Poetry Corner

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Opera is always full of such drama, sometimes as much off stage as on stage. Mary will attempt to capture some of this in her poetry, as well communicate her passion for the genre and the artists who often make it so thrilling an experience.


Mary   RobertsonBiography: Mary Robertson is an Emeritus Professor in Neuropsychiatry at University College London and visiting Professor at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London. Aside from being an opera devotee, Mary is a published poet and photographer.

 

 

 


VerdiRigoletto, Covent Garden July 2007

In Verdi’s great op’ra Rigoletto,
The father-daughter love was so complex,
The hunchback-jester-father scared she’ll go
From purity to sin and sordid sex,
Which was sewn in the House of Mantua,
Without love, but lust and exploitation,
With the handsome Duke, the prime wrong-doer.
Vice, vendetta, vengeance and vexation
Led to a grim curse and great tragedy,
Innocence lost, and the wrong person killed,
Revenge went wrong. All sung so brilliantly,
To rapturous music, leaving me thrilled,
Despite my tears, the tragedy and woe,
In Verdi’s great op’ra Rigoletto.


Umberto GiordanoOpera Disasters Part 1

Remember teary Tosca’s trampoline,
Which bounded her back into the opra’s sky,
So what are the “funniest” I’ve ever seen?
Here is how to my dream I said “Goodbye”.

‘Twas Andrea Chenier with Domingo,
His voice froze: “Is there a doctor in the house?”
Moi! In the upper slips – with vertigo,
Despite being a shrink – I could use my nouse.

But clearly he needed an ENT
Specialist to treat those great vocal cords,
But – not a psychiatrist – sadly – not me,
So, no quick entrée to Ladies and Lords.

The man in the black tie came out again,
“The doctor’s been, Placido’s going to sing
Full of gusto, and free of all his pain!”
He flew through the op’ra on a blest wing.

Nought wrong with his voice: wish I’d had the “balls”,
As the “star’s doc”: imagine the “house calls”


Italy: A Three Day Mini Opera Tour. 24th-26th March 2009

Alcina meets Ruggiero Genoa exceeded our every expectation
The opera house and hotel were both simply gorgeous
But Milan just underwhelmed our anticipation
With hotel and late-comers making us quite nauseous

The refulgent, resplendent Nucci was fantastic
I Due Foscari – by far the opera highlight
The doomed doge, Nucci, was simply climactic,
He lost all to the Patricians’ vengeful might.

We all loved “Ah Ruggiero crudel” in Alcina,
And “La Mamma morta” in Andrea Chenier,
In Foscari the ensembles adorned La Scala
Poetry, not Alcina’s nudes, is my metier.

The scenery was a bit unhinged at La Scala,
Latecomers allowed in – half an hour late,
The bothersome glitches in Foscari and Alcina
I’ll not be going there on my next date.

Giordano’s evening was full of wonderful “can belto”
With Renato Bruson causing a great commotion,
Verdi’s, great Lucrezia echoing bel canto
In her first aria, so full of emotion.

Would I do it again? Yes, by my being “hard core”
But next time abroad I’d chose opera not star
One day, it will be “The Grand Opera Tour”:
But right now, to opera abroad a sweet: “au revoir”.


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door*

(With apologies to Ivor Gurney)

Their smiles, the triumph and laughter on show,http://img263.imageshack.us/img263/5886/damejoansutherlandcoven.jpg
I missed that photo – he suddenly moved,
As in a memory only we know,
The caught smile or sigh of one beloved.

The joy of music – one of Earth’s most sacred things,
Making eyes twinkle and bright with pure joy.
The singers soar mile-high, their hearts mounts higher,
Some are grand and famous, others still coy.

Some stars are tired – no make up, often pain,
A personal rift, or opera tragedy.
Others miffed at stage door’s swinging,
But only three turned from camera and me.

I have taken super pics of Renee Fleming,
Sutherland, Carreras and Domingo.
Some were all luck, others – good timing:
Volle, Nadja Michael, DiDonato.

One of my favourites is great Bergonzihttp://img405.imageshack.us/img405/3771/p1090181d.jpg
(Aragall too, but let’s not make a list),
I’ ve been there for ages – a thrill and a duty,
And yet there are many I’m sure I have missed.

