It's fair to say I will never be Peter McCallum. Peter McCallum, who not only wrestles the hugeness of the Bliss experience into 472 words, but does so quickly enough for the review to appear within 12 hours of the standing ovations it recounts. Speed and conciseness, funnily enough, were my claims to fame during high school and university. Nowadays, though, when I'm writing about opera, instead of thrusting a Marxist analysis upon poor Heathcliff (not my idea) or working Catherine Deneuve into yet another French writing assignment (that was my idea), everything seems to stretch out and complicate itself.
The first person pronoun may never make an appearance, but my reviews are nevertheless very personal pieces of writing, and as such, much harder than academic discussion to extract from my temple and arrange on the virtual page. I always hope that while I sleep, elves will do the work for me, but this never happens. It is always a challenge.
And the greater the experience, the greater the challenge, which is why reviewing Bliss this weekend proved somewhat harrowing. Normal sleep patterns were abandoned, copious Coke Zero was consumed, frustration at the futility of words in the face of music was expressed on several occasions, and the passive voice, as you see, was not always conquered. In the end, I got there. I inevitably do, but at the outset — as I stare at the screen, hoping to snatch from the air an introductory thought with paragraph potential — completion doesn't feel very inevitable at all.
Why I am I telling you all this? I'm telling you because, having just drained myself of description, praise and analysis for this strange and wonderful work with which I might just be falling in love, there's no way I can do it again so soon — and even if I were up to it, I don't think it's the best idea. I'm about to go on a journey with Bliss. I've booked for every performance. And since I've almost never attended a second — or tenth — performance of any opera without wishing to amend my initial review, it's reasonable to assume that Bliss, which is so new, so toweringly complex and which has so many directions in which to develop, will elicit a fair few words from me over the next three weeks.
So that's how I'm going to blog Bliss. Not as one big capital-R Review, trailing addenda, but as all the words — however long, and whatever their shape — this season sends spinning out of me. I hope you'll join me for the ride, both here in computerland and above all in the theatre. To quote Amanda Holden's libretto, there is massive turbulence ahead. But it's gorgeous, thrilling turbulence, and I plan to revel in its every tremor. If I can't do that in 472 words, then so be it.