EU Enlargement Gala, Konzerthaus, Berlin

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So what did we miss because Britain was the only EU country not to broadcast this extravaganza devised by Eurovision, leading up to May Day midnight when the union grew from 15 to 25 countries?

So what did we miss because Britain was the only EU country not to broadcast this extravaganza devised by Eurovision, leading up to May Day midnight when the union grew from 15 to 25 countries? Well, sitting in the magnificent gilt Konzerthaus in the heart of old East Berlin, it was surely one of the oddest concerts ever mounted.

It might just have worked on television, but for the VIPs given the full red-carpet treatment in Berlin, and the thousands in Warsaw expecting a simultaneous outdoor pop concert, the result suggested that union isn't always a perfect solution. We were electronically inseparable, but conceptually a world apart.

It looked as though we might be in for a treat as Vladimir Ashkenazy launched the European Union Youth Orchestra into Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture. This band have been superb ambassadors for the EU for 25 years. So, at the end of a tour that brought them to Berlin from Brazil, they played with elegant precision, though with a detachment soon justified - it was early in the evening for Juliet to undress completely.

From then on, Eurovision showed that there is nothing it cannot trivialise, no person it cannot reduce to cringing embarrassment. Each new state was introduced by a video-clip fronted by a celeb. Vivienne Westwood, all in orange and swirls, told us that Estonian women were pretty. Katarina Witt, the former East Germany's sexiest skater, also emerged in orange to confess that her first affair in competition had been in Poland.

Only Hans-Dietrich Genscher, a former foreign minister, managed to remind us that the journey from Soviet bloc to EU membership had, for most of the new citizens, been slow and painful - almost as painful as the sight of one Jocelyn B Smith standing on the Konzerthaus steps surrounded by children singing: "Put your hand in my hand and the world will understand," or the light show relayed from Malta with a dotty score by Roger Waters proclaiming that the Queen was having a ball - something to do with freedom, sugar and indigo.

As the gala progressed the classical parts became surreal interruptions, between which Ashkenazy was left to perch on the front of the stage. Cecilia Bartoli sensibly pulled out, so the EUYO roused us with some Berlioz, conjuring up Hungary. Singers such as Violeta Urmana were on hand, though why a bit of Lady Macbeth from Verdi should have been thought material for political reconciliation is a mystery. When Susanne Graham appeared to sing (from Carmen) that "she knew a bar in Seville run by Lilas Pastia", I truly wished I was there.

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