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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Alan Frost: Where’s the beef?

I spent most of February in Indochina where musical experiences were confined to odd snatches of local dancing or singing. But culture was all around me in countless breathtaking temples, including Angkor Wat. Thousands of years of history have led to a beautiful and stolid stoicism that enabled this part of the world to endure the vicissitudes of the modern day.

Anecdotal evidence seemed to suggest that human mortality rates, especially in Laos and Cambodia, are at a level last seen in the UK in the early 20th century. The fauna fare no better and apparently there are few mammals and birds in Vietnam roaming free as they have all been eaten by the locals during and since the ‘American War.’ In the absence of refrigeration, markets are busy and well used. The answer to the question “where’s the beef?” lies on the back of a motorised scooter. There’s no place for old men or vegetarians.

Back in Bournemouth, the Orchestra’s new charismatic principal conductor, Kirill Karabits, has already moved hearts and minds and the audience adores him. He has journeyed from the shadow of Mussorgsky’s Bare Mountain near Kiev in the Ukraine to the sandbanks of Poole. A performance of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony was scintillating and the energy of the last movement was truly breathtaking.

According to an insider, Kirill himself thought of it as his best ever performance of the work — and that’s what live performance is about. To capture a moment in time that has never been nor will ever By coincidence, a week later in Munich I saw a ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony. I really do not enjoy ballet as much as opera, though; I don’t understand the intricacy of the steps and don’t feel as involved as I do in opera. There’s also that smugness that the dancers have, especially at curtain call. At operas