Saturday, July 19, 2014

Joyce wonderful in Maria Stuarda + doleful news from Ukrane and Iraq

Joyce backstage (from a selfie I'll spare you!)
 Very busy and largely unbloggable week. But went last night to see the great Joyce DiDonato in the final performance of MAria Stuarda at the ROH.

It's a terrific cast including Carmen Giannattasio as Elisabetta I and Matthew Rose at Talbot. The production is somewhat eccentric in that although Elizabetta was in a very Elizabethan costume and Maria somewhat less so, everyone else was in more or less modern dress.  This is intended to emphasise the idea that there are contemporary  resonances in terms of power and challenges to power. However this is somewhat undermined by the fact that Donizetti make sexual jealousy between Elizabeth and Mary over Dudley a major motivation in the drama. This is rather over-emphasised in this production by having Elisabetta strip Dudley to the waist in Scene 1: Ismael Jordi, the tenor, has a torso well up to the task.

Elisabetta was terrific and her first major aria was hugely applauded. But of course Joyce was superlative. She sung her first aria standing on a chair in her prison (Fotheringay castle is made to look like a contemporary women's prison, but heigh-ho) and the entire house was reduced to spellbound silence.

In musical terms everything was superb bordering on the transcendent. The moment when Maria finally snaps and denounces Elisabetta rather than being humble and asking for pardon was outstanding. Her confessional duet with Talbot (beautifully sung and acted by Matthew) was tremendous. And of course the final scenes where she offers forgiveness to Elisabetta and faces her death are beautifully done. Standing ovation at the end and Joyce came on for a couple of solo curtain calls before the cast assembled.

Since Joyce is a friend of Nicole's she got me on her backstage list and I was able to meet her briefly, and she is absolutely delightful. We took a selfie for Nicole but I look awful so I'm just showing you Joyce.

Matthew Rose then kindly walked me and Joyce's other visitors (two recent music graduates from Cambridge) out through the stage which was also a gladsome experience.

The shooting down of MH17 is horrible - an extra frisson for someone who regularly flies over Russian airspace although of course the route from Beijing to London goes well north of Ukraine.  And the BBC reports that the ISIS Caliphate is requiring Christians, on pain of death, to convert to Islam or to pay a protection tax. This is of course the Jizya which is specifically enjoined in the Koran.
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
 As the 12th Century Muslim scholar al-Razi puts it:
it's important to pay the jizya with humiliation and servility, because naturally, any sensible person cannot stand humiliation and servility. So if the disbeliever is given some time watching the pride of Islam and hearing evidences of its authenticity, and see the humiliation of the disbelief, then apparently this might carry him to convert to Islam,
 Draw your own conclusions!

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