To the Royal Opera House tonight - not for the obvious, but for one of the ROH's occasional 'In Conversation' events. In this one, Independent critic Edward Seckerson grilled one of my very favourite conductors, Sir Colin Davis. Or rather, basted him tenderly with unction and vaguely turned the heat up for a couple of brief moments. Seckerson's interview approach - mostly, expressing his opinions and then inviting Sir C to agree - was never going to make for many shocks.
But it was sporadically revealing all the same. Beneath the snowy bouffant, Sir C's expressive eyebrows mischievously disclosed what discretion otherwise forbade. Unfortunately, though he teasingly touched on the difficulties of working with star singers, he was smart enough not to expand, nor (heaven forfend), name names.
He did find time though to vent on the subjects of Shostakovich ("circus music") and historically authentic performance ("waste of time", "interesting for about ten minutes", the last resort of "the emotionally bankrupt), neither of which it's hard to disagree with. And he raised a laugh when he revealed how he once snuck an errant D into the famous final C minor chord of the Matthäuspassion - and nobody noticed. (His eyebrows meanwhile hinted that he does far more of this sort of thing than he was about to let on in public - I sense a tale awaiting the telling there.)
The interspersed musical extracts brought home how many truly great recordings he has made - and a surprising number of them relatively recently too.
I haven't been to one of these open interviews before. I'd always thought they must be a waste of time and money, something you could just as easily get on Radio 3, or by googling. But Sir C is a physical communicator not a verbal one, as all conductors must be, and this format produces something beyond mere chat.
I was looking for some Sir C on YouTube, and I came across this utterly magical Nuits d'Été from 1972 - Janet Baker on Danish TV. Sir C is only peripherally involved here - credited as adviser - but it's Berlioz done very much his way, if a tad slower than he might take it.
Here is Le spectre de la rose:
and the other songs in the cycle are here:
Villanelle (this one is a bit scratchy)
Can any of the forthcoming handful of Nuits d'Été performances possibly match up to that? I'm going for Violetta Urmana at the Munich Opera Festival on 26 July and Toby Spence at the Edinburgh Festival on 14 August , sadly doing without Anne Sophie von Otter at the Proms on 29 July - but I suspect Janet Baker's crown will remain secure.