Following an afternoon in the office yesterday, I drove to Penarth for another evening of Chi Gung followed by Tai Chi. In the second session an experienced group went through the full short form and I joined them. It's the first time I've attempted playing the form in full for about five years. I only managed about a third of it before my body memory for the patterns began to break up, and I was reduced to watching and try to copy familiar movements, but not adequately retained. I enjoyed doing it too much to feel frustrated by failure.
Christie our teacher always exhorts me not to let my mind get in the way. Of this I was guilty in times past, but I do believe that I'm more in tune with letting my body remember, and building on the recognition of when positions and moves feel right. This doesn't stop me wanting to think and write about the value and inner meaning of Tai Chi in a western context, but this will take time and a different context. First things first: re-engage fully in physical apprenticeship to form and movement. The more the body benefits, the more mental activity takes on a better quality, and the writing more worthwhile.
By the time I arrived home, Eddie and Ann had arrived after a long journey all the way from Felixstowe, for a long weekend including the opera. They arrived later than expected and the meal had only just started, so it was good we were all able to eat together and then talk until very late.
After a late breakfast, we all walked the Taff Trail, as far as the Melingriffith Water Pump. This visit, I was able to take photographs before the local shuttle bus arrived to take us into Whitchurch village for a bus into town. We stopped off at the Royal Welsh College both to show Eddie and Ann Cardiff's latest architectural triumph, and have a light lunch before a pre-operatic siesta. Not that I managed a snooze. I realised I'd forgotten to re-tax the car, and had to go back into the main Post Office to do this. Fortunately the queues were short and I was back within the hour.
The WNO's production of Mozart's 'Don Giovanni' was magnificent. Outstanding singing all round, and an amazing set, baroque bar relief decoration, with all the scenery and backdrop painted black, made visible by changes in lighting colour. It was built from a series of movable modules, deployed to create the variety of scenes against which the action took place.
I was struck at the characterisation of Don Giovanni in the libretto as an amoral psychopath. It's the conquest of seduction that enthralls him rather than the acquisition of lascivious pleasure. It's the exercise of power without scruple or sensitivity. He faces his damnation with bold indifference, like dictator or a Balkan warlord on trial for crimes against humanity. The opera's commentators observe that it was written following a time of enlightenment liberalisation in the Hapsburg empire. Some perceived this as failing to achieve its humane goals. Mozart, despite his naughty youthful reputation was in this opera speaking up for a return to values and behavior based on traditional religious teaching. Quite an interesting perspective for our times, I think.