Tuesday, December 11, 2012

23.9.68: The course starts...

Dear Mum – the 23rd! – and we’re away to a flying start.  [I presume this was the day the course at the Opera Centre started.] Just before I go on, I must say one or two things that I keep forgetting.  Thank you for all the odds and ends of news from home; you say that you haven’t answered my letters, but I’m just as bad.  Thank the aunts for their little St Cecilia; it may be a wee while before I can write – do you know I think it’s actually cheaper to write one of these air-letters than it is to send a postcard!  Last time I wrote I was going to answer one or two things and didn’t get any further than the [the cat] poem, which set me off again, and made me rather miserable; though it was after the more distressing day that I’d just had previously so it must have been a combination of both.  I’m all right at the moment, anyway.  What I’ve kept meaning to tell you about was the squirrel I met in Regents Park, the day I didn’t go to the Zoo.  This cheeky wee thing must have thought I would have some food, and it kept coming up and then running off, until it finally came so close I could have hand-fed it if I had had some food.  Must have got disgusted with me when it discovered I didn’t and ran off.  But it was quite beautiful, with a lovely silver streak down its tail. 

On Friday we had the concert that I mentioned, with Ann and Kiri, and it was held at a NZ club way down at Wimbledon.  We nearly didn’t get there – Kiri was driving this car of hers (she and her hubby, who is at present in Persia) have a neat wee sports model, I suppose it is, but holds four if you follow, and they live in the Kensington are, which is quite toney, really; Joan Sutherland is a couple of streets away!) and after we’d picked up Mrs Thelma Robinson, the ex-mayoress, by about 2 years, of Auck., who was arranging our side of it, we drove off towards W. via the Putney Bridge: - the approach, alone, to the bridge took 20 minutes of easing forward in the late rush-hour traffic!!  Ann came on much later by taxi.  This club is next to the famous tennis courts, and is run by a rather snobby class of NZer, who are exactly the same as that sort of group are at home – particularly in the Nth Is.  So it was really like being NZ, quite honestly, and just as phoney as that sort always are there. [My longstanding egalitarianism coming out.] However, there were some pleasant people amongst them, especially an old lady (they said she was 90) who had recently come from Honolulu, via USA, by leaps and bounds, and was the person I most enjoyed talking to and from whom I was dragged away too early.  The concert didn’t go off badly, although I got fouled up rather badly in one of Kiri’s numbers, and though I recovered was a bit put out by it.  She very nicely said after that we only learn by our mistakes, and if that makes her sound just a trifle uppity, she is, but rather more nice than uppity! (Fortunately). [Biographies of Kiri, discussing this period in her life, tend to agree with my ‘uppity’ assessment of her at this point in her career. She’d been somewhat spoilt as a student by having more money than most, gifted from her supporters in NZ; she’d already made a movie in NZ, and she was hugely popular in the country.

Luton Hoo as it was in 1829 -
it was substantially altered after this. 
Out to the Crowls for the weekend again.  Nina had a cold, so didn’t go to Luton Hoo with us.  This is a stately home near Luton (the Hoo means a hill), but the place is well known almost entirely for its art and such collection, as the house is a mess – having been so altered and changed and partially burnt that none of its once [original] glory remains.  But it has 3 Rembrandts!, and a host of really beautiful odds and ends, particularly in the miniature line; that is, tiny glass cases with a whole crucifixion scene inside and other such miracles of miniaturisation.  How they can (a) had the patience, and (b) been able to see what they were doing with these tiny things is beyond me.  Then we each did what we wanted in the evening: Reg and M. listened to Bonaventure on the radio, Nina and Marg. and I watched a film on TV.  [Luton Hoo, which I don't remember visiting at all (!) was converted into a hotel in 2007; the priceless art collection is now on display at Ranger's House in London. Interestingly, the Wikipedia article doesn't mention any Rembrandts!]

For a short while on Sunday afternoon, Reg and I went to see Waltham Abbey, which has great historical interest as it is right near where the 1066 battle was fought.  King Harold is supposed to be immured (after he was dead, of course) in the stone work, but they don’t know where. [Once again, my 'facts' may not be quite up to the mark.] And it is a beautiful church. Reconstructed, I should think, but very cleverly.  Small, but gorgeous, with a crypt (so has Clement Dane’s, which is in the middle of the Strand – in the middle of the street, along with another church!, and which I stumbled into one day) a ceiling of wood panelling, with, good grief (!), the signs of the Zodiac down the centre, a painted set of carvings on the altar, some small but crowded, and original stained glass windows, and most unusual of all, an American vicar, with, ugh!, the most nauseatingly hale fellow well met line of patter I’ve struck!  Outside is the remains of a mill – the watercourse (2 of them actually) is all that’s left – it runs right under the houses and street built next to it – and the archway that has been there since the original Abbey – just the archway!  But it’s marked historic monument – so?!  [I'd love to know who this American vicar was and what he was actually like....]

TODAY!  Nothing to do this morning, it was a get acquainted with the school time, but this afternoon I had my first German lesson, along with 6 other beginners, an Oxford student (all these are ex, of course), a Royal College Maltese girl: very sweet and attractive (I shared my book with her...ahem?!), a Scots girl, a music teacher and a female arts student (both stage management [students]) and another boy with an endless laugh. What a team! But we are getting there. The lady teacher is Frau (?) Radinger. And she’s very nice, and sweet and a happy sort of person. I was supposed to have a coaching session after that with one of the singers, but she didn’t turn up!  I found out after that she’d been called off to do another something, but nobody bothered to tell me! Aaagh!

Tomorrow will be a much bigger day – I was home at 4.45 today – with a reps’ [répétiteurs] class all morning and two coaching sessions, and an Italian lessione! Wed doesn’t look very busy, but Thursday is again. (We go to a Götterdämerung rehearsal in the morning, at Covent Garden, I think!)  Friday seems easier again.  We have lunch time lectures on Friday and they promise to be very interesting.  At the moment, I’m less worried about how bad I am by comparison, because even though the others have all done lots of varied things, they must be there to learn something too, so!  Met some interesting [handwritten from here] students; Peter Lyon(s), who is very talkative, and quite interesting as well; a tenor who has worked (toured rather) with the B + W Minstrel Show and the Scottish Opera, and so on.  I’ll write again when there’s been a bit more happened.  Lots of love, Mike XXXXXX
[Peter Lyon got on well over the year; he went on to work for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, doing Gilbert and Sullivan roles.  After that he seems to have vanished from the Google history books.]