Saturday, 25 October 2008

A whole new ball game

I do a few reviews for HMV's free in-store music magazine. In the latest batch of CDs was a live recording, made on 8 May 1971, of Wagner's Parsifal from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Jon Vickers as Parsifal.

The cast list was a little more interesting from our point of view further down, though. For there, as Erster Knappe, was one Nan Christie. I emailed Nan to let her know. She was amazed - she had no idea it had been recorded, and remembered little of the occasion. Which is hardly a surprise: it was 37 years ago (Nan must have been a child prodigy) and she was only on stage for about five minutes, out of four and a half hours. (Goodall conducts with the urgency of a glacier outrunning a tectonic plate.)

Oh yes, I did listen to all four CDs of the review copy, honestly. I'm a professional, you know. I mean, I wouldn't do anything like listen to the football on Radio 5 at the same time.

Oddly enough, I remember that particular day very well: while she was doing her stuff on stage, I was watching Match of the Day, seeing Arsenal beat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final 2-1. Which tells you the extent of my musical background.

Anyway, I brought the Parsifal disc along to the rehearsal on Thursday (pictured above and below). We were hacking through the mighty end of Act II, the bit where the gardener comes in and Mozart does his showpiece ensemble composition stuff.

I'd hurtled from work to arrive late, then immediately missed the easiest of entries. I felt rather like Chris Iwelumo, the Scottish striker who came on as sub and immediately missed an open goal last week.

Compared to Grimes, of course Figaro is far far easier to sight-read and get in your head. Except that it's hard in a different way: there's tons of it, some of it very very fast, all that machine-gun buffo patter.

And the recitatives. We've never done that before – none in Grimes, Carmen or Magic Flute – so that'll take a lot of work.

After Grimes last June, I spoked to Natalie (one of the Nieces). (We were in the same year at Goldsmiths and were in Magic Flute and Carmen together too.) We agreed then that we definitely, certainly, would not be doing any more Opera Gold.

We're just too busy, we said, and have too many other things to do: Nat's now at the Academy, and I'm just up to my eyes trying to earn a living.

So, we confirmed to each other, there was simply no way we'd be doing Figaro.

You wouldn't be seeing us at rehearsals.

Oh no.

So, Nat's the one second from left in the picture below. I'm the one taking it.

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