Music

Other Plagues

This is not the first time obviously, nor will it be the last so let me remind you that epidemics have always been a potent inspiration for interesting and sometimes great, art. Let’s start with my least favourite in this moment. Daniel Defoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year” published in 1772 but purporting to be an eyewitness account of London’s great plague of 1665….though of course it wasn’t as our Dan was only 5 years old at the time! But there you are , poets’ licence I guess,a narrative cobbled together using old documents and eyewitness accounts. Apparently he did a very similar thing when he wrote his more famous “Robinson Crusoe”.

“Love in the time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Now is this just a sentimental, absurdly romantic love story? Certainly not a story of “true” love! And what IS this love? Is it a disease just like the plague? Colera is certainly passion in some languages (even in English we have choleric) so not just an epidemic. Which of the two diseases do we want to eradicate? It’s also striking in its treatment of love at advanced age, pretty unusual for a best seller. And what about the film? It got quite critical reviews for its tone, swinging as it does from a great, life-long unrequited love with Bardem gazing eternally at his love with big moist doggy eyes, to hilarious sex scenes of the eternally “faithful” lover. But there you are , it whiles away a few hours.

La Peste” by Albert Camus, and here we are on firmer literary ground with the description of the effect of the epidemic on a town in Algeria, perhaps based on an actual plague in 1849.But is that what Camus is really writing about? What resonates with a reader in our current situation is the uncovering of “paltriness and generosity” and “small heroism and large cowardice” (Marina Waldner). It is almost impossible not to notice the similarities with today’s news items which literally steamroll us with similar information of caring generosiy as well as me-first idiots and virulent loathsome uninformed criticism.. What IS receding is possibly the historical memory or even the desire, to see Camus’s chef-d’oeuvre as a comment on advancing Nazism and even there I’m afraid, there are parallels

And lastly I can’t avoid talking about my favourite film “Nosferatu”by Werner Herzog with Klaus Kinski in the title role absolutely perfect, and underlined by a score performed by Popul Vu a German group as far as I know underestimated in the AngloSaxon world and of course, as Jonathan Harker rides out to meet Nosferatu the glorious breath -stopping prelude by Wagner. Herzog’s masterly market place scenes of wild abandon of the people who knew they were on the Grim Reaper’s list reminded me of the Danses Macabres that you can find on walls all around Italy. “the scene in the town square is brilliant: moving because of the wonderful music and important to the understanding of why this too could be linked to Nazism. Anyone who has ever seen Ani-Jewish Nazi propaganda will immediately make the link. I do realise that it might be difficult to watch as we who live in Italy are having to deal with images of coffins almost every day.”

Gardening, Music, My Diary

The Best of times, the Worst of times…

I’m quoting Dickens from memory so I might be wrong. I believe they are the first few lines of “A Tale of Two Cities”. So,in this period, I guess we’re learning a lot, I think we’ll have lost some of our fascination with social media by the time this is all over. Honestly, just how much crap can you read? I’m tired of the inane comments and the way people rush onto social mediia to comment on some evidently misunderstood headlines instead of reading the whole article;maybe after this we shall have all become more discerning and more cautious in its use. Having said that, the possibility to video call must be a lifeline to those who are alone, friendless and family-less, and I just dread to think of people dying alone without being able to see their loved ones because they have no devices. There is too the wonderful work being done by LaVerdi who are still trying to get music to us; tiny groups of 2,3,4 musicians get together to play for us, what a treat! It looks as if La Scala will soon be doing the same thing

Modern technology has been a godsend to people isolated in their homes. There is just so much reading, listening to Youtube, watching old DVDs and Netflix that a human being can stomach! Walking the dog seems to have become an obsession as does jogging and running! Me, I take a brief walk along the railway lines right at the bottom of the garden, no one is ever there. I realize that I must stick to the straight and narrow path of virtue from now on, I could not possibly be locked up! So a bit more attention to red light traffic lights Anne!

Personally, this difficult time has sparked my creativity. Look at the hat! I have to stay still when I wear it because if I don’t the flowers fall off the brim! Apart from doing a lot of reading, (no, I haven’t dared to re-read “La Peste” yet! I’m also looking at old DVDs and films but I’m careful to choose the feel-good type. Last week I watched “Schindler’s list” and plunged myself into deepest despair. I’m listening to a lot of classical music and the silence, both without and within has led to a more profound appreciation, we’re just not too hurried to listen to the greats. Now I’m going gardening. That is one of the most cheering things you can do. As you walk the grasshoppers jump ahead of you, the bees buzz, ignoring you but impollinating the fruit trees and there’s sometimes a rare butterfly.I’ve noticed that there seems to be more birdsong than usual too. I’ll bet you wish you’d spent your hard-earned money on a smaller appartment and a garden or at least a bigger balcony now don’t you?

