Sunday, 11 August 2013


Fantasy Bob supposes it is relatively well known among his handful of faithful readers that one of the great disappointments faced during his life by Ludwig van Beethoven was his limited opportunity to play cricket.

For the discerning listener to his music, this frustration is self evident.

The Pathetique sonata is clearly a reflection on his failure to deal with a straight full toss while still on zero. The Moonlight Sonata is a quieter reflection on an evening match, possibly on Vienna's equivalent to Edinburgh's Meadows.  Maybe, the music suggests, given the fading light, the skippers would have been better opting for 18 overs a side rather than 20.

Beethoven's aspirations on the cricket field are confirmed by teh words recorded on his deathbed Ich werde im Himmel schlagen! - I will bat in Heaven. FB should note that there an alternative version of these words is also in circulation Ich werde im Himmel hören! (I will hear in Heaven!), but that makes less sense and FB is confident they are a misreporting.

Fidelio - from Beethoven's work book
If cricket was one of Beethoven's great frustrations, then opera was a similar torment. His only venture into the genre, Fidelio, went through 4 versions and there continues to be dispute among scholars, musicologists and cricketers as to the most authentic version.  Much is attributed to this great work - it is the first political opera, it is an affirmation of the idea of liberty, it encapsulates the beauty of the late cut behind square. Whatever view you take of its significance, it is stuffed with music of the highest quality.

Beethoven has always been FB's special hero, even beyond his admiration for Denis Law and Ted Dexter. And Fidelio was the first ever opera he saw; in a fine production by Scottish Opera in 1970.  Leonore was sung by Helga Dernesch and the production had a theatrical tour de force in its presentation of the great Prisoners' Chorus as the inmates crawled out of their cells into the bright light of the centre stage. It still lives in FB's memory. Test Match Quality.

FB was forced to dig deep into his memories of the greatness of this work as they sat through the production of Fidelio presented as part of this year's Edinburgh International Festival.  Mrs FB had forcibly to restrain him from loud objection through the show.  He is confident that if Beethoven could spare the time from his Heavenly net practice, he would be spinning in his grave at a rate faster than the spin Graeme Swann puts on the ball.

Opera has long been the victim of ego maniacal producers and directors who put their own conception before anything else.  But for FB, this production took the empire biscuit.

The piece was set on a space craft - to which any sensible person would ask 'Why?'  FB suspects life is too short to hear the answer.

All the action took place behind a gauze - always an alienating experience for actors and audience alike -
onto which were projected an endless series of meaningless computer generated graphics.  Occasional text in the form of science fiction gibberish was also projected.  The singers moved about behind this gauze on segways in costumes that made them look like something out of Thunderbirds.  Oh dear. Anything to get in the way of the emotional and the drive of the narrative.  But there was an opportunity to boo when the director took a curtain call, of which FB and Mrs FB took full advantage.  They did it for Beethoven.

Here is a link to a more conventional presentation of the Prisoner's Chorus.  One of the great attestations of the desire for liberty.

O welche Lust in freier Luft
Den Athem einzuheben!
Nur hier, nur hier ist Leben.
Die Hoffnung flustert sanft mir zu
Wir werden frei, werd finden Ruh?

Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Up here alone is life!
Hope whispers softly in my ears!
We shall be free, we shall find peace.


  1. This sounds like yet another example of a hubristic director attempting to upstage a magnificent work by doing something different. FB and his good lady were entirely justified in booing such an artistic abomination. I was lucky enough to see Fidelio performed by the Bayrische Staatsoper in Munich, no less - and not a Segway in sight.