I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Trust me, I'm an opera nut

Modernists got a shellacking this week in a BBC4 three-part series on twentieth century posh music. John Adams, himself a practitioner, said he could never "love" late Schoenberg. And the consensus on Webern, never confuse him with Weber, seemed he was off his trolley.

Yet Stravinsky's music which caused riots in Paris in 1913 later figured in Walt Disney's movie, Fantasia, presumably aimed at children.

Most people who hum along with Lark Ascending and drum their fingers to Rondo à la Turca just don't give a damn. And unless there's some natural curiosity what I write here will be meaningless.

My prescription for those willing to close their eyes, pinch their nose and wince at the taste is to forget non-vocal music and try opera. Two in particular which we’ve just seen.

Srauss's Salomé, based on Oscar Wilde's play, is erotic, as in "a state of sexual arousal or anticipation of such, an insistent sexual impulse." The story could be summarised thus: sexual whimsy, sexual frustration, seduction, sado-masochism, and finally sadism. It's simple, short, gripping and echoes the turmoil in your reproductive system. There’s a famous dissonant chord which some wimp described as "the most sickening in all opera". You won't come away dwelling on tonal ambiguities and polytonality, though there are lots of both.

Hogarth's engravings tell you what to expect from Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. The libretto is by Auden and Kallman so if you're watching a DVD, as we were, enable the sub-titles. It's more reflective than Salomé and remarkable for the way your sympathies are enlisted as insanity and death claim a far from sympathetic character. Again, the music simply pulls you along. Not ancient, not modern, just music. The sets at Glyndebourne are by Hockney and they’re witty.


  1. I love opera, its passion and majesty, and those powerful voices which I so envy. I'm not educated enough about music to analyze and critique it well - I just enjoy it. I suppose it's the same with many less-educated viewers of visual art - "I know what I like", they say in defense. Fair enough.

  2. M-L: The disadvantage arrives when you are moved enough to want to communicate your enthusiasm for what you have seen and heard and you have nothing to say. That's very sad. In my most recent comment to your blog I tried to show how someone technically ignorant of the visual arts may nevertheless make a stab at it. I for instance have never been educated in music whereas you, I understand, were taught the piano in your youth. Surely that's a start.