In the Market for Love (Mesdames de la Halle)

In a normal year I go to the opera four or five times, usually to the English National Opera. This year … well, I had tickets for a couple of shows but they both got cancelled because of the Lurgi, and there’s no sign of either the ENO or the Royal Opera restarting any time soon. Even though theatres are allowed to re-open – and some have done so – large productions require lots of rehearsal time for both performers and technical crew, which hasn’t been possible for months, and large productions are also expensive to put on so need large audiences, which just isn’t possible. The shows I’ve been to since the theatres reopened have all been limited to no more than a quarter of normal capacity.

But yesterday I went to Glyndebourne! In the Market for Love is a new production, based on a new translation of Offenbach’s “Mesdames de la Halle”, a short (only a smidge over an hour) comic opera. Being short it requires less rehearsal, and it has a small cast – seven significant roles, plus a couple of minor ones and a half-dozen in the chorus, compared to the 40+ on stage in typical larger operas. All of that makes it cheap to put on, and they saved more money by mostly re-using set, props and costumes from other shows.

The whole production was typical Offenbach – light music, catchy tunes, a bit of slapstick – all done to Glyndebourne’s usual high standard, and great fun. As I write this some tickets are still available, and I recommend a trip.

Singin’ In The Rain

To the BFI this afternoon for a bit of culture. I was supposed to have seen a stage version of this at Sadler’s Wells last month, but the Pestilence has seen that postponed until September next year. I have, of course, seen it before, but yeeeears ago, and never actually in a cinema, so when I saw that it was on I had to go.

It is of course a wonderful, joyful film. And of course I couldn’t help but think about how I would have edited it differently. There’s an odd shot right at the start of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor together in the classic rainstorm scene, which is also present in the trailer, but in the film as it was released that is a Kelly solo number. Then I would have cut a few little scenes in the finale too – Jean Hagen’s explanation of how evil her character is is unnecessary for the denouement in which her character being overdubbed in the mise en abyme is revealed. She has already made herself thoroughly hateable by that point without the Baddie Monologue.

Tantra: enlightenment to revolution

Some god, getting jiggy
Some god, getting jiggy, with skulls

This show opened a few days ago at the British Museum. In normal times I tend to go to their shows during the middle of the run, because the start is always crowded with luvvies (and tourists) and the end crowded with people who’ve been putting a trip off for ages, thinking “I can go later” (and tourists). In the middle of a run it’s only crowded with tourists. But things being what they are the museum are allowing far fewer people in at once, which I was sure would make for a much more pleasant experience even at the start of the run. And I was right. There’s little waiting for other people to get out of the way so you can examine a piece, and no oiks jostling to peer over your shoulder.

Some hippy, getting jiggy
Some hippy, getting jiggy, without skulls

The curators have done a good job of explaining the roots of Tantra as transgressive acts of exploration beyond the boundaries of societal norms – not just weird sex – and its transformation into mainstream religion, into politics, and into Western hippy new age bollocks that will smash capitalism. And I did get a distinct sense of sneering at the Western hippy new age bollocks from the curators, who clearly felt that they should show those modern takes on the subject only for the sake of completeness and despite their intellectual shallowness.

Mind you, I am always pleased to see the museum break out some of their prints by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat!

Bill & Ted Face the Music

I saw this yesterday afternoon in a practically empty Curzon Victoria. I’ve been both looking forward to it and dreading it for years. The first film in the trilogy was excellent. It was original, funny, and well made. The second wasn’t anything like as tight but at least managed to not be utterly bogus. And then a few years later there was talk of a third, and while those rumours were repeatedly and thoroughly denied they never went away.

This is not a great film. There’s nothing original about it of course, and it is merely competently made. Reeves and Winter do a surprisingly good job of portraying older, failed versions of their original characters, and the supporting cast do well too. The casting and makeup crew did an outstanding job on the Jimi Hendrix and Louis Armstrong impersonators.

But despite the lack of originality, despite having zero artistic merit, despite the old corny jokes … that’s what we want to see. This film is nothing but fan service. If you loved the original film, then you’ll enjoy this. If you’re too young to remember the original then don’t bother. And if you’re old enough to remember but didn’t love it then you are a joyless arse.