Opera, cinema and historic Plymouth….

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This weekend to an unknown (to us) Met opera at Vue cinema in Plymouth. The thing about this particular opera for us was that there were absolutely no tunes or melodies throughout. Everything seemed like speech that was sung in one plane as it were. Yes, the singing yet again was admirable and amazing in its power and intensity, but the plot was light and, as I say, no tunes to be hummed on the way home. Not at all memorable. The divas get huge praise in the press however.

Adriana Lecouvreur unfolds in Paris in 1730. The setting reflects a nostalgia for the Rococo era that swept over Europe and the Americas around the turn of the last century when Cilea was composing, evident in other operas (for instance, Puccini’s Manon Lescaut) and in architecture.785x590_adriana4.jpg

ACT I

Paris, 1730. Backstage at the Comédie-Française, the director Michonnet and the company prepare for performance, in which both Adriana Lecouvreur and her rival, Mademoiselle Duclos, will appear. The Prince of Bouillon and the Abbé de Chazeuil enter, looking for Duclos, who is the prince’s mistress. They encounter Adriana and compliment her, but she says that she is merely the servant of the creative spirit (“Io son l’umile ancella”). The Prince hears that Duclos is writing a letter to someone and arranges to have it intercepted. Left alone with Adriana, Michonnet confesses his love to her, only to be told that she is in love with Maurizio, whom she believes to be an officer in the service of the Count of Saxony. Maurizio enters, declaring his love for Adriana (“La dolcissima effigie”), and the two arrange to meet after the performance. Adriana gives him a bouquet of violets as a pledge of her love. During the performance, the prince intercepts the letter from Duclos, in which she asks for a meeting with Maurizio, who is in fact the Count of Saxony himself. He is to meet her later that evening at the villa where the prince has installed her. Determined to expose his seemingly unfaithful mistress, the prince arranges a party at the villa for this same night. Unknown to him, Duclos has written the letter on behalf of the Princess of Bouillon who was having an affair with Maurizio. Maurizio, receiving the letter, decides to meet the princess who has helped him pursue his political ambitions. He sends a note to Adriana to cancel their appointment. Adriana is upset, but when the prince invites her to the party and tells her that the Prince of Saxony will be one of the guests, she accepts in the hope of furthering her lover’s career.

 

ACT II

The princess anxiously awaits Maurizio at the villa (“Acerba voluttà”). When he appears she notices the violets and immediately suspects another woman but he quickly claims they are a gift for her. Grateful for her help at court, he reluctantly admits that he no longer loves her (“L’anima ho stanca”). The princess hides when her husband and the Abbé suddenly arrive, congratulating Maurizio on his latest conquest, who they think is Duclos. Adriana appears. She is astounded to learn that the Count of Saxony is Maurizio himself but forgives his deception. When Michonnet enters looking for Duclos, Adriana assumes that Maurizio has come to the villa for a secret rendezvous with her. He assures her that the woman hiding next door is not Duclos. His meeting with her, he says, was purely political and they must arrange for her escape. Trusting him, Adriana agrees. In the ensuing confusion, neither Adriana nor the princess recognize each other, but by the few words that are spoken each woman realizes that the other is in love with Maurizio. Adriana is determined to discover the identity of her rival, but the princess escapes, dropping a bracelet that Michonnet picks up and hands to Adriana.

 

ACT III

As preparations are under way for a party at her palace, the princess wonders who her rival might be. Guests arrive, among them Michonnet and Adriana. The princess recognizes Adriana’s voice as that of the woman who helped her escape. Her suspicions are confirmed when she pretends Maurizio has been wounded in a duel and Adriana almost faints. She recovers quickly, however, when Maurizio enters uninjured and entertains the guests with tales of his military exploits (“Il russo Mencikoff”). During the performance of a ballet, the princess and Adriana confront each other, in growing recognition that they are rivals. The princess mentions the violets, and Adriana in turn produces the bracelet, which the prince identifies as his wife’s. To distract attention, the princess suggests that Adriana should recite a monologue. Adriana chooses a passage from Racine’s Phèdre, in which the heroine denounces sinners and adulterous women, and aims her performance directly at the princess. The princess is determined to have her revenge.

