Saturday, 5 January 2013

Schubert, Bellini and The Young Victoria

It is not quite time for the start of term yet, so no teaching on which to report, however I was watching a lovely film this evening, a modern 2007 film called The Young Victoria. It was a period drama done wonderfully well and with such minute attention to detail, even down to the exact German accents of Prince Albert and his brother. Often I watch period dramas, which I love, but get just a little disillusioned with the less than accurate use of music. However this particular celluloid wonder was threaded through with gorgeous music of the late classical and early romantic eras.

I did not realise that Schubert was one of Prince Albert's favourite composers, and he gave a handwritten score of Schubert's Standchen to the young Queen Victoria, as a lovers gift, and all through the film there was a delicate background sound scape of so many Schubert songs it painted a perfect picture of the time.

It seems the young Queen herself was particularly fond of early romantic Italian opera, especially Bellini, and most especially ' I Puritani '. Apparently her dictator mother was so rigid that only opera and ballet were allowed as 'entertainment', even given the sometimes unsavoury stories of opera plots! There was a delightful scene with the actress Emily Blunt, who was Victoria, silently mouthing the words to one of the arias, totally gripped by the music.

Given the tight rein by which she was tied during her childhood, I imagine the opportunity to immerse herself in a fantasy story, combined with beautiful bel canto arias, made opera something of a royal life saver.

Anyhow, I thoroughly recommend the film, not solely because of the luscious musical score, but because it is a delightful 'watch'. Quite apart from the human story, Victoria was the doting owner of a splendid King Charles Cavalier called Dash. This immediately means we have an across the centuries rapport ! Her Dash is my Gretel !

I shall never hear 'Standchen' again with quite the same pair of ears!

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