Sunday, March 16, 2008

Afternoon in New York (via Bury St. Edmunds)

John was working yesterday (and today, yuck), so I went into Bury on a mid-afternoon train to putter around and have an early supper (you'll see why in a minute). After the grand splurge of £1 for five buttons for the sweater I'm knitting, I ended up in what I think is a newish restaurant in Bury: California Kitchen.

It was predictably silly on the music front (Beach Boys on a loop), but I ordered a cheese quesadilla with sides of guacamole and refried beans. It was really tasty. Not quite Baby Bo's or Uncle Moe's, but the refried beans were just the right kind of creamy and the guac was nice and chunky. The salsa was reasonably spicy, and with fewer chunks in it than I'm used to. It was more of a sauce, like those at Uncle Moe's. It was all suitably Mexicano. I kept expecting my friend Felipe from New York to pop out from behind a corner and yell 'surprise!'

The reason I was having a 'linner' (not 'brunch'...think about it) was that we were off to the Met for the evening. To see Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes".

Since I haven't entirely cracked teleporting, we went to the Live from the Metropolitan Opera broadcast in Bury Cineworld. Despite the fact that our tickets said Peter Gri, they still let us in. It wasn't exactly full - I was surprised. There had been quite a lot of interest from members of the choir and the last time we performed Britten in Bury we had a very good turnout. There were about 40 people in the audience. I think the turnout was low because of a combination of relatively depressing subject matter, 20th century opera, and a £25 ticket price.

The reviews from the Times, the New Yorker, the Guardian, and the FT were all extremely positive, so we were really looking forward to it. The Met Orchestra was sublime, as usual, Donald Runnicles was incredible, the chorus were suitably unified and oppressive, and the soloists were fantastic. As the reviews point out, Anthony Dean Griffey's diction stole the show. In a role initially written for Peter Pears (Britten's partner), he was completely different but extremely effective. What a voice.

There was some commentary with Natalie Dessay (from the upcoming production of La Fille Du Regiment), which was unintentionally very funny. One of the screenings was in the Aldeburgh (pronounced 'all-BRUH') movie theatre (where Britten & Pears lived and where Grimes is set), which they showed, along with footage of the beach, the high street, and the Britten-Pears house. However, Ms. Dessay has an extremely strong French accent and kept calling it "All-DE-BURRRughhhhh", to the general hilarity of everyone around her. The Brits in the broadcast (among them the BBC East presenter, the director, and Maestro Runnicles) kept emphasizing the 'all-BRUH' pronunciation, to no avail. She also kept trying to get poor Anthony Dean Griffey to give his analysis of what the whole thing meant and whether or not Grimes was evil or not, and Griffey was trying to emphasize that it was up to the audience to decide.

I loved that they spent quite a bit of time before the production started zooming the cameras around the Met - it felt like we were in New York. Opera singers aren't really designed to be viewed at close range, though, in HD on a 20-foot tall screen. There was much sweating that we didn't need to see.

It's a 5+ hour production of Tristan & Isolde next weekend - I'm not sure I can handle 5 hours of Wagner. We'll definitely be back for either La Boheme or La Fille du Regiment, though.

I snuck a picture of the screen at intermission (don't arrest me!).

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