Skip to main content

Off we go

So the gravel was fine, but I did get a bit arsey about some clippings that a gardener had forgotten to clear up after a bit of topiary work; un-raked gravel is one thing but gravel peppered with bright green yew is quite another. I coped - just - with that, as well as with the jolly gravel observations of several wags. I asked for that of course.

The first night, as my previous blog suggested, is something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Everybody is naturally on (h)edge (bloody yew) but the show went well and the reaction was good so a glass or two of Edradour, Scotland's finest, were taken. Tonight, Fanciulla plays to the first full "normal" audience of the season and on a warmish Friday night, with Puccini's glorious music we should get the full magical effect of OHP in flight.

Il barbiere di Siviglia had its dress rehearsal last night and enjoyed a really terrific reaction so hopes are high that the 9,000 odd patrons booked in to see it will have a whale of a time. Neil Irish has done a hell of a job with the set - it might be the biggest we have ever seen at OHP actually - but stage crew are full of (admiring) hatred for him and have effigies scattered throughout the backstage area that they can kick or stab with pins as they walk past. One is trussed up in gaffer tape so it can't fight back.  The production is particularly poignant for us because its director, Ollie Platt, and conductor Matt Waldren came through the Christine Collins Young Artist programme; she would have been in raptures at their achievements.

On other more important matters, today is the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings. For several reasons I have become especially interested in WWll in recent years and find all commemorations of it deeply moving. OHP does a lot of work at Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and the old soldiers there are a remarkable bunch for whom humility is a key attribute (natural for them but instinctively adopted by those of us who encounter them).  I will end this blog with the words of an old soldier, speaking to the BBC yesterday. Its matter-of-factness strengthens the gravity of the events he describes and whilst I may joke about the aesthetics of a theatre, the relevance of his words to all of us is not lost on me in the least.

"We charged up the beach, cut down the wires and everything else to get through the fences and headed up towards the radar station," he said. 

"We had a wee scuffle here and a scuffle there and then took over the radar station. Anybody that didn't want to come along got shot."

When it was suggested he made it sound easy, he answered: "It was".


Popular posts from this blog

Audiences will decide the future of opera

I have news: the audience will decide the future of opera.
When our season at Opera Holland Park comes to an end, I pore over spreadsheets trying to find reasons why our audience have behaved in the way that they have, and the most concentrated analysis tends to come after seasons during which our house has been full. The theory is this; if we have underperformed, we are programmed to find solutions, but if we have performed well, we are less likely to look for the gremlins that might lose us that ever-capricious audience in a trice – you are never more vulnerable than when you are successful.  Sometimes, though, one can miss the obvious, or perhaps ignore it.
In nearly three decades in opera, I have experienced one "boom" in the art form but an almost perpetual "crisis" of confidence, an alarmed perma-reflection on whether we remain relevant as an art form. This introspective brew is spiced by the occasional real crisis, like that recently at ENO, but we never reall…

XTC -This is Pop (Documentary, Sky 1)

The long awaited - and even longer overdue - documentary about the British band XTC felt to many of us who have considered them the best ever group to emerge from these shores, like a simultaneous roar of approval and a shocking great slap in the face, a sharp reminder of what we have lost now that they no longer record together. Apple Venus Vol.1 and Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2) were released in 1999 and 2000 respectively and together represented the almost perfect distillation of British popular music. I hesitate to just call it "pop" although there are almost unequalled examples of it on both these albums and right through the XTC canon. Andy Partridge's lavishly inventive songwriting, lyrical brilliance and at times almost extra-terrestrial knack for a breathtaking melody or crushingly beautiful harmony seemed to improve and grow throughout the band's 14 album career. It came to a mighty zenith on those final two records. 
Followers of XTC were often torn betwee…

Panic! Culture and the working class

A new report on the working class relationship with culture has been doing the rounds recently.
Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries (which you can find here ( comes at the issue from the point of view of the working class and their opportunities to find careers in the cultural sector. I usually concern myself most with the audience aspects of this debate but this report does touch on matters that relate to that, too. The general issue was also recently making waves with respect to entrants into Oxbridge and with Owen Jones's huge Twitter spat about the class of those in the media. 
The Panic! report takes data from various sources and draws conclusions from it. Some of the conclusions are based on what appear to me to be oddly skewed impressions and some of the report sounds like an argument looking for a validation, rather t…