Tuesday, November 10, 2015

23.5.69 Birthday and mid-term shows


Dear Mum, glad to get your confirmation that you are okay ˗ please don’t worry about being terribly regular with letters, but I do like getting them ˗ I’m very selfish I’m afraid, and get a wee bit disappointed if I don’t get any mail for several days. Actually, so many odd things arrive me here that not many days do go past without something arriving.

Some more about the birthday. On the actual day, Hazel and I went out and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant ˗ David G was supposed to come too but got tied up with something else at the last minute. I was also allowed that morning to open something else they’d left on the day of the pre-b. (They’d given me a couple of crazy presents then.) It was a roll-collar nylon shirt, which everyone is wearing at the mo’, so I felt quite with it when I went into the Centre that day. Forgot to tell you ˗ Mike gave me two paperbacks (copies of which I’d had at home but didn’t bring!): The History of the Symphony, and Kathy gave me that terrible shocking book: Ulysses, which has just come out in paperback. Actually, there are some passages that even now seem (at least to me) a little purple, they are very down to earth, and I don’t think pornographic for their own sake ˗ they really stress just how human the characters are, and how little different any of us are from one another. Apart from these parts, the rest of the book is so fabulously written ˗ the English has to be read to be believed (!) and it really is marvellous. I don’t profess to understand all its classical references; though there is a short commentary at the back of the book, but I think it can be read without being entirely aware of them. [I’m intrigued to think that I might have actually read the book: I don’t recall doing so, and a later attempt to get into it left me unenthused after the first few pages. My comments about the book being shocking probably relate to the showing of the movie version a few years earlier: in New Zealand the audiences were segregated by sex, so concerned was the censor at some of the scenes.Which, it turned out, weren’t any worse than some of the European movies I’d seen in Dunedin.]

The Crowls gave me a cheque for £2, did I tell you? And Margaret gave me a very nice ballpoint pen. With your money ˗ or rather because it boosted the finances somewhat ˗ I went and got a copy of Der Rosenkavalier vocal score ˗ £4˗10 (!), but since we’re doing it in class for the next 3 weeks I thought I may as well have a copy.

This week we’ve had our mid-term performances on, and on the day of the first of them I felt so fed up with the clothes that I normally wear to these, that I thought ‘Blow!! I’m going to dress a bit more interestingly for a change, and decided to get myself a waistcoat and a tie. Well I had to try 3 shops before I could a cloth waistcoat (they all have wool ones) but it was worth it, and I got a very nice beige (I think it is) for £3 something. The tie took a bit of choosing, but it is rather fabulous, and some of the really natty dressers round the Centre have complimented me. It’s basically a light (but not too much) blue, with (!) black, green and orange designs. I can hear you gasping from here! Actually it isn’t anywhere near as like a neon light as that sounds ˗ the price is what will really make you faint : 30/- !!! I must admit that was rather more than I expected it to be but it is pure silk, and I like it, and it was me birthday!

I had a nice surprise in German class the other day: the teacher asked me what I was doing at the end of the term, and I said having a holiday I think!, and she said would I like to go to Switzerland! Apparently she knows a lady who has contact with the Zurich opera house, and she said if I wrote her a letter telling what I’d done she’d pass it on to this woman and see if anything would come of it. So I’ve sent it off but am not going to worry about it anymore ˗ just let things take care of themselves. She said it was because I’d worked so hard at German that she thought she’d do something for me! Actually she has also let Dave Syrus in on it, but I shouldn’t think it’ll matter ˗ I’m neither expecting to get something or not to. (If that’s possible!)

For the mid-term shows we’ve been doing two operas: a bad re-hash of Manon by Massenet, called Portrait of Manon, which was either not written by Massenet or else just started by him, and finished by some hack. It has both a terrible plot and no climax ˗ just peters out. The other piece: Fiesta, by Milhaud, was written about 1958, and is very dissonant ˗ if you don’t know it (and still pretty dissonant if you do) but is rather exciting and horrible and atmospheric (tho’ less so with only piano accompaniment), and has been very well produced. The other piece gets there but hasn’t had such a competent man on it, and only just works. I’m playing for the Manon, and putting in odd notes in the bass for the Fiesta. And playing a bell for four bars!

There is also a demonstration of movement by the singers, and on the first night we found that there was a great gap in the timing while some of them got ready for Fiesta, so Alistair and I on the second night played a duet version of The Thieving Magpie overture! We’d been filling in time with it the previous day ˗ playing just for fun, and had to do quite a lot of work on it to tidy it up. (Secretly, we’ve been told it’s the hit of the show!) After we had done it the first night, Robertson came up to us and said that he didn’t think it was quite right it didn’t fit in with Fiesta straight after, but I said that that was because they’d started Fiesta too soon after it, and it had sounded as though David was playing wrong notes! He said not to do it again, but because he is away rehearsing Aida (and was last night) the stage managers went to Mr Kentish and asked him if we could do it again ˗ and so we did! Generally the shows have been going very well, tho’ last night wasn’t too hot and in a way I’ll be sorry to see them finished. Love Mike [I assume that I mean what I wrote, rather than that I wouldn’t be sorry to see them finished.]

P.S. I still have got over £200. I don’t believe it! Thank the Stokes for the card and cash, please. 
P.S. I wrote to Prof Platt ˗ finally ˗ hope he can follow it!
P.S.S. Go and see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang if it hasn’t already gone by