Monday 20 October 2014

Things I learnt over the weekend

Early Muslims including the so-called 'righteous Caliphs' who are recorded, in chronicles written centuries after the event, as having succeeded Mohamed, were presumably what we would now call Islamists, but Charlemagne, Charles Martel and other Christian kings also used the sword to convert pagans to Christianity. There was not much difference in their methods.

Mohamed's wives were older women whom he married for political reasons, with the exception of Ayesha, who was nine or ten, according to the (unreliable) Muslim sources, when she married him. But this if true did not make him unusual. Other men of the age married pubescent girls. A thousand years later men were still marrying very young girls. King James II, the last Catholic King of England, Scotland and Ireland, married his second wife, Mary of Modena, when he was 39 and she just 15. She was 'tall and admirably shaped', he scarred by smallpox and afflicted with a stutter. For some time she burst into tears whenever she met him.

Jean Marie Le Pen did not borrow the name for the Front National from the British National Front, as I have read many times, but from the organisation that supported a pre-war dictator of Brazil. I am not sure if this is better or worse than the story I knew but it is different.

I heard my first Hayden opera when I attended the one night only production at the Hackney Empire of Life On the Moon, an opera based on a farce by Goldoni and produced by Cal McCrystal, who is or was Physical Comedy Director of the National Theatre's One Man, Two Guvnors , an adaptation of another Goldoni play. The evening was utterly charming, the music ditto, but one expected the music which is very Mozartian to soar and it never did. 

Rupert Christiansen is not miles out when he says

If all you want from opera is sugar-coated alcohol-free entertainment that makes no demands of your intelligence or sensibility, then I can sincerely recommend this well-cooked show. The rest of us would be better off sweeping up autumn leaves.

Still it was a very charming silly fairy story and I love fairy stories. The Guardian man liked it a lot. Do go if it comes to your town.

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