I’ve albums – some framed and some on my wall.
The photos are smiling, with their bold autographs,
I muse on the delight the singers bring us all,
The goose bumps, the tales and a few fine laughs.

(* This poem is the first in a series titled "The Ring in Poetry")

 



Photographs Taken at the Stage Door - 2*

Matilde di Shabran

(Royal Opera House Covent Garden, 2008)

So few make a good limerick, images/stories/juan diego florez by mary robertson 1.jpg
No one killed and no lunatic,
No suicide here – a good atmosphere –
An opera where none were sick.

It’s been called Beauty and the Beast;
With highest notes, it is a feast.
Women loved ‘Iron Heart’ – he played out his part,
And the ‘would be’s’ have long deceased!

Kurzack sang the greatest high E
In the loud Rondo Finale.
Florez really shone, a high echelon –
Was the set by Mr Dali?

Strong Florez sang Corradino,images/stories/aleksandra   kurzak by mary robertson.jpg
Alfonso A – Isidoro,
Kursazk – Matilde: he nearly killed her,
Under the baton of ‘Carlo’.

All’s well that ends well – so they say,
Is she in love – or won, I pray?
With Mathilde’s beau – tamed Corrodino:
Mathilde is ruling the day.

(* Part of "The Ring in Poetry")


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door 3*

The Diva’s Sonnet

In early days her voice: sweet soprano,
Elizabeth , Queen in Mary Stuart.images/stories/rosalind plowright.jpg
And then a mellowed tone, golden mezzo,
As Mila’s mother, ran mad in Osud.
I heard her first in 1982:
Don Carlos – she a woman of Valois
(A Verdi lady, between me and you),
Elena in Sicillian Vespers.
She sang Desdemona, in Otello
(Atlantov loved her, but then murdered her)
She sang Trovatore with Domingo,
(Brave Leonora died for her lover).
The OBE – a voice now strong with might –
Now there’s a real star: Rosalind Plowright.

(*Part of "The Ring in Poetry")

 


Verdi's Requiem

Medici Choir, Sussex Gardens, London, 27 November 2004

Alessandro Manzoni fell one day,images/stories/ricordi verdi   requiem.jpg
His death, a catalyst for the long score.
Verdi’s masterpiece – his best, I’d say –
We sat in the front row, simply in awe.

The Ingemisco is always haunting,
The beautiful church was both full and warm.
The voices so soft, and then swelled to booming,
With such moving music, the magic was born.

The singing sent shivers right down my spine,
‘The wondrous sound of the trumpet rings through.
Now grant them their rest, let Heaven’s light shine,
For Libera Me, I was in tears, too,

My diagnosis was two years ago,
The cancer now gone – I love God and life so.


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door - 4*

Rest in Peace images/stories/lucia popp.jpg

I’ve autographs of some stars, now long gone:
Pavarotti, Kraus, and Geraint Evans,
(As we grow older, our end is foregone),
Dame Eva, van Allen – all in heavens.

Lucia Popp was far too young to die,
The “Big C” stole her from the opera world,
Arabella and Eva – said goodbye:
As sadly her great sails were left unfurled.

The saddest for me was Jerry Hadley,
A gorgeous young man with a beaming smile,
Life was too tough – so he took his own,images/stories/jerry hadley.jpg
Once “Fenton” in Falstaff, then volatile.

 

In my prayers I have a slot for those dead,
Their songs are now heard in the heav’ns instead.

(*Part of "The Ring in Poetry")

 

 

 

 


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door - 5

Il Barbiere di Siviglia – with a Difference

The night had a star-studded casthttp://img155.imageshack.us/img155/6715/p1090270o.jpg
Rosina, poor soul, in a cast,
With long golden hair, she graced her wheelchair,
But was so far from breathing her last.     

One night bright with stars and the moon,
Rosina put Count in a swoon,
Florez did rejoice, as he wooed dear Joyce,
While Bartolo was a buffoon.

Now there was much joy and much peace,
Though Figaro’s antics won’t cease,
The maid kept sneezing, the opera was pleasing,
The show was a true masterpiece.

She warned: ‘The Futile Precaution’!
His fear blown out of proportion?
Rosina was sad – was Bartolo mad?
His power was like an extortion.                       

His “song” was from Cinderella:              
The Count excelled in bravura,              
Great Almaviva, sang to his Diva,
Despite a broken fibula.

I’ve heard the great DiDonato
With lilts as well as vibrato.
She made a great sound, with joy all around,
Was there a touch of... soprano?

A tyrant, a soldier, a sot,
A notary – it had the lot,
The Count wished for life with ‘Ro’ as his wife,
Bartolo may sulk: let him rot!


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door - 6

My Three Tenors

Once in the Eighties I heard a voice,             http://img155.imageshack.us/img155/2360/p1100131r.jpg
That flowed like a dream, a Verdi tenor.        
‘Twas Carlo Bergonzi – my number one choice –
A heroic man, like a father figure.

And then great Domingo entered my life,
A similar age – so I fell in love:
Had it not been for dear Marta, his wife,
Millions of women would flock round like doves.

Then came a man, youthful as a son,
A powerful voice, good looks, great acting.
Let me add praise for proud Jonas Kauffman,
The Infante he was re-enacting.

At the stage door, their smiles were fabulous,
My photographs: stunning, miraculous!


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door - 7

Turandot at the ENO 2009

I saw a fine Turandot in Verona,
And many Covent Garden productions
Where icy Turandot lives as a loner.
The one [from] The Met needs no introduction.

In all, ancient China’s tradition was the constant –
The Emperor’s bold iconography.
With dynastic memories, mythology extant,
A colourful weave of sinology.

Then I saw Goold’s production at the ENO –
Contemporary, set in a restaurant.
The reviewers slated it – it was “gung ho”,
I thought that it gave an interesting slant.

The chorus included three Elvis tributes,
Mrs Thatcher, Buddhist monks, and more than one nun.
Pensioners, Jews and waiters to boot,
And Marilyn Manson watching badminton!

The singing saved the show outright, with Liu
By Amanda Echalaz, an up-and-coming star.
She’s Tosca next year – I’ve bought seats for that, too.
Now here’s a young singer who is going far.

As for this production, what else can I say?
At least it was not a Chinese take-away!

 


Dreaming about the Voice of Carlo Bergonzi

I’ve heard him sing at many an opera,http://img231.imageshack.us/img231/3637/bergonziradames.jpg
I have him on vinyl and on CD.
As Alfredo in La traviata
His tenor tones are enchanting to me.        
I heard his last night at Covent Garden
How great are the Forces of Destiny.
If I sound in love, I beg your pardon.
I’ve memories of him, it’s plain to see.
When visiting colleagues in Milan,
With such operatic magic all round,
It lifted our hearts as our Verdi can.
There I met his friend, and what joy I found                              
(I had heard him sing – a style of his own)
When he spoke to me on his telephone.

 


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door - 8

Duke Bluebeard's Castle (ENO 2009)

Bluebeard asks: “Where is the stage; outside or within?” http://img155.imageshack.us/img155/3229/200pxbarbebleue.jpg
In my mind or yours, or the outside world?
A tug-of-war between love and power, in
Marriage and relationships as yet unfurled.

Dark death, cold blood, lost souls.

Bartok and Balazs made Judith a seeker,
The castle a metaphor for erotic fantasy.
She enters this glorious, ripe adventure
With the Duke an enigmatic anomaly.

Dark death, cold blood, lost souls.

Was the castle a castle, and Bluebeard
Himself really that knight Gilles de Rais?
An evil repented (and what had he feared?),
Avoiding the fires of Hell his last days.

Dark death, cold blood, lost souls.

Could this be the story of Gilles de Rais,
Forever a grim, and a ghastly tale –
Like Fritzl,  Alvares, Garrido – whose ways
(Like Bluebeard) were awful – a most evil male?

Dark death, cold blood, lost souls.

Were the seven doors seven deadly sins –
The piece a metaphor for going to hell?
Or is hell in the mind, where admission begins
Of guilt – or is it a tale Kramer had to tell?

Dark death, cold blood, lost souls.

Kramer hit the audience at the ENO.
It recoiled with words like “awful” and “shocking”
“Revolting”, “repulsive”, “couldn’t look at the show”.
But despite the horror, it was compelling.

