Yesterday, my iTunes, on random selection, brought me variation 25 of Brahms’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, as performed by Emanuel Ax: 35 seconds of what I think of as unhinged joy (I have several playlists of music of joy, with this Brahms variation in the first). It made my morning; I went back and played the whole Brahms set, in two versions (by Ax and by András Schiff).
This was day 2 of my beginning to come out of two afflictions, a long-standing bronchitis that got quite nasty about ten days ago and banged up fingers (the two fingers that were already damaged), which were badly bruised but not broken (though they had to be velcro’d to each other to make typing possible).
Day 1, Saturday, had a lot of joy in it too, supplied by Gilbert & Sullivan.
First came another performance of The Pirates of Penzance, even more outrageous than the production with Kevin Kline as the Pirate King that I watched a while back. This was an Australian production, with Jon English as the Pirate King and producer Simon Gallaher as Frederic (recommended by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky) — full of mugging, horseplay, and the intrusion of several genres of pop music into the Sullivan score. Serious Savoyards just hate this production, but others adore it. It certainly was a lot of fun.
Then in the afternoon, the Opera Australia production of HMS Pinafore together with Trial by Jury. Pinafore is a special favorite of mine, going back to my time with the Princeton Savoyards, and this was a spirited production, but much more in the D’Oyly Carte tradition than the Pirates I saw in the morning.
Still high on G&S, I went out to dinner at Three Seasons (fusion Vietnamese, and a favorite place of mine). I usually eat at the bar, because that gives me a chance to chat with the bartenders and strike up conversations (and sometimes friendships) with other diners. Saturday’s bartender, Allan, immediately noticed my glow of happiness and asked about it, so I started telling him about G&S, only to discover — astonishment! — that he’d never heard of them or of any of their operettas.
I ended up filling him in lots of details, as he made drinks for other patrons and took dinner orders from others at the bar. Still high on Pinafore, I launched into my favorite bit, in a very silly chorus sung by the seamen:
For in spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations,
He remains an Englishman!
He remains an Eng–lishman!
(with that last Eng stretched over nine notes). G&S, patriotic (self-mockingly patriotic) as ever.
Yes, I sang it, full out, in a restaurant, in an excess of joy.