 

ACT IV

Adriana has retired from the stage, devastated by the loss of Maurizio. Members of her theater company visit her on her birthday, bringing presents and trying to persuade her to return. Adriana is especially moved by Michonnet’s gift: the jewellery she had once pawned to secure Maurizio’s release from prison. A box is delivered, labeled “from Maurizio.” When Adriana opens it, she finds the faded bouquet of violets she had once given him and understands it as a sign that their love is at an end (“Poveri fiori”). She kisses the flowers, then throws them into the fire. Moments later, Maurizio arrives, summoned by Michonnet. He apologizes and asks Adriana to marry him. She joyfully accepts but suddenly turns pale. Michonnet and Maurizio realize that the violets were sent by the princess and had been poisoned by her. Adriana dies in Maurizio’s arms (“Ecco la luce”).

 

Before going to Vue we had a bit of time to kill so, for a coffee and exploration, we drove to the Royal William Yard which we had not visited before. It was a revelation………20190112_161929.jpg…………..an historic piece of Plymouth restored with sensitivity but very grand. Constructed between 1825 and 1831, Royal William Yard is in fact considered to be one of the most important groups of historic military buildings in Britain and the largest collection of Grade I Listed military buildings in Europe. Pretty impressive credentials.20190112_162004.jpegDescribed as the grandest of the royal victualling yards, ‘in its externally largely unaltered state it remains today one of the most magnificent industrial monuments in the country’. Released by the MOD as recently as 1992, Urban Splash have transformed the buildings into mixed-use restaurants, shops and flats, and it is all pretty special, although you do get the impression that it is not as well-visited as it ought to be.20190112_164837.jpg20190112_164854.jpg20190112_165209.jpg20190112_165501.jpg20190112_165621.jpg20190112_165759.jpegBistrot Pierre where we had our coffee was pretty good too, an excellent looking menu, and they have just opened two of the buildings across the square as hotel rooms. They look swish.20190112_164721.jpegYesterday back to Vue Plymouth this time to see the film ‘Stan and Ollie’. Steve Coogan as Stan and John C. Reilly as Ollie were absolutely brilliant and with oodles of preparation took to their parts with perfection. ‘Stan & Ollie’ tells the story of how Laurel and Hardy, with their golden age long behind them, embark upon a tour of the music halls of Britain and Ireland in 1953.
Despite the stresses of the tour, past resentments coming back to light, and Hardy’s failing health, the show must go on: in the end, their love of performing – and of each other – ensures that they secure their place in the hearts of the public. It’s about love, passion and comedy. You come out of the cinema just loving their humour but at the same time feeling for them….when up becomes down it’s tragic to see. For once all the five star reviews are thoroughly deserved. If you get chance, watch it…….1353.jpg

Reading Matters….

the-daughter-of-time-7.jpgDuring our recent visit to Edinburgh I found this ‘The Daughter of Time’ on my daughter’s shelves. I had already read it but was anxious to do so again as I got terrific enjoyment the first time. I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination you could call Tey a great writer….I have read other of her titles and been immensely disappointed, but this is something else. A detective recovering in hospital, flat on his back most of the time, comes across, amongst the gifts friends and colleagues have been bringing in, a portrait of Richard III. He asks himself…is this the face of a man who could commit the murder of his two nephews in the Tower, an event heinous even then. His detective brain starts whirling and he is soon loaded down with serious histories, copies of documents and more trying to sift the evidence looking for clues as to who did actually ‘commission’ the murders. A brilliant tapestry of the times is woven as he refuses to accept the history written by the winners, in other words the Tudors, unless there is factual back-up. Although a Lancastrian myself, and a historian, I have always had a soft spot for Richard III and thought him ill-used by History. Although this is a novel it grips as real history always does. My two favourite subjects, History and Detectives, and this is part History/part Detective. I really couldn’t ask for more.

