Thursday, 18 June 2009

Castleward Opera 2009

The weather could have been a lot worse. In the event there were sunny intervals and a few light showers. I arrived at the National Trust's wonderful Castle Ward Estate, in County Down, just after five o'clock - quite early - in order to have a short walk and find a suitable location to have my picnic. I invariably head for the walled garden anyway.

I had motored into Strangford earlier: there are signs of life at the presently-defunct Lobster Pot, viz. a workman entering the premises and his van outside.

I'd taken the bother to prepare my own picnic on this occasion: smoked salmon sandwiches; egg salad sandwiches; raspberries and cream; and a modest glass of sparkling wine, since I had to drive home. The food was very good, incidentally!

I'd changed into my evening wear at home: my legendary 76 year-old dinner jacket; matching trousers, doubtless a similar age, with double piping (full evening dress trousers); an old bow-tie; and a new, white Marcella piqué dress shirt.

Castleward Opera certainly knows how to look after its patrons. They always remember me by name - "Good evening, Lord Belmont. Permit me to show you to your lordship's seat" (that was a joke, as if you didn't know). I was shown to my seat - J8 this year - and five minutes later this year's production, Die Fledermaus, began. Incidentally, this is Castleward Opera's 25th anniversary. Needless to say, it was all very well done. The scenery and props were contemporary rather than traditional 19th century; however this actually worked well. It was sung in English, too. Most enjoyable.

When I was chatting to the lady beside me she said that she'd missed the period costumes customary in this production; though she still enjoyed the show.

At the extended interval I drove down to the old farm-yard, donned the wellies and went for a stroll in the direction of the Temple Water. I spotted a notice-board to the "Standing Stone" and ventured the short distance to a big boulder. I cannot say much more than that! What is its significance? The Temple (pictured above), a summer-house of 1750, predates the present Castle Ward House. It commands spectacular views. The House can just be seen in one direction; Strangford Lough can be seen from the other side. It's a shame that the Temple lies empty; I wonder if more use could be made of it?

I walked down the hill from the Temple and round the Temple Water, a singularly important piece of 18th century garden history. Very few of these ornamental canals have survived, this one constructed by hand in 1728 as a feature to complement the Queen Anne house nearby.

Back in the Theatre, the second half of Die Fledermaus culminated with a young member of the Cast doing a spot of Irish dancing on the stage. Talk about twinkle-toes: he seemed to be dancing on hot coals! There was sustained applause. It was a great evening and I arrived home shortly before midnight.


Grannymar said...

You took my advice!

I bet the sandwiches were more tasty than any pre-made shop bought ones!

Sounds like a very enjoyable evening!

Timothy Belmont said...

You noticed, Grannymar! I did take your advice and they were VG.

I boiled a few eggs; chopped them in a bowl with finely chopped scallions; a pinch of salt and sugar; mustard to taste; and cream cheese to bind. They were very tasty.

The smoked salmon was simple: one slice of bread coated with butter; the other with cream cheese; smoked salmon slices with lime juice and black pepper; and lettuce. :-)


Peregrine's Bird Blog said...

The Temple was lived in by a local Strangford Doctor. Dr Glass upto the early 70's. His son now has No 2 green row as a weekend cotttage.

Timothy Belmont said...

We had the opportunity to rent one of those lovely Green Row cottages in the eighties; sadly it came to nothing. I recall Clare McMahon (I think that was her name) had one with her mother.

I peered into the rooms in the Temple and it seems to be in fairly good condition insofar as it appears dry and serviceable.


Peregrine's Bird Blog said...

Clare had number 3 and she stayed there until her mother died in early 2000's. Clare then died within the next couple of years of her mother's death. It is now lived in by Sheila Lewis Crosby widow of John Lewis Crosby who was Director of NT for a while in NI

I lived in No 1 from 1990-2002