Wednesday, 27 December 2017


If you were celebrating, I hope you had a good Christmas and if you weren't, I hope you had a couple of nice, relaxed days! 

I have been visiting my parents, which is nice. This year, it's just the three of us, which has meant a quiet, low key time, with lots of nice food and relaxation, just what I needed after a stressful couple months!.

I've enjoyed looking out at snow showers, from the warmth and shelter of the house, and have also enjoyed watching the birds on the feeders.

The feeders were attracting the starlings this morning,after I refilled them. Mostly, however, we are seeing goldfinches, sparrows, blue tits, and chaffinches. And also the occasional coaltit, great tits,and greenfinches. 

If we are lucky, the sun may come out tomorrow in which case a walk by the sea may be in order!

Friday, 8 December 2017

Aida at the ENO

I am, as regular readers will have noticed, a fan of the theatre, but opera is something I have very little experience of. However, my friend Lyle and I decided we would give it a try, and booked to see the ENO's production of Aida. 

For those who, like me, are unfamiliar with the plot of Aida, it goes something like this:

An Ethiopian princess (Aida)  is a slave of the Pharaoh, in Egypt. The Egyptians don't know she is a princess. She loves, and is loved by, an Egyptian General (Ramades) loves her, but cannot admit this (presumably because she is a slave who doesn't belong to him). She loves him, too.

The Pharaoh's daughter, (Amneris) is also in love with Ramades.

Aida's father, (Amonasro) leads an invasion of Egypt, and as luck and Senor Verdi would have it, Ramades is chosen to lead the Egyptian armies against the invader, leaving Aida with a rather uncomfortable conflict of interest.

While Ramades is away fighting the Ethiopian Army, Amneris, who seems to be of a jealous turn of mind, decides to try to find out whether Aida is in love with Ramades, so tells her that he has been defeated, and is dead. Aida betrays herself, grieving for him, Amneris admits she lied reducing Aida's problems from 'my lover is dead' to 'my father and countrymen have been defeated in battle, and the most powerful woman in the country, who literally owns me, is pissed at me'.

Ramades returns in triumph (you can tell, because there is a Triumphal March, complete with trumpets and *that* tune that even non-opera fans can recognise) bringing with him a number of Ethiopian prisoners, including Aida's father, King Amonasro (who pretends to be an ordinary general).  The Pharaoh and High Priest plan to execute them all, because what's the point in crushing your enemies and parading them in chains through the city if you don't get to execute them afterwards?

Production photo from the ENO website

The Pharaoh is pleased with Radames, and (perhaps a little rashly) offers him anything he wants as a reward, and also announces that he will give Radames his daughter's hand in marriage and that Radames will get to be Pharaoh after he is gone. Radames, who is clearly the kind of sensitive and thoughtful guy who can see that defeating his prospective father in battle and then assisting at his execution might result in some relationship issues, asks that the Ethiopian prisoners be spared, and released. Not being a complete idiot, Pharaoh agrees, but keeps Aida's father as a hostage for their good behaviour, and gets on with planning Amneris' wedding to Radames.

After the interval, we are back with the wedding planning. While Amneris goes off for a night of pre-wedding prayer, Aida meets with her father, who suggests that if she can get Radames to tell her where the Egyptian army is likely to be, he and she can escape, rejoin the Ethiopian army and successfully fight back. (which, tactically speaking, sounds fairly sensible). Aida resists, not wishing to ask her lover to betray his country, but is persuaded when her father threatens to disown her.

Aida and Radames then have a duet in which she tries to persuade him to come away with her, singing eloquently of the beauties of her country (she doesn't mention anything about the potential social awkwardness of moving to a country after decimating their army, but perhaps she overlooked that), while he sings about his concerns about whether leaving would leave him dishonoured, and how much he loves Aida, but is silent about whether he is planning to jilt Amneris and marry Aida (probably not a career-enhancing move) or to marry Amneris and have an affair with Aida (probably not a relationship enhancing plan...)

Aida convinces him to come with her, so he discloses to her and her father where the Egyptian Army is due to be, so they can avoid it to reach Ethiopia. At which point, Amonasro reveals his identity and that he plans to use the information Radames has just provided to ambush the Egyptian army. I can' help but feel that this may be why Amonasro and his army were defeated in the first place. It doesn't seem to me that, from a tactical perspective, telling the enemy general your plan (even if he does want to marry your daughter) is a very good idea. Although perhaps the dramatic force of the opera would be reduced f anyone were to act sensibly! 

Things go rapidly downhill for our protagonists. Radames is overcome with remorse and with being arrested and thrown into gaol. He is then swiftly tried by the high priest and all the lesser priest, and is tunefully condemned to death. By being entombed alive. 

Radames decides (arguably a little belatedly) to be Very Noble and refuses to explain himself, or to let Amneris intervene on his behalf, and as such is duly buried alive (in a large and well-lit tomb). As he muses on fate, Aida shows up,having hidden herself in the tomb to be buried alive with him, rather than (say) escaping with her father.  It's all very sad.

And in hindsight, bearing in mind that Amonasro invaded Egypt specifically to rescue his daughter, suggests that his entire war was a colossal waste of time and energy.

I did enjoy it,especially the  big choruses, I have to say. I'm a fan of big choruses! But I suspect that I shall continue to spend more time in theares than opera houses in the future! 

Friday, 1 December 2017


The reason I was in London was to met with a friend and see 'Apologia' at Trafalgar Studios.

The performance we saw was the final one.

The play is a 2009 one by Alexei Kaye Campbell, and focuses on a birthday dinner for Kristin (Stockard Channing), due to be attended by her sons, Peter and Simon (both played by Joseph Millson) their partners,  Claire and Trudi, (Freema Agyeman and Laura Carmichael) and friend Hugh (Desmond Barrit).

Over the course of the evening we learn that Peter and Simon were brought up by their father following their parents' divorce, and that Kristin is a noted art historian who has just published a memoir, 'Apologia'.

Initially, Kristin presents as an unsympathetic character - unwelcoming and casually dismissive towards Trudi,  who she is meeting for the first time, critical of Claire, and shows little insight into her sons' feelings.

As the play progresses, she doesn't become more likeable, but we do learn more of her history and character, and gradually come to understand her better, and to see why she is how she is, and the price she has paid - and come to realise that Trudi sees more than one might think.

It was very interesting.