Since we had a leak in the new roof in the conservatory I have had to move a lot of Unknown.jpegthings out of there, including many books. Noticing one of these, ‘Shakespeare’s Restless World’ I picked it up and started idly leafing through it. I saw immediately that this was only part-read so I resolved to start again. I am so glad I did. It is so well-produced with clear text and beautiful images, and so well-written by ex-Director of The British Museum Neil MacGregor, that it is sheer pleasure. Neil has chosen 20 objects (not only from the BM) to illustrate various aspects of what Shakespeare’s world was really like. These range from the failed attempts of James I to put together a joint flag for the Great Britain he wanted to be a reality, to a woollen apprentice’s cap in absolutely remarkable condition, to a pedlar’s trunk complete with contents, to a brass-handled iron fork lost at the Rose Theatre, the ownership of which was a sign of absolute sophistication. And he uses the objects to telling effect, delving deeply into the full range of Shakespeare’s work. So, my other favourite subject History/Shakespeare is well catered for in this splendid book.

hamlet-arden-shakespeare.jpegWhich leads me on to saying that, having aroused my interest in WS once again, I could not forgo the immediate and absolute pleasure of reading again for the umpteenth time the play ‘Hamlet’ which for me represents the height of literary achievement. It was something I studied in great detail for ‘A’ levels. I have seen the play a few times. I have seen a couple of films. For me it never palls. I read this time round the Arden edition which has copious footnotes and explanatory material, but I must admit that I am easily distracted by these and actually found all of this tiresome as the Editor Harold Jenkins seemed to be engaged a lot of the time in scoring points off previous editors and commentators. Hamlet is too good for this. Best just to read it straight through and make your own sense of it.

A Glorious January Day…

Having just seen an episode of Flog It! from Mount Edgcumbe, and as it was such a nice day that is where we headed. The views on the coast road come from left and right….in this lay-by Plymouth is over the Sound to our left and to the right is Tregantle fort which had its red flag out signifying live shooting.20190109_121607.jpg20190109_121652.jpgSometimes you believe you are surrounded by a landscape of water with the sea on one side and numerous creeks and inlets to the side, in front and behind…20190109_122616.jpgWe started off at the bottom end of the Edgcumbe estate with a drink in front of the fire at the Edgcumbe Arms. This then steeled us to face the cold but beautiful day.20190109_130534.jpgFirst stop the Orangery…20190109_131135.jpgWe then made our way along the coastal edge of the estate taking in various temples and follies….20190109_131517.jpgOne of the gun batteries showed how strategically placed Edgcumbe is – looking out over Plymouth Hoe, and one of the many very good information boards showed the location of an amazing number of shipwrecks in this part of the Sound. I would have thought that when you had made these waters you were safe – but apparently not!20190109_132038.jpgThe path took us through various parts of the garden which we hadn’t seen before…20190109_132315.jpg20190109_132735.jpegand we noticed our first burst of Camellias….20190109_133755.jpgThis is ‘Milton’s Temple, c. 1755 – a circular Ionian temple, with a plaque inscribed with lines from the poem Paradise Lost, “overhead up grew, Insuperable heights of loftiest shade…..” John Milton, (1608–1674)’.20190109_134103.jpeg20190109_134357.jpeg20190109_134609.jpegThe walk was not without its efforts, but all very worthwhile and we saw very few people indeed which was good.20190109_140208.jpgI intended to climb this folly I think for the views but on approaching it I noted some very serious snogging going on at the top level, so I left well alone!20190109_141133.jpeg20190109_141323.jpgFrom here I tried out my panorama mode….not too bad……20190109_141615 2.jpegand it was just past here that we noted that the grounds do contain the National Camellia Collection….what a cheering sight on this winter’s day……..20190109_142213.jpeg20190109_142330.jpg20190109_142539.jpg20190109_142653.jpgBack at the house we visited the Stables area where all the trades used to be located – the blacksmith, wood turner and so on, all the buildings now used by independent crafts people……20190109_143450.jpg20190109_144027.jpegThe house itself is not open until April….20190109_144304.jpeg20190109_144322.jpgWe made our way back to the car along a splendid avenue of trees……..20190109_144935_001.jpgDays like this, cold and clear, remind us of winter days in York……they should be enjoyed to the full.

