Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The garden today (Tues 31 August)

It's a bit better, managed to save something from the wreckage!!
I planted more peas and beans, and I should have an autumn crop, as they are already  flourishing.

And I have some ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS lilies!!

On my desk as I type is a vase with one of these lilies in....I wish I could convey the beautiful scent! 

I have also bought some enchantingly beautiful violas, called 'rose wing'.

And some bronze/purple violas.

And now...I am going to water the garden and plant my new violas!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Joyce DiDonato in Edinburgh

Edinburgh International Festival 2010
Usher Hall, Sunday 22 August

Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano

David Zobel, piano

Three Centuries of 'Amore'


A very interesting and unusual programme - this is what I love about Edinburgh, the chance to hear music one might not otherwise have come across. As the title implies, all the songs are about love in all its manifestation - and they are not all about unhappy or unrequited love! 
             The first set of songs date mainly from the 18th century, although there is one by Caccini (Amarilla mia bella) and one by Luigi Rossi (1597-1653), Se tu m'ami is attributed to Pergolesi, but the attribution is uncertain.
              The first song in the first group was Danza, danza, fanciulla gentile, by Franceso Durante (1684-1755). It's a light-hearted exhortation to a girl to dance - the lovely rippling piano accompaniment, brilliantly executed by David Zobel, indeed exemplifies the spirit of the dance. The second song was an equally light-hearted song in which  a girl tells her lover that she's sorry if he's suffering for love, but she's not obliged to love him alone. DiDonato presented these in a graceful, charming way, appropriate to the subject, but she was equally at home in the more serious songs which followed - the repetition of the name Amarilli in Amarilla mia bella sounded especially heartfelt.

               The second group consisted of Italian songs set by Beethoven, including La Partenza, to a text by Metastasio - a fairly simple text, in which the lover wonders how he will live when his beloved is gone; Beethoven elaborates upon the simple lines of the text, especially in the piano part. The Beethoven set also contained two settings of the same song, L'amante impaziente, obviously an exercise in vocal and pianistic virtuosity; the words are the same ("What is my lover doing - she obviously likes to make me wait"), but it is first set in a jaunty major key, implying that he knows she won't keep him waiting long, and the second is a mournful, slow setting, implying that he thinks she's deserted him.

             The final piece before the interval was the Willow Song from Rossini's Otello. The introduction, originally for the harp, translates well to the piano, especially under the expert hands of David Zobel, and DiDonato really got to the heart of Desdemona's grief and forebodings of death....heartbreaking!

            After the interval, the programme continued with songs by 20th century composers, many of whom are hardly remembered today - such as Francesco Santoliquido (1883-1971) (yes, that was his name; DiDonato made a plea from the stage not to succumb to the temptation to call him "Frankie Holywater"!!)  She sang four songs by this composer, all poems he had written himself. I especially liked the first songs, L'assiolo canta (The horned owl sings), which is a song a lover sings on a serene summer's evening...it's a perfect blend of words and music. The longest song, L'incontro (the meeting) about two lovers who meet again after a long time apart, had perhaps less individual character than the previous songs, sounding rather like a blend of Puccini and Richard Strauss - none the worse for that, of course! - giving the singer a chance to shine in soaring cadences.

          This was followed by a setting of Leopardi's Oscuro e il ciel by Ildebrando Pizzetti, which is a sublime blending of words and music, expressing passion and yearning as much with the piano as with the voice.

         The final group consisted of songs by Italian composers about foreign, 'exotic' climes, such as Leoncavallo's Serenata francese.

          After the recital proper, when Joyce DiDonato returned for her encore, she spoke in tribute to the late Sir Charles Mackerras. She had originally come to Edinburgh to sing the role of Idamante in Idomeneo under him (in the event, Sir Roger Norrington conducted). She then sang 'Voi che sapete' as a sort of farewell to Sir Charles, and concluded the evening with an extract from La Donna del Lago.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sarah Connolly sings Jazz in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh International Festival 2010
 Saturday 21 August, THE HUB, Castlehill

Jazz Recital by Sarah Connolly and John Horler.

Sarah Connolly is one of the greatest mezzo-sopranos of our time, and now she has shown that she is equally gifted in the jazz repertoire (In fact, she did perform some jazz numbers at the Last Night of the Proms last year). Judging by this, she could have had an equally distinguished career as a jazz singer....but then we would never have had her Giulio Cesare, Agrippina, Maria Stuarda or any of the many other roles in which she has shone. (My particular favourite among these is Giulio Cesare).

They presented a programme of songs from the 1930s, some really well-known, such as The Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square, some less familiar.There were some well-known Gershwin numbers, of which I particularly enjoyed her performance of Treat me Rough, which was sung in a very tongue-in -cheek, flirtatious way, just as it should be.

The programme began with Skylark which was written for Judy Garland by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael. It's a lovely song with beautiful lyrics, and an elaborate piano postlude. 
John Horler is a very talented jazz pianist, who worked as pianist to John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, and it was as much a pleasure to listen to him play as it was to hear Sarah Connolly sing. In fact in jazz, as in Lieder, the piano is as important as the voice, and many of the songs have very Schumann-esque piano postlude.
Horler also played a solo - improvisation - which further demonstrated his skill at the keyboard.

The lyrics to the jazz songs are amazing - witty, sophisticated, tender or ironic...sometimes within the same song.

For the recital Sarah Connolly was wearing a black off-the-shoulder dress, with very high-heeled black shoes...she looked stunning and sophisticated, just as a jazz singer should!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The garden this month

It has been a disaster!! Fortunately, I was able to retrieve something from the damage....
I'll start at the beginning. I was away in Italy for two-and-a-half weeks, and the neighbour promised to look after the garden for me...he's done this before, so I didn't think there would be a problem.

However...I came back to a scene of utter devastation!!! He hadn't watered any of the climbing plants, so they all died......and before I left, I had a beautiful display of sweet peas.

I had also planted honeysuckle and clematis, AND peas and beans, which were starting to grow up the fence. Why had I planted these?
Well, the peas and beans to eat, but the others I had planted TO GROW UP THE FENCE TO CONCEAL IT!!!

And do you know what my idiot neighbour said in excuse?
Not only do I now have to replace the plants, I have to replace the dried-out compost. Not surprisingly, he has avoided me since that one discussion...he might just end up in the compost, if he's not careful!!!
There are also hardly any tomatoes, only leaves, because he didn't pinch out the side-shoots....and he let the violas die.....

However....all is not lost! 
I saw a huge bumblebee gorging itself on the remaining lavender, and the lavender itself is really beautiful.

And...the apple tree is flourishing. I don't know when the tree was planted, or if it self-seeded, it must have been there for decades. The apples are rather tart, cooking apples rather than eating apples, but I've made a spicy apple cake and will make some chutney....which I am hoping to sell on my craft stall later this month.

So I suppose it could have been worse.....

Today I bought a couple of petunias, to put in the empty troughs. Some of the petunias I already had have survived too.