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Helena

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  1. I have to admit, dirac, that the Dudley Moore parody was very funny - though I believe Britten was furious about it! I know some find Pears's voice hard to take - it's certainly unusual. In my opinion, though, he has never been equalled musically. Quite unique.
  2. I think Death in Venice is a masterpiece, but it isn't easy, and isn't what most people expect opera to be. It's very complex and introspective, and the audience has to concentrate and listen, not just expect it to wash over them. There is some very beautiful orchestration. There's a lot of recitative, which is very difficult for singers who aren't experienced in that sort of singing. Pears was a superb Bach singer, and the recits were entirely modelled on his style. I confess I'm astonished by oberon's reaction to Pears. I thought his performance an overwhelming experience. Perhaps he was tired that night - he was not exactly young when the part of Aschenbach was created for him (63, I think), but no-one else has quite the same effect. Most singers just imitate him. I think, though, that for most of us in England who grew up with Britten as a sort of musical figurehead, it is impossible to disconnect Death in Venice from Britten himself. It was his last opera, and he was very ill when he was writing it. He was, in fact, too ill to go to the premiere. It has a sort of poignant symbolism for us, and that makes it hard to be objective. I wouldn't like to nominate Britten's "greatest" opera. Peter Grimes is superficially the easiest, because it has most of the Italian opera conventions - big arias, duets, choruses. (I thought Jon Vickers absolutely wrecked it, missing all the subtleties - Britten hated his performance - agree Langridge was good.) Midsummer Night' s Dream is fun, and very beautiful in parts. Billy Budd is profound, and so is Turn of the Screw. Lucretia is emotionally harrowing in the right performance, and has some exceptionally lovely music. The reason I'm so keen on Britten is that one can spend a lifetime pondering the deeper significances - I almost have! The Tadzio in the first production was Robert Huguenin, from the Royal Ballet School.
  3. Thank you, Ed. I think Billy is one of Britten's "sullied innocence" figures, isn't he? I have read the Melville, and the opera seems to me to be quite close in spirit, though quite a few surface details are changed. Some people find it just too miserable, but actually it is as much about love as anything else. Just one point - Pears was a tenor, and it was the part of Vere that was written for him - it was one of his favourite parts. Pears had exceptionally clear diction, and in those pre-subtitle days that was very useful for an opera where words count. The part of Budd was written with Geraint Evans in mind, and it was he who found it unsuitable for his voice though I can't remember whether he found it too high or too low. In the event the part was taken by an American, Theodor Uppman, who, Britten said at the time "certainly looked like Billy". (Theres actually a signed photo of him in the part for sale on eBay at the moment.)
  4. I'm another one who doesn't post often, though I do read Ballet Talk. Since so far you've had no replies, which is a shame, I thought I would ask you to say more. I'm English, and a fan of Britten, so I'd be very interested to read what you made of Billy Budd. I've read a few reviews from the American papers online, and they seemed positive, all except one (can't remember what paper) which had no understandimg of it, it seemed to me. The other opera you mention I know nothing about at all!
  5. What are the "high arts"

    This is a very interesting topic, and one which I feel strongly about, but am so far unable to discuss intelligently. I feel the difference between "high" and "low" art instinctively, but not rationally. Meanwhile, I am curious to know what Alexandra means by "simplified " Petipa and opera. Have I missed something here? I'm not really aware of either.
  6. Great Britons survey

    Anne Robinson also chose Margot Fonteyn as one of her personal, unofficial Top Ten! Watermill, I don't think that Richard Attenborough was in the top 100 list. It was his brother, the naturalist David Attenborough, I think. It is a fairly silly idea, and one can't take it seriously, but nevertheless it's fascinating to see who is chosen. I think Shakespeare should win - he did last time, didn't he?
  7. Don't worry, ronny, I love the fairy tales, too, and I'm all for the beautiful and uplifting things in ballet. I was just curious to know what you disliked. I have always found Mayerling quite an interesting ballet, because I know a bit about Austrian history, and have been to the Mayerling hunting lodge outside Vienna. The people in the ballet are very real to me. (There are photographs of them at Mayerling, and china that they used.) That does make it a bit more frightening than Swan Lake or Giselle, though!
  8. I don't quite understand your point here. What exactly is the problem with the story?
  9. I'm glad this topic has come up, because I think that looks matter enormously in ballet, but have felt that it was too politically incorrect to say so! I really mind about faces, and in fact there are one or two dancers in the Royal Ballet who are without doubt excellent dancers, but who I never book for because I don't like their faces. Ballet is a visual art, relying in part on proportions, and faces have proportions like the rest of the body. I can easily think of dancers from the past who did not succeed because they had the "wrong" face. Faces don't seem to be considered quite as important as they used to be, probably partly because of "political correctness" (which I am not entirely against), and partly because virtuosity is more important than it once was, so a dancer might be more likely to succeed now because of his/her technical brilliance. I don't think it would have occurred to someone like Ashton that looks were unimportant. He knew they were.
  10. Romeo and Juliet/Prom

    Apologies in advance for being off-topic. Felursus, the Mahler is very tricky - I found it very hard, too. I found listening to recordings and fitting my part (first alto) in with them the easiest way of getting the difficult harmonies into my brain! It all fell into place in the end. In Britain it is standard to keep the lights up, as you probably know since you've lived in Britain.
  11. Romeo and Juliet/Prom

    Lolly, I was very interested in your comments about concerts. Those triumphant endings to movements, where you want to applaud, are often called clap-traps by musicians! When my children as young adults first went to ballet performances, they were thrilled that they could clap in the middle - they were more used to concerts, where they couldn't. About the house lights - the current conductor of my local orchestra in England, who is an American, wants to dim the lights during concerts, but then you wouldn't be able to read the words of choral works in the programme. I'm going to watch Simon Rattle conducting Mahler 8 at the Proms on television now.
  12. Romeo and Juliet/Prom

    I am sure that the convention of not clapping between movements is because a symphony or concerto is not a series of several short pieces, but one whole, and therefore has only one end. Felursus, I have also been a choral singer, and have done Mahler 8 at least ten times, and in no performance was there an intermission (or interval, as I would say!), though we could have done with one. It's an exciting piece to perform, but hard work, and very difficult to keep together! (That's the conductor's problem mostly.)
  13. Great Britons survey

    Well, I'm British and I found this list extraordinary and quite distressing. I think the problem nowadays is that the "popular" press is very, very bad and encourages worship of mediocre so-called "celebrities" - sports people, pop and rock "singers", television personalities. This list doesn't reflect the opinions of educated people, at least I hope not! I suggested Benjamin Britten and Ninette de Valois, but no luck... The only encouraging thing is that Shakespeare and Darwin are always there.
  14. Pineapple Poll

    Do these American/Canadian productions use the Osbert Lancaster designs? I can't imagine this ballet without them, any more than I can imagine La Fille Mal Gardee without them.
  15. Do you like mime in ballet?

    I agree absolutely with Mel Johnson - mime IS dancing, and it is certainly ballet!
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