Half A Holiday | Pushing the Wave

Half A Holiday

Travel, 8 February 2023
by L.A. Davenport
Rutland Water at Dusk
Rutland Water at dusk
Half time beckons. The idea of holiday time, even if it’s not for me, instills in me a desire slow down, although I won’t be able to unplug entirely.

I am taking the opportunity to spend time with friends and family over the coming days, and to meet a new life who arrived just before Christmas. I also hope to visit some spots that are dear to me but I see rarely these days.

One such is Rutland Water, in Rutland. For me, it is a place of quiet reflection and for the all-too brief moments that I am there I feel as if I have disconnected utterly (or rather in the part away from the marina and the main carpark that most people seem to use). I find it is at its most beautiful in winter, around sunset, where it seems to take on an almost mystical stillness that, frankly, transports me.

Even if this will not be a full holiday, with the chance to get away from it all, I find that travelling always inspires me for my writing. It comes from seeing different people and locations from those we encounter in our everyday lives.

It is also in the exchange of ideas and the reminder that our assumptions about the world are just that. That other people, living in different places, have a completely different perspective from ours; one that is moulded by local circumstances. Someone living in the countryside or in a market town inevitably experiences different pressures from the equivalent person living in an urban environment, and their frame of reference for viewing the world is naturally different.

I relish all of that, even if I don’t always agree with all that people believe or say, and I also savour the opportunity to taste different food and drinks. The East Midlands has its own strong culinary history, particularly in Lincolnshire, and there are many pubs and local restaurants that are well worth the trek. I won’t have time to go around all my favourite haunts but I will report back from my favourite food experiences while I am there.
Over the past few days, I have returned, after a departure of several months, to the world of grand opera.

And opera doesn’t come much grander than that recorded by Leontyne Price. I have been making my way through her Prima Donna Assoluta box from Sony for the second time, enjoying it even more than I did the first time around. Each of the operas included in it are performed to such a high standard that I appreciate each one of them a little more with each listen.

I can find Verdi, which features strongly in the box, a little heavy, but these RCA recordings from the mid 20th century make light work of his dramatic turn of phrase and lengthy scenes. That period, most often with Erich Leinsdorf, was something of a golden age for opera recording, when the kinds of singers who followed in the grand old traditions of the 19th century could still be heard. We are lucky that the experts over at Sony typically take great care in not only remastering the originals but also packaging them so attractively.

As for Leontyne Price herself, I must admit that, overall, she is my favourite soprano, just ahead of my other two favourites: Anna Moffo and Victoria de Los Angeles.

For me, Anna Moffo was the ultimate all-rounder, with a lyrical voice that seemed to suit almost any role she tackled. In contrast, de Los Angeles’ voice was a little too sweet for some characters, while Leontyne Price’s was sometimes a little strong, and the depth of her range didn’t allow as much for the guileless charm required for some of the more delicate roles. However, her combination of technical mastery and purity of tone, alongside her undoubted power and dramatic sensibilities, lifted the roles that suit her voice and abilities to another level.

She and Moffo, in my opinion, expanded the meaning and understanding of a role in an opera, and Price in particular was able to find her way into the farthest depths of a character and illuminate it, while still allowing for moments of levity.
Turning from grand opera to art rock, I did something I never normally do this week: I bought a bootleg recording of a live concert.

I made an exception partly because it was Roxy Music; there are so few records of their live performances available, and even fewer that do them justice. Another reason was that the sound on the record, though inferior, is detailed and present enough that you are swept up into the performance and feel the excitement of the audience. Finally, the record was made in 1980, so it didn’t feel like I was stealing from the band in buying it over 40 years later.

It was a little expensive, but it was a nice reminder of the times I have seen both Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry in concert over the past few years, particularly before the pandemic. Bryan Ferry may have lost a lot of his voice, but he remains one of the great bandleaders, and the quality and power of the songs is, of course, undimmed.

This live show from 1979 captures them just before they recorded their masterpiece: Avalon. But their choice of what we would nowadays call deep cuts from their earlier albums reminds you just how brilliant they were as performers but also the quality and depth of the songwriting across all of their albums.
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

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Half A Holiday | Pushing the Wave