Only a few days past Valentine, but still in a romantic mood, a few of my friends and I met at a small theatre, mainly run by volunteers. The New European Ensemble would play pieces by Franz Schubert. Actor Alexander Oliver would recite poems by John Keats.
It has become a kind of regular experience. Though with theatre Branoul in its “make or break” year, it’s not clear if these monthly literary salons will continue next year. Branoul is one of many tiny theatres, theatre companies, events, orchestras, museums and other cultural initiatives and organisations in Europe which try to survive in an environment, highly hostile to culture.
At a quarter to eight, I worried. Usually, by that time there is hardly space left to hang one’s coat. People wait in the corridor for doors to open. Now, the corridor was nearly empty. Fortunately, once inside, it turned out my friends even had had problems reserving a seat for me.
After a few words of welcome by one of the members of the European Ensemble, the evening started. “This Living Hand” and “Ode on Melancholy” were perfectly recited by Alexander Oliver. My guests were extremely impressed with Stefan Petroviç’ interpretation of Franz Schubert’s Impromptu D. 935/1.
“Ode to Psyche” and the first part of Schubert’s piano Trio nr 1 followed. One or two times, in the higher region, the violin sounded a bit harsh, but “Ode to a Nightingale” made the audience forget all. “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, “On the Sea”, my preferred “To Autumn”, and “Bright Star” in combination with the other parts of Schubert’s Piano Trio all ensured it was an evening to remember – and remember for a very long time.
I had either forgotten it, or it just had not struck me until mr Oliver recited this selection of Keat’s poetry. There are so many links and images related to death in his poetry. Not only in “Ode to a Nightingale”, but many others as well. Of course, there is a great difference in reading poetry and hearing it read out loud by an expert. So perhaps, it was mr Oliver’s feeling recital which brought this out.
Schubert’s piano trio is also full of emotions. At times, there seems to be a frenzy of life which alternates with a kind of acceptance, harmony, melancholy. Of course, both Keats and Schubert died very young. So combining this poetry and music from a romantic age, was a perfect choice.
After the rondo of the piano trio, which finished this performance, stamping feet and standing ovations for the actor and musicians made clear how well the audience had enjoyed this performance. As usual, it was followed by drinks and chats in the tiny corridor of this theatre.
On Tuesday 24th of March, there will be a recital of poems by Leonard Cohen interlaced with music by Ravel and other composers. Click here for the website of Theatre Branoul (in Dutch). To reserve free ticket(s) for the literary Salon Branoul evenings, you can click here for the website of the New European Ensemble.
There are several websites where you can read “Ode to a Nightingale” and other poems by John Keats. This link to Wikipedia gives the historical background, analysis, poem, and more.