Friday, 25 November 2011

Hansel and Gretel

It's a night at the opera for Timothy Belmont tonight. Fortunately I was able to find one parking space in Amelia Street.

I'm presently seated in the Piano Bar of the Europa Hotel, Belfast. Service at the bar was annoyingly slow, given that there was a waiter chatting and joking to a waitress at the far end of the counter. Eventually I had to walk over to him and request a drink.

Given that about a dozen people stand up at the counter, effectively blocking those of us who wish to place an order, is unhelpful.

Thence I strode across the street to the Grand Opera House. This evening's production is Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. I am seated in A3 in the Dress Circle.

The scarlet curtain raised. I groaned despondently. Indeed, the Ulster Orchestra has been splendid as usual. The singing is most satisfactory. However, the props and costumes are spartan and contemporary. Humperdinck may well have turned in his grave.

Frankly, had I been aware that this was going to be a modernized production, I'd have saved my £27. That could have bought a cheap seat at the London Coliseum for Eugene Onegin.

I do hold a grudge against the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and its offspring, NI Opera. I certainly have not forgiven them for their maltreatment of Castleward Opera and its consequent demise.

Tonight's production of Hansel and Gretel, in its contemporary form, has been a disappointment to me. In future I shall inquire as to the kind of production before I part with any money.

It's such a shame that we cannot afford grand opera of the calibre and standard of the Royal Opera.

Moreover, many dress casually or informally in denims and bovver boots or whatever they are called. Coughing, spluttering, talking during performances. Oh, by the way, I am writing this review as I sit in A3 at nine o'clock!

Never mind!


Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,
I know what you mean.. I am looking at the possiblility of reviving a castleward esque opera festival if we get the planning permissions we are looking for at MP..... have a pre planning meeting on 6th of Dec. keep your fingers crossed. I got some fantastic detailed information on the estate... would love to share it with you.. fancy dinner? J. x

Anonymous said...

Why don't you become a sponsor so you can actively complain about what the company is doing. Northern Ireland deserves an opera company of note; perhaps rather than puerile snobbery from you, constructive critism would be more suitable.

Timothy Belmont said...

ANON, I'd expect nothing less than being accused of "puerile snobbery" from those with progressive attitudes who have taken it upon themselves to cut Castleward Opera's financial lifeline.

I have no intention of becoming a sponsor of any organization which I hold in such low esteem.

We had an opera company of note: Castleward Opera.

Anonymous said...

I have alway regarded Lord Belmont as a well informed and cultured man, so I am hugely disappointed to see his comments on this production.My visiting party from Dublin and I found NI Opera's production enthralling. Wonderful young Irish singers, and a witch of international calibre. Northern Ireland has, at last, a company of international calibre, and I look forward to the company's debut in London next week.

Richard said...

I agree with Anonymous - Castleward Opera may have been good, but it had become an exclusive, elitist club. Opera is not about that. If you want to fund it yourself (like Glyndebourne) then do so, but public money should not be wasted on it. Also, this nothing about what you call 'progressive attitudes' - a label which you hurl like some casual insult: it's about a love of opera open to all in Northern Ireland, not a privileged self-selected few.

Timothy Belmont said...

Who is paying for them to travel to London? Themselves, I trust, and not the Taxpayers. Anon Dubliner, you are totally entitled to your opinion, as am I.

Richard, there is nothing wrong with elitism at all. Of course you have no foundation whatsoever to describe Castleward Opera as "an exclusive and elitist club".

Tickets for Castleward opera were available to everyone and affordable; more affordable than a premier football match or Lady Gaga.

Your arts council populist mantra that it should be open to all in NI - since when was it not? - is patent socialist balderdash.

You are unable to substantiate your preposterous assertion that Castleward Opera was an exclusive and elitist club.

Timothy Belmont said...

I have received several more comments from critics of Castleward Opera and my personal views.

Suffice it to say that these critics are supportive - may even be employed or on the Board - of the arts council of NI Opera.

These people accuse me of snobbery, churlishness and other personal remarks.

I fear that we must agree to differ.

I shall not be posting any more comments.