Sunday, 26 August 2018

La Princesse Jaune

"There is nothing more difficult than talking about music." - Camille Saint-Saëns

And so to the opera. Taking Camille at his word I won't try to describe the music of his opera 'The Yellow Princess' - although I liked it - but I must say something about the story. When I arrived the young lady on the door confided to me as she took my ticket that "it's very odd". She did not lie.

In one sense it's a straightforward plot: a Dutch girl named Lena is in love with a Dutch boy named Kornelis; Kornelis for his part loves a picture of a fictional Japanese princess named Ming, as you do. Lena realises that the object of her affections is a bit of a dick and stomps off in disgust. Kornelis decides the only thing for it is to take some mind-altering drugs, resulting in a hallucinogenic trip. Lena reappears, at which point he declares his love for her. She's not stupid and after pointing out that, being off with the fairies, he is confusing her with the imaginary Ming she stomps off for a second time. He sings a lot of nonsense including some stuff about a gong (probably not the French prog rock band, although in many ways it would be fitting if it were), and then threatens to kill himself while reflectively stroking his hipster beard (*). At this point the audience are all nodding in agreement that this would definitely be for the best, when blow me but Lena reappears and proves that she is actually stupid after all by saying she'll have him despite everything and they walk off hand in hand. Operas usually end badly for the soprano, and I'd say this one doesn't buck the trend.

The music was nice though.

(*) It's possible that the beard is just in this production and didn't form part of the composer's vision.

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