Purcell's KING ARTHUR
How English it all was ... music by Purcell, text by Dryden, an Anglo-Saxon cast of soloists (plus a Swede which almost counts), and the most splendid tale of King Arthur as its subject, various mythical figures taking the stage before the closing to sing the wonders of this sceptered isle.
How grand to find delight in English lyrics, which somehow allow actors' faces to expressively distort their faces in precise enunciation:
'Honour's but empty, and when youth is ended,
All men will praise you but none will desire.
Let not youth fly away without contenting;
Age will come time enough for you repenting'
Fabulous stuff, Dryden! And how about this for a message ...
'The gods from above the mad labour behold,
And pity mankind that will perish for gold.'
Purcell's music is so ebullient it puts me in mind of Spinoza's statement: "Human nature is such that the sight [and sound] of others' happiness releases happiness in ourselves." We stepped away from the Barbican thrilled that London can give such a sublime evening.
Of course, it had flown in a French troupe to do so - Hervé Niquet's 'Le Concert Spirituel' from its base in Montpellier, Niquet conducting off-score so he could roam the stage, waving his arms like a sprite to conjure magic. How grand that the French can bring in so English a sound.
That was Wednesday. Thursday I flew to Munich, visiting Dachau as research for my new novel. I am now able to make an informed decision about who to vote for in Bavaria in the upcoming European elections (June 4th), for posters around the German cities showed me the candidates' faces and pithy summaries of their platforms. Roaming Plymouth and London I've not spotted one such poster (we get to vote but it's hardly worth the bother, Europe being over there). Britain didn't used to be so insular ... it brought in Handel and the Royal Family after all. And I guess we can be pleased it brings in masterful musicians even now. But for all the joys of Englishness, it is refreshing to escape our insularity for a while.