Saddo abroad

Saddo abroad: January 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Musicians and tax

A blog about musos, tax and tax returns on Sinfini

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wise after the event

I have to get something off my chest, something that has been haunting me now for four years. I need to apologise to Greg Wise.
I don't know Greg Wise but I know who he is. You must do too. He's an actor, now married to Emma Thompson, who played the dashing villain in the movie of "Sense and Sensibility". Yes, him. The one on the horse.
In 2009 I was rehearsing Doctor Atomic at ENO's West Hampstead and occasionally some of us would potter up West End Lane to have lunch in a health food shop. One day, we were leaving the shop, probably being a bit singery and noisy, and a man who was coming into the shop, stood aside and held the door for us. Very polite. I was the last to leave and noticed that the polite man looked familiar.
Oh look! It's that actor chap from Sense and Sensibility! The one who married Emma Thompson. Greg Wise! Oh yeah, come to think of it, didn't I read that they live somewhere around here? I guess this must be a regular haunt. I remember seeing her up by Highgate House many years ago. Of course, she and I were at Cambridge together, or rather we were both there at roughly the same time I think. I remember seeing her in Footlights. Small world, now that her husband is holding the door open for us. I wonder if he realises that us lot are also in THE THEATRE? Why should he? I could tell him I suppose. Oh don't be daft.
All that, in a nano-second. At the same time feeling the rising urge, the impending excitement of pointing out to my fellow singers who it was who had just held the door open for us.
As I got to the pavement I remembered a faintly disgusted expression on Greg Wise's face as I passed him. It dawned on me with mounting self-disgust that in all my schoolgirlish excitement, my pathetic inner dialogue, I'd overlooked the simple courtesy of saying thank you to a polite man who'd held open a door. No wonder he looked faintly pissed off. I would if I were him. Now it was too late. I couldn't exactly go back into the shop and apologise for being rude, not with him being Greg Wise and everything. I'd look like a stalker. So I did nothing, and it has festered ever since, largely because I imagine it has festered with him too. Not in a major way, but in the same way I still get indignant about a bloke who once cut me off on a roundabout, who was completely in the wrong and yet who crowned his bad behaviour by flicking me a finger as he passed. It still gets on my tits.
So, Mr Wise, Greg if I may, I am so sorry I was so inconsiderate and rude four years ago. Thank you for holding the door open. It was a very decent and courteous gesture, especially to a bunch of boorish strangers. Never again will I be bamboozled by someone opening a door for me, even if it's Judi Dench. I will always say thank you, and more importantly I'll hold the door for strangers, no matter how theatrical.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Singers and hypochondria. On the Sinfini website.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sloshing goblets

At this time of year, especially in an age of deep arts funding cuts, I suppose it's normal to ask yourself if you're a half-full or half-empty person in the glass department. Pressed for an answer, my response would be that most new years I feel like someone whose full glass has been half-emptied because the over-enthusiastic baritone next to me has just bumped my elbow as he launches into another verse of one of my least favourite opera things - The Drinking Song.
Drinking songs generally fall into two types: a) "Let's get drunk down at Ye Olde Inn, ho ho!" and b) "Oh we're having such a jolly party, tra-la!"; my main objection to The Drinking Song being that it usually encourages the type of dreadful acting that is normally confined to old pirate movies and South American soap operas.
The Ho-ho Drinking Song - good examples can be found in Otello and The Tales of Hoffmann - normally employs tankards and jugs of non-specific booze dispensed by cheeky, buxom wenches. Swaying and bouts of raucous laughter (carefully timed when no-one is singing) are de rigeur, as are wiping chins with the backs of hands, clunking tankards together and standing with one foot on a bench. There should be much swigging (as opposed to straightforward drinking) even though there is, in fact, not a drop of liquid on stage. It's all mimed. As nothing appears to require proper washing up by stage management, tankards continue to be handed out rehearsal after rehearsal, show after show, without ever being properly cleaned, which creates a fabulous opportunity for any germs to spread themselves amongst the members of the cast.
The Tra-La Drinking Song, of which the Brindisi from La Traviata is the most famous example, requires everyone on stage to grin like maniacs and hold their glasses as if stuck in mid-toast. This is certainly true if you follow the Katherine Jenkins school of Popstar-to-Opera-Star acting. Waving your arms and swaying in time to the music is pretty-well compulsory, while bobbing at the knees is optional. The main function of rehearsals will be to ensure that everyone on stage at this somewhat bizarre party has a flute of Champagne. (Only it's not Champagne, it's ginger ale, which is provided in easy-to-open bottles bearing the name of the company that provides it in return for a credit in the programme. It's posh product placement without the product.)
At the end of a long tour of Die Fledermaus for Opera 80 (now called English Touring Opera), we, the cast, had had enough of ginger ale, and for the final show several bottles of the real stuff were bought to supplement the stage stuff. During the second act, the butler serving ginger ale was curiously neglected while the other butler, the one with the champagne, struggled desperately to fill all our glasses. Champagne is much harder to pour than ginger ale and all the timing was thrown off. Most of the cast found themselves stranded upstage, singing vaguely over their shoulder in the direction of a rather neglected audience when we really should have been waltzing around the stage in gay abandon, while the furiously overworked butler struggled to pour us all some wine.
Bottoms up!