Music

Percussion

It was an interesting Friday for music. I was very excited about the first piece of the evening because it was the first time I had ever heard a concert for percussion. When we entered the auditorium the stage was ready with some instruments I can’t name but they looked like xylophones or probably marimbas and a variety of drums and cowbells (yes I believe that really is the term!) In Any case I wondered how anyone would be able to get round to play them all, but the percussionist did, he moved really quickly round the group playing them. It was so different and really exciting especially when he began to vocalise. That was so unexpected. Although it was difficult to understand the piece it was absorbing and I would certainly like to hear more. He’s on Instagram and seems to be very busy with concerts in Europe and Japan. The piece we heard was by Dorman

Music

Love

la Scala, for Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette” . I’m not really used to the style of French opera

( here exemplified as Drame lyrique which avoids blatantly theatrical or grandiose effects) but I can’t resist a good love story and apparently nor can a lot of other people.Shakespeare was the major leaguer in this tragic tale closely followed, well, by more or less everybody! Bellini wrote one, Berlioz too, not to mention Riccardo Cocciante. I’ve seen the play in the theatre directed by Zeffirelli, on film by Zeffirelli and disguised as “West Side Story” (Bernstein), speeded up by Baz Lurman, and loads more. The very best comment I heard was waiting in a queue with some teenagers who were discussing how it might end for Leo (Di Caprio, Romeo in Lurman’s film)! Ignorance is bliss as we say, or let’s face it, at least a surprise! I also have a happy memory of prancing out of a cinema in Greece after seeing WSS feeling terribly excited -arm -in -arm with friends almost dancing down the street, to the disapproval of the Greeks,and singing “Maria” at the top of our voices! I hate nostalgia so now I’ll get back to Gounod whose opera was first performed in Paris 1867. This particular production came from the New York Met.

It’s interesting because it eliminates the final “reconciliation ” theme which we find in Shakespeare. Everyone has their own opinion about this. Do you want to leave the theatre dry-eyed because the youngsters’ deaths have sealed a kind of pact and brought some kind of peace to Verona? or would you prefer to sob your way to the train moved by their tragic destiny? Then again, did they get to have a last kiss? In Shakespeare no, Gounod yes. And while we’re at it, what is it about? A macho culture with an obedient Juliet letting the Fra sort out her difficulties? A very modern idea about the expendibility of youth by the older generations? Hmmm.

Costumes describing a very Venetian-looking Italian settecento, scenery effective, an athletic Romeo very credibly climbing up to the balcony. And his singing too was mostly good, a little too audience -oriented at times maybe. Juliet’s role was taken over at the last minute and I found her voice a little modest but it was a last -minute solution. Among my music -loving and very expert friends and acquaintances there was no consensus.

Music

Auditorium ? Wow!

I don’t know what was wrong with me but I was vaguely bored last night, my own ignorant fault of course. Or maybe I was simply waiting for what I really wanted to hear. “Thus spake Zarathustra!” Of course it’s one of those popular pieces that everybody knows but not everybody knows whose it is. So here’s the lowdown.

Written by Nietsche in 1883/5 to delve into the eternal recurrence of the same, the death of god and the emergence of the ubermensch prophecy, themes to which he would return over and over again in various other writings and which led to some fatal misunderstandings by a certain other German. Apparently he stumbled on the idea while walking near Rapallo (some say Switzerland) but I say be careful where you walk! His declared intention was to find alternatives to repressive moral codes,and he was very “trendy” in the period in which existentialism made the underground headlines with young people wearing black sweaters in smoky French jazz dives back in the day.

In 1896 Richard Strauss wrote a tone poem of the same name, the introduction being variously interpreted as a creation or superman theme which is the most famous part but it is well worth your time to listen to the whole piece only around 30 minutes long with some parts seen as citations from liturgy.

Its life continued in 1968 in ” 2001 Space Odyssey” by Kubrick, adapted from Arthur Clarke’s book.. The 1968 film, as is usual for Kubrick, stirred up a hornets’ nest of argument. Rubbish or genius? In any case it is still much remembered, dare I say ,especially for its sound track.