Dark death, cold blood, lost souls.


The opera was rich in its symbolism.
Martens as Judith was quite convincing.
For me it felt doomed, with no optimism,
And the children on the stage was most worrying.

Dark death, cold blood, lost souls.

“Enjoy” would not sum up, but I’m glad I went.
Was the show of any real consequence?
Was it an intellectual or musical event,
Or was it just gratuitous violence?


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door -10

The Three Waiters

I’m usually at Covent Garden,http://img405.imageshack.us/img405/5267/threewaiters.jpg
ENO, Royal Albert and Festival Hall.
But then I heard opera – I beg your pardon –
Again - when I went to the Mayoral Ball.

You may love Placido Domingo,
José Carreras and Pavarotti.
Now for Kauffman, I’d call out, “Oh bravo!”
Arlango or Villazon, I’d shout for with glee.

First “La Donna I Mobile” from Rigoletto,
Escammillo’s “Toreador” with all his might.
Calaf’s World Cup “Nessun Dorma” stole the show
Then great “O sole mio”, “That’s Amore”, “Tonight”.

I’ve criticised operas in this very year:
Bluebeard’s violence, Turandot’s crazy production.
But The Three Waiters brought everyone cheer –
I’m happy indeed with great “singing seduction”.


Photographs Taken at the Stage Door - 11

A Few Knights at the Opera* 1984 - 2009

I’ve spent a few nights at the opera nowhttp://img263.imageshack.us/img263/6374/0166p1070021.jpg
Sir Thomas Allen is known for his looks,
He was once 'Mister' – now I have to bow
As I want to stay within his good books.

Sir John Tomlinson – now there’s quite a man -
With his silver hair in a ponytail.
Of this singer I’ll remain a fan
His powerful bass rocks the Richter Scale.

Sir Willard White leaves everyone behind.
A touch of an accent leaves one guessing,
His voice and manners a gentleman's - refined.
To opera and concert – he’s been a blessing.

I’ve taken all their photos, then and now,
We’re all growing old together, somehow.


(Apologies to Sir Rudolf Bing)

 


ANXIETY AT THE OPERA

(Die Meistersinger Dress Rehearsal) http://a.imageshack.us/img37/7484/dscn2224q.jpg
Welsh National Opera, Cardiff, 16th June 2010

I’ve not had the usual “peer review”
As this is just between me and  you
I was anxious at the opera yesterday
Serves me right – you are sure to say
I was “press at the WNO”
All excited and then – Oh No!
I sat in the same row as Clive Barda
A friend of Zoe Dominic – and many other
I was the “new boy on the block”
I just hope you don’t say – “stick to being a doc”!

 


FIESCO FIASCO

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden 13th & 15th July 2010 http://a.imageshack.us/img404/3341/59082.jpg

Poor Furlanetto’s voice faded with a sore throat
So, Sir John Tom sang so well “in the wings”
Then Paata B kept everything afloat
As Placebo Domingo cures anyone who sings!

 

 


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A DISAPPOINTING NIGHT AT THE OPERA?

MACBETH AT THE MARIINSKY THEATRE - 25.02.2011

 

The staging looked tired, the production seemed old,

The same for some ten years (or so I was told)

The set had shrunk, or the stage had grown bigger,

You should check it out: dear Mr McVicar.

Great Macduff and Banquo were the best singers,

Some of the others shrill, or just beginners,

Macbeth did well, but seemed old for a debut,

Others past their prime (just between me and you).

The bar at the interval was such a “Rip”

With the warm sparkling wine – at three quid a sip!

The audience was bad, with far too much talking,

Add insult to injury – their cell phones were ringing.

Despite the “big freeze”, I went to the stage door,

I think you can now call me “really hard core”

Outside it was cold - at minus fifteen degrees,

But with my smart new mink hat, I felt the “bees knees”.

Banquo (Nikitin) was great (but tattooed to the hilt),

He was pleasant, had a nice smile and also well built,

Maestro (Gavriel Heine) really saved the day,

With great music, and charming, what else can I say?

