Ralph Oswick: Scarlatti fever made the news across Europe
Relax everyone, Christmas isn’t cancelled. I’m pleased, nay relieved to say that after two weeks of living on nothing but lettuce leaves and prosecco my Lady Margaret Christmas frock now fits perfectly and the grande dame will be on hand to declare the Widcombe festivities well and truly switched on at the end of the month. I hear a choir and an al fresco carol service have been added to the list of seasonal activities! Mind you, no real panic as I have a bevy of other ex-natural Theatre characters lurking under my bed, including a very fine baroque outfit in gold brocade formerly sported by Domenico Scarlatti no less. Who he you ask? Well, he was the forgotten composer who made up the trio with Bach and Handel as being born in the same year, 1685. Despite nigh on 1,400 performances of our hit shows about the three maestros, poor old Domenico has once again been relegated to the obscurity of occasional exposure on Radio 3 in the middle of the night, so I have renamed the character. You’ve heard of Beau Nash and Beau Brummel? So please meet Beau Legges, he of the towering wig and the positively rococo gait. I’m sure he could have done a real fancy job of cutting the ribbon at Widcombe. Nobody minds a beau with a few bursting buttons on his tunic. And what with my gouty knees, I’m perfectly fitted for the part. Scarlatti was revived briefly last year as a meeter and greeter at the 200th anniversary celebrations for Hamburg’s St Pauli Theatre. The venue is being restored so the event was held in the Brahms Suite in the city’s splendid concert hall and although the Scarlatti shows were probably the historic theatre’s most successful productions throughout the 80s and 90s, most people thought I was supposed to be flipping Brahms. Even though there was a vast and very ugly statue of that particular fellow in the middle of the room showing him wearing a beard. Brahms is depicted surrounded by naked muses of both sexes (!) but when I pointed to one of the peachiest pairs of marble buttocks and claimed it was me, it raised nary a flicker of Teutonic amusement amongst the assembled glitterati. Oh dear, I used to be able to make Germans laugh. At the height of Scarlatti-fever our cast was invited to appear at a Eurovision gala presented in another fabulous historic venue, the Cuvillies Theatre in Munich’s Residenz Palace. The surrounding square was crammed with outside broadcast units from as far away as Israel and Jordan. Due to overrunning, the producers kept cutting my speech, which preceded the show’s closing titles. Seeing I was miffed, the soundman who happened to be English whispered into my earpiece ‘It’s live telly mate, just keep talking!’ So I rattled on regardless, even though the director was making frantic cutting motions. And thus the evening news throughout Europe and beyond was delayed for little old me!