Sunday, September 11, 2011

Listening Without Prejudice

You may want to just completely skip this post. It's about opera. I won't be offended if you do.

I was looking forward to meeting some old friends in London yesterday, but sadly my stomach had other ideas. Instead, I have spent the weekend in a horizontal position, looking at YouTube clips and catching up with people's blogs.

I found quite a few gems, including this post about Roddy McDowell's home movies, this beautifully-written anecdote and this photograph, which appeals in so many ways.

However, the thing that gave me the most pleasure was finding this (best viewed in full screen mode):

I went to see this performance of Shostakovich's 'Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk District' almost exactly five years ago and wasn't sure what to expect. I had never been to an opera before and had some deeply-held prejudices about overweight singers and overpaid audiences.

I wasn't overjoyed when I discovered that the whole thing lasted for over three hours.

However, it was a truly magical evening and at last, I understood why some people were so fanatical about opera. Aside from Shostakovich's wonderful music, which incensed Stalin so much he banned the opera immediately, I was bowled over by the set design, the costumes and the wonderful singing.

Shostakovich wrote the opera in his 20s and the music buzzes with youthful energy and bawdy humour. I had imagined that the Royal Opera House would attract a rather stuffy crowd, but people were rocking with laughter at the saucy jokes and satirical digs.

I don't like flying, but I'd travel halfway around the world to see this production again. Sadly, the airfare would probably still be cheaper than a seat in the balcony.


lucy joy said...

"I had never been to an opera before and had some deeply-held prejudices about overweight singers and overpaid audiences" did I when asked if I fancied going to see Adele perform in Cardiff (I didn't go!).

Richard (Grey Area) should be famous, I reckon.

Thanks for the other links, you should do that more often.

I'd love to experience an opera, but I feel too thick and uncultured.
As a child, I imagined myself performing in one.
How the mighty fall...

Hope you're feeling better - perhaps it's nerves with all you've got on your proverbial 'plate'.


Michelle Trusttum said...

Enjoyed the Shostakovick and those wonderful dogs. Is there such a thing as haughty ennui? (I suspect a tautological transgression there.)

How is Steerforth Books? Have you resolved the logo? I do hope so.

(You would think after nearly 20 years in marketing I would be more help!)

Looking forward to visiting your site...

Martin said...

Hope you're feeling better now. Perhaps it was something you ate?

I've never been to an opera, although I am a sucker for a Puccini aria.

Steerforth said...

Lucewoman - I must admit, the magic of Adele has eluded me. There are much better female singer-songwriters out there, but she seems to have captured the public's imagination.

Re: Richard, yes, I love his blog, particularly the liberal use of certain words (I have to keep it clean here in case my son strays across the contents) and the extreme rage over trivial matters like an electric toothbrush. Very funny. He also takes wonderful photos. Most important of all, he adds new content at a rate that the rest of us can only dream of.

It's definitely a virus, by the way. A big, burly bloke in the warehouse was laid low for several days last weekend with the same symptoms.

Michele - I'm going to take my time with the logo. The website is an added extra and not particularly urgent, as most of my trade will be through established sellers like Amazon. Steerforth Books will begin trading in October. Ideally I'll launch the website in November, but we'll see.

Martin - I really didn't expect to be so affected by an opera, but those three hours passed as quickly as a game of Sim City. I'm not sure how many operas are as entertaining as the Shostakovich though. It really was something special.

Michelle Trusttum said...

Steerforth - I'm currently perusing Amazon for a copy of Anny: The Biography of Anny Thackeray Ritchie by Henrietta Garnett.

There are currently no new copies and 17 used offered through various sellers.

It would be lovely to support your business. Shall I wait? Is this the sort of title you might trade in?

I hope that's not an embarrassing question, given that I don't truly understand your niche. (Need to read more of your blog back catalogue to get up to speed!)

And yes, now that I understand your proposition better, there is no need to sweat over a website, or logo, yet.

Foxesatdawn said...

Weirdly, until this summer, that was also the first and only opera I'd been to and I felt exactly the same way

Lucy R. Fisher said...

@Lucy Go to an opera! You'll love it! Unless it's by Wagner or perhaps Bellini.

Try Tosca or Carmen (feisty heroines). Or the Magic Flute.

Doofus said...

The Youtube videos were excellent and full of life. Great stuff.

They were surprisingly bawdy and comical with it, I hadn't expected that - a real breath of fresh air in contrast to the rubbish that constitutes most music videos these days.

Canadian Chickadee said...

Most opera is really not my thing, but you make me wish it was!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr S.,
Good luck with yr new venture. I'm in South Devon, and a good friend of mine has been in the book trade for (20?+) years. I've also worked for big book stores in central London (mmmmoons ago!) My mate tells me how tough it is, flogging books these days, esp here, in a little market / tourist town in Devon. He ekes out, --just! He also sells many other bits'n'bobs, such as crystals, incense and cards, CDs et al. He says it's really rough, competing with Amazon...

A thought: seek out a 'niche' for yrself, to garner sales? A speciality perhaps, and of course, flog as much as you can on-line!

As to self-employment, yus, it's a challenge, for those new to it. As for me, I've had it (for ever), being employed by 'ejits' of dumb, greedy and quite, quite insane bosses + employers! But then, I've never been 'one of the herd', and, as a creative being, don't fit into the morass of 'everyday-normal' stereotypes...
Maybe I'll see if I can email you and design a log or something, to assist?
Anyway, good luck with the new shop, it's a service to help people read books and become better educated...

Final thought: the world has more to it (Horatio!) than mere material 'stuff'! If you haven't already, maybe introduce a real spiritual aspect into yr life and work?
It helps! ¬_¬
~Yan x

Steerforth said...

Thanks Yan. As far as the spiritual side of things goes, I think I'm a lost cause. I find spiritual nourishment throught art, nature and history, but sadly my religious faith disappeared in my early 20s.