Triumphs and disasters

Last night we had a much looked forward to visit from the composer the Professor has worked with in the past, and is plotting further outrages with in the future. Also of the party was one of Cambria’s current gifts to the world, an absolutely first-class baritone, again by long arrangement. He sang the lead part in the little Ice Opera. I was, naturally, proposing to give them as good a dinner as I could: this was in train and I’d just put the chocolate/almond cake in the oven and shut the door, when the giant, heavy, cast-iron lid of the giant cast-iron vessel in which I cook the old dog’s gigantic dinner slalomed off the top of a pile, hit the glass top of the cooker, and broke it. Again. It doesn’t make things any easier. The musical guests, I am thankful to say, were none the wiser, and dinner ended up cooked without blowing up the cooker. It was, my domestic problems aside, the most wonderful evening. Since both composer and singer were Welsh, we filled the house with daffodils, though this still left oceans of them in the garden. The garden is almost its most charming, with spring bulbs and primulas all over the place, and purposeful clumps of this and that powering up for later. It was a beautiful, still, calm, evening. Dinner was a great success, the kitchen crisis having not become visible on the far side of the metaphorical green baize door, and at the end of the evening, with the trees black against a sky still showing navy blue, and the dead silence of a country night, the singer sang — Britten folksong arrangements, just for fun. It’s a very strange experience listening to a world-class opera singer in a room fourteen by fourteen. A sense of huge power under control — from his point of view, he was virtually whispering, since he can fill La Scala or the Met without a microphone. He sang Brittain’s version of ‘The Ash Grove’, and for the first time, I understood it. Dr Biswell sings this one very nicely, but it’s always seemed to me that the piano accompaniment goes all over the place most distractingly, Dr Biswell’s voice is sweet, true, but not large — with a singer such as this, the vocal line floats over a piano which, while the words say, ’still warbles the blackbird his notes from the tree’, is imitating the blackbird. The piano-part was dominated and kept in its place and it made such a difference. It really was extraordinary. We all went into work together because the Prof. and I were going to the opening of the new museum. Very nice it was too. But we came back to find that Satan had found work for idle jaws. The old dog’s bandage was hanging round her ankle had she had made the most unholy and horrible mess of her right elbow. If she doesn’t reclaim the sense she was born with, it’ll have to be …. [cries of ‘No!’ ] … a COLLAR. I do hope not because dogs do so hate having their head in a bucket but if she doesn’t give over it’ll end with having her leg amputated and we don’t want that either.

2 Responses to “Triumphs and disasters”

  1. Dr Biswell Says:

    The Tenor has an excellent voice, as he demonstrated to very good effect in the Ice opera. I’m looking forward to hearing him perform the new Twilight song cycle. There is a recording of Peter Pears doing the Britten Ash Grove, but I’m sure the Tenor’s private performance was superior. It’s a beast of a setting, and hard work for the pianist, too.

    There are no daffodils in Manchester. It’s a modern proverb, like the one about there being no snow in California. Perhaps a Californian reader, or anyone else who has ventured into those western lands, can tell us whether or not this is true.

  2. Eleanor Says:

    There is indeed snow in California, Dr. Biswell. Where there are big mountains in the state, there is snow. I once persuaded a professional opera singer friend (a baritone), who was visiting my very small Washington D.C. apartment post Kennedy Center performance, to break into song. No complaints from the neighbors — it was wonderful indeed. That evening’s selection was from the very operatic musical “Carousel” which filled the very small apartment to wonderful bursting. I should think we will be able to persuade Franklin and the lovely visiting Emma to some entertainment at Ravenglass in June. Please do come visit!

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