WordPress tells me that the first draft of this post is from January; I have started and stopped editing the same post again and again, every time feeling just as uninspired. It wasn’t that I wasn’t doing things – I was – it just was that I had little to say about them, no words to put down. I was ill for a long time, making many disappointing false recoveries. The dready, indifferent winter melted into a cold spring, and the cold spring has finally blossomed into an early summer, the sort of reserved, restrained early summers that come every few years, slow to release their delights.
Snow, snow, sleet.
- in January, I saw La Traviata at the ROH; anyone who knows me, knows how momentous a statement that is – just listening to Traviata makes me cry bucketfuls, so I have avoided seeing it live to spare myself the embarrasment. The ROH casting split the stars so that by picking Angel Blue as my Violetta I missed out on Placido Domingo as Pere Germont, which still bums me (can’t think of anyone better suited, personality-wise, for the role), but Blue was thrilling.
- another January event was a guest lecture/mini recital by Sir Thomas Allen, first of the three times I saw him this spring, at Wolfson College. I sat at the back row of the lecture theatre, listening to him sing Eric Coates and cried another bucketful. Couple weeks later, Himself appeared with the Oxford Orpheus Orchestra as the soloist of Faure’s Requiem, and finally in March at the Royal Opera as Don Alfonso in Cosi, in his retirement role. I knew it was coming, and still it was silently devastating.
- how did I manage to see all that I saw?! I made two separate trips to the theatre, first to see Monica Dolan steal All about Eve, and then to watch Dame Penelope Wilton rule the stage in The Bay at Nice – a small ditty of a play, but what a performance.
- I love Benjamin Britten, so seeing Billy Budd at the ROH was very exciting in a very devastating way. I cried even more, limping out of the theatre emotionally exhausted at the end of it. Writing this, the ROH has launched their new season programme, and the two operas I’m by most excited about are the two works by Britten – nothing for a long time, and then three come around all at (almost) once.
- and I traveled. I chose the Netherlands because I have a friend there, and I loved it. There was some great art. Amsterdam was full of contrasts, beautiful, Delft cute with its narrow streets and tiny houses, Utrect gothic and grand, the beach outside The Hague great. I loved seeing my favourite renaissance painting, really seeing it in the dimly lit, satisfyingly empty Mauritshuis. I loved the raw herring. The cakes were great. And because I’m me, the best thing of all was the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam’s old church; I arrived so early in the morning that there was no one there, just me alone in this huge empty space, skeletons under its floor and red lights outside its windows.
Winter flowers, spring flowers.