Saw the ENO production of Don Giovanni at the London Coliseum.
As usual, I don't go to enough operas to actually tell the really good opera singers from the average professional opera singer, but Girl B tells me John Molloy, the tenor playing Masetto was very good, and the others were all up to scratch. I'd certainly wrap up the wine glasses if I thought they'd be practicing in my house.
This production was in modern dress, with an English libretto. Had some nice touches like the song where the servant Leporello lists all his master's conquest being done as a Powerpoint presentation with helpful graphs.
The opera seems fast-paced and eventful for an opera, with a lot going on.
Ticket prices aren't too bad there, with the cheapest balcony seats at £25 each.
Overall, not bad if you don't mind opera.
Saw the new Alan Bennett play People at the National Theatre. Bennett takes some steps into Chekhov territory here with a play set
in nuclear wessels in a country house where elderly
sisters are being forced to sell.
Even features mysterious noises from the mines underground.
June, the unsympathetically portrayed archdeacon, wants to donate the house
to the National Trust, but Dorothy is tempted by a private offer from a
sinister-sounding organization called the Concern.
The play is Bennett's usual mix of comedy and poignancy, but leaning more towards the comedy side. He deftly plays with expectations: the National Trust representative is in his own way just as modern and ruthless as the Concern's buyer.
Some of the broader comedy comes from a porn company trying to shoot in the house: pretty funny at times, but the more traditional Oh hello Bishop farce seems a bit laboured, after seeing this kind of thing sent up so many times. Maybe after "Noises Off" every other bedroom farce seems anticlimactic.
Great performances, especially from Frances de la Tour as Dorothy, a great script, and even a nice set transformation. Well worth seeing if you can get one of the rare tickets left.
What I'm Reading
Red Country is the latest Joe Abercrombie novel. This one takes the gory, funny, downbeat fantasy into Western-style territory, with wagon trains and a gold rush. Brings back a couple of familiar characters, and introduces some new ones.
Liked it a lot, definitely good fun to read with the usual mix of sardonic humour and action.
Didn't think it was quite up to the standards of the last book "The Heroes" though. Feels like he's done some of this warrior tried unsuccessfully to live a peaceful life a bit too much before. The plot also feels a bit linear, as the protagonists meet various difficulties and overcome them in succession.
Overall though, definitely worth reading if you like Joe Abercrombie, though not really the best place for a newcomer to start.
What I'm Reading 2
The Years of Talking Dangerously by Geoffrey Nunberg. Collection of pop-linguistic articles culled mostly from the New York Times.
A few interesting bits, like the difficulty of translating the political concept of "ownership" to other cultures, who apparently see that as just a straightforward legal possession.
However as a book it feels a bit repetitive, the articles are too short and too basic for you to learn much.
Also it has a big emphasis on the political use of language by the Republican Party to achieve electoral success, which feels a bit dated now, perhaps unfairly. Losers in elections always like to seek convenient reasons for failure such as unfairly Machiavellian campaign strategies by the opposition, compared to the hapless innocent sincerity of ones own side. Looking back though, even George W. Bush's clever speechwriters don't attribute his electoral success to clever speechwriting so much as shrewd management of an unwieldy coalition.
Overall, doesn't work that well as a book.
What I'm Watching
Saw navy-vs-aliens board game tie-in Battleship on disc. Starts out very slowly, with some sub-Top-Gun rivalry that almost instantly becomes irrelevant. It gets better and better though, admittedly with traces of silliness, finally reaching a glorious conclusion.
Actually, there are more than trace levels of silliness. Remarkably, they do mimic the gameplay at one point, using a network of tsunami-warning buoys to divide the battlezone into a grid to detect the alien ships and even more remarkably it makes for a tense action scene.
Effects are OK: reasonable CGI but with the annoying weightless feel of implausibly large objects sometimes.
If you're able to suspend disbelief, it all makes for a surprisingly fun movie, if you like warships at all.
Articles. Skyfall: conformity, rebellion and the British post-colonial trauma. Poland and the Holocaust. The Gentlemen and the Roughs: The Collision of Two Honor Codes in the American North. Light entertainment, child abuse and the British public. Does Facebook hate feminists, via. Albert Speer.
Politics. Submarine corrosion caused by cost-cutting. The BBC and the myth of leadership. Jill Kirby: The database state is not dead, just privatised. A bit of context for the "McAlpine Libel Madness". US: the missing white voters, Republican gerrymandering, Texas struggling with life under Communism.
Random. What gruntled means. The Useless Web. The caves of steel: Super-rich go underground. Late followup to a Human Relations Ask MeFi. Legal differences between marriage and living together.
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