Thursday, December 8, 2011

Weekend in Luxembourg

Luxembourg City Christmas Market: me, a table, a red bin

Luxembourg is small enough that in one weekend you could see the whole country. In depth. But on this visit I had one over-riding objective: opera. Specifically, Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle, all four operas. Now, as you may know, unlike Luxembourg, Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle is BIG. The four operas comprising the cycle usually take many hours each to perform, and when presented together they last over more than four days, the singers having to rest up in between. It’s not for the faint-hearted. But in Luxembourg City the French production company T & M - Paris was presenting their touring production of a Mini-Ring: a shortened version, written by Jonathan Dove and Graham Vick in 1990. T & M made a few tweaks to the Dove/Vicks version - putting it back into German from English, for one, and restoring the ‘Flight of the Valkyries’ (think the ‘Star Wars’ theme) for another. And voila! Wagner’s ‘Ring’, still intelligible, and just a bit more accessible.

Devotees of Wagner might be a little sniffy about a truncated ‘Ring’, but I’m not in that category. I have never seen a full version (next year! next year!) so this was in the nature of dipping my toe in the water, so to speak. We had ‘Rhinegold’ on Friday evening, ‘The Valkyrie’ on Saturday afternoon, ‘Siegfried’ on Saturday evening (after a reasonable dinner break, for sustenance); and ‘Gotterdammerung’ (usually translated as ‘The Twilight of The Gods’) on Sunday evening. None longer than 3 hours. What an undertaking: my hat goes off to the singers (special mention to my friend Lou, who sang three different characters in all four operas, including a divinely sensuous Erde); and the small orchestra (from Portugal) who played their hearts out. They were short on strings but big on brass, with plenty of percussion for that big Wagner sound. It was all quite an achievement.

Taking a bow.

Interval drinks at the Grand Theatre, Luxembourg City

Just the night for it.
Apart from spending about 9 hours inside the Grand Theatre Luxembourg, and despite unremitting rain all weekend, I did manage to spend time with friends, lunch - and buy chocolate - at the wonderful Oberweis, and stroll through the Luxembourg City Christmas Market. Though I didn’t stop for a gluhwein....

Topping off the weekend was a backstage visit to the lovely Louise, and dinner with her and my host Michael (thank you, Michael!), full of backstage chit chat, secrets of how you learn a whole opera in a language you don’t speak, how to keep your voice healthy and why you’d go to Minsk in  the middle of winter to sing a new role this stuff.

The next morning I glided through a shiny, efficient and almost empty airport to my short Luxair flight back to London City Airport, a short train ride from home. Luxembourg and Wagner - both very accessible.


Welcome to Luxembourg.

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