Friday, 29 November 2013

Parsifal: crystal bells, magic garden

Those great bells which sound four notes so solemn-jubilant in Act One and so doomy-despairing in Act Three of Wagner's Parsifal are making a discreetly joyful sound in my head now that I've sent over the script for Radio 3's Building a Library. It's by no means the end of the quest, which will happen once I've declaimed the holy text in the studio on Tuesday morning. But three months of listening and watching which have never been anything but revelatory, though very tiring, have now come to an end. The grail among recordings seemed to me quite obvious once I'd heard them all, though more than that I can't say before broadcast on Saturday 14 December's Christmas edition of CD Review.

Anyway, the cumulative Parsifal week, which began so delightfully with the wonderful Mark Wigglesworth's visit to the ninth of my City Lit classes on the subject, isn't over yet: tomorrow is the first night of the new Royal Opera production, which I'm lucky enough to be reviewing for The Arts Desk*. I'll write up the Wigglesworth chat in due course, but I'm a bit behind and still haven't sifted the transcription of Richard Jones's Gloriana talk back in June.

Above is where I'd like to be instantly transported now that I've earned a holiday - the garden of the Villa Rufolo in heavenly Ravello, a quarter of a mile above the Mediterranean near Amalfi. The postcard I saved and had scanned for reproduction up top offers a musical quotation from Gurnemanz's Act 1 monologue:  'there he [Klingsor] awaits the knights [of the grail] to lure them to sinful joys and hell's damnation'. Give me more of that, which I so enjoyed - or nearly did - back in 1984 in the company of a beautiful young Los Angelene and fellow InterRailer called Marc.

That's quite a curious story in itself: we shared a room in Atrani; he told me how he liked to look at women but not to touch, much as they pursued him; after two days of our walking everywhere together he disappeared with a German girl for a night and then I heard him outside the door at 1 in the morning telling his tearful, beseeching young Kundry how coming back was 'like crossing the Red Sea'. I affected sleep and didn't ask him what he meant - the unanswered question I soon regretted I hadn't posed.

Next morning Marc was off on a train to Brindisi and Greece, and I to Sicily, before we could meet and talk (I thought we'd catch the same bus to Salerno together but he was nowhere to be seen). Truth to tell, he was probably a bit of an unholy fool himself, but cut quite a Parsifal figure standing under the arch of the Bar Klingsor in Ravello's main square (it's still there, I'm told) and wandering shirtless around the even lovelier Villa Cimbrone where Walton composed his Violin Concerto. Anyway, that's certainly not the only tale of unrequited desire on the Amalfi coast.

The gardens, as you can see, are beautifully situated but rather tamely planted as they were when the Wagners visited in May 1880: not quite the luxuriance one expects of the magician's enchanted domain; if anything the cloister with Moorish touches on the capitals is more redolent of the outer acts' Monsalvat.

The Russian artist Paul von Joukowsky met Richard and Cosima in Naples that January, and was there sketching away at the Villa Rufolo; he later designed the sets and costumes for Parsifal. I was looking for his vision of the garden and found it, serendipitously, on my dear friend Jonny Brown's Villa Parasol website, so I hope that given that link he'll be happy with me reproducing the much more luxurious imagining of Joukowsky here.

How to present the magic garden's inhabitants, the fair Flowermaidens with their curious mixture of playfulness and threat, innocence and debauchery, remains a perennial problem for directors. Perhaps the best solution is Harry Kupfer's: in his Staatskapelle Berlin production they all appear soft-porn style on a multitude of television screens. That at least lets Kundry - in that staging on DVD, an incredibly sensual Waltraud Meier - upstage them in her entrance. I've never found the voice alone that impressive, but you tend to forget it when you watch her. This clip gives a last glimpse of the TV Blumenmädchen and plenty of Meier.

You'd have thought it was easier to get the Monsalvat castle bells right. But Bayreuth had problems during Wagner's life and after it. For much of the following, I'm indebted to a page on the Monsalvat - Parsifal website, though we had both turned to Selected Letters of  Richard Wagner translated and edited by Stewart Spencer and my good, loyal friend Barry Millington for the first source. There you'll find the request sent by Wagner to Edward Dannreuther, the British Wagner Society founder who'd discovered a dragon in London to be shipped out for the Bayreuth Siegfried and whom he now requested to obtain a set of Chinese tamtams, which I assume to be the same as this sort of temple gong.

