Here in Brummagem, the weather is glorious - hooray!
I arrived here yesterday afternoon, whereupon a military operation ensued in the garden to put up the gazebo for the party tomorrow. Those attending will understand why four people and a lot of barked orders along the lines of "I need a 2a here, and then another 2" were required when they see it.
In the evening, Mum and I drove over to Warwick for a concert by The Opera Group in association with I Fagiolini
. I Fagiolini themselves are a vocal group who tend to specialise in early music, but aren't afraid to venture into the contemporary arena as well. Mum had seen them before in March, performing a programme entitled "The Full Monteverdi", and had told me how amazing they are: now I know that she was right.
The theme of yesterday evening's performance was birds, largely because of the headline attraction: a brand new operatic piece by a composer named Ed Hughes, which is a reworking of Aristophanes' 5th-century Attic comedy, The Birds
. In full, we were treated to:
Clément Janequin - 'Le Chant des oyseaulx' (French, early 16th cent, really about sex)
Trad arr. Ravenscroft - 'The Three Ravens' (English, early 17th cent, mainly about death)
Per Nørgård - 'D'Monstanz vöögeli' (Danish, 20th cent, seemed to be about freedom and captivity, but I'm not sure I'm really in a position to say)
Ed Huges, 'The Birds' (English, 2005, about the search for Utopia)
Throughout, the singing itself was incredible. Most of the music was either entirely a cappella
, used only very minimal pre-recorded sound-effects (such as real birds, rushing water or traffic and sirens) or, in the opera, used only a cello and timpani to accompany the singers. This meant that the vocalists really had to carry the day, and I Fagiolini certainly know both how to blend their voices together into a perfect bouquet of sound and to bring out one or another melodic line as required.
But the singing was by no means all. It was supported by choreography, physical theatre, stage sets, costumes and dialogue which were all excellent in their own right - and this not just for the opera, where you might expect it, but for the three pre-interval pieces as well. I found myself afterwards saying that the combined entity of the Opera Group and I Fagiolini seemed to me to be to early (and early-inspired contemporary) music what The Actors of Dionysus
are to Greek tragedy: with the added bonus that of course last night the Opera Group and I Fagiolini were being that to Greek comedy as well!
in fact managed to be everything the performance of the Lysistrata which I saw in April
just wasn't: no mechanical regurgitation of the Penguin translation, this, but a fresh new libretto (by Glyn Maxwell), and a dynamic, inventive production. Of equal standing with the student Birds
I saw in Oxford in 1998/9, I think, although very different, and certainly a lot more self-consciously 'arty'.
By the time we got back from the concert, we found Charlotte and Nicolas safely installed in the house, ready to prepare for and attend the party on Sunday. They'd both come up from London on the train, he having started his day in Brighton, where he had to stay on Thursday night because he'd realised there was no way he was going to be able to get back into London after going there for work. But their journey up to Brum had been disrupted more by the tunnel which fell in recently on the Chiltern line than by anything to do with the bombings.
We hugged lots, and then sat and chatted about various things, including exchanging our personal experiences of the bombings. Charlotte had been the most directly affected - she'd got up, rather late (I'm glad to say) to catch the tube at Stepney Green, and been told the station was closed. At first she assumed she could walk to another station, but hearing that Aldgate East was closed too, she went home to change her shoes and put on the news to see if she could get any travel information from it, and that's when she fully realised the nature of what had happened. Nicolas had found out from her via his mobile, while on a train already heading out of London towards Brighton, and me from good old LJ, while sitting drinking coffee in my office. Just for the record, this was the post
which first indicated to me that something was going on, and this
, immediately afterwards, was the one which told me what. So, indirectly, I actually found out via Radio 4: the same way I first heard about the September 11th attacks, in fact. Good old Radio 4.
Now I am going to stop typing, and go and help with all the cooking and furniture moving which is going on downstairs. Ta-ta!