Went to Nan's on Saturday afternoon. As ever with Nan and Andy's generous and good-humoured hospitality, one thing (running through some of the Bob Boles bits with Nan) led to another (dinner, a beer, and watching the DVD of the 1975 Covent Garden Peter Grimes until midnight with Abi, Nan and Andy).
Abi and Mario were there when I arrived, making a start running through the enormous challenges of Ellen Orford and Grimes. Mario had hurtled over for the weekend from Cardiff, where he is based as a full-time medic. He spends his working weeks doing whatever it is that surgeons do, mostly making PowerPoint presentations about next year's budget.
Abi stayed for the evening's viewing, and finished up as depressed as I was: it's really very affecting opera, Britten on top emotionally-disturbing form. Jon Vickers is a very powerful Grimes, a role he legendarily made his own: big and strong, gruff and frustrated, misunderstood, unable to connect with the villagers. And he sang fabulously. Heather Harper has a touch of the staring-eyed, flashy-teethed madwoman about her, an Ellen Orford with an emotional deathwish.
Bob Boles is fine in a shouty sort of way, but to me he looked like the Quaker Oats man rather than a scary, Paisleyesque, fire-and-brimstone misery-monger, and I hope my drunk is nastier than his. Norman Bailey, as Balstrode, is the commanding and peevish voice of reason, though put me in mind of a what-ho pipe-smoking yachtie from a 1970s Condor advert.
A very affecting production, though, so it's no wonder we went home feeling subdued, as Grimes meekly submits to cruel fate and sails out to commit suicide. I biked home through Brixton at midnight, which some people might think is the same thing, but it was fine. It's mostly downhill back to Kennington from Streatham; Brixton was buzzing and full of queues of people waiting to get their mobile phones stolen in clubs; it was dry and mild; and I was back home in as long as it takes for a deranged fisherman to scuttle his smack.
So: can we do it? Can we, a small scruffy South London college best known for trendy modern artists and a building made of giant tagliatelli, stage such a big opera as Peter Grimes? Of course! It doesn't need backdrops as it's all supposed to be on Suffolk's featureless, sparse, misty-grey, mud-brown coast anyway. All we need is a load of nets, some tables and mugs for the pub scene, and a few fishing boxes.
Oh, yes. The singing. That could be a challenge, guys.
Anyway, before watching Grimes, we saw a few highlights of the Charlton House concert last August. Abi and Nat did a lovely duet and looked and sounded like total pros; they have such lovely voices and stage presence.
In fact, there are many Goldies who you'd happily call proper singers, with the ability and drive to make a successful career of it. Professionals, in other words. Which raises the question of what I'm doing here, a website editor and arts journalist with a slapdash approach to life who started studying music older than the leaders of most EU accession countries. An amateur, in other words.
I think, mainly, it's because I've been blessed with one rare natural talent that I intend to exploit to the full, something given to very few people: the ability to turn up.
And when you do keep turning up for things - well, one thing leads to another.