24 SEPTEMBER 2009 :: GOLDBERG VARIATIONS
For several years I’ve been on The Royal Opera mailing list here in London. I usually manage to see at least one opera and one ballet a year. I’ve always found The Royal Opera’s performances to be impressive, only once have I left feeling under whelmed. It’s a cost issue that keeps me from going more often, seats range from £50 - £600 ouch!
I think they understand this drawback and in recent years they’ve been putting on several smaller productions inside the second studio they have. Tickets are much more ‘disposable’ at £10 - £30. Fiona and I have been to a wide range of these nights, from “the modified toy orchestra” (Look it up! They were brilliant!) to modern dance pieces. Earlier this week we went to something I’d have to describe as interpretive dance. People, wait!!!! Don’t just read “interpretive dance” and close the web browser! Hear me out, at least for a few paragraphs.
I honestly have doubts about my writing ability being up to this task, I hope I do it justice.
Bach’s Goldberg Variations was the underlying soundtrack. Played in it’s entirety by a pianist in one corner of the stage. If you are unfamiliar with it as a piece of music I urge you to find it. (It holds a special significance to me that I will not elaborate on here) The stage was minimal, a very large wall at the back with a door and a window, a television in one corner and a couple of chairs. 7 dancers performed the ballet, although they were not always on stage together.
Those are the tangible elements of the performance. They are also the least significant.
Goldberg Variations is a thought provoking piece of music, it’s impossible to listen to without being moved. Your mind fades in and out of personal memories and experiences, conscious and subconscious, positive and negative. From the opening notes the performance understood and exploited this. (I will not link to the Royal Opera House page, frankly, because I do not want to know if my take on the performance is correct) Each performer took the persona of an emotion or feeling. The ballet was about the interplay of these feelings and emotions. How they work together, fight each other, flirt with each other and struggle to push one another from our minds.
At the end of it all Fiona said to me “That’s the best thing we’ve seen together”. It took me a while to digest the statement, before agreeing whole heartedly. The entire performance was nothing short of transcendent. Enhanced by the performers themselves who were clearly having the time of their lives, thrilled to be on stage at The Royal Opera House. I’ve been sitting and trying to write this for a couple of days, in between several work projects. I’ve been worried that the memory of the performance is slowly fading, the way the dancers and the pianist interacted while counting the musical score, the dramatic lighting, the beautiful movement. I’ve resigned myself to the fact these memories will fade. Comfortable in the knowledge that one day I’ll be listening to Goldberg and they will come flooding back, consciously, subconsciously…. Resoundingly positive.
A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.