Festival Sunday

It is easy to become blasé about the beautiful buildings and countryside than surround us, living as we do in Buxton, to focus on the things that go wrong, the things that don’t happen.

Having a visitor to stay can help you to see things differently. Whether it was sipping Proseco outside the Opera house on Saturday evening, or appreciating the landscape of Green Fairfield on a grey drizzly Saturday afternoon.

We are very fortunate to live where we do.

For the next three weeks the Buxton Festival and Fringe festival are in town. The beautiful surroundings play host to music, song, words, pictures and film in a cultural extravaganza.

On Saturday evening we went to the Opera to see Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi. The Opera House is itself a gem. Beautifully restored, it is a tribute to the individuals and other voluntary groups that fought to save it and had the foresight to start the festival some thirty years ago.

The performance was one of the best that I have seen at the Festival. Perhaps Mozart’s Mitridate, re di Ponto would, in a run off just pip it, but everything about it, the staging, the singing, the Orchestra were a triumph of interpretation, professionalism and love.

My friend had to catch a train on Sunday lunchtime, so once we had said our goodbye’s and I had returned Lilly the Collie home to relax on my bed, I made my way to the Pavilion Arts Centre for a talk by David Crystal on ‘How Shakespeare was Pronounced’. Crystal is a great speaker as well as a brilliant academic and it was fascinating to hear his wife Hilary read passages in Received Pronunciation, correct, clear and reminiscent of the BBC in the fifties. Then David Crystal delivered the same passage, but in Original Pronunciation, with a distinctly West Country, Welsh, Lancastrian and Yorkshire burr. At first disconcerting, but as one listened and tuned into the accent then the words made more sense and came alive.

Fascinating and entertaining, but how did he know, how do we know, that that is how they spoke?

An academic detective story pieces together the picture.

Rhymes that did not work, provided clues, and there were over twenty contemporary guides that were written on pronunciation which further helped.

And then of course there were the puns.

“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,

A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.”

The word ‘loins’ would originally have been pronounced the same as ‘lines’. So this refers to the families of the two lovers as well of course to their physical relationship.

And from Troilus and Cressida;

Thersites: “But yet you look not well upon him; for, whomsoever you take him to be, he is Ajax.”

In received pronunciation this makes little sense. But the insult here is that Ajax would have beeb pronounced ‘a jakes.’ In Elizabethan times a jakes was a shithouse. You get the point.

And as your ear tunes into the accent, the words come alive and seem more potent, more powerful than before. Which of course they should do as they are now at home, spoken as they should be.

Accents are important, they express identity, they show who we are, they distinguish us from our neighbours and they provide a richness to the language that conformity and correctness cannot. Shakespeare cannot be properly understood and appreciated unless it is spoken as it was intended.

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