Monday, December 17, 2012

3.10.68 - Students and subsidies

Letter not dated but postmarked 3rd Oct, 1968

Dear mother, you silly old thing, just because your little poem upset me a little once doesn’t mean to say that you should give up what is obviously a new career opening before you!  The first time I read it, it had an amusing effect – I just read it again, on the wrong day.  But while we’re on the subject, so to speak, of upsetting things, I’d better say that for this Course to be worthwhile in the long run, I’ll have to stay in the UK after it’s over.  Not that I wouldn't come home tomorrow, if I could bring London with me!  But, presuming that I come out of it all with the degree of success expected, I can see obviously that it would be a waste to go straight home again – not that they wouldn't like me anymore, or find something to do with me, but there’s that much more room for expansion, here, and since I seem to be cut out for something in this line, it’s no use constantly chopping and changing for the rest of my life.  I know you will understand, and I know too that the amount you miss me, is equal at least to the amount I miss you and everybody else at home.  But it seems the Good Lord intended things to go this way – you never know he might change the whole look of things tomorrow, and I may find that things are different entirely. Anyway, that’s the position as it stands.  To think that I might never see Dunedin again doesn’t bear thinking about, as you realise, I know, but when I hear, just for example, that to put a student through at the LOC costs somebody £1500! it’s only fair I should do my best to come out at the other end at least with the look of what I went in there for!  And even if there wasn’t a mysterious somebody paying that amount there are two unmysterious bods – you and me – paying considerably more, by contrast, towards my future, and I don’t think I should let us down.  It’s all very serious isn’t it, and I started out on this letter in a happy frame of mind, so as long as we can content ourselves with being as close as mum and son can across a few thousand miles, I dare say we’ll pull through.  I hope that hasn't upset you; don’t wish to make you miserable when I send you a letter.  [Until I re-read this letter I'd forgotten that someone must have subsidised me to go to the LOC. I don’t think I ever knew who it was: perhaps it was Prof Peter Platt, from the Music Department at the University of Otago who had spoken on my behalf to the LOC and who encouraged me to go; perhaps it was Bertha Rawlinson, the Dunedin singer.  Perhaps it was a group of people associated with the Dunedin Opera Company. I don't think I've ever known.]

Let’s change the subject. I sent a card to Marg. But it won’t arrive until after the date. It’s just a postcard – they’re 10d to post but at least it shows we’re thinking of her; after all I used to get on very well with her, didn’t I?  [Regrettably, I'm not sure who this ‘Marg’ was – I suspect she was more my mother's friend than mine.]

Finally wrote to Kevin R[owlandssince that seemed safer than trying to contact him at the theatre, and asked him if he’d let me know what was the best way of getting in touch with him.  [I was obviously feeling obliged to contact this man because our neighbours had been keen that I should do so, and you can read that in the lines.]

I still don’t feel that I am in London – I’ve just never got that feeling I expected of being in such a place.  I think for one thing it’s because the places seen in photos so often are quite different in reality.  Trafalgar Square looks impressive in a verydifferent way here to the way the photos make it look and so does Piccadilly Circus. Silly, isn’t it? Big Ben gets me though – it is remarkably beautiful – there’s something quite golden about the look of it, which is something that I’d never seen in photos.  And crossing over the Thames anywhere is something that I find enchanting. London skies always seem to be a sort of lovely grey, and the buildings go so well with this, and the river, that that’s my favourite part of the city, I think. 

Do send the Tablets, if it’s not too expensive – I haven’t had any yet, so they’re a treat in store.  [Again, I think this was note that I felt obliged to put in; I can’t remember ever feeling that strongly about the magazine.]

The school goes on as busily as last week, and when I’ve done a day there, I really feel as though I’ve been working. It’s the sheer concentration, I think. And my bottom is getting calluses on it from sitting on hard chairs so much!! 

We saw the dress rehearsal of An Italian Girl in Algiers last night, done by the LOC Opera for All Group.  (There are Welsh and Scots ones too.)  And it was a delight, after a slightly shaky start.  Rossini really was a comic master.  There is one ensemble – the story is too incredible for words of course – where seven mixed characters sing – everyone something different, on top of a simple um chah accompaniment.  And it’s so so funny – just because each time you think it’s going to go off in another direction it starts all over again.  The ensemble singing of the cast was excellent. 

While I have a bit of space let me tell you about some of the students, so that you’ll have something to refer to if necessary. John Opie! [he was actually Alan Opie, as I wrote in an earlier letter – the exclamation mark is because I’d worked with a Ramon Opie in the NZ Opera Quartet] from Cornwall, who is a baritone, and takes off my NZ accent – when I’m not taking off an East End one – there’s such a variety of accents at the school that we spend half the time taking each other off, and when it comes to a language class!  John has a good sense of humour – lacking in some of the more London type singers (and others).  David Cyrus [actually Syrus, who became my best friend out of the student intake of that year], a rep, a sort of ungainly boy, and awkward to look at, and who makes me feel as though there is perhaps someone else around whom I’m on a par with.  [David was, and still is, somewhat awkward in mannerisms – it’s part of his charm.  He was forever apologising, so much so that when I berated him for it in a letter from NZ once, after I’d been back here for some years, he sent by return mail an aerogram with a single, tiny word stuck in the middle on the page – ‘Sorry’. David would go on to be Head of Music at Covent Garden, where he began work in 1971 and still remains.]

Alistair Dawes, a rep, and friend from youth of the above.  Smokes a pipe, has a shock of hair (or perhaps the hair itself has had the shock!), and, like four of the reps, has permanent specs, and is able to be amused. (So is D.C)  Anthony Negus, the most pro of the reps – he freelanced in coaching last year [I conveniently forget at this point that I’d already worked for at least two years as a professional repetiteur and accompanist], is mad on Wagner, on opera in general, and looks hurt if you criticise anything [related to opera, that is]. Very confident, and generally with good reason.  Henry Ward, seemingly the odd-rep-out, no glasses, full of fire, apparently, but with an extremely lackadaisical attitude to work, and an intense dislike of stuff that doesn’t please him.  A very friendly smile but rather unapproachable (he’ll probably go somewhere). [I can’t find anything on the Net about Henry; he left LOC in the first half of the year, I think, because he didn’t feel it was teaching him anything, and possibly went onto a conducting job with one of the Northern Opera Companies.]  A.N. also pipes – his is worse smelling, (though still not unpleasant) than A.D’s.  Keith Stoppard, baritone, married to the daughter of a top Engineer (at present head of the Plessey Co in Aussie), an ex-engineer himself, and, unfortunately no relation to Tom Stoppard who is at present one of London’s top dramatists.  [I seem to remember Keith had difficulties as a married student juggling everything in his life; he was possibly the only married student apart from Kiri. I can’t find anything on the Net to say what became of him. He was one of the friendlier – and more mature – singing students.David Patmore, one of the S.Ms [stage management students], slight stutter (which makes his German tricky!) very friendly with the reps, and a very nice guy.  [He also became a good friend during this time.]  He and the other 4 reps are all ex-OXFORD!  What distinguished company.  [handwritten] Oxford can’t be so highbrow after all!  There are no girls here [in this list of names, rather than not at the Centre at all] because I can’t remember who they are from day to day – they change their hair styles.  [Yup, a pretty weak excuse – of course there were girls, and of course I already knew some of them.]  Love, Mike