Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Most of the public programs at the criticism institute were held in the afternoons at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Lots of little concerts go on there too, in the evenings and weekends. I checked the boards and stuck around. I already mentioned the piano recital I attended half of on Wednesday; there was also a program of scenes from Britten operas, with piano accompaniment, presented twice with some variations in program. I got to the second half of Thursday's program and returned for the first half of Saturday's.

This was the first time I'd ever seen any Britten staged, and while I've encountered some on record and on TV, I'm not very familiar with his operatic output. I'm not planning on rushing out for more. Too much of the writing is in the category I call Menotti-nous:1 ceaselessly meandering melodically-null recitatives setting dull, pedestrian conversations, added points if delivered in a manner where you can't make out half the words anyway. The Turn of the Screw was the nadir in this department, an opera so bad even B. doesn't like it.2 A Midsummer Night's Dream, which has a good libretto (most of it taken straight from Shakespeare's play) if you can decipher it, is better because the four lovers get to sing in ensemble. I give more points to Peter Grimes for its ensemble work, and especially, based on this performance, to The Rape of Lucretia for some real dynamism of plot action.

Mind you, I find most of Britten's concert music for singers or chorus to be pretty good.

Some of the singers, even if halfway unintelligible, had powerful and carrying voices.

The class that put this on is aiming for a full production of Albert Herring in May. That's supposed to be the funny one, so I might go.

1. Say it aloud.
2. A couple of elderly men sitting behind me were grumbling that there wasn't anything from Death in Venice. I muttered, "Because this is supposed to be a highlights program," but not for them to hear.

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