Butterfly in Venice

Since EG had three day’s work in Venice, he naturally needed my support. I learnt more than I probably needed to know about managing digital archives (though a session on appraising records was very helpful. I will now write a plan of what needs keeping, set a timetable, then select and delete accordingly. The loft will lose some of it boxes-of-paper insulation, but there will be less to deal with in the long run.)

I love Venice.

Canaletto lives.


Walk one minute in any direction off the main drags and you find a cool, empty, grey-green world.

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We got lost in one empty quarter and were rescued by a cheerful elderly lady with a trolley who marched us to the vaporetto stop. She explained that she was a little deaf, yet she chatted, coping well with my stumbling Italian, and at the same time guiding my footsteps round every small obstacle (polythene bag, dog mess, loose flagstone).

And then there is La Fenice opera house. We were able to buy (restricted view) tickets for Madame Butterfly and spent a happy evening peering over people’s shoulders and listening to a terrific production. The humming chorus was sung from the back of the auditorium and during Butterfly’s long night of waiting, after she had left the stage, a backdrop came down leaving Suzuki and the boy asleep in view. Then vast and incredible cosmic fireworks were shown while they orchestra played to match. We knew none of the singers, but all were good.

A city you could visit over an over again and still find something new.

Hungary to Japan in a weekend

Wonderful couple of days. Small but international poetry meeting with the theme ‘dwelling’ very freely interpreted. Poems ranged from the romantic to the starkly tragic, with English, Hungarian, Czech, Polish and Bengali contributions, most read in both English and the original. For bonus we had two singers – one operatically trained (who indulged me and delighted us all with the Handel aria Did You Not Hear My Lady unaccompanied), the other a charming cabaret/folk story-teller singing in (?) Turkish. We all regretted that these meetings are so very rare.

Yesterday we went to the Holland Park Opera for Madame Butterfly. The best interpretation and staging of this that I have ever seen. A story of its period, but no longer silly. Anne Sophie Duprels made us believe in Butterfly’s moral outlook, her dilemma and her ultimate choice. She brought out a strangely modern problem – that of the cultural immigrant who accepts a country’s hype at face value, and is fatally damaged as a consequence. Strong stuff, cleanly and simply staged.