Playing Catch-Up, Spark, and Lyric Opera

We’re behindhand updating this week. Holidays have done terrible things to our understanding of where we are in the week. We took yesterday as Thursday, for instance, feeling sure we flew back from Chicago on Wednesday and had lost a day that way. (In fact it was Tuesday we lost.)

Confusion about days aside, it’s been a good holiday so far. Presently we are delving into Muriel Spark’s Loitering with Intent  and are thereby reaffirming our belief she is a writer who can do no wrong. In true Spark fashion it is proving weird and wonderful, but we love the sheer strangeness of her stories. We long ago decided their oddness was one of their most compelling qualities.

In other news, Christmas really has come early in the shape of an excursion to Chicago’s Lyric Opera to see Bel Canto, a world premier, and the ever-beloved The Merry Widow.

Bel Canto, we suspect, is the book that made us fall in love with opera. Of course we had to see it when we realised Chicago Lyric had turned it into an opera. We were longing to find out how fictional soprano Roxanne Coss’s music (she’s held in regard for her ‘Song to the Moon’) was realised. No composer would want to clutter his opera with parodies, and even if he did, who could do justice to Dvorjak? We’ve said before his music leaves us weeping, and Song to the Moon’ is the most beautiful aria in opera as far as we’re concerned. Parodying that was going to be no small feet. We went, consequently, keyed up with anticipation. Our mother had reservations, we suspect.

‘I hope it isn’t too modern,’ she said before we set out.

Was it modern, yes. Always lyrical, no.  Why would it be? The story -loosely based on a terrorist incident in Peru back in 1997 -is not a lyrical story. It’s dramatic, striking, memorable and compelling, even ugly in places. Lopéz’s music isn’t always the lyric and melodious music we associate with opera, but always it is suitable, and we could say nothing better of it. It personifies the story we loved at 15, we can ask no more.

As for the music of Roxanne Coss (here sung by Danielle de Niese), it is written for her, a gift from Lopéz, and it grows and expands in melodiousness as her character changes. It is raw in spots, achingly sweet in others, and like ‘Song to the Moon’, it leaves us wanting to weep. Stylistically, Lopéz might be different to Dvorjak but the feeling  behind the music, the colours and the feelings he evokes, recall Dvorjak to us in spades.

Now we are home, being lovingly persecuted by Dachshunds, muddling days of the week and better than that, drinking Red Rose Tea. You can’t get it in Scotland and we’ve missed it.

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