So the effect was clearly never going to be the 'gentle ringing, as of crystal bells' mentioned in Wagner's 1865 prose draft. Evidently the tamtams fell short of the ideal  and were succeeded by metal drums and then a 24-string piano with four keys. From the late 1880s until 1929 these metal canisters were used, pictued below as on the Monsalvat - Parsifal site courtesy of the Richard-Wagner-Gedenkstätte. You can hear them on one recording only, and a very splendid one: the set of extracts recorded - in a big venture for the time - by HMV in Bayreuth shortly after the advent of electrical recording, and conducted by the great heir to a tradition Karl Muck. His company was the first to introduce the Ring to Russia in the 1880s (a visit which had a huge impact on the composing style of Rimsky-Korsakov, chief among awestruck musicians).

The conducting is grand but masterful, setting the trend for the Knappertsbusch style which I sometimes find de trop in my quest for the golden mean, and it sounds amazing for the time. The bells were clearly a bit flat by 1927, but their resonance is never in doubt. Here's the Grail Scene from Act 1 minus Gurnemanz's interjections, Amfortas's tormented monologue and the final scene of Gurnemanz's reproach to Parsifal. The bells emerge loud and clear at 5'58.

The bells were silent, then, from 1929 until the Second World War, when they were melted down for obvious reasons. I wondered what on earth I was hearing on the 1962 Knappertsbusch-conducted Bayreuth recording. It sounded like a weird kind of synthesizer, and it was, the very first, namely the: Mixtur-Trautonium invented in Berlin in the late 1920s. You hear it on all three of Knappertsbusch's recordings (1951, 1962 and 1964) so I wonder when it was phased out - none too soon, as the results bear witness. You'll be able to hear them, followed by the 'Muck originals', on the programme.

I could easily have devoted an entire Building a Library to the question of the 'Parsifal bells'. But that's quite enough here. What we really ought to end with is Alexander Kipnis's magnificent role as Gurnemanz in the Act Three Good Friday Music. I was going to reference here the excerpt conducted by Siegfried Wagner, but then I discovered that the inexhaustible treasure-trove of YouTube had Kipnis with a sadly rather flat Max Lorenz and - this is the heilig hehrstes Wunder - Strauss conducting in 1933** (the infamous year in which he perhaps too readily stepped in for the much more admirable Toscanini). Did Gurnemanzes ever get any better than this? Tune in Saturday week - at the end of Radio 3's seven-days Wagnerfest, which also includes my excellent and incredibly hard-working producer Clive Portbury's Sunday Feature: The Invisible Theatre - to find out.

30/11 My colleague Jasper Rees just sent me a link to the interview he conducted with me - one of many, the others featuring much more distinguished figures like Waltraud Meier, Robert Carsen and Sir John Tomlinson - for the K T Wong Foundation in association with the Beijing Festival, which has had what I can only call the misfortune to share Michael Schulz's Salzburg production. It's on YouTube but it seems there's no means of embedding it as yet, so here's the link.

*1/12 It turned out to be repulsive and disappointing, with fitful musical treasures in the mud: read my Arts Desk review of the Royal Opera Parsifal here. Image above by Clive Barda, who makes the production look better than it was.

**7/12 That great Wagner expert Mike Ashman kindly emailed to tell me it most likely ISN'T Strauss conducting here: 'As far as I know (and Ray Holden the Strauss conductor expert also thinks) what's in circulation, although it is those named singers, is not from the performances actually conducted by Strauss. It apparently existed once but was lost, like many Bayreuth things, in the war'.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pitch-perfect protest

I'll admit I was wary of joining a demonstration after so long; even years ago I only ever went on Pride marches, which I stopped attending when the whistles got too much and a BBC producer told me how he'd got tinnitus from an ex blowing one in his ear. J thinks I was on the Section 28 protest when they shut us in a garden, but I have no memory of that.

Anyway, the reason I went this time was simple. After three months of silence, having been targeted for lending his name to Putin's re-election campaign and failing to make any sort of comment on the murderous  new anti-gay laws in Russia, Valery Gergiev had finally produced a statement to prove he was gay-friendly. It was amusingly summarised in a tweet by Philip Hensher: 'Some of my best friends are gay. I don't support institutional homophobia. I leave that up to my friend Putin.'

