The silent type
I HAVE always fancied being taciturn - in vain, clearly, since
otherwise it would be fact, not fantasy. Instead, it all just comes
gushing out of me, and, as I have lived around Lancastrians and
Italians most of my life, it is usually accompanied by
Oh, to bridle my tongue and to sit on my hands! It could almost
be a late Lenten project. My models would be the characters
portrayed recently by Gillian Anderson in The Fall and
Mark Rylance in Wolf Hall. Dramatising myself, I see the
long shot leisurely moving in to my close-up, my thought processes
visible to the audience, before, with a last, self-indulgent
hesitation, I drawl the fewest words necessary for
Or how I long to be like Noel Gallagher's outrageously
world-weary self-portrait in the video of High Flying Birds' "The
Ballad of the Mighty I". (By this, Gallagher has finally displaced
Morrissey in my Mancunian affections.) But no. Far from the
brooding silence, the contained gesture, I cannot shut up, always
racing on to fill gaps, cover silences, and disallow the emergence
of space for breathing, thinking, praying, being.
Undeniably, then, more akin to Milton's L'Allegro than
Il Penseroso, it will be a work "against nature" if I
adopt this discipline at the eleventh hour.
Fair to middling
YEARS ago, I much enjoyed the Mark Morris Dance Group's
performance of Handel's setting of the Milton character poems, at
the Coliseum. Interpolated there are verses by the Revd Charles
Jennens, compiler of the text of Messiah, to produce
Il Moderato, an arguably necessary addition aimed at
producing a viable dramatic structure for what otherwise would have
presented badly oppositional characters with no sense of
Shame about the poetry, though; Milton it isn't, even if the
Milton itself is hardly his most sophisticated. This is
Come, with native Lustre shine,
Moderation, Grace Divine;
Whom the wise God of Nature gave
Mad Mortals from themselves to save.
Keep, as of old, the Middle-way,
Nor deeply sad, nor idly gay,
But still the same in Look and Gaite,
Easy, chearful, and sedate.
Cheerfulness is a real virtue - possibly even easiness -
but few would currently recommend sedateness. I am not, therefore,
al' Anglicane, going to aspire to moderation, but stick to
my quest for the truly phlegmatic.
RARELY has such a torpor overcome me as when the Oxford
University Opera Society performed Purcell's The Indian
Queen. Of course, the musical interludes are what they are:
divinely Purcell; but the dramatic text - Betterton's reworking of
Dryden's 1664 tragedy of that name - is stultifying.
Sitting in the stalls at the Oxford Playhouse, I began to think
that I had lost my ability to move. As much as I willed to leave,
somehow I could not. It was mind-bendingly boring: the plot, a
sub-classical Racine-like showdown (slowdown?) between various
princely Incas and Aztecs, remains for me the epitome of
I was pleased, therefore, to read that the current ENO
production (previously seen in the extremities of Perm and Madrid)
jettisoned the entire text to replace it with a story devised by
the director, Peter Sellars, and based on the Spanish
Spectators have thus been saved a torture (and been provided
with a joy, by all accounts) - unless they are seeking an imposed
melancholy contrary to type. Copies of the original play are
available - if there are any masochists out there.
THE late Anglo-Catholic Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, was
from Lincolnshire, as witnessed by a chapter in his autobiography
Shy But Not Retiring: "A Lincolnshire 'Yellow-Belly'". He
was well-known as falling into the category "penseroso". I
once sat next to him, both of us in mufti, at Sellar's production
of Paul Hindemith's opera Mathis der Maler.
I reminded him of a previous meeting when I had been studying in
Rome, and he was visiting the city as chairman of the Anglican
Centre's governors. Of course, I didn't fail to genuflect and kiss
his proffered ring, even in the confines of the ROH Covent Garden's
Upper Circle (Right). The eyes of the woman sitting on my other
side went out on stalks.
The Ven. Jonathan Boardman is the Archdeacon of Italy and
Malta, and Chaplain of All Saints', Rome.