Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Being driven back in smooth style the day after reeling joyously from the longest celebration of Midsummer in all opera, we were drawn as if magnetically to the standing stones of Avebury. Of course it didn't take us long to realise that the opposing forces of then-genial police and ruddy travellers with their cohorts of dogs and children in tow had gathered to celebrate the solstice. A little further on, beyond Marlborough before joining the mundane motorway, we saw this very midsummery down covered in poppies.
St John's eve and day, the Johannisnacht and -tag which see chaos incorporated into order in Wagner's 16th century Nuremberg, are of course slightly later - 23/4 June rather than the longest day of the year, the 21st - but it comes to much the same thing. I never thought to see a Meistersinger with a Hans Sachs as great as Norman Bailey, possibly the most remarkable performance I've ever seen on a stage, but Bryn, essaying the role in its entirety for the first time with Welsh National Opera in Cardiff, certainly was, in his own very different way. The result of spending ten weeks on this Meisterwerk with my City Lit students rubbed off in a review as long as a dissertation for The Arts Desk. I make no apology.
On the way back we made a return visit to stay over at the dreamlike house of one of our companions in Lacock. I've dealt with it before here, but that wasn't midsummer, so the gardens were at their peak this time. We went back to Lacock Abbey for the benefit of our fourth friend, and Deborah and I wandered in the fairly new botanical zone, not a patch on hers but at least boasting a gorgeous liriodendron or tulip tree in flower.
Idyllic lunch followed. The usual strawberries are of course in season
but have you tasted the little white ones? Deborah has a whole carpet of them in her garden, and she duly gathered the latest crop. They're much like the pink wild strawberries, but they do look rather different:
And now it's head down to get the script for my Building a Library on Delibes's effervescent Coppelia ready for Radio 3's CD Review. As I stepped in at the last minute, it's being recorded just before the broadcast on Saturday. I adore the work more than ever, but I've had to sacrifice other pleasures to get on with the task, including tonight's Royal Opera first night for the new Laurent Pelly production of Massenet's Manon. The hedonist with a heart is to be embodied by her glitzy alter ego, Anna Netrebko. Never mind, I've had my vision for the week, month, year with that Meistersinger.