Weak or not, the statement would have been enough for me had he not, in the time between the Met, Carnegie Hall and San Francisco Opera protests and this one, gone and put his foot in it about the anti-gay laws in Russia, which anyone who cares about human rights must abhor. He was quoted in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant as saying 'In Russia we protect our children. These laws are not about homosexuality, they concern paedophilia'.

Now if he misunderstood, or was misquoted, he's had plenty of time to put the record straight. But he hasn't. And having reeled at a casually-muttered remark about 'child molesting' by an older relative of my now-godson when I was bouncing the baby A on my knee, I have a personal reason for seeing red at such equations.

So, in spite of having had so many amiable and fascinating meetings with Gergiev over the years, I still went along to the Silk Street entrance of the Barbican before his second performance of Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust (I was speeding off at 7, the time the concert was due to start, to the first night of the dismal Magic Flute at ENO). I'd feared they might get it wrong: it would have been totally misleading to have banners saying Gergiev was homophobic, because I don't believe for a minute that he is.

As it turned out, what needed to be said was said. The orchestrator was the slightly scary but admirable Peter Tatchell, and he'd pitched it, I think, just right. It was peaceful and - as this very fair Guardian report points out*- 'civilised' but 'loud' as the African contingent, aptly there to protest similarly appalling human rights records in Uganda inter alia, backed up Tatchell in chanting 'Gergiev! Stop supporting Putin!' - some coaching occasionally needed on pronunciation - and the stress-curious 'SOME people ARE gay! GET over IT!'.

Chanting isn't really my thing, so I joined in a little less than lustily. But I was happy to accede to Peter's request to hand out leaflets, which again were correctly worded, and it rekindled memories of what it's like to be rejected, in this case by a fair few haughty concertgoers.

Anyway, the sparklers and the huge diversity of the protesters (the three above in a photo from the Tatchell Foundation) added to the festive, non-aggressive air. Unfortunately the whole thing was grievously misreported by Melanie McDonagh in a feeble Spectator blog as being inside the hall where she could barely make out cries of 'shame' (the hall event had taken place a week earlier, when Tatchell courageously held the platform for a minute before, not during or after, the concert). The pretence of being there, which she has not retracted?  Journalists lose their jobs for less. But I'm not even going to link to her invective; that would only help to give the right-wing rag the clicks it so badly needs.

As for my own 'open letter' to Gergiev's response on The Arts Desk, it felt strange and initially rather lonely. None of my musical colleagues was willing to lend support, with two against - the usual argument, 'why this and not x' - and three not wanting to go public; not a single contributor showed any solidarity. But then, as I could see from the bottom right column of the main page, there were plenty of supportive tweets from the likes of Jessica Duchen, Petroc Trelawny, Richard Bratby and - proudest of this - a lovely short eulogy from my oboist hero Nicholas Daniel. So it was clearly the right thing to have done. I don't blame the silent majority, but 'Halldor', commenting on the TAD latest, put it all rather beautifully. I select a few choice sentences:

The all-smiles, "you were marvellous" culture of the classical music world is deeply ingrained in all of us. And so many well-meaning, liberal people are deeply invested in Gergiev's prestige. So responses to real stand-up-and-be-counted moments like this are awkward, embarrassed; people wish it'd just go away, they lose patience, and don't think matters through.

Curiously but unsurprisingly even as I was turning the article's screw on what the consequences of the 'anti-paedophilia' law had been, Queer Nation New York reported the latest hate crime from Moscow with appropriately angry artwork.

Will this specific issue go away? Not until our conductor retracts or qualifies that awful statement. No-one's asking him to renounce Putin; that's just not possible in the present climate. But as to one PR's frenzied declaration that Tatchell is trying to ruin Gergiev's career, no chance, and that's not what any of us wants.

Rather more productive relations with musical Russians came thick and fast in the weeks around the protest. I loved interviewing Michail Jurowski, Vlad's dad, before what I think must go down for me as the most extraordinary concert of the year so far. I hope the LPO releases the recording of our talk, because he was fascinating about the distinguished visitors to the  intellectual household in which he grew up - Vladimir Senior was a respected Soviet composer - and on how as a teenager he played piano duets with Shostakovich. Michail Vladimirovich's wife took this photo in his dressing room, where he nearly talked himself out before the half-hour under the public eye. It gives some idea of how many staves the score of Schnittke's First Symphony often has to encompass.

