What a handful of fun I’ve had this week: watching a fairy tale unfold at a rehearsal of La Cenerentola, Rossini’s opera about Cinderella, at the Baxter on September 7 and 8; seeing Charlize Theron blowing Berlin apart in Atomic Blonde and revelling in the best-ever production of A Handful of Keys at the Theatre on the Bay.
However, the undoubted cherry on the top was to take home an addition to our small family – a gorgeous, naughty eight-week-old yellow Labrador puppy.
It’s thanks to pianist Francois du Toit that we found yet another name to continue our “beery” tradition for Labs. Our first black one was Carling Black Label, then came blonde Stella Artois and our present seven-year-old is Mitch, short for Mitchell’s Brewery.
In June I was small-talking to Francois before a lunch in Franschhoek when I mentioned we were stuck for name for the female puppy we were getting at the end of August. “How about Peroni?” he said, “And you can call her Peri.”
In one short week that tiny, sharp-toothed pup has changed our home. Shoes are now stowed away in cupboards. Slippers are to be found on tables. The lounge and dining room kelims have been removed to safety, and I no longer have a bedside telephone. She chomped through the wire in minutes.
Peri is going to keep us on our toes. I only hope she won’t be quite as expensive as the young dog I heard about whose owners estimated that over a three- year period the damage done to their lounge furniture, carpets and garden was R60 000. And that included destroying their irrigation scheme not once, but twice.
And now back to the music….
Ian von Memerty’s latest Handful of Keys and the UCT Opera School’s La Cenerentola both showcase wonderful young talent.
Partnering Roelof Colyn in the dazzling display of pianistic virtuosity and hilarious impersonations was the thin, lanky, bushy-haired James Smith, who at 19 is the youngest ever to be in the show.
Smith proved not only to have a voice with an astonishing range but was just as slick with his humour and fingers as the experienced Colyn. I wondered how many hours of practice the two had put in to be perfectly synchronised, particularly when playing, without looking at the keys, “The Complete History of The Broadway Musical in 12 Minutes”. This involved singing snatches of 157 songs from 148 musicals with cleverly woven words.
Even younger than James was Michael Trollip-Wilson who appeared briefly as a guest pianist. It appears that Von Memerty is on the lookout for “Handful” stars of the future.
Live in the moment
The first things that caught my eye in the rehearsal room at the College of Music were dozens of pairs of shoes in every hue and height which poor Cinderella must
clean for her Ugly Sisters. The shoes are also used symbolically in the opera as the dainty slipper, by which the Prince traditionally recognises the mysterious beauty at the ball, is replaced by two bracelets.
Guest director Claudia Blersch knows the opera by heart from her frequent stagings at the Zurich Opera House, several starring the famous Italian mezzo Cecilia Bartoli. “Not having to spend hours studying the score means I have time to work with the singers and help them with the Italian,” she said.
A phone call from Jochen Rieder, who will conduct the UCT Symphony Orchestra, lured her to South Africa. “He told me he’d been invited to “a student thing in a very nice town”, and when he revealed it was Cape Town, I promptly replied “We go.” I have family in Johannesburg, and I’ve been able to see my aunt for the first time in 30 years.”
In her view La Cenerentola is Rossini’s best opera – dramaturgically much better than the popular Il Barbiere di Siviglia. “Many people agree with me on this. It doesn’t go off in different directions and have long duets that leave you wondering. It is such a happy piece and sooo funny.”
However, she is quick to notice if anybody tries to be funny. She tells them that “they must live in the moment… and not anticipate the moment” and points out that the situations in the opera are funny enough. They don’t need any help.
Not cool movie
If you like spy movies with multiple shoot-outs that blast holes in your eardrums, then Charlize Theron’s latest movie, Atomic Blonde, is for you. I walked out after 20 minutes, walked home in shoes not made for walking, checked my email, got the car out and drove back to the Blue Route Mall to watch Theron’s final noisy slaughter of her enemies. Not surprisingly I could not understand how she’d deceived the deceivers but neither did my three friends who’d watched the whole movie.
I’ve always admired the South African-born American actress
for her courage in taking on unusual roles like serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, the hit woman in 2 Days in the Valley and the schizophrenic in The Devil’s Advocate.
However, I don’t think her role in Atomic Blonde will win over many adult friends. Mass killing is not “cool”.
“Hi Dad,” she wrote, “I want a big wedding. I met Jim on a dating website, we became friends on Facebook, had long chats on WhatsApp. He proposed on Skype, and we’ve been courting through Viber.
Dad replied: “I suggest you two get married on Twitter, have fun on Tango, buy your kids on Amazon, and pay for it all through PayPal.
And when you get fed up with him, sell him on eBay.”