Archive for January, 2008

Eugene Onegin – RSAMD.

I always look forward to the operas put on by students from the Opera School at RSAMD in Glasgow.    They are young voices, and bring a freshness to well-known (and not so well-known) operas.    The shows are part of the coursework, and these singers are getting experience of taking direction from a guest director, as well as learning to perform important roles.

This time, they moved across the road to Theatre Royal, where the orchestra of Scottish Opera was augmented with a sprinkling of RSAMD orchestral players.    On stage, the students provided the principles and chorus.   Off stage, the students worked alongside Theatre Royal staff.

But what really whetted the appetite was the new collaboration of RSAMD with the at Glasgow’s Twin City of Rostov-on-Don in Russia.    We had several Russians singing on the night we went,  and indeed, there were Russians sitting in front of us in the Theatre.    This is exactly what Scotland’s Opera School should be doing – forging international links, and working together in partnership with our own Scottish Opera.    Congratulations all round, and well done to Glasgow.

Eugene Onegin has some wonderful music, and is Tchaikovsky’s best known opera.   It is a great challenge for singers and band.    RSAMD chose to sing this in Russian – full marks for that – what a treat to hear this opera in its original language, and what an experience for the (non-Russian) principals and chorus to learn to sing in Russian.

The performance was very good indeed, and there were no weak links in the cast.     Theatre Royal can be a bit big for young voices to fill, but director Will Kerley sensibly kept the singers at the front of the stage where it mattered.    The production was well thought through, extremely  well directed and had some stunning moments as well as some genuine surprises.   

RSAMD, Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, the Roskov Conservertoire and Glasgow should be very proud of what has been achieved here.

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The Children – Dundee Rep

This was an interesting night at the theatre.   First, Dundee Rep’s Youth Theatre put on Edward Bond’s dark play “The Children”.   Robert Patterson and Irene MacDougall from the resident main company also took part.

The play dealt with the aftermath of an arson attack on a house by a teenager on instruction from her clearly deranged mother.    A whole group of teens (including the arsonist) go on the run for several weeks, but into a world where something has happened to make all the people vanish.    Everyone that is except the father of a child killed in the arson attack, who is intent on revenge.

The production was very stylish, and central and group performances were all good.    The company were clearly enjoying tackling something challenging and serious, and really threw themselves into it with gusto.

The second half was a piece devised by the young adult group on themes from “The Children”.    It was funnier, but dealt with serious subjects.    Some of the writing was very sharp, as we discovered that all single issue fanatics (Jesus people, Global Warming people etc.) are in fact all very similar.   Again, good performances all round.

Our evening was rather spoiled by some very rowdy supporters sitting next to us who chatted and carried on right through both plays.    At a Youth Theatre production, one can expect some over-enthusiasm from the crowd, but in contrast to the rest of the theatre who behaved normally, this group was way out of line.    Perhaps it had something to do with the stuff in the water bottle they were passing about.   They were so out of order, the theatre staff should have asked them to sit still or leave.    

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We had a bit of excitement in our village this week.   A police cordon appeared with cones and tape blocking off the whole pavement on one side and parking on both sides of the street.    A white boxy trailer thing (mobile incident room) appeared, and there were a series of rather chilly looking policemen standing guard in rota.     Then a minibus of the white suited brigade rolled up to get stuck into forensics.    It was the whole works.  

Like everywhere else, we get our share of vandalism, and we had a stabbing in the 1970s, but being good the Taggart watchers that we are (supporting Scottish acting talent of course) it looked all set for the big man himself to roll up, climb out of his car and announce “there’s been a murder”.

Well, not exactly.    A cannabis factory had been discovered – a whole house growing cannabis plants.    500 plants, according to the local paper.    Apparently these places are springing up all over the place these days, but to be honest, we did not expect it in our busy Main Street.

The Police set up the cordon on Monday night, and it was only lifted late on Thursday afternoon.    To the layman like me, that’s a long time to deal with 500 cannabis plants and get a few fingerprints.    It was very disruptive to the shops round about and casued significant loss of business.

Still, the law must take its course.   Currently not sure if anyone has been arrested for this.

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Anyone see the re-run of this prom on BBC4?   I missed it at the time, and everyone has been very excited about it.

Just wow.    Never seen anything like it.   Just totally brilliant.

Check out Mambo.

Oh, and this should be required viewing for the BBC Scotland production team as a demonstration of how to film a classical concert and cover the event properly.

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Scottish Food

Interesting that the SNP are looking at a policy which will promote Scottish food.    Scottish Food means less food miles of course, and will help our own farming industry.

But there will always be issues of seasonality, quality and price to get around.   Sometimes Scottish food can actually be more expensive than food which has travelled miles to get here.    

The policy in our house is to buy Scottish if possible, then British if possible, and only then, imported.    But this decision is quality driven too.

Food is actually too cheap:   the retail price index has risen 22% in the last 10 years, but the price of food has only risen 8.5% in that time.  

But food ethics are complicated:   if we buy more Scottish food, where does that leave our overseas suppliers, some of which may be poor countries who frankly need the cash.     

The solution to the food debates is really in the hands of people buying food on a week in, week out basis:   if Scottish stuff is snapped up, creating demand, then the industry will eventually adapt to fill that demand.    Similarly, if we all bought more free range chicken and eggs, then supply and demand would be addressed by the industry.   Consumers really are king.

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Poultry on TV

It has been an interesting week on Channel 4  Chicken TV.

Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall tried to contact the poultry industry to let him film the intensive production, but not a single poultry producer would let him in.    As a farmer, I find that quite appalling, as we have to be answerable to our final consumers.    So HFW created his own intensive chicken house and matched it with a chicken house with free range.   At the same time he persuaded local people from an estate in Axminster to run their own completely free range system.     

It made reasonably good TV – if a little sensationalist, but it was saluatory to be able to show the different systems of chicken production.

HFW tried to speak to the supermarkets, and for the most part, they were not playing ball.    Again, they should have been big enough to stand up and justify what they are doing.

I expect that we will be eating more free range birds as a nation, which I agree with completely.    But the reality is that cheap chicken will always be popular simply because it is cheap.   

Interestingly, a poultry organsation has complained that HFW’s intensive shed did not meet the ‘Red Tractor Symbol’  standard.   Well guys, if you refused to discuss what you do as an industry, you have no absolutely right to complain.    The program made it very clear that HFW had gone to a lot of time and trouble to create true commercial conditions.

 And Jamie Oliver had another go at eggs and chicken  on Friday – I think I rather prefer his style, and he was more successful at getting some of the stakeholders to take part.  

Interesting issues raised.   I only wish that they would occasionally show outdoor poultry in the rain and wind.   There is nothing so miserable as a cold drenched hen, yet my dozen egg free-rangers choose to be outdoors unless the weather is particularly nasty.

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I was at a meeting over at Erskine during the big storm on Tuesday.   

The hotel was 3 star, and was struggling a bit to keep its standards up.    The ladies loos would not flush;   there was no hot water in the gents loos – in fact, if you turned on the cold tap of one basin, cold water came out of the hot tap at the basin next door.     Our meeting room was boiling, and the only way of sorting it was to open a window – not a great idea with a wind strong enough to close the Erskine Bridge battering away outside.

Thankfully the lunch and coffees and teas etc. were all fine.

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Tea or Coffee?

I was at a farmers meeting in Perth today.   

Initial cup of tea went well.    Cup of tea at breaktime was certainly neither tea nor coffee – it looked and tasted like a mixture.    The flasky thing said “tea”.    It was totally ghastly.

I was not brave enough to stay for lunch.

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We had a huge amount of wind today.   I think all the major bridges in Scotland were closed at some point, including the Erskine bridge, Tay bridge and Forth Road Bridges.     Lorries were blown over, trees blown down.    19,000 homes with no power.    And I had to drive out past Glasgow this morning.

I don’t mind the cold, but I really don’t like the wind.

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12th Night – Epiphany

It was 12th night on Sunday, so the Christmas tree finally came down, the decorations got tidied away into their box and the Christmas Cards collected up.    We have had a very busy Christmas with relatives staying.

Our local church held a midnight service this year, and candlelight and incense were promised, so we went along.    The candlelight lasted only for Once in Royal, and we had to put them out after that.   Incense was used, but it was fairly minimal.   It was a good effort though, although the 1982 Liturgy really grates.

So it was a pleasure to get along to Evensong at Old St Pauls  at Epiphany.   It was a stunningly beautiful service, by candlelight throughout its 60 minutes.   We started with ceremony of Lucernarium when we all lit our candles, and this was followed by Solemn Evensong and Benediction.     The music was really well sung, and there was a massive amount of incense used during the Magnificat.   The service included time for silence  and thought – just what was needed after a busy Christmas season.

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