A Something and Nothing Walk……

20190107_122715.jpgLooking at our local map we saw that there was a potential new walk from Duloe, the next village to us. It did have some rather sharp contour lines, but looked promising. There are no public footpath walks from St Keyne, our village, which is a shame, although we do constantly walk along the lanes. Anyhow, off we set. First of all there were some rather lovely catkins decorating a few trees at the start of the walk. Then, after crossing the dry bed of a little stream….20190107_122924.jpgwe walked through an orchard which belongs to Cornish Orchards well-known now throughout the country for their cider and other drinks. We must return when the blossom is out, and then later see the apples themselves (maybe a bit of scrumping?). 20190107_122948.jpgWe descended sharply to the valley bottom through Duchy land to a little hamlet of holiday cottages. Unfortunately as we reached the road……. 20190107_124541.jpg…….someone yet again had blighted the landscape with uncaring dumping of litter. Who are these people? Well, on the way back up to Duloe on the lanes I noted a discarded outer of Carling Lager, and scattered for a mile or so along the hedgerow I counted about 10 cans of Carling. Idiots all these people.20190107_130525.jpgThere was a rather nice cottage on the way up which had a lovely rustic gateway which added to the view…..I do so like the gates and stiles and crossing points you see on country walks and often take pictures showing the huge differences in regional styles (not a pun!). I really would like to write a booklet for the Shire series of esoteric books. One day, perhaps.20190107_131356.jpg20190107_131550.jpgWe noted some wildflowers in bloom, and when we had finished our walk I drove to the edge of Duloe……. 20190107_131448.jpgto take a picture of a clump of daffodils that have been in flower since December…..this bank where they are is full of daffodils in Spring, so I am frankly amazed at this one clump with no sign whatsoever of any others….perhaps a very early variety anyhow.20190107_140349.jpgOther things are blossoming at this time in Cornwall…here a camellia and…… 20190101_130546.jpg….in our own garden this azalea has been in flower since at least early December, probably November.20190101_155343.jpgWell, we did our 8000 steps, but I don’t think we’ll be in too much of a hurry to do the walk again. It was a little uninspiring……

From a new beach to Nansledan, a Cornish Vision of the Prince of Wales…

We were off to call at some of the beaches on the North coast which we know well, and headed for Newquay. Just outside, and by accident, we came upon Nansledan. Nansledan is an extension to the Cornish coastal town of Newquay on Duchy of Cornwall land that embodies the principles of architecture and urban planning championed by HRH The Prince of Wales at Poundbury. These views from our car give a good idea of what it is like still under construction. Basically it uses local materials and local construction methods using local labour to create a charming self-contained community. Not everyone likes the architectural ideas of  HRH, but we certainly do. Fascinating.20190102_132436.jpg20190102_132543.jpgLeaving the outskirts of Newquay, we had another chance find – Lusty Glaze beach ‘which is situated in a natural ampitheatre of 200ft high cliffs. Smaller than its more expansive neighbours The beach benefits from a degree of shelter from the prevailing wind. Although privately owned the beach is fully open to the public at no cost.

Lusty Glaze is home to an adventure centre with activities such as climbing and abseiling, bungee jumping, surfing and other watersports offered. The beach management also organise a number of events throughout the summer.

Located at the northern end of Newquay Bay Lusty Glaze joins up with the adjoining Tolcarne beach at lower tides and can be accessed this way. The alternative is via a steep path consisting of 368 steps leading down from the clifftop. Despite this, the beach is very family oriented with facilities including a creche.’ It looked just great, and the 368 steps well worth the effort. Another time!20190102_133255.jpeg20190102_133518.jpgHaving looked at a number of familiar beaches, we decided not to start a walk on any because it was the point of high tide and walking distances were very circumscribed. Instead we took a long almost deserted road to a NT carpark at Trevose Head. We noted this down as an excellent place for some future picnic. In Summer you can access beaches at Booby’s Bay and Mother Ivy’s…we will return.1264412.jpg 20190102_143739.jpeg20190102_143824.jpg20190102_143839.jpg20190102_144008.jpgThe sea around the headland had that beautiful green-blue colour which is so reminiscent of say the South of France even though not a particularly nice day.20190102_143858.jpegRequiring toilet facilities we adjourned to nearby Padstow where I thought we might get a glimpse of their Christmas lights. The town was surprisingly busy.20190102_152402.jpeg20190102_152408.jpgWe did our usual walk up the hill to the War Memorial and then down to St George’s Cove. Normally you can walk much further around the headland here but as it was high tide – not. We really should consult our tide tables more often!20190102_154412.jpeg

Reading matters….

