What a weekend – hardly know where to start. As I said, I brought our client home and spent much of Saturday morning on the phone sorting out his insurance and replacement car. After cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast and clearing up, that is. Having just two guests trebles the cooking and washing up, don’t you find? Not that I mind, I love a houseful of people and I love to provide plenty of food and drink and see them relax and be cheerful, especially poor M when he’d had a rotten time getting here. His car is a classic, a 1980 MG and he’s going to have to negotiate with the insurance company, who are trying to call it an old banger worth a few hundred pounds and get it written off. Still, we’ve got advice on what to do next and he’s going to ask for an assessor, get in touch with his specialist garage and so on – no longer my problem.
Usually, on the day after the sale, we’d contact everyone to tell them what they’d bought or not bought (if they’d left us bids) and what their pieces made in the case of the vendors, but there was no time and it’ll have to be done today. A few people rang or emailed and we’ve answered them. I can’t remember what happened on Saturday afternoon, it’s a blank, though I know we sat down for a while with the papers (I didn’t read them, I was too busy and I wonder what I was doing) because I felt that M should rest. Oh, in the morning I phoned the Snape box office and was lucky, getting a returned ticket for our other friend Daphne who was staying with us.
Sunday, I was up early for the 8 o’clock service, and Daphne took us out to lunch at a local pub, and jolly good it was. We went early, because I was taking M to Norwich to pick up his replacement car. Then home and off to Snape, where we had supper. And that was really delicious. I didn’t make it there at all last year, but for a few years it’s been a bit disappointing – perfectly nice but not anywhere near as good as it used to be. I had a butternut squash dish in a creamy sauce with a walnut crumble topping – they called it a fricassée and it would be jolly good if I had the faintest idea how to spell that, it’s come up underlined in red but I can’t be bothered to look it up. Anyway, it was lovely. M had a crab salad and there was some samphire garnishing the dish of crabs. I asked the chef if I could take any or it was just a garnish, and he said help myself (it obviously was the garnish but he was being nice). Just lightly blanched, still crunchy – I said, it was the first I’d seen this year and he said it was French, but actually I’ve just bought some from the fishmonger and that was Israeli and it looked just the same, so I suspect that it was too. I only buy English asparagus, but I’m not a samphire purist in the same way.
Anyway, Peter Grimes. Darlings, if any of you were there last night or on Friday, you will know how lucky you and I, were. If not, I’m so sorry for you. You missed the most wonderful performance, brilliant in every way. I keep typing a few words, deleting them and starting again, I can’t do it justice.
They had extended the stage to make room for everyone and the chorus was at the back, then the orchestra with the soloists sitting in a row at the front, the conductor on his rostrum in the middle of them. They stood up to sing, then sat down again and had only facial expressions and hand gestures, as well as the voice, to act with. And this made it so condensed and they projected the feeling and drama of the opera to increase its intensity. I really feel that having costumes, props and moving about the stage to act out the story would have lessened its effectiveness.
The orchestra was wonderful and having them on the stage with the singers really worked, the balance between singers and players was perfect. You could hear every instrument individually within the ensemble playing. My friend Lorna, who went to the Friday performance and is extremely knowledgeable, far more than I am, said that she’s been to many productions of PG and this was the best ever. I said, some time into the evening I realised that I could physically feel the music, its sound waves, and she agreed and knew just what I meant. The singers were all wonderful and Ellen, the schoolmistress, and Peter himself, as the principal characters, projected the understated yet powerful emotion of the piece superbly. The young apprentice, John, was an invisible presence – it is not a singing part and he never says a word and they did not have someone standing there as a pathetic young victim of circumstance, which made it all the more poignant.
Here’s a synopsis of the story if you don’t know it. It was Britten’s first and greatest opera and I feel so lucky to have seen such a wonderful production, in his own concert hall in his centenary year. If you have a ticket for the beach performances, it was being recorded last night so you will hear what I heard, but the cast will perform the action of the opera on the beach itself. It’ll be wonderful I know, and I still half wish I’d booked for both as I first thought I would – it was the thought of sitting on a shingle beach for three hours that finally decided me not to – but I’d not have missed last night for anything.