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  Maxwell Davies to write opera about MPs' expenses  CT News at 07:50 on 23 June 2009

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies has disclosed today that he is writing a comic opera about the MPs' expenses scandal, which may feature duck houses and moats.

  Re: Maxwell Davies to write opera about MPs` expenses  MartinY at 09:59 on 23 June 2009

Splendid. I was surprised to hear last night the new speaker use the term "feathering their nests".

I would have thought after the duck house business feathers would be a forbidden word in the House of Commons.

  Re: Maxwell Davies to write opera about MPs` expenses  Misuc at 14:50 on 27 June 2009

Sir Max is an intriguing and complex person. His attitude to the 'establishment' is equivocal. I knew him at a time when he a] refused to take an interest in politics, one way or the other b] maintained he would only enter the Royal Opera House as composer of an opera spectacle: 'Nero' which would end up with the opera house going up in flames c]never listened to music of the classical period d]confessed to a dread of ending up like other British composers, soaked up by the establishment with a line of over-long cosy, conformist and sentimental symphonies to their name. [Vaughan Williams was the particular bug-bear].

Nobody imagined that he would start writing symphonies! Be offered a knighthood? Accept it? Become Master of the Queen's Music? Oppose the Iraq war? etc.

I quite like the idea of a comic opera from him about MPs' expenses etc. but I don't expect it to be very funny. His humour, like other aspects of his character is very crude and schoolboy-ish. And don't forget that his position is paid for out of taxpayers' money from the expenses given to a much. much bigger racketeer than all the MPs put together - perhaps even the bankers!

Read this:

"....people are angry that elected officials are pissing away their money on tampons and islands for ducks. But what of our unelected officials? The Monarchy was given, with no expenses regulation, 40 million pounds last year of our money. This is a institution that has 7 billion in assets (mostly land) that it has managed to plunder from us since 1066. This surely dwarfs the amount MPs have stolen from us. Prince Andrew spent 30,000 of taxpayers money helicopter flights around golf courses on a recent holiday, which was also tax payer funded. Was he sacked? No.

The great thing about MPs is at least we can vote them out. This is not true of the monarchy. They would receive these unearnt salaries even if they do no charity work or foreign visits (holidays).....

Sir Max thanks the Daily Telegraph for revealing the MPs' expenses story but remains blissfully unaware of the company hi is mixing with. He ignores, for example, what the Daily Telegraph's owners did earlier this year. They own most of the Isle of Sark. Until this year this British Island had its own feudal regime. There was no right to vote. The democratic revolution came to the island this year two hundred years after the event.

Here is a description of what took place after that:

"...For a few precious hours there was a sense of jubilation and victory on Sark yesterday as, on a bright blue day, the tiny Channel island celebrated its first democratic election after 150 years of feudal rule.

But joy turned to despair for many, and uncertainty for all, when the Barclay brothers, owners of the Telegraph and the Ritz hotel, reacted to their disappointment at failing to get their chosen candidates elected by announcing they were ceasing their multimillion-pound operation on the island and laying off 140 workers.

Last night two hotels, shops, and at least one restaurant owned by the brothers, who live in a castle on a neighbouring island, were being closed. The brothers' building work on Sark also ceased...."

Max may be naive to the point of foolishness, but nothing will cool his burning sincerity. His comparatively late discovery of the classics and his mellowing 'neo-tonality' for me give his music a new maturity. His personal utterances come across often as precious but his overt political engagement goes beyond the platitudinous generalities of most. Old men can learn wisdom.

Here is a bit of an interview he gave when first appointed to the Royal position:

"......His reaction to the job offer that came from Buckingham Palace: "I've never been more surprised in my life. I'm not a republican, but I have in the past expressed certain opinions about the Royal Family, saying it would be a very good thing if they showed more interest in the arts." The Queen, he adds, is now willing to go along with that.

When I point out that she never goes to concerts, he chuckles: "We're going to change that! She said to me categorically, 'Philip and I are interested in music, and we've had this terrible press. We are not philistines.' And I can confirm that she is not." So what music does she like? "She has her opinions, and I'm not going to say what they are."

When first appointed as the palace's musical Master, he announced that his aim would be to raise the profile of serious new music, but now he qualifies that as taking "music in general' to a wide audience. "It's a direct challenge, and I will try to rise to it usefully."

As it happens, "useful" was Benjamin Britten's favourite word for what he wanted his music to be, and as Britten helped the young Maxwell Davies to get a publisher, the echo is appropriate. "But I could come a cropper. I've not done it yet." True - we still await fruit from this particular tree. When shall we see it? "Quite soon, but the Buckingham Palace press office will want to make their own announcement."

Then Max hints at what he may do for the 60th anniversary of the Second World War armistice: "I've been to Kneller Hall [the Royal Military School of Music], and thoroughly enjoyed what I found there. Military-band music has its own rules and regulations, it exists in its own enclosed musical world. It's a bit of history which has crystallised, but it's still producing lively pieces. I didn't know how those marches are constructed, * * I didn't know about their melodies and countermelodies, but I'm now a bit richer for knowing them." He thinks that his delight at seeing an amateur production of The Gondoliers when he was four - which first spurred him to improvise - has some echo in this enclosed musical world, and in his "completely childlike reaction" to its ebullient charm.

Yet this is a man who carried a banner on the great London march against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. How does he relate to the political establishment, as opposed to the royal one? "That's a very good question, because the royal establishment stands independently of the political one - and Iraq has widened the gulf between them. For me, the invasion and occupation was a personal disaster: I can't vote for any of the three main parties now. The Liberal Democrats didn't support the war, but they went along with the Army, and when the British Army is doing something as stupid, brutal and illegal as that, you have to qualify it, whatever your desire to support our boys. You just don't go along with it. I voted twice for Blair, and one just feels very dirty having done that. One can't trust those people now."

But doesn't his official position mean that he has to deal with them? "Of course I have to deal with them - politely, in the course of this job. I shall try to use them for whatever one can get out of them, in terms of culture. But, you know, they are tarnished people, and they certainly do not represent me on any level whatever."

And when they are re-elected, and America invades Iran? "Then I will go on protesting. And if they say that you can't take that position and still be Master of the Queen's Music, so be it!" For the first time in centuries, this honorary post is starting to look significant....."


PS I missed the Guardian interview link on this page. I think he emerges more sincere and balanced than he has ever done before. This bodes well for his opera.


PS I missed the Guardian interview link on this page. Now I have read it I think he emerges more sincere and balanced than he has ever done before. This bodes well for his opera.