romeo and juliet, & mahler’s 8th symphony

romeo and juliet (south woodford odeon, live-streamed from stratford (the other one)

like the rory kinnear macbeth, the dead rise and walk – and not just the scripted banquo; this romeo and juliet has first the slain mercutio and tybalt, and finally all the dead, facing us like zombies with a message – the cost of i) parental inflexibility and ii) a ‘culture of knife-crime’

as with the ‘live from the met’ operas, the interviews with members of the cast add a lot – give you some real insight into what these particular people are trying to do with the story/text; these two were young, fun and thoughtful – it boded well…

…and it was very good: the set was spare and imaginatively used, but what sticks in the mind is, as you might have guessed, the two lead performances – fun, unfussy, done straight, convincing without going ott

mahler’s 8th symphony (prom)

i went to this blind (or, perhaps, deaf) – the only other piece of mahler’s music I know (from death in venice) is the adagio from his 5th symphony. I did know that the 8th is known as the ‘symphony of 1000’ as there are so many people on stage, but that was it; and i didn’t open the programme apart from to see when it might finish – 1h 40 mins and no interval: right – don’t drink too much water, and you can’t now go for a piss as you’ll lose your place in the arena; ok

it was hot; at least one old boy bumped to the floor and had to be escorted out by paramedics – but I held out, from the twin threats of heat and incontinence, until the final crashing end, which came a surprising 20 minutes early

so what did i think of it? well, it was all very impressive, and in many places stirring, but i must admit i got lost musically, and am afraid i didn’t think it was that great – shame on me, and i’m (genuinely) sure if i got to know it i’d change my, er, tune

it’s a disjoined piece – part 1 is a hymn to the creator spirit (veni creator spiritus) – pretty much a christian hymn, but i guess ‘spirit’ can cover most shades of belief; part 2 is a dramatised performance of a scene from goethe’s faust (wish i’d read the programme beforehand as i had no idea this was the case during the performance – all in german like); so there’d be a lot mileage in reading and thinking about how these two parts match, or don’t

How they are related

Faust’s story matches what in fact happens to Romeo and Juliet – short-term gains with some predictable come-uppance. We sympathise, however, with the young lovers, but not (at least in the same way) with the Doctor. Strange how we view differently Faust’s and the lovers’ desires for pleasure – two young people helplessly in love trump an old geezer leching after Helen of Troy. Or two teenagers leching after each other, trumped by a wise old cove helplessly in love with the most beautiful woman who ever lived.

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