Grange Park Opera Interim Season
Simon Keenlyside: An Autumn Walk in Wales (available online)

 

Context is all, says Simon Keenlyside, as for the second time this year he delivers a musical tour of his own personal context – the woods around his Welsh home.

As part of Grange Park Opera’s lockdown delights, Keenlyside regaled us with blossom, birdsong and folk melody in spring.

His autumn walk is a more melancholic joy, if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

In the lockdown context, we understand anew that Schubert’s Auf der Bruck doesn’t just express the anguish of the absence of a physical lover, says Keenlyside, but of the lack of something equally central – music and, in his case, performance.

Keenlyside’s loss is to an extent our gain, as we get another taste of the rare combination of the talents of a world-class baritone who, in common with the Lieder composers, has a deep affinity for nature.

It makes him the ideal companion for a foraging stroll as he delivers a lesson in the potentially lethal subtle differences between edible and non-edible fungi and all the lore that surrounds them to the accompaniment of Romantic music of longing.

Did you know, for instance, that the red and white magic mushrooms – otherwise known as amanita muscaria, or the fly agaric or fly amanita – are not poisonous to reindeer, which eat them and produce hallucinogenic urine, drunk by Nordic people to get high?

Possibly, the practice drove the Viking marauders berserk – to use a word that entered the English language from Old Norse.

Ink caps had a more worthy use, providing medieval scribes with ink.  They are also edible but poisonous if combined with alcohol – and that includes alcohol drunk days after they are eaten.  The Viking marauders would have done well to refrain.

Barbara Lewis ©2020.

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