12 May

Welcome to my blog.

I fell in love with opera at the age of four when my father played me a record of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, having assured me that I “wouldn’t like it”.  I insisted on listening that record every evening until it was scratched (I still have it somewhere) and a visit to the D’Oyly Carte next time they came to Newcastle was inevitable.  I don’t know how much of it I followed and understood but I do know that I could think of very little else for days afterwards.  My first “proper” opera, when I was eight, was Il barbiere di Siviglia and, since then, I’ve been as often as, first my parents, and then I could afford. I started reading OPERA magazine when I was eleven and have been an addict ever since.

I suspect that, like many opera lovers, I’m a bit of an obsessive.  One day I’ll probably blog about what that means, but here are some of the symptoms (in now particular order):

  • I think that owning three recordings of Don Carlos is the absolute minimum that you need (one day I’ll discuss what they are);
  • I vow that I’ll never see another Aida because it never really works for me – until the next one comes along;
  • My eyes get an intense, rather mad look, when someone mentions the word “opera” to me and I have to be careful not to bore people about my pet loves and hates;
  • I do not think that opera is “a nice evening out” – it is one of the things that are simply essential to life.  I find it difficult to talk patiently to people who say “I went to Glyndebourne last year” but can’t tell me what they saw;
  • I do not think that the plot Cosi fan tutte is “silly”;
  • 28 performances ofLe nozze di Figaro over 50 years is just about adequate, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing others;
  • Opera tickets take precedence over clothes, friends, work and meals;
  • There is no such thing as “my favourite opera”.

I will go and see almost anything calling itself an opera and will usually find something of interest even in the most obscure.  In addition to the acknowledged greats – Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Berg – I have particular weaknesses for Handel, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Chabrier, Offenbach, Kalman, Janacek, Tchaikovsky, Sullivan, Sariaho and Britten, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying L’incoronazione di Poppea and Death of Klinghoffer. As I grow older, I find I have more time for Massenet, Debussy and Richard Strauss and the verismo composers. I find Philip Glass and Birtwistle heavy going and I’ve yet really to work out why people bother with Rameau.  I also have my pet hates – Der Rosenkaverlier, Parsfal and Madama Butterfly – but so does everyone.

I like great singing as much as the next man, so you’ll find me paying for Netrebko (assuming she doesn’t cancel – I’ve had bad luck with her), Florez and Kaufmann but am not strong on beauty for beauty’s sake, so I’m sceptical about the Flemings, Te Kanawas and Sutherlands (while recognising some wonderful performances).  But I also enjoy the rougher and readier ones where there’s intelligence and engagement.  I often find these at Opera North or at student performances.  What makes me cross is the idle or the brain=dead or the she wrong-headed.

I’m writing this in the hope that people will engage with it, tell me if they agree of disagree and because I think what I say might be of interest.  Let me know what you think..


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