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So, Dame Stella Rimington. Joined MI5 in1968 and worked in all the main fields of the Service before being appointed D-G, the first woman to hold the post, in 1992. Does her life experience lead to her novels being excellent representations of what the Sevice does? It surely does. Her books are bang up-to-date. Each theme she tackles is sparklingly relevant to what is happening in the world today. In fact her Liz Carlyle novels are frightening in their relevance. In quick succession I read ‘Rip Tide’, ‘Close Call’ and ‘Breaking Cover’, all excellent reads, all unputdownable. The back stories about family and love life are credible (and presumably like the plots based on real life), and the stories themselves are exciting in the extreme. Do read them. You will not be disappointed. The fact that I read all three without any interruption and F. is doing the 51MxbEeDujL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgsame speaks volumes. Having finished my trilogy I moved on to ‘The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye’ which I have to say was one of the most boring reads I have had for a long long time. Stieg Larsson’s original books were sensational and have been made into excellent films of course, but this…..considering it is supposed to be a thriller there was not one iota of excitement in all of its too many pages. if this is the best that can be done the franchise has certainly had its day. I won’t bore myself any more by talking of the plot….there wasn’t one!

71x1YeoiE1L.jpgOver Christmas I happened to mention to my son-in-law the novel that Julian Barnes put together based on how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took up the case of a Birmingham half-caste solicitor George Edalji who was imprisoned as the guilty party in the so-called Great Wyrley Outrages where animals were savaged in the Midlands locality where he lived. A shocking miscarriage of justice about which Conan Doyle created a huge fuss in real life is subsumed in a gripping story which relates the development of the two main characters into the people they were and then their inter-reaction. A literary masterpiece, shortlisted for the Booker, it should surely have won. Anyway I shall be posting it off to Nasar and hope he enjoys it as much as I did for the second time.

Christmas 2018 in Edinburgh……

East coast, as we remembered from our time in York, crisp days, blue skies and cold…hat, scarf, gloves weather. It is always good to visit Edinburgh but I do despair how, despite being very much a capital city, and with more than its fair share of historic and beautiful buildings, it is still rough round the edges. Litter everywhere, puke, overflowing bins, what a society we are! Anyhow it’s lovely to see the progress on Katherine and Nasar’s house (and Aiisha’s of course). New stair carpet running up through their 3 floors with brass carpet rods just ties the whole house together in a stylish way. Our first stop was a children’s library to swop books. One of the nicest….20181222_103255_008.jpg20181222_103309.jpg20181222_102859.jpgand then on to a special story-telling which was very well done and captivating almost to the end…..the only dodgy bit was that in one of the stories small presents were pulled from a sock for a few children, but at the end of the story they were collected back…mean!20181222_110254.jpegA bit of shopping in town, and a chance to admire fine buildings…20181222_124627.jpg20181222_133914.jpegA busy day was completed at the Commonwealth Swimming Pool for a Christmas party and adventures in the soft-play area….20181222_142539.jpg20181222_144524.jpgThe next day we had a very nice stroll down through New Town to Stockbridge, an area I like very much for its ‘village’ atmosphere and shops. 20181223_123058.jpg20181223_123112.jpg20181223_125617.jpeg20181223_125823.jpgthe backs of the big houses are mews converted to rather interesting dwellings…20181223_125906.jpg20181223_130117.jpgOur task was to buy some fresh fish from the excellent fishmonger which I was to use for sole with beurre noisette. Lunch in the local Deli was great.20181223_133049.jpgOn Christmas Eve we went to the Princess Gardens fair which always has a nice family atmosphere, unlike some fairs I could mention…20181224_110848.jpg20181224_110926.jpg20181224_111756.jpeg20181224_114222.jpg20181224_115651.jpgChristmas Day was excellent (and busy). I think it took two of us sometimes three of us about 3 hours to erect the Playmobil hospital…still that’s what parents and grandparents are for…..20181225_113916.jpg20181225_113918.jpg20181225_131028_003.jpg20181225_131039.jpg20181225_131052.jpgbut there were lots of other presents too, so many that Nasar negotiated an agreement whereby quite a lot of existing toys had to be put on one side for Charity before the new ones could be put away!20181225_172625.jpg20181225_172633.jpg20181225_172642.jpg20181225_172645.jpg20181225_093437.jpg20181225_094016.jpgNasar’s favourite toy, and mine, was the remote control car which could run on walls and ceilings as well as the floor……20181225_094131.jpg20181225_094138.jpgAfter Christmas and Boxing Day it is always good to get out and about, here on The Meadows where Aiisha demonstrated how good a cyclist she is now…20181227_120357.jpg20181227_120418.jpg20181227_120900.jpg20181227_121346.jpgA little friend from Nursery whom we met by chance made the play area doubly enjoyable. The Meadows is a terrific facility to have on your own doorstep with everything including a golf course and a lovely cafe/deli where we had coffees and, for me, a small Portuguese tart.20181227_125746.jpeg20181227_125854.jpg20181227_130935.jpgWhat a nice Christmas….