As for the work in action, what a jaw-dropping masterpiece. I knew as I listened to Rozhdestvensky's outlandish recording with the score that morning that, unless the performance were to go badly wrong, there'd be an instant standing ovation, as there had been from the young in VJ's LPO performance of the Third Symphony.  And there was. Read about it on the Arts Desk review.

I was trembling with emotion even before we heard it: in the interval my companion for the evening Roger Neill introduced me to the vivacious, brilliant and hugely talented Alissa Firsova, and she introduced me in turn to her mother, Elena and the great Dmitri Smirnov. Elena was at both the world premiere of Schnittke's First in the 'closed' city of Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod, sadly in the news again recently owing to the awful plane crash there) and then, after the work's 12-year ban was lifted, at its second performance in Moscow - not nearly as good, she thought. Dmitri enlightened me as to why, though we found it extraordinary, the performance of Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto wasn't quite right in the light of Rostropovich's premiere performance (I heard Slava play it with the LSO; neither then nor in Truls Mork's interpretation earlier this did it have anything like the impact we got from Johannes Moser's piece of music-theatre). Here are all three in the foyer.

After  my Wigmore Hall talk in the Bechstein Room on quartets by Haydn, Britten and Shostakovich to be played by the dazzling Belcea Quartet, I realised that I'd been standing in front of the anniversary hero whose First String Quartet knocked me for six, so I got one of the punters to take a snap. Afraid I asked him to cut out Elliott Carter, not an idol of mine..

Fourth talk in a row was an introduction to Sakari Oramo's first official concert as new chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra: part setting-up of Shostakovich's First Piano Concerto and Mahler's First Symphony, with good links between the popular ditties in both, part conversation with Tristan Murail, whose two new pieces going under the collective title Reflections/Reflets were being given their world premiere. I was slightly apprehensive of talking to a composer with whom I wasn't sure I'd be in total sympathy, but the deep sound the minute the work began in rehearsal that morning captivated me. In our chat TM soon relaxed and became surprisingly bonhomous dealing with an charming old gent in the front row who asked about tunes. Murail's the one to look apprehensive in this picture, and I set  myself up as a candidate for another episode in 'great British dentistry' by the webtroll I've been ignoring, but it's the only one, so it will have to do.

The DDS trail has continued with two talks to the Friends of the Jerusalem Quartet (photo below by Marco Borggreve) around that amazing foursome's Shostakovich cycle. I only managed to hear the third concert in the first series, of quartets 4, 5 and 6, but from the very first bars it was obvious that these are the natural successors to the old Borodin Quartet in the powerful reserves they can draw on and their unique flexibility and tonal quick-changes. Five was, of course, the stunner, and the Sixth brought the redemption of romance just as I'd anticipated.

I have to say that cellist Kyril Zlotnikov's my favourite, not just for his handsome profile but also for the infinitely cultured sound he makes and the aristocratic, readable expressions which match the mood of the music in question.

And on the Friday I got to talk to the wonderful Boris Giltburg the morning after his stunning Queen Elizabeth Hall recital. He's a real Renaissance man, currently translating Rilke into Hebrew, and his command of English was astounding in his ability to articulate complex thoughts on space and silence in the previous evening's performance of Prokofiev Eighth Sonata. More on that anon. Here's Boris in the lobby of the St Pancras Hotel, which I also need to eulogise in due course.

One concert I wasn't sorry to miss was the five-hour epic of the Philip Glass Ensemble. A very treasured new student of mine who did go knows what I think of Glass, and drew this image of how he imagined I'd have been at the event. I've taken the liberty of setting it on the computer alongside a photo of the composer from that concert.

Only six days to go now before I hand in the script for the Radio 3 Building a Library on Parsifal, which explains why I've done so little blogging over the past couple of weeks.  That and visiting my poor old mum in hospital: she broke her hip en route to tests for a heart operation which should have taken place last week. Came out on Tuesday night, was in appalling pain at home and is now back in St Helier, which is where I'm heading now before further doses of Parsifal and Kundry.  And still loving every minute of this infinitely fascinating work - 'the greatest opera by the greatest composer' declares Mark Wigglesworth, who comes to talk to my City Lit opera class on Monday. Rich times indeed. And something to celebrate - many of Greenpeace's Arctic 30 who've spent far too long in jail in Murmansk and St Petersburg already, were released on (exorbitant) bail. Here's Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel from Brazil at the time of her liberation yesterday.

