Drama on 3 on BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3, 19 May 2013
Richard Wagner (Kenneth Cranham)
and Giuseppe Verdi (Paul Rhys) never met in real life, even though they developed a healthy disrespect for one another.
Guy Meredith's play took as its basic premise the fact that Wagner had passed away, while Verdi continued to pursue an artistically
successful career, writing phenomenally popular works such as Aida and Rigoletto. Verdi and Wagner
ended up talking to one another through their imaginations - comparing notes as to their reputation, musical ability, careers,
and so on.
play explored the profession of composer during the late nineteenth century; while both Verdi and Wagner were celebrities
in their own way, drawing the best conductors, lyricists and other musical personnel into their orbit, they did not necessarily
live prosperous lives. While Verdi made so much money that he was able to buy up the village in which he grew up, Wagner
lived in poverty, an experience he believed made him a more 'truthful' composer. Verdi countered by accusing Wagner
of living in a fantasy-world of gods and myths rather than focusing on everyday realities.
In essence, One Winter's Afternoon,
was a two-character play, a gift for two talented actors. Cranham's bluff, no-nonsense Wagner was contrasted with the
more fastidious, highly-strung Verdi of Rhys; in Cherry Cookson's production, they were so dissimilar in terms of personality
that it was inevitable they would never agree. On the other hand, both composers were strangely alike in terms of their
outlook on life: dedicated to their art, they often paid little or no attention to their loved ones. With a supporting
cast of reliable voices, notably Clive Merrison as Ricordi, and Nicholas Boulton as Boito, One Winter's Afternoon
proved highly entertaining.