I’m a true “Verdi girl” and quite easy to please,

But many a matter made me feel ill at ease,

I’ll say again - Maestro Heine saved the day,

But ‘twas not a Russian – from the US of A.


Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

A DISAPPOINTING NIGHT AT THE OPERA?

(MACBETH AT THE MARINSKY THEATRE - 25.02.2011)

The staging looked tired, the production seemed old,

The same for some ten years (or so I was told)

The set had shrunk, or the stage had grown bigger,

You should check it out: dear Mr McVicar.

Great Macduff and Banquo were the best singers,

Some of the others shrill, or just beginners,

Macbeth did well, but seemed old for a debut,

Others past their prime (just between me and you).

The bar at the interval was such a “Rip”

With the warm sparkling wine – at three quid a sip!

The audience was bad, with far too much talking,

Add insult to injury – their cell phones were ringing.

Despite the “big freeze”, I went to the stage door,

I think you can now call me “really hard core”

Outside it was cold - at minus fifteen degrees,

But with my smart new mink hat, I felt the “bees knees”.

Banquo (Nikitin) was great (but tattooed to the hilt),

He was pleasant, had a nice smile and also well built,

Maestro (Gavriel Heine) really saved the day,

With great music, and charming, what else can I say?

I’m a true “Verdi girl” and quite easy to please,

But many a matter made me feel ill at ease,

I’ll say again - Maestro Heine saved the day,

But ‘twas not a Russian – from the US of A.

Mary M Robertson February 2011

Last Updated ( Monday, 09 January 2012 21:13 )  

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Puccini: Tosca

Renée Fleming, our hostess with the mostest at the Metropolitan Opera’s latest cinema relay of Tosca a few weeks ago, urged us – as ever – to experience opera first-hand and to ‘come visit the Met’ or to support your local opera company. The Opera Britannia excursions budget wouldn’t get you as far as York, let alone New York, so my local company it was and performing the same opera too. Tosca is very much the safe, financial bolster to Welsh National Opera’s Tudor trilogy in its autumn season – a crowd-pleaser of a production excavated from 1992, but which seemed even older.


 

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News

ENO goes widescreen

After resisting the prevailing tide for opera houses beaming their wares to a worldwide cinema audience, English National Opera has seen the light. From 2014, selected productions will be screened at 300 cinemas around the UK and beyond, starting with its revival of David Alden’s production of Peter Grimes, starring Stuart Skelton. A new production, by Terry Gilliam, of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini will also be relayed. Gilliam’s earlier Berlioz adventure, The Damnation of Faust, was broadcast on television.


 

 

Poetry Corner

Biography: Mary Robertson is an Emeritus Professor in Neuropsychiatry at University College London and visiting Professor at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London. Aside from being an opera devotee, Mary is a published poet and photographer.

(New poems added: 04/08/2010)

more >>

 

 


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Around the Houses

Dmitri Platanias will sing the title role when the Royal Opera revives its new production of Nabucco. Mariusz Kwiecien will be joined by Saimir Pirgu in Steffen Aarfing's production of Szymanowski's King Roger at Covent Garden in 2015. The Royal Opera will stage Andrea Chenier in 2014/15 with Jonas Kaufmann, Eva-Maria Westbroek and Željko Lucic.

Anna Netrebko is due to sing the role of Lady Macbeth for a single performance at the Bavarian State Opera in June 2014.

Maria Agresta will sing Lucrezia in Verdi's I due Foscari in the 2014-15 season at Covent Garden. Placido Domingo does the Doge double, adding the baritone role of Francesca Foscari to his Simon Boccanegra.

Corinne Winters, fresh from her triumph as Violetta in ENO's production of La traviata, is to return to the Coliseum next season as Teresa in Berlioz's Benvenuto CelliniMichael Spyres sings the title role in a production which sees the return ofTerry Gilliam to the director's seat, after his Damnation of Faust debut.

. Read More>>

"Around the Houses" concentrates on providing the latest news on future plans for opera companies around the globe, artists schedules, cancellations and interesting snippets of information. We will try and avoid unsubstantiated gossip wherever possible, but all of our sources will remain completely confidential.  If you would like to advise us about potential news for this section, then please feel free to email us at info@opera-britannia.com.

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Reviews to be published shortly:



 


 


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