Mr Kay heads to Glasgow’s Theatre Royal and says ’Das Rheingold, Das Entertainment’.
Scottish Opera. Two hours forty-five straight through, with the arias argued, the Wotan Clan fighting it out against Dwarf gold heisters and the Kidnapping Architect-blackmailing Giants, with nothing but their Lightningsmith God- skills, their Aprons, a Sledgehammer and much shouting in key.
I loiter in the foyer by the Ladies with its 26-long queue outside the door, many gloves being removed, and sing all the bits of opera I can imagine, and reminisce on my childhood that was immersed in it. I saw opera aged ten, sung in my house; my mum lived with a guy whose best friend had his own opera house in the countryside - they would go off to Bayreuth and get sore bums sitting through the 24-hour Wagner
Up in my seat C26, I can see members of the 87-strong orchestra who sit, fully see-through visible, beneath the stage in a sunken pit that you can see right to the trombones of; they are always at the back - even of jazz bands — but these guys have to trombone downwards to read the music and avoid brass lobotomies on the upstart trumpets in front.
The orchestra was fascinating to watch and I needed them. There were four harps. The two I could see were hiding in a harp-niche, raised and around the side, like they were about to mug the violinists, armed with their grand-piano rib cages. Their harps would be rocked back, mid-thighs and played every now and again. Not to be harpist, they were the only ones I saw messing around, sharing a joke and, as they leaned their harps forward, they rocked, laughing a bit. There are no men harpists. Have you ever seen a harp cover? It is like an enormous oven glove. To cover these two would look like the giants were applauding.
The orchestra is just at that hard-to- fathom distance away in the largesse of an internal space. The distance is just enough to lend some of them an androgynous air. The conductor came in at last, oh here I am, in black Nehru with international hotel points.
The bassoonists look like they are armed with Kalashnikovs.
The man in the chair next to me has a girlfriend on the clarinet and every now and then he leans a bit extra forward to catch her, he loves her, you know can‘t take his eyes off her, and he is watching her all through the playing, approaching her big bit, and he's watching her and he sees her dropping off to sleep, no, he
6 THE “ST 2i Sep- '5 Oct 2000
ILOITER IN THE FOYERBYTHE LADESAND SING ALL THE BITS OFOPERAI h CANIMAGINE. 2.53.6
can’t believe it, she's asleep, the big bit is coming, it’s coming up, does he risk it all? does he shout her name? would a sneeze do it? what can he do in front of all the audience? risk their glare? could he ever tell? . . . would they believe him? . . . there is time for your mind to drift away.
So, now to the opera. All I know of this one is: diminutive Alberich nicks gold from Rheinmaidens, fashions Helmet, attracts wrath of Wotan already in Daughter-negotiations with the firm of Giants who designed his Fortress, and the gold gets passed around as pay off, but the ring lingers, cursed as a greed thing, destroying those who wear it, lust for it, etc. And cunning Loge, the Lord of Fire, in a tartan waistcoat.
It is magically done, as engrossing as it could possibly be for a non-Italian lovely tale of tears and fisherman and fathers and love and death, and one that has to tell a very short story over massive slabs of time and an unspecified universe. The beginning is great, three River-Rheingirls in bodices frolicking in tights around Philippe Starck's snowdrifts, teasing a dwarf with their hair, like horny Rapunzels on a bank holiday: large turquoise stilettos.
Wotan lives in
plan head-deity studio apartment with monolith granite futon unevenly sea- sawed on a boulder, and great cosmos wallpaper.
They all sing astonishingly well and powerfully to crescendo after crescendo, or whatever the German is, with love being the true gold. The Neighbours people are doing these themes in words in under a minute and it is interesting to see such big blocks of standard-type scenes getting a clearly new wave interpretation: there are 30 slightly over-under acting kids in DJ torch-specs, like Star Wars hooded orphan miners, there's a handbag fight and, at one point, everyone is eating apples. There is a funny bit when Loge is taken by a most gargantuan dragon and we only see the clawey hand coming around the side, as big as the very large hand of Liberace in marigolds.
That is when I thought if the dragon needed gloves he could use the harp covers.
The opera gave me time with magic surroundings, to imagine myself moving about in stop- frame action. Legs forward, sit up. lean back, hand on chin, lean forward, two hands on chin, legs back. One leg forward, hands down. Repeat.
Bootleg videos a tenner. I shall go back.
Who's this handsome young chap then? Why he’s Alban Gerhardt, a man who has been wowmg audrences worldwrde wrth the wood between hrs legs. I beg your pardon?! Hrs cello, German-born Gerhardt has been pluctkrng and bowrnq wrth the best of them srnce hrs professional debut rn I991, rncludrng two grgs wrth the BBC Scottrsh Symphony Orchestra and a recent Proms date With the Royal Scottish Natronal Orchestra Ah, so what led him to music? Gerhardt was born wearrng musrc‘al genes. Hrs vrolrnrst lather plays wrth the Berlin Phrlharrrronrc, mum's got a lantastrc smgrng vorce and three of hrs four srblrncjs play Instruments. Any other strings to his bow? Well, he's actually a pretty good pranrst too, but prefers an rnstr'urrrent he can hug ‘The cello rs so much more personal, yOU have rt rn your arms and rt starts srnqrncj,' he says, 'To make a prano SIIIQ you have to be qurte a genrus »— all the good pranrsts practrse ten hours a day and l have my hands full WITH the four frve hours I’m doing There's sorrrethrnc; else rn lrfe besrdes musrc ’ Like what? ere hrs Puerto chan ere and two-year- olcl son The Gerhardt famrly are currently rn the process of lll()\./llt() from New York back to hrs natrve land so he can 'spread the word of muSrc rn my home country I see. So what's he doing in Scotland? Well frrstly, he loves the place 'l love the whrsky and the people are \.'er'y funny, just adorable ' And secondly he’s here to (rues! Wllll the BBC SSO on Elcjar‘s Cello Conc e/‘to Ooh, that piece from Hilary 8r Jackie? The very same Only you may not rec ocjnrse rt ‘| play rt rn a completely drlt'er‘ent way from Jacquelrne Du Pre She drd an absolutely (jorcjeous ]()l), one cannot play rt better, but I'm convrncecl one can play rt drfferently because rt’s so borrncj rl musrc rs always played the same ' (Kelly Aptc‘r' :A/lm/r Gerhardt yor/rs the 88C Sc ott/s/r Sy/rrp/rorry Orchestra at Glasgow’s C/tj' Hall on Sat 14 Oct