Monday, June 27, 2011

Juneathon 2011 Day 24: A night at the opera

2011 Streak Day 175: Walk - 4.5 miles, Time - 1hr 40min, Weather - overcast, turning to rain

You would never guess from the picture of a cows that my exercise was walking the streets of London. But there is nothing in the rules that says my photo should  be a representation of the day. All I have to do is find something that catches my eye - and I passed this on the way to the station.
As for the walk - well it was hardly serious exercise, it is wandering around London, not using public transport. But I like this way of getting about in cities. You really do not know what you are missing if you travel by tube; buses are OK but you don't get the intimate feeling of being a part of the place. One of the great joys is to look up above the standardised shop facias and see the variety of buildings and get a sense of their history.
The only time I get antsy is in the tourist areas where there are milling crowds blocking your path, making it impossible to walk straight or at anything faster than a stuttering amble. For that reason I never go to Oxford Street, if I can help it, as I feel so frustrated and so closed-in. Leicester Square is as bad but at least there, there is a small, hidden haven: The Cork and Bottle. A wine bar in a smallish basement that has been there since 1971 and hardly upgraded since. It is  untouched by succeeding style revolutions. Part of its charm perhaps but rather incidental to the main attraction of being a place where you can calmly drink a decent glass of wine.
Wine bars are strange things. I suppose their heyday was the 80s, when they became fashionable, but now they have mostly died away. I don’t really know why because as a nation we have been drinking more wine, but perhaps that is the reason. Wine bars were a bridgehead, to cater for the nascent a wine habit neglected by pubs .Now pubs offer a range of wines and with bars have had a design makeover; the niche for wine bars has been squeezed. In the same way the wine merchants struggle against the dominance of the supermarkets.
Anyway enough of talk of wine bars - they have no place in a running bog!
But in that case neither does opera and that would mean that I shouldn’t talk about the reason for being in London, which was to see Peter Grimes at the Royal Opera House. That would be a shame because it was rather magnificent.
Some reviewers might have highlighted some vocal insecurities of Ben Heppner in the lead role but all praised the chorus; and this was right. The chorus, as the Borough, are at the heart of the story. It is their reject and demand for conformity which drives the action and in this production, the way they moved and were massed gave them great force.
When I was watching this the opera seemed incredibly relevant to the present day. Although few of us now live in small, tight knit communities, we all see the power of the press to hound and rage. Once someone is in their sights, any weakness is magnified and exploited.
Peter Grimes could well be an opera about Sharon Shoesmith

No comments: