05 September 2019

Buskers fore and aft

I'd stayed beside Oper Frankfurt and walked through Willie Brandt Square frequently in the past and attended a few chamber concerts in the foyer but never an opera. Mozart Idomeneo was playing and I took my chance.

But first was the walk and another busker. This was Cuban clarinettist Leonel Fernandez Ortega playing jazz and latin with nice conviction and understanding. It's not an instrument I know well in jazz although it has a strong early history. Leonel did a great job, spelling melodies with authority and improvising with nice modern conventions.

Then to the opera. I had the cheapest seat with no view but I moved. It's a surprisingly intimate theatre ringed with dress circles and with a massive stage area and a generous Orchestra pit. Excellent German design. The orchestra was about 26 players with harpsichord and two bassists who I thought playing period bows (French grip held up the stick). Between soloists and chorus there were about 45 singers dressed in modern clothes on a sparse stage frequently using its massive rotating floor. The nautically-themed opera lasted 3.5 hours with one interval. Greek King Idomeneo is thought to be lost in battle. To survive, he's made a deal with Neptune to kill the first person he sees on return. That turns out to be his son so he sends him off. The son is bereft. This all happens against a love story of opposing princesses. And the death of the father and a successful romance. If I got the story right... The son was once played by a male soprano but now is a cross dressed female so that adds some modern day confusion. The music is typical Mozart but sprinkled amongst song. The playing was neat as was the singing although I felt their tightness strayd occasionally. But I think it was the first performance in this series. With the heat and my little experience of opera the first half was trying but I settled into the second. An interesting outing not least for the opportunity to see some casual German operatic audience habits.

I walked out to a hot night and milling people and busy bars and a hip hop beats busker. I like that music when it's done well; simple but with deep deep grooves and otherworldly electronic tonalities and sudden pauses and the like.

Mozart Idomeneo was performed at Oper Frankfurt. Leonel Fernandez Ortega (clarinet) busked.

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