Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A Night At The Opera: English Touring Opera "Iphigenie en Tauride"

It's time for me to creep out of my wintry shell and kick a best foot forward into the night. I've booked tickets for the opera, the opera what visits Truro's Hall for Cornwall that is. So thank heavens for the English Touring Opera and its annual visit to the HFC. Two nights only, a different production each night, bless them.

Seats are popular for their Mozart's "Don Giovanni" on March 15th  but we have opted for the considerably less well known "Iphigenie En Tauride" by Gluck... on the basis we don't know it and we might never get the chance to see it again. A risky policy this one... but when the walking frame looms... why not give it a whirl. So we are off in a few weeks time to sample the fleshpots of Truro. Erm...

I'd have liked to share a sample video with you but there isn't one. So let me just quote the blurb/plot: "Vampire-like villains and human sacrifice form a bloodthirsty backdrop to this timeless tale from Greek myth. A brother and sister are thrown together at the end of the Trojan War, and find their path to redemption. One of the most refined and perfect of operas, from a composer who influenced future
generations from Mozart to Wagner..."
Oh la-di-da says I. Better put my best frock on.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Old Man Loses His "Independent"

The Old Man is bereft. The days are counting down (end of March) to the loss of his beloved "Independent" print-copy newspaper. The thing he adores most in his life. The thing that puts structure into his days. The thing he drives a six-mile round trip each morning to collect. The thing that accompanies him on shopping trips, into doctor's and dentist's waiting rooms, on long drives and the occasional forays into pastures new. The thing that dictates where he lives and stays... "Where can I get my paper?"

The answer my dear, I'm afraid, will be ... on the internet. And the Internet be a place that The Old Man do rarely visit. Hard-wired as it is into a cold and cheerless room in our granite cottage in the Far West whose reluctant wi-fi do not penetrate its interior granite walls.... whose mobile phone reception be limited to whatever inconvenient spot within the house or the garden a bar of signal can be obtained....

It is no good telling him that he will still have the i - albeit under new ownership. He has only ever bought this paper as a "completist" gesture. (See previous post). He cannot read any other newspaper... they are all dross as far as he is concerned or else owned by unspeakables.The man is genuinely bereft. He do feel he will be deprived of news of the modern world: politics, economics, the arts, society ... and I do feel for him. I too do worry that we are slipping away from an informed view of the wider world (by the time the Govt will have done for the BBC and flogged off Channel Four, us traditional, Murdoch Empire-avoiding couple be scuppered....)

And of course I do wonder what else I can use to mop up the gales of rainwater what do sweep under the back door on a regular basis.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Goodbye And Farewell: Dan Hicks 1941-2016

Another of my musical heroes has packed his guitar and left the stage.

I have listened to the one and only West Coast man Dan Hicks for some decades... my first purchase being a cassette of his 1972 album "Striking It Rich". Like many others I listened to the track "I scare myself" until my head whirled. I don't know about you but I frequently did scare myself also. The Old Man became a convert and, cos that's what he does, he set about buying up all the Dan Hicks vinyl he could find. And when Hicks started recording again as Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, signing with Surfdog Records and releasing "Beatin' the Heat" in 1998... The Old man scooped up a couple of CDs also.

Actually... The Old Man's habit of buying up everything he can find of a favourite (a man's thing perhaps) has in the past annoyed me to the point of putting me off my own faves cos he do play everything day and night until I do scream and leave the room. Is he obsessive? Well, the thought do never cross my mind, officer. But the splendid consequence, this time, is that we have quite a few recordings of the man himself - Dan Hicks and his scat-singing, swing-playing, off-the-wall Hot Licking ensemble.

I'm embedding this YouTube video ... which was a trailer for Dan Hicks' 2009 album "Tangled Tales" .. cos to me it serves as a good tribute to the man and his music as well.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Criminal Travels: Poland - Miloszewski & "A Grain Of Truth"

I am just back from immersing myself in the late arrival of spring to the picturesque town of Sandomierz, Poland - which I visited courtesy of "A Grain Of Truth" by Zygmunt Miloszewski, his second crime fiction novel featuring State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki. [Bitter Lemon Press, 2012.]
I read the first "Szacki" book - "Entanglement"- late last year and posted my thoughts on that one here. I certainly enjoyed it enough to want to read this second installment and I am glad I did....

"Like a china doll floating in the mist, thought Myszynski as he gazed at the dead body lying below the synagogue. It was unnaturally, unsettlingly white, shining with lack of colour."

April 2009: Nighttime, and from a high window in the Sandomierz State Archives, housed in a converted synagogue, a soon-to-be traumatised genealogist spots the pale, naked corpse of a woman lying below. The death summons Sandomierz's new State Prosecutor, Teodor Szacki, to the scene. But what is Warsaw-man Szacki doing here, living and working in provincial Sandomierz? Answer: mid-life crisis.
Visiting the area during an investigation of the murder of a prostitute in a Warsaw brothel, Szacki's solving of the case brought him fame in Sandomierz. The weather and surrounding countryside is beautiful. He thinks, why not start a new life here? Had they a post vacant? Well, in fact, yes. And so Teodor leaves his stranded marriage, his wife and child, his big-city ennui, for a fresh start and a new life in the bosom of a beautiful, historic town.
Except it hasn't turned out that way. Teodor finds himself to be, not the big, prosecutorial fish from Warsaw, central to the town and his own life, but an outsider in a provincial city, mistrusted, isolated and lonely. He misses night-life, good wine and the bouts of bracing sparring with his old police partner Oleg Kuzniecow.

The death of the woman in Sandomierz suggests ritual slaughter. Szacki soon suspects her husband, a respected Councillor, until he himself is found dead in an even more gruesome and bizarre ritualistic setting. Does the town harbour a serial killer whose pattern of murder has its roots in the town's difficult anti-Semitic past and myths? Jewish revenge or the misleading twists of an anti-Semitic nationalist? In order to find the killer before they kill again, Szacki must investigate both the past and the present of his country and community - a community whose inhabitants know their combined history like the backs of their hands.

Beautifully translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, "A Grain Of Truth" is a meticulously considered and well written book that builds a convincing portrait of Teodor Szacki. It also examines Polish history and Jewish relations from all angles whilst still managing to remain a gripping crime story which had me reading into the small hours, hanging onto its pages with clenched hands, despite my internal reader struggling with an imagined pronunciation of all those Polish names; that's a nothing... a small problem compared to the crime story told. I do hope there will be a third Teodor Szacki ... or rather a third Teodor Szacki translated into English. Miloszewski has a permanent place on my bookshelf.