Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Friday, 13 March 2015


Music was not abundant in the house where I grew up, nor was it absent. 
What I listened to as a child, before Skiffle and that other Pied Piper, Rock ‘n Roll accompanied me into a decade of blissful teenage angst, was Children’s Favourites on a Saturday morning and the Two Way Family Favourites request programme, both on the wireless, or else my mother singing scraps of songs from an earlier era whilst working in the kitchen.
Occasionally, when the Gramophone was wheeled out, the sublime voices of Kathleen Ferrier, John McCormack or Beniamino Gigli would fill the house: the latter singing in Italian, what I would later discover to be Opera.
In my thirties I began to explore that strange world of opera, where larger-than-life characters found themselves in implausible situations that always ended badly, and sang rather than spoke to one another.
I discovered that it wasn’t necessary to understand a foreign language to enjoy this emotional extravaganza: instead it was a rather a matter of tapping into the fierce passion of the music.
Giocomo Puccini (above) was an Italian composer who created some of the most memorable music of his age: music that has outlived him and flourishes today in performances of La Boheme, Turandot, Tosca and Madama Butterfly
Whilst he is but one of the many musical giants whose works transcend time and space, he is my favourite.
I had the good fortune to visit Puccini’s house, at Corte San Lorenzo in the beautiful city of Lucca in Italy, a few years ago and to see and touch the piano on which he created many of his masterpieces. 
The following poem references both Puccini and Beniamino Gigli, that amazing tenor voice from my childhood. 
The aria, Nessun Dorma, from the opera Turandot, is best known as the musical signature of one of the Twentieth Century’s greatest singers, Luciano Pavarotti, but Gigli’s earlier Gramophone version, recorded on rather crackly shellac, is the one for me.  


In silhouette, against the moon,
church spire and tree-tops are coal-black.
A needle scratches on shellac
to play an operatic tune.

It fills the room, this conjured genie, 
with gladness, irrepressible:
a miracle accessible.
The tenor, Gigli, sings Puccini.

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