A Tour through the World's Art Edinburgh Festival Draws Host of International Musicians, Actors, Anddancers

By Christopher Andreae, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 4, 1990 | Go to article overview

A Tour through the World's Art Edinburgh Festival Draws Host of International Musicians, Actors, Anddancers


Christopher Andreae, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


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 democratized country.

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. …

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