Saturday, May 10, 2008



Radio New Zealand Concert networkSunday 11th of May 2008 at 3 pm

LIBRETTO (not available)

PROKOFIEV: The Gambler, an opera in four acts

A setting of a story by Dostoyevsky (himself a gambling addict): in a European gaming resort (Roulettenberg!), the tensions and the relationships between the various characters change according to their luck at the gaming tables

Polina............................ Olga Guryakova
Blanche......................... Olga Savova
Grammy........................ Larissa Diadkova
Alexei........................... Vladimir Galouzine
Marquis........................ Nikolai Gassiev
Astley........................... John Hancock
General......................... Sergei Aleksashkin
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Valery Gergiev

Who's afraid of the Prokofiev wolf? Certainly not Peter, but Sergey Sergeyevich (1891-1953) puts some scary discordant music in our path. The notes above will help you through the story, of human passions and obsessions. We have already had War and Peace this year. He composed his first opera (The Giant) at the age of nine years. This one (The Gambler) is said to be lyrical and a comedy, but (wowser that I am) I don't find gambling funny; it gives me the horrors. Ever since I found a five-pound note in the street, on my way home from primary school, and my mother persuaded me to buy lottery tickets with it; on the way to the newsagent I found out that it had been lost by the lady who ran a second-hand magazine shop, because all the kids who lived on the waterfront in Balmain were hunting for it, to get the reward. I should have done the right thing and given it to her, and pocketed the two shillings or whatever she was offering. Instead she lost out completely, while I got no winnings from my gambling. The New South Wales lotteries allegedly funded the hospitals, and only later the opera house, and so I can not even say that I made a contribution to building the stationary ship with stone sails at Bennelong Point. Incidentally, as John Cargher noticed: Australia has a magnificent opera house, but unfortunately its outer shell is in Sydney, and its auditorium is in Melbourne. And to show there is justice in the universe, a few years later, when I was sent to buy the weekend meat for our family, I lost a five-pound note on the way to the butcher shop. Still, I have since heard that the woman who lost that first blue note with King George's face on it, also ran an illegal starting-price betting shop on her premises, so maybe the pernicious sin of gambling (which is not even in the seven deadly ones!) had been requited on us both.


By chance I have found the announcement of the death of John Cargher, aged 89. I referred to him above. In my posting on Tristan and Isolde I mentioned buying Furtwaengler's version at his Melbourne shop, trading Sinatra and the Devil's trill sonata of Tartini as downpayment (I eventually replaced both of these). Helen and I would have been among his first listeners to his weekly Singers of Renown, which was broadcast only over the Melbourne station of the ABC for its first ten weeks, in 1966. It became the longest continually running Australian radio show presented and produced by the same person. (Another Sunday-evening music program had been offered for many years by dear old Dr Floyd, reading his script on cardboard from corn-flake-packets).

As a student of languages, I had wondered about the origin of his accent, and I boldly asked him while we were haggling over the trading. He was indeed an Englishman, but he had gone to school in various European countries, he said; now I have learned that these were Germany and Spain, and his German mother might also have influenced his speech.

John Cargher's opera program was always introduced by a recording of Tebaldi and Del Monaco singing the exciting part of the love duet from Puccini’s Il Tabarro. He rated Bergonzi as the world's greatest tenor at that time; and he fearlessly aired Florence Foster Jenkins (soprano, or whatever). For a while he had a program on the appreciation of music, with another rarity opening each Sunday-afternoon session: Mozart's ballet, Les Petits Riens. I remember a time when he played Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, but omitting the slow third movement as boring. The quote I gave on Puccini's and Leoncavallo's versions of La Bohème last week was from Cargher (Mimi was the heroine in one, Musetta in the other). Strange that I should be thinking of him so much at present.

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