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Fiddle Trek

Trip to see Rameau's Dardanus at Snape, 3rd November 2017

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Just back from seeing English Touring Opera's production of Rameau's Dardanus, with The Old Street Band. Fabulous - will write more tomorrow.
We had good seats just over a third of the way back. I was a bit worried, because I'm not a person who likes modern dress performances, but the point about Dardanus is the poignancy and irony of the situation, with the daughter of one warring ruler secretly in love with her father's enemy, while being betrothed to her father's ally. So it didn't matter - the plot was a series of 'changes in the situation', rather than a story, and the background of bare wooden boards and people dressed in black or in military uniforms was very appropriate to the situation. As well as meditations on love, the songs dealt with the cruelty of war and all the emotions of hate and revenge stirred up by it.
At the end the appearance of Venus in a white robe with shining mask was dazzling and moving - rather a pity that they threw the effect away with some comic horseplay while the orchestra, The Old Street Band, was playing the postlude. A quiet stage with some lights playing around would have been better, in my opinion.
As Jim (my fiddle teacher) was playing viola in The Old Street Band I listened very carefully to the music, and especially to the cello and violas, trying to distinguish them. So I can say, hand on heart, that the music was played beautifully, with an exquisite balance and poise. Rameau's music has a lyrical elegance, though it isn't cram full of melodies like my true French Baroque favourite, Lully. Every song seems to have the same typical French-Baroque languishing phrase - but who cares. Sometimes I find Rameau's music to be *merely* elegant, but the lyrics added poignancy and tenderness - especially as sung by these voices. I thought the acting and characterisation was excellent and loved all the voices, except for Teucer's bass, which sometimes seemed a bit talky-growly, rather than tuneful.
The second half, once Dardanus is in prison, drags a little, though the twist of the plot is interesting. (One feels more could be made of it.) And it does seem a pity that Rameau couldn't bear to cut his end music, as I think it would always be a bit anticlimactic even without the daft staging ideas.
But still, it was a lovely and very enjoyable evening. We even discovered a new sort of lemonade at the bar - Rose Lemonade, which tastes like iced melted-down Turkish delight and is delicious.
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