A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What I'm Listening To

Benjamin Britten, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Brian Asawa (Oberon); Sylvia McNair (Tytania); Carl Ferguson (Puck); Robert Lloyd (Bottom); Ian Bostridge (Flute). London Symphony Orchestra, New London Children's Choir, conducted by Colin Davis.

I have to confess that A Midsummer Night's Dream has been spoiled for me, at least musically speaking, by Mendelssohn. It's what I expect to hear whenever I encounter the play, thanks largely to Warner Bros. and that mad 1935 version with Mickey Rooney as Puck and James Cagney as Bottom. Nevertheless, Britten's version, with its wonderful orchestral variety, grows on me every time I hear it. I sometimes wish that Britten had had Shakespeare as his librettist for everything, instead of people like Myfanwy Piper. (Someday I will find out how to pronounce "Myfanwy," and stop thinking "my fanny" every time I see it.) This is a lovely recording: Sylvia McNair is a sweet-voiced Tytania, Brian Asawa a commanding Oberon, and Robert Lloyd acts splendidly as Bottom. But in some ways the biggest surprise is Ian Bostridge, whom I'm used to thinking of as a rather arty singer; but he's hilarious as Flute/Thisbe.

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