Classical: On The Air
Friday 03 September 1999
There is a passionate impulse to Tchaikovsky's score which is not quite like anything he created later - something both darkly ecstatic and heroic in which he reveals the agonising truth about his own love life and universalises it. This, Bourne has captured uncannily. In casting male dancers as the swans he, of course, makes unequivocal reference to the composer's homosexuality, and Tchaikovsky's choice of scenario lends him support. A legend which tells of an ideal love doomed on earth and only attainable beyond the grave has inescapable implications under the circumstances.
In making such particular references Bourne could have sensationalised the story, or at least limited its relevance. But not so, for the magnificent swan-like gestures of the male dancers, superbly captured on camera, evoke a wild spirit - the call of the wild, you might say, to which Tchaikovsky was prevented from responding overtly, except in his music, and which is in all of us. One could perhaps take issue with Bourne over his rather modern view of Prince Siegfried's partying and other domestic activities, but Swan Lake is really about the most passionate aspect of the human heart, and here he served Tchaikovsky royally.
Two days later, on the same channel, we were afforded penetrating insights into a work whose familiarity is similarly in danger of eliciting a cliched response. Now it was Donizetti's famous comic opera L' Elisir d'Amore which was made to live in an altogether fresh way. Not for Frank Dunlop, in his production for Lyon National Opera, the kind of radical rethinking which had characterised Bourne's work, but the simplicity and passionate naturalness of his staging, focused by the affecting singing and acting of Angela Gheorgiu and Roberto Alagna, which carried a considerable emotional charge.
The conventions of bel canto and coloratura opera can lead to atrophied drama, as we become obsessed with purely vocal wizardry and vocal quality, but in this touching performance the comedy was gutsy and vital, and we felt for the lovers and their problems. Brian Large's direction for television prevented the film from being a mere record of a notable stage performance, and the fluency and flexibility of the camera work were exemplary in creating a televisual experience.
Finally, a work about the week's televised prom, ably directed by David Stevens for, once again, BBC2. It included Judith Weir's Natural History, an exciting song cycle of air, light and sweet reasonableness, and a brilliant performance by Mark Elder and the BBC Philharmonic of Strauss's Symphonia Domestica. The programme's clinching touch was added by James Naughtie and Mark Elder, whose interval talk put us in the right way of thinking about Strauss's extraordinary piece and introduced moving footage of the composer conducting, playing with his family and being laid to rest with his grieving widow in attendance.
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Liam Gallagher brands Kanye West 'utter s**t' during BRIT Awards performance
- 2 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 3 People who sleep more than eight hours are more likely to have a stroke, research shows
- 4 Kanye West climbs on table at Nando's to crowd chants of 'Yeezus' before Brit Awards 2015 performance of 'All Day'
- 5 New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit