Things have been a little bit quiet over here for the past week!
This often means one of two things – I am stupidly busy and running around like a headless chicken, or I’m taking some time off from the digital world, usually due to going on holiday.
Now before you get an image of me lying on a sun soaked beach somewhere in the Med, let me stop you there and give you a bit of prologue.
Around a year and a half ago, Des (flush with PhD funding), asked if I fancied going to see Wagner’s Ring Cycle as performed by Opera North (which consists of four different operas and around 15 hours of music).
Now booking something so far in advance might seem quite risky, but the tickets for the Ring Cycle at the Sage Gateshead in Newcastle sold out in two weeks, so we had to act fast. We also decided to book for Newcastle rather than Leeds, as apparently the Sage is a much better venue in terms of sound and comfort.
Fast forward to 2016 and we realised that the time was upon us to head up to Newcastle for a week full of Wagner's epic masterpiece.
Now my only other experience of Wagner prior to this involved sitting in the front row during the first act of Die Walküre, which resulted in my being unceremoniously and resoundingly blasted in the face by the two main singers. This, coupled with an extremely hot concert space, led to a slightly painful experience…
Let’s just say my expectations of our week ahead were not that high. If anything, I was feeling extremely apprehensive about the fact that the whole event might be one of endurance rather than enjoyment.
I have to say that my foreboding was completely overturned.
From the beginning, we the audience were completely enthralled and submerged into the story, a process which was greatly helped by the addition of subtitles. Hours seemed to go by in double time as we ripped through the mythological and magical story line – following the tale of an all-powerful ring, giants, dragons, gods and above all, lovers.
I'm not going to go too much into the story line, as it's all available to read online (also I don't want to bore you!)
What really struck me about seeing all four pieces was the stamina required from all of the players, especially the singers, who have to remembers hours worth of material, completely from memory.
It was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever seen and perhaps will ever see!
Honestly, if you ever do get the chance to go and see any of Wagner's work, I would seriously consider giving it a try.
Modern performances are deliberately accessible to all, so don't let the German libretto put you off, nor the length - as time really does fly!
Also as a side note - Opera these days is (almost) completely unpretentious, you do not need to dress up or bring along Opera glasses. The focus really is on enjoying the music and immersing yourself in another world.
Out of the six days we were in Newcastle, two were opera free, probably in order to give our brains some time to digest all of the material they were taking in!
Whilst in the area, we decided to take the opportunity to explore Hadrian's Wall with a trip to Vindolanda, a partially preserved Roman settlement and fort. Well worth a visit alone for the first surviving example of female writing in western civilization!
We also spent some time exploring the city, which actually feels a lot like Edinburgh in terms of elevation and architecture.
It also seems that Newcastle has a thriving food scene, with lots of independent and chain eateries across the city.