Lately

This is the look of disappointment – a blizzard in March. On a Friday, when big, exciting plans involving traveling to London were in place, but had to be abandoned because of the five days of back winter carnage. Still, in Oxford we were lucky; in some parts of the country people are still without water, and Scotland ran out of bread and milk. Early spring now, please!

  • I spent one snow day reading Max Egremont’s Forgotten Land, an exploration of the ghostly remains of Königsberg and East Prussia – a town that no longer exist, in a country that no longer exists (there’s a metaphor for the first half of 20th century there somewhere). It’s a riveting read if you, like me, are fascinated by Königsberg – a town founded as the seat of the Teutonic Knights, the place where Weimar kings were crowned, where Kant and Hoffmann and Hannah Arendt were born, the provincial centre of arts and Mittel-European bourgeoisie, wiped off the map by the WWII.
  • Another good snow day (even after the snow had melted) activity was the live stream of Handel’s Ariodante from the Vienna Staatsoper. It’s been a short run with just one performance left of this new production directed by David McVicar and starring Sarah Connolly. McVicar has done over the years some spectacular things – I loved the ENO Rosenkavalier, and the Glyndebourne Giulio Cesare is fabulous. His Tosca at the Met is grandiose. On the other hand, I didn’t much care for his overcooked Medea (also at the ENO), and truthfully found this Ariodante as a production a bit meh too. But the music making was fantastic – William Christie conducted, and Dame Sarah sang with great passion. I also loved Hila Fahima’s Dalinda and Rainer Trost’s Lurcanio. Some friends are seeing it live on Thursday, and others have already seen it, I’m kind of jealous of them all, work commitments keeping me firmly in England.
  • Stephen Beresford’s adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander just opened at the Old Vic and will run till April. It is another slightly conflicting show – it’s entertaining, and it’s such a pleasure to see Dame Penelope on stage again, but I’m not sure how well the transform has worked in preserving every intimate nuance of the film. The staging of the first act is pretty ugly, although I liked some details like Christmas lunch scene, the cast delighting in the invisible 168-course meal in front of them. The second act set – a stark, white box representing the Bishop’s palace – is a great idea. The quick cuts between locations mean lots of moving props and sets around though, and it becomes a bit distracting after a while. But there’s some wonderful acting happening, and not just by Wilton (who was pretty darn great tho). Kevin Doyle is an inspired bit of casting as the Bishop, an ordinary man in externals whose abusiveness and evilness are made more chilling by how unremarkable he appears. Catherine Walker was pretty great as Emilie too; more ethereal and stately than the character is in the film. And the scene where the Ekdahl brothers tell the Bishop to fuck himself (with those words and whole lot of others) is just super satisfying to watch.
  • Finally, Joan Baez’s final album, Whistling down the Wind, dropped on Friday, and I’m not sure how well I’m dealing. It’s less devastating than Leonard Cohen’s final album (You want it darker? You got it.), but I’m still just really sad to to think she’ll be gone.

 

 


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