Friday, November 08, 2013

27.1.69 Flat-hunting, Verdi, and Schoenberg


Dear Mum, how our fortunes change within the space of hours almost! It seems an age since I last wrote though I know it’s not, and equally, the last week seems to have been one of the longest (and funnily enough also the shortest) I’ve ever known. Sorry about this curious start: explains: When I last wrote it was a happily confidant little lad who thought that the subject of the flat was all settled. However David Syrus decided that he was really better off where he was and so left me with a whole flat to myself. I tried Kurt Gänzl, because I knew he wasn’t too well off, flat-wise, but he had other complications and that wrecked that idea. I asked another guy too, but he has complications too. 

So! what to do? I really didn’t and still don’t feel like moving, despite the disadvantages of this place, and I feel in a bit of a mess. Today I thought that well, it could turn out for the best and so I went off to the place that I’d gone to before, to see what they could turn up for me. I’d also discussed the problem with Reg over the weekend and he’d said he’d get onto his contacts and see what might turn up. I tried two places tonight; the same young man who served me before was my aid again, and even gave me a lift up to Stamford Hill, where the first place was. He’s a very pleasant bloke: his landlady is a New Zealander (!); and he lives up that way anyway. The first place (I’m looking for a bedsit) was a very small room with only a gas ring to cook on, and utensils consisting of three different knives, up on the second floor of a house, and while it may have been quite cosy, it didn’t seem to be me. The bloke, his name is Atkins (his first name begins with A too, but the only thing that comes to mind is Arty, and that doesn’t seem right) then gave me a lift down to Seven Sisters Road, where I then walked up to the next place. This was a basement room in another large house, but there were no utensils there and the electricity included was only the lighting. It also looked cold, but the room was larger, and the woman who was fairly deaf, seemed anti-everything. So neither of those seemed much good. I was able however to get a bus right to the door of this place from there which was some consolation, but my hints to Mr and Mrs Marshall that I’d like to stay but couldn’t afford the rent came to nothing  – though they were very sympathetic and seemed to think they’d be as sorry to lose me as I would be to go!

Went out to ring Reg, who incidentally had a cyst taken off his eyelid today, about the same time as I was doing my audition for Opera for All, which seemed to go reasonably well – I was happy anyway, tho I don’t really know what they thought. He hadn’t been able to do anything from his end because his phone had gone on the blink! However he’s not giving up.

When I came back from ringing him, Mr M came up the stairs and said would I like to stay on £4 a week until I could find someone to share the place! I said that that was very nice, thank you, but I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to manage to stay on, as I didn’t see much hope of getting anyone to share the place. (I wonder if I should advertise? for someone, I mean?) Mr M said well, they didn’t expect me to be tied down to staying on, and he seemed to not mind if I went off after having only paid him that much for a time so that is something anyway. But I don’t know if it puts me in an awkward spot or not! But it’s nice to know I’m a reasonable sort of tenant anyway! That’s a review of the situation up to date.

On the weekend I went up to the Crowls and they had been given tickets to an amateur performance of an opera by Verdi, which is never done: Luisa Miller. Maurice Coombs supplied the tickets – we went to his place on Boxing Day – and it turned out his wife Phyllis was in the chorus – she’s Mavis and Nina’s little sister (about 45!). The production and acting and even a lot of the musical performance was very amateur – these people should see some of our local stuff [ie, productions in Dunedin] – they’d never believe it – but Verdi shone through everything in sight. He can’t be put down, that man. Even when the singers seem incapable of doing the thing properly or with the proper amount of passion, the fact that they had to sing it at all made them do it at least half-way decently. His music is fabulous, and it was a treat to hear something really unknown to me.

We’ve had fabulous weather here the last few days: it’s actually been in the fifties! [I assume this is a Fahrenheit temperature, since this was mid-winter, though even 50 degrees Fahrenheit hardly seems anything to crow about.] And very mild. People are going around without coats even. Overcoats, I mean. (Although I saw one fellow in shirt-sleeves and one idiot in his singlet!)
Jane Manning

During the last week I went to a performance of modern works: arrangements by Berg and Webern (the former’s life story I’ve just finished) and a performance of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, first without reciter, so that we could just hear the music, and then with reciter – Jane Manning, who was also in The Growing Castle a while back. This person doesn’t sing, but speaks on the notes written down; the effect can be fantastic, and can also be less impressive than either speech or singing. She was super-excellent, anyway, ploughing her way thru some horribly difficult things with ease. And so did the chamber ensemble. I had a score of the Lunaire, so knew just how difficult some of it was. Most of it, in fact.

For the record, at my audition, I played a chunk of Boheme, tho not all I intended, and a duet (between Anna and Ottavio) [from Don Giovanni] but they didn’t let me finish that either. and because they were pressed for time, I didn’t play the piano piece I’d prepared. The sightreading was from Verdi’s Falstaff, and seemed to me to be easy, but perhaps I was mistaken!

Last Wednesday we went to a general rehearsal of the last act of the Meistersingers, but it seemed only partially good. the Sadlers Wells version had seemed just as good, in fact. On Thursday Mike got us into a premiere of Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, a very funny and rather moving comedy, with Gina Lollobrigida, and several other very good actors.