From one cheese nation to another

Between my last two performances of Billy Budd I made a flying visit to Geneva to spend a couple of days with my wife Lucy. She’s rehearsing “Punch and Judy” at the opera, a show which opens at the start of April. It had been three weeks since our last rendezvous and it will be another two before I return there for a week or so when the Britten is done here in Amsterdam. Sorry if you’ve heard all that before but if nothing it serves to remind everyone of the strange way in which opera singers (especially those married to other opera singers) have to conduct their marriages. Our rule of thumb is never to spend more than five weeks apart, even if it’s only a two day catch-up between two chunks of five weeks. I don’t know what we’d do without video calling.

Dubious stunt

I’ve not held much truck with the way ENO has taken its marketing in the last few years. It strikes me as a combination of X-Factor-esque, panting hyperbole and glossy mag vapidity. And now the Netherlands Opera, faced with plummeting subscriptions, subsidy cuts and a desperate need for box office revenue, has decided to market one performance of Billy Budd as a “Gay Date Night”.

Pre-premiere ejaculation

What is it about first nights? Does anyone enjoy them? And in that I include audience members.

Let’s get the audience out of the way first. It’s not such a problem here in Amsterdam but certainly in many continental houses first night audiences are largely comprised of great swathes of punters who have no interest in opera other than seeing it as an opportunity for showing off their newest wife/man/frock/earrings/handbag etc etc. And that’s just the men. You can smell their indifference across the footlights. Try playing comedy to that lot. It’s about as much fun as pinning medals on a Rottweiler.

On the good ship Lollipop

It’s a funny thing, rehearsing a tragedy.
I’m no dramaturge or theatre theorist so I’m not sure if there’s a strict definition of Tragedy. I’ve always supposed Tragedy to mean a drama in which the “hero” comes a cropper, in some shape or form, as the result of a fatal flaw, event or decision. And I’ve always supposed that in the best tragedies there is usually a moment at which the plot comes to a crossroads and, despite the entire will of the audience to take one route, the other fatal direction is the one chosen and the story takes off towards its inevitable, terrible conclusion.
If only Desdemona hadn’t lost her hanky eh?