Reading matters…..

cicero_cvr1_h750-1.jpgAnother Folio read from my collection – this one still in its cellophane wrapper, unopened for, what, 15 years, and what a find. Apart from the moderniste illustrations which I disliked intensely this was an amazing read. Basically it is Cicero’s speeches in court usually for the defence. The florid language and the egotistical approach are to the fore but the content is mind-boggling. Apart from the fact that the extensive notes in this issue take you right through Roman history up to the first Emperors, the speeches themselves take you right into the heart of what it was to be a Roman. I studied Latin to A Level and have always liked reading about Roman history, but this was something else. You really felt you were there in the Senate or court house listening to someone who has always been regarded as one of the greatest orators of all time. And the daily life described, and the political machinations, so like what we know ourselves. These people, apart from obvious differences, were human beings with human foibles who could be living next door to us now. What a privilege it was to read (over a period of several months) these extremely detailed accounts of what was going on in the late Republican era. Unlike modern court cases Cicero’s defences usually rested on the question Crassus apparently alway asked ‘Who stands to benefit?’, and thereafter minute dissection of character. So they were hardly objective, but that all adds to the spice. A book to lose yourself in….

Not sure I have talked about this before but this highly illustrated edition of ‘Under Milk51eKHyeFcJL._SX418_BO1204203200_-1.jpg Wood’ is a wonderful thing to have. I just love the beautiful language of Dylan and his over-fertile imagination. The nearest thing I can think of is Homer with his ‘wine-dark sea’. No-one but no-one else could have written this, and the fact that his life was, in a sense, so tragic and cut short is to be heavily regretted. Peter Blake the famous British artist spent 28 years on a labour of love drawing and painting all of the characters and imaginings from the story/poem and this is now a wonderful accompaniment to the text. It just adds an extra dimension. Having spent some time living and working in South  Wales which I always remember fondly, I do find myself reading with a Welsh lilt trying to replicate Richard Burton. As if!

item_XL_10610563_13939767.jpgNow here’s an interesting book. I have never really bothered with it, thinking it to dwell in the realms of the astrological, which is not for me. However, having dipped into it I find that, far from that, it takes pains to examine the great stories of Myth in all the main cultures and religions. ‘Here, from every corner of the globe, are tales of the world’s creation, undying love, the Sun and the Moon, gods of the weather, tricksters, terrible monsters, the afterlife and the underworld, and more.’ Christopher Dell shows how many myths share common patterns, and this is the really fascinating thing about it. I found it, to be honest, quite astounding how stories in one religion are very nearly exactly the same in another. So, just as the ancient Greeks, when dead, crossed the river Styx so the Japanese crossed the river Sanzu. Or take honey. The OT is full of references to honey, suggestive of sweetness and leisure, and one of the chapters of the Koran entitled ‘The Bee’ describes it as ‘a cure for men’. In Hinduism honey is used in worship or as a sacrifice.  To us the most famous example of flooding comes from the OT where Noah builds his ark to save every species in The Great Flood. In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh Utnapishtim is advised by the God Enki to build an ark before his brother sends a great deluge. In Greek mythology, Zeus decides to flood the world too…..Prometheus however forewarns his son who prepares a chest of provisions in which he and his wife float around for 9 days. In Hindu myth the human Manu is warned of the flood by Vishnu and is able to save himself in time. One can only imagine that a lot of the Myths had a common source, and that in turn leads to lots of philosophical questions. I’ll leave those to someone else!

