss me. Strictly secular gigs for me from now on.

Bloody hell. Afterwards, everyone commented on what an emotional occasion it was. I must have had the driest eyes in the house.

Let’s have a tune to take the edge off.

Church.

L7: Pretend We’re Dead (1992)

Colds & flu, surprise text messages, huge bottoms.

I am on my third cold of 2017. Cold and flu viruses are sweeping Britain. Apparently flu is up 38% compared to December and coughs are up by 28%. I despair of ever making it to the gym again.

My present cold isn’t quite as terrible as the previous one, which I only just recovered from in February, because I have less painfully blocked sinuses. I still have a sore chest, a headache and a fever, though, so it’s not good. I’m not getting any work done today and I’m too sick to enjoy having a day off. I am just drinking water and sleeping. Such a waste of time.

Of course, I have plans for this weekend, don’t I. Both Saturday and Sunday. Have to wait and see how I get on. Saturday’s event means going out at 9.30 in the morning. It’s now 2.30 on Friday afternoon so I still have 19 hours to try and feel slightly better.

As a result, there isn’t really any news. The only news I have to report is that on Tuesday I received a surprise text message from the Person who I wasn’t supposed to be in love with from last year. That came quite out of the blue, I didn’t expect to hear from him again. We had this short and cryptic conversation where he wanted to know how I was, apparently for no reason. I have rarely met a more ambivalent man. Probably he was having a spasm of missing me, enough to text me but not enough to suggest seeing each other. Maybe he has flu as well, who knows. Have to wait and see if I hear from him again.

While we are patiently WAITING to feel better and to receive messages from handsome boys, let’s have a tune. I saw this video for the first time today and I simply adore it. This is one of the most beautiful young women I’ve ever seen, the video is like a fairytale and she preaches a message of self-love and body positivity. ‘I’m getting thicker and thicker’, she says, waving her perfect, huge bottom. We could all use some of that. I might start looking to her for fashion and beauty tips, not to mention advice on how to be happy.

Behold.

Lizzo: Scuse Me (2016)

lizzo

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