ATTENDING Edinburgh's International Festival of the Arts
parallels, incertain ways, the experience of being on an organized
tour: If it's Tuesday, itmust be Rudolf Nureyev; if it's Friday,
it's Seiji Ozawa ... or was that Yo-YoMa?
Of course, many of the festivalgoers are tourists, and Edinburgh
becomes asurging sea of cosmopolitanism in late August and early
September each year.
"International" the festival certainly is. This year there was
theaterfrom the United States, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Australia,
India, England and(naturally) Scotland. There were orchestras from
Moscow, London, Rotterdam,Berlin, San Francisco, Japan, Scotland
(naturally) - and especiallyCzechoslovakia, since 1990 is the first
in a special two-year celebration of thearts of that recently
This year also happens to be the centenary of the birth of
Czechoslovakcomposer Bohuslav Martinu. The festival includes two
performances of his surrealopera "Julietta" and a comprehensive list
of concert works.
The Martinu Centenary Concert at the Queen's Hall laid particular
emphasison works he had written for the harpsichord, with or without
other instruments.Although he was clearly attracted by the Baroque
associations of the instrument,his rhythms belong to the 20th
century; so there is an interestingcross-fertilization of old and
new in these works.
Harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova, as the soloist, brought a
combination ofintensity and workmanship to bear on this energetic
but strangely unpassionatemusic. Ms. Ruzickova seemed very
reluctant to personally accept her dueapplause, preferring to share
it equally with the Czech pianist Rudolf Firkusny,who performed with
her, and ensemble called the Czech Nonet.
A performer who had no such retiring modesty was the Spanish
mezzo-sopranoTeresa Berganza. With the engaging professionalism of
an old hand, she launchedinto no fewer than six encores at her Usher
Hall concert - and even then theapplause refused to die. Her encores
- including Mozart, Carmen, Respighi, and ahilarious
"under-the-influence" drinking song - tended to make one forget
heraccomplished performance in the programmed part of the evening.
But the taste one took away was that of a voice of astonishing
range andpurity emitted with the effortless ease of birdsong, a
singing capacity so undercontrol that it never squanders its
reserves and keeps springing surprises.
THE performance of another woman at this festival also sticks in
the mind:actress Honor Blackman - no longer the assertive blond
heroine of the '60s TVshow "Avengers" - submerges herself in the
role of Yvette Guilbert, aturn-of-the-century Parisian cafe-concert
singer, who introduced a fresh wit andwickedness to that genre. If
Guilbert was "immortalized" in a certain mannerby Toulouse-Lautrec's
caricatural portraiture, what Ms. Blackman's performancemade
impressively clear was that Guilbert was a much more rounded
character thanLautrec's fin-de-siecle vision of her suggests.
Blackman's portrayal describes (from her memoirs) Guilbert's rise
frompoverty, her Parisian triumph, her travels, her private-house
performances, herencounters with such diverse figures as Sarah
Bernhardt, George Bernard Shaw,and the Prince of Wales, as well as
her desire to grow out of the low-lifenightclub wit that had given
her songs such spikey popularity, turningdeterminedly to religious
songs and early French folk songs. …