Sunday, January 13, 2013

27.10.68 First performances and walking home...again

Dear Mum, I’m not sure how long it is since I last wrote, so if I repeat anything please forgive me.  I think it was about last Sunday wasn’t it?  Sorry that there are such long gaps between my letters to you but I seem to have been particularly busy this last week. I’m very grateful to get your letters so regularly; I’ve practically been able to rely on receiving one each Monday and Thursday for some weeks now, and it’s very nice. Got a Tablet, too, this week – with a postal note and a Peanuts [cartoon] inside.  The latter was especially welcome, and in fact, if you don’t mind, I wouldn't mind at all if you included the odd one in with the letters either. They’re real day-starters (told you mail arrives about 7.30 didn’t I?) so if you’ve got a pair of scissors handy...!  Thanks for the continued postal notes too – the extra amount brings two of them to 11/- and 8d, and though they always have to go away and check on the amount, it’s worth it – IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT!
Menotti as a young man

All this week we’ve had Ella Gerber on our hands of course, and I’m afraid to say everyone is glad to see the last of her.  She didn’t work at all like any producer I’ve ever met – she didn’t plot any moves out beforehand, and with the two Menottis seemed content to work it all out in her head and then wondered why what she’d say one day didn’t fit in the next!  She knows 
Porgy backwards, of course, but this didn’t seem to help either – the poor singers practically had to relearn the whole thing her way. It is now generally considered that when Gershwin wrote Porgy had no idea what he was doing and that he didn’t really mean to put anything down the way he did.  Ella has rediscovered it all and does it her way!  And to cap it all, Alistair, who was conducting Porgy, caught a whopper of a cold and was away from two of the most important rehearsals – so that when he came back and went to conduct the final rehearsal on Friday afternoon, Ella kept harping on about his having been away, and how so many things had been changed while he was away. The things he nearly did to her I won’t describe, but it was the most shambolic rehearsal I’ve ever been privileged to attend.  The Telephone and The Consul had gone off quite well at this rehearsal, so I don’t know why she got so Bolshy about this one!  Anyway, all 3 shows were equally successful in their own way in the evening.  We played them for the Friends of Covent Garden (people who subscribe to CG and get into the rehearsals) and our own friends in the University College Theatre, which is sort of North Central London.  All the Crowls came, and actually quite enjoyed it all, I think (I’d sent them a seven page set of notes that I typed out about the three operas so that they’d have a better idea of what they were all about) and Michael came, and for once didn’t think I played too loud, and Kingsley got as far as the tube station and couldn’t find the theatre itself.  He will not take the A to Z with him – seems to think he can always find his way about by merely looking at it at home here and then trying to do it all from memory. And then he wonders why he’s worried about getting lost!!  Perhaps this will have taught him a lesson. That all sounds a bit mean, but I can’t see why he’s too proud to use it.  He doesn’t seem particularly interested in making friends with people at Guildhall. Well, I don’t think I can help him there, it’s something he’ll have to do himself, and the sooner the better.  [Crikey, I sound like a fussy grandfather!]

I made a few blues in the playing of The Telephone, but nothing too worrying, and the audience really enjoyed it, and really laughed, what’s more.  The Consul was tremendously moving – I wouldn't have thought it could be, but yet some of the bits we’d thought most absurd during rehearsals were most effective.  I didn’t find Porgy and Bess nearly so moving – I don’t think Ella has ever managed to get anybody’s sympathy about it.  [I knew Porgy and Bess reasonably well from the NZ Opera Co’s production of it, which I’d seen when they toured it – I had ushered for it, so probably saw every performance in Dunedin.]

After the show, Mike and Hazel and David Gorringe (another stage manager and about 25, small with glasses and very friendly with a mad sense of humour) and David Syrus and I went to a nearby pub, and spent a while there doing considerably more talking than anything else – if that relieves your mind!  After that I went down to where Mike is now living – near Oxford St - and had a quick coffee because I didn’t want to get stranded in London city again – I told you about the previous Saturday, didn’t I?  Let me know if I didn’t.  So I shot down to the tube and caught the last train.  The only trouble was I started doing the Tablet crossword, and went straight past my station!  The next train was some time about 5 am, so I had to start walking back to Plaistow, which shouldn't have been far. But, the ticket-collector gave me rather obscure directions and I found (later) that I was actually walking north instead of west.  [Plainly I hadn’t taken my own advice about always carrying the A to Z!]  I finally caught a bus back to Plaistow to the street running parallel with Balaam St, and arrived home about one thirty. 

Kingsley and Mike and I went to Don Giovanni on Thursday (for nothing and sat in the front row!) and Kevin, who had just arrived back from Spain, came too.  It wasn’t a bad production, but the designing was terrible. None of the clothes belonged to any particular period – except one that looked like German 18th century, and the sets were like a child’s play box on a larger scale.  Terrible! [This may have been the Sadler’s Wells production, the first production for the company at their new home at the Coliseum. It was directed by John Gielgud, and wasn’t well received, apparently.]

[Hazel, mentioned above, by the way, is from British Guyana, and has been here for about nine years or seven?  She’s twenty-seven, and has a very infectious laugh.)

Yesterday went out to the Crowls, and in the afternoon went with Reg to the jumble sale being held for the Intellectually Handicapped Children’s Society, and finished up selling old men’s clothes. Quite a lot of fun, actually, trying to match up the men who came along with the clothes we had. And this morning after Mass, Reg and I went and walked in Hampstead Heath, which goes on for miles in every direction, and would be very easy to get lost in. [We revisited Hampstead Heath in 2007 when staying with a friend in Kentish Town – I’d forgotten just vast it is.]  I better go and do some washing now as I didn’t seem to have much time to do anything last week.  Lots of love, Mike.