 

 

Another evening at the opera…

A6BD6048-4110-4C69-9050-696A789C90A2-1170x751.jpegWell, almost – the Vue cinema in Plymouth again. And, yet again, a superb experience. This time La Traviata from The Met New York. It really is almost like being there. And this production had a few twists – features which didn’t appear in our last viewing of La Traviata. It started as a dream sequence with flash-backs which set the scene very nicely. And it included a ballet sequence which was astonishingly good since this is an opera company. The leads – stars soprano Diana Damrau and the tenor Juan Diego Flórez. were terrific, powerful, moving. And, as the NYT says ‘the solid, robust baritone Quinn Kelsey was grave and formidable as Germont’. He was indeed and obviously, as an American, a particular audience favourite. And, it was nothing less than the start of a new period in the Met’s history: the Yannick Nézet-Séguin era as Musical Director. And the music was indeed incredible. We have listened since to other recordings including Maria Callas and they don’t hold a candle to this production. Still, what do we know about opera? I only went to my first just over a year ago! I’m a definite convert. Watching this the tears started falling unbidden from my eyes. Amazing!merlin_147638601_589a5771-6177-45e6-95b1-6b564e98b1dd-jumbo.jpg

ACT I

Violetta Valéry knows that she will die soon, exhausted by her restless life as a courtesan. At a party she is introduced to Alfredo Germont, who has been fascinated by her for a long time. Rumor has it that he has been enquiring after her health every day. The guests are amused by this seemingly naïve and emotional attitude, and they ask Alfredo to propose a toast. He celebrates true love, and Violetta responds in praise of free love (Ensemble: “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici”). She is touched by his candid manner and honesty. Suddenly she feels faint, and the guests withdraw. Only Alfredo remains behind and declares his love (Duet: “Un dì felice”). There is no place for such feelings in her life, Violetta replies. But she gives him a camellia, asking him to return when the flower has faded. He realizes this means he will see her again the following day. Alone, Violetta is torn by conflicting emotions—she doesn’t want to give up her way of life, but at the same time she feels that Alfredo has awakened her desire to be truly loved (“Ah, fors’è lui… Sempre libera”).

ACT II

Violetta has chosen a life with Alfredo, and they enjoy their love in the country, far from society (“De’ miei bollenti spiriti”). When Alfredo discovers that this is only possible because Violetta has been selling her property, he immediately leaves for Paris to procure money. Violetta has received an invitation to a masked ball, but she no longer cares for such distractions. In Alfredo’s absence, his father, Giorgio Germont, pays her a visit. He demands that she separate from his son, as their relationship threatens his daughter’s impending marriage (Duet: “Pura siccome un angelo”). But over the course of their conversation, Germont comes to realize that Violetta is not after his son’s money—she is a woman who loves unselfishly. He appeals to Violetta’s generosity of spirit and explains that, from a bourgeois point of view, her liaison with Alfredo has no future. Violetta’s resistance dwindles and she finally agrees to leave Alfredo forever. Only after her death shall he learn the truth about why she returned to her old life. She accepts the invitation to the ball and writes a goodbye letter to her lover. Alfredo returns, and while he is reading the letter, his father appears to console him (“Di Provenza”). But all the memories of home and a happy family can’t prevent the furious and jealous Alfredo from seeking revenge for Violetta’s apparent betrayal.

At the masked ball, news has spread of Violetta and Alfredo’s separation. There are grotesque dance entertainments, ridiculing the duped lover. Meanwhile, Violetta and her new lover, Baron Douphol, have arrived. Alfredo and the baron battle at the gaming table and Alfredo wins a fortune: lucky at cards, unlucky in love. When everybody has withdrawn, Alfredo confronts Violetta, who claims to be truly in love with the Baron. In his rage Alfredo calls the guests as witnesses and declares that he doesn’t owe Violetta anything. He throws his winnings at her. Giorgio Germont, who has witnessed the scene, rebukes his son for his behavior. The baron challenges his rival to a duel.

ACT III

Violetta is dying. Her last remaining friend, Doctor Grenvil, knows that she has only a few more hours to live. Alfredo’s father has written to Violetta, informing her that his son was not injured in the duel. Full of remorse, he has told him about Violetta’s sacrifice. Alfredo wants to rejoin her as soon as possible. Violetta is afraid that he might be too late (“Addio, del passato”). The sound of rampant celebrations are heard from outside while Violetta is in mortal agony. But Alfredo does arrive and the reunion fills Violetta with a final euphoria (Duet: “Parigi, o cara”). Her energy and exuberant joy of life return. All sorrow and suffering seems to have left her—a final illusion, before death claims her.

A rainy day in Cornwall….

David and Jennifer over for a fleeting visit, and pouring with rain. What to do? Eden proved the answer. We have resisted going there during the period we have lived down here because it seems so expensive. But by getting a locals’ card and paying by DD we got it down to a reasonable amount and we can go as many times as we want in the next year. It has grown a lot since we last visited on one of our many holidays down here but nevertheless there are 3 main areas…the rainforest, the Mediterranean and the outdoor gardens.

20181208_141318.jpegWe started out in the rainforest which goes from one type of rainforest to another – Tropical Islands, Southeast Asia, West Africa and Tropical South America in sequence as you ascend the long route through the biome. And this is the world’s largest indoor rainforest so it is quite spectacular. 20181208_142114.jpeg20181208_142436.jpeg20181208_142646.jpegThe Malaysian house I always find interesting as it comes complete with vegetable plots and paddy field……20181208_142852.jpegThe pineapple ginger’s flower is amazing….20181208_142902.jpegBut then so are lots of things including the stupendous foliage…20181208_143142.jpg20181208_150826.jpg20181208_143237.jpegThe Miracle fruit below is grown largely in Ghana and produces a protein which acts as a defence against pathogenic organisms. It is 2000 times sweeter than sucrose and has the remarkable effect that, when eaten, it causes sour foods (such as lemons and limes) subsequently consumed to taste sweet…….20181208_143401.jpegPlenty of special effects such as mist and rain…..20181208_143923.jpgThe rope bridge is an interesting experience as, once over to the other side, I felt all the hard surfaces underfoot wobbling for some time afterwards. Like being on a rolling ship and coming ashore I suppose.20181208_144148.jpg20181208_144330One fantastic addition since last time is the aerial walkway which leads to a viewing platform. After reading all the warning notices about people with heart conditions (me) and fear of heights (me), I left the queue and am rather glad I did. David confirmed it would not have been for me! D and J enjoyed the views from on high….20181208_145008.jpeg20181208_145149.jpegThe banana production unit is great….20181208_150005.jpgand good to see the Baobab trees….20181208_145635.jpgand drink their bounty….20181208_150310.jpgNear here there were some very friendly and quite lovely roul-roul partridges …..20181208_150623.jpegand shortly afterwards amazing orchids….20181208_150637.jpg20181208_150643.jpeg20181208_150724.jpgand one very unusual powder-puff bloom as we reached the lower levels again…..20181208_150936.jpgWe did visit the Med but probably better in Spring/Summer when we shall return….and talking of returning we did return just 2 days afterwards in the evening for the so-called shadows and light experience (it being Christmas). I do have to say after seeng terrific displays of lights in Edinburgh last Christmas this was surprisingly very disappointing – very low key, and mirrored by the rather amateurish bands….Eden should seek out Edinburgh Botanical gardens for advice on how to do a light show really well. 20181214_173108.jpg