Yet fellow activist Australian Colin Russell is being held captive at least until February. Why him? No-knows. And like he says,

Sign Greenpeace's latest petition to keep the pressure up on urging Colin's release and the abolition of charges here.

29/11 update: Colin was released on bail today. The regular Greenpeace bulletin showed a joyous picture of him outside the St Petersburg prison embracing fellow activist Faiza Ouhlasen.

The 30's troubles are far from over, though. They've still only been bailed and could yet be sentenced. Remember the fate of their fellow 'hooligans', the girls of Pussy Riot. I'm sure, though, that the pressure will be maintained on Russia from the rest of the world.

*'One well-dressed man apologised for leaving early because he had to get to The Magic Flute across town at the Coliseum.' Guess who? I was wearing the same psychedelic flowery tie which always comes out on special occasions, like our civil partnership party, because it was the nearest thing I own to anything rainbowy. I also wore it last Friday to Dame Edna's gala launch at the London Palladium. Gladdie pix pending; in the meantime you'll have to read my Arts Desk review, possums.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Two Norwegian moods

The one in St Swithun's Cathedral Stavanger was essentially as celebratory as its gaudy pulpit, completed in 1658 by Scot Andrew Lawrenceson (aka Anders Lauritzen after he settled in Bergen and married a Norwegian) Smith and running the Bible story from Adam and Eve to Christ in triumph: this was the first home for the great events of the fabulous Stavanger International Chamber Music Festival, my invitation to which kicked off an unforgettable Scandinavian holiday.

No doubt there would have been a party mood out on the island of Mosterøy when the festival celebrates the end of a busy week with a picnic and a concert at Utstein Abbey. Alas, we were only around for the first three days. Since an expedition to the famous Pulpit Rock up the fjord would have taken too long between the festival events, I pleaded with our obliging hostess to take a trip out to Utstein on a brilliant sunny summer morning. Bathing in the inlet was also an attraction (though only for me, as it turned out).

Of course there was no-one there except the girl in the ticket office, so we probably got a better sense of why the monastic community which existed there until the Reformation loved it so. Records for the Abbey actually go back to the 9th century when its site seems to have been some sort of royal farm or fortress for Harald Fairhair. The Augustinian monks settled there, and the Abbey was built, around 1260. Now it's almost concealed by the beeches and other trees which have grown up around it.

Post-Reformation it became the parish church, which accounts for the handsome early 17th century fittings by Gottfried Hentschel and the Lauritz Workshop (online information is very hard to come by; I should have bought the guide book at the time). In the Gothic east end, this includes the altar surmounted by trumpeting angels and the pulpit.

The font, modern as it looks, is Romanesque

as is the nave, separated from the chancel by the bell tower. Here the Stavanger Chamber Festival concerts take place.

 Attractive whitewash in the cloister occasionally lets the original details shine through

while the rooms occupied by Christopher Garmann in the 18th century are handsomely if simply furnished and on a sunny morning the windows frame trees and water in a halo of light.

Everyone loves a bit of the supernatural to be appended to a sober monastery. The story goes that Garmann's first wife made him swear on her deathbed that he wouldn't marry again. 20 years later he did; his death followed in a matter of weeks. Copies of the first Garmann couple's portraits - pretty terrible, it has to be said - hang in their dining room.

After that air was needed, so the others sat on the jetty while I swam around - the only holiday bathe in salt rather than fresh water, though it still felt like a lake.

Back in Stavanger, the cathedral was always evocatively lit for the concerts, the purple of which I'm so fond bathing another Gothic chancel behind the players and Victor Sparre's rather attractive 1957 east window glowing until nightfall.  First of two images by the excellent official festival photographer Nikolaj Lund.

St Swithun's has an older history than the monastery. The bishopric was established around the time of Stavanger's founding in 1125, its first encumbent none other than Reinald of Winchester, who arrived one of Swithun's arms (!) and other relics - removed after the Reformation, when the building became Lutheran, to Denmark. Norman nave, second of Lund's photos during a festival event.

All the pulpits we saw in Norway and Sweden were handsome in either simple painted or extravagantly carved ways (or both), but Andrew Smith's was the garish jewel.

Braco-born Smith also designed some equally handsome memorials in the north and south aisles.

Externally, the cathedral was stripped back in the 1960s to something of its original look after a heavy handed Victorian restoration. Festival crowds outside the west end.

Some of the 19th century work, chiefly on the east end exterior, isn't bad at all.

And the setting is lovely, sloping down to Stavanger's central park and lake.

Fond memories from the perspective of rainy, strife torn November. Barbican protest report next. I wanted to finish by redeeming the half-promise of the title with Stravinsky's very pretty Four Norwegian Moods, salvaged from his unused film score to Columbia's 1941 The Commandos Strike at Dawn. The only full version available on YouTube, an excellent performance conducted by Chailly, isn't for some reason postable here, so just click on this link and enjoy.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A tale of three towns

Duncombe, Cranford and Hanbury are all one, at least for the purposes of the Best Classic Television Serial Ever, the BBC's Cranford. In its wake, the three Elizabeth Gaskell novellas its clever adapters fused together with a fair amount of dramatic licence - followed by even more in the dodgier Return to Cranford Christmas specials - tend to appear together.

I'd read the lynchpin classic before, but this week I got round to Mr Harrison's Confessions and My Lady Ludlow. The doctor's story is more or less candyfloss, stiffened with some acute satire on the ladies of Duncombe/Cranford and featuring a much plainer hero than the pretty sandy gentleman in the TV series. As in the dramatisation, though, it does suddenly shock us when Little Walter dies in three pages flat halfway through the story.

That permits me a digression of the kind Mrs Gaskell so encouraged. People die frequently and suddenly before their time in her novels: that's just the way it was (and in some cases, of course, if less frequently, still is). We learn, for instance, in the last paragraph of My Lady Ludlow that young, delicate Mr Gray shuffled off his mortal coil far too soon. Which helps me find a home at last for a small gem that's haunted me over the last year - a self portrait by George Manson displayed at the National Trust property of Polesden Lacey.

Manson was 19 when he painted that little watercolour in 1869, and only 25 when his promising career was cut short by the end of a long illness. I didn't know the facts when I saw it, but I surmised with an unexpected quiver of emotion that here was a young man not long for this world. I think Mrs Gaskell would have liked the tenacious young Scot, apprenticed as a woodcutter and a fervent speaker against slavery.

But back to our novels. The tales and behaviour of Lady Ludlow are altogether richer than those of Mr Harrison, and some opportunities had to be missed in the translation to TV. It's in the book, but not in the series, that we meet Mr Gray, the stumbling, fragile progressive clergyman. His scenes with the maddeningly obdurate, reactionary Lady provide real edge-of-seat dialogue. And the wonderful thing about Gaskell's writing is that we sympathise with the convention-corseted Lady Ludlow and get to see that she's essentially a good person who may change her views over time if she comes into contact with the harbingers of change as real human beings.

Equally resistant to progress, Miss Galindo is quite a different and more entertaining person than the sober common-sense character played so beautifully by Emma Fielding. She, Imelda Staunton, Julia McKenzie and Dame Judi all touched me by their restraint when we finally caught up with the outrageous and exploitative Return. Very well, so I went with the railway story-line of the first episode, but the second was so indigestibly chocolate-boxy. And after all the attention to detail for which these BBC series are famous, why on earth did they shoot the October to December outdoor scenes with the trees still in full leaf and such very unautumnal or wintry skies?

Anyway, Gaskell's prose is a different matter altogether, and she tells such a good, clear story. I even enjoyed the huge digression of Lady Ludlow's narrative about the aristocratic lovers caught up in the French Revolution. While obviously not quite on the Hilary Mantel level, it stuck me as a good deal more truthful about those best and worst of times than the overstuffed operatic farrago of Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles, which I'm having to watch as part of a mostly pleasurable reviewing trawl through the James Levine 40 Years at the Met boxes. Was having such fun with Figaro and Puccini's Trittico - and then this. Ah well, it can't all be nectar-quaffing. Now I must go off and sit through what I'm hoping against hope will be the final scene.