Saturday, 14 February 2009
Love is a Butterfly, Saint Sebastian, Chopin but Mostly Tripe
Posting on Valentine’s day is a bit iffy, if you do then how sad that you have nothing else better to do on a day set aside to celebrate love, if you don’t post then you may be seen as the churlish sulking woman envying all those with a love to clutch to their bosom. Still I have to say I benefited from the day as I thought I got rather a good deal from the supermarket on their special Valentine Meal offer, just phase it over two days rather than eat the three courses as a couple tonight plus you get a bottle of wine to take the edge off watching Casualty and the England versus Wales Rugby without someone there to second guess the plot, annoyingly correctly in both shows.
For some time, as a child and a teenager, I though that picture of Saint Sebastian tied up and pierced with arrows was actually St Valentine so I naturally presumed Valentine’s day was tied up with dying for love, wounding, and general sadism.My love life as a teenager went along those lines so no wonder he was my pin up boy for love, along with Che Guevara (another one dying for love of something) and for some strange reason I also had a thing about Chopin who I thought, due to the film of his life I saw at eleven, also died for love in a rather romantic way. Cornel Wilde and Merle Oberon starred in this very bad film called A Song To Remember. I think I was taken for a strange re-showing of it at the Metropole in Nottingham, I even recall a queue, although I may be mixing that up with going to see Cliff Richards in Summer Holiday. It was one of those lurid biopics. Cornel gave his Chopin and Merle gave her George Sands, striding into the film wearing men’s clothes and holding a whip I think , which was as far as Hollywood went towards suggesting a slight hint at feminism and sexual ambiguity. However the part I now recall most vividly was a scene in which a tubercular Chopin was feverishly playing the Revolutionary Etude at some concert to raise money for his beloved Poland (or maybe his family, the two become blurred at this distance). There was a close up shot of his hands (or rather some unnamed pianist whose job it was to be the hand-double for the scene) and then slowly drops of blood as he coughed fell onto the keys. It was in glorious garish Technicolor at a time when the early sixties hadn’t quite shaken off the black and white of the fifties so the black and white keys and the bright scarlet blood was very immediate and visual. As a child I thought it was so romantic, the artist literally dying , drop of blood by drop of blood, for his art and the things he loved. I cannot hear this piece of music now without that close-up image being summoned. It gets mashed up now and then with Sparky and the Magic Piano which I think also contains this Chopin piece but I cannot hear The Revolutionary Etude without seeing that scene from the film and feeling the rash itch on the back of my legs caused by the scarlet plush of the cinema seat. This performance by Bronfman of all those posted on Youtube comes closest to the tempestuousness that I felt poured out of the screen and from the heart of Chopin. No wonder I got the impression as a child that love was all about the big things, the huge moments of sacrifice or grand gesture. My father taking my mother a cup of tea in bed every morning of their married life until he was too ill to do so, my mother cooking him his favourite tripe and onions to perfection although the sight and smell of it turned her stomach, these acts did not merit the title of profound romantic love. Even after I left home, all grown up, or so I thought and aware now that love was sometimes in the small things I still sometimes thought that the greatest , the most loving love, rose above tea and tripe but now I am hopefully wise enough to think that maybe that is what true love between two people can aspire to.
Happy Valentines Day, hope you all get your equivalent of tea in bed or tripe and onions and if you are not coupled up ( I felt rather like a lurching railway carriage as I typed that) then just sit and listen to poor innocent Madame Butterfly ( in this case actually played by Ying Huang, a believable Madam Butterfly and not a Widow Twankie makeover version) sing out her longing to see her bastard, two faced, husband, Pinkerton, sail into the harbour to come and get her. This is the opera I put on and flow into when I am feeling I need to touch base on the downs of love, opera is always good for disastrous love playing itself out in three acts. At least I don’t have to end up committing Hari-Kari for love and in my case I have great friends, the DVD of Son of Rambow and to hell with it I can have a double helping of the Marks and Spencer’s Valentine Meal for two.