Presents and Absence

…..and when I say presents, I mean this lovely bundle of books I got for my birthday on Thursday!

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So much wonder – somebody pass the smelling salts *swoon*!

I had a fabulous day and was treated to a surprise trip to Cardigan’s Theatre Mwldan to see Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie. It’s easy to forget how visceral live theatre can be, but the performance by Theatre Pena’s cast was a stunning reminder. The actors powerfully evoked both the fragility of the characters and their fraught relationships, and the minimal set design in a palette of white and blue amplified the icy tension.

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In his father’s absence, Tom (based on the young Tennessee Williams) is desperately torn between wanting to escape his domineering mother, and protecting his vulnerable, painfully-withdrawn older sister, Laura. Tom now carries most of the financial burden, yet the sacrifices of his own dreams are not appreciated or enough for his mother, Mrs Wingfield. With her own dreams long ago left in tatters, she desperately wants to see Laura marry, and marry well, and Tom is enlisted to entice a suitable ‘gentleman caller’ for dinner. Against the odds, the subsequent visit seems promising at first, but the denouement is emotionally devastating. We left the theatre in shreds, but in a good way!

My recent cultural exposure didn’t stop there, as on Sunday evening we had a big family Mothers’ day outing to hear world-renowned Canadian pianist, Angela Hewitt playing Bach’s Goldberg VariationsΒ at the beautiful Rhosygilwen Hall.

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I was introduced to the Goldberg VariationsΒ by my son, who is currently learning how to parallel park container ships at Navigational College. I must admit I welled up on hearing the opening bars, as they transported me back to the endless hours I spent as a passenger-side wind-bag, while my son was learning to drive, with Glenn Gould’s recording of the piece played on the loop. I don’t know much about music, but even I can hear the difference between the crisp technical wizardry of Gould’s early performance, compared with the poignant reflective quality of the recording he made much later in life. While I’ve heard Angela Hewitt on Radio 3, I’d not heard her play this piece, so I wondered how it would compare.

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Again, my first impression was that there is just no substitute for hearing music live. Hewitt took Bach’s musical phrase and expressed a different human emotion with each Variation. At times playful, at others thoughtful, the music ran through her fingers like water. It was transcendental. Bathed in a pool of golden light at the very centre of the hall, she was like a conduit of the sublime, and I wasn’t the only person in the hall brought to tears by the end. My daughter and I got to meet her afterwards – she was so lovely. As my son missed out on the performance (as well as being missed during it), I did the next best thing and got him a signed CD.

 

Here’s a little taster of Angela Hewitt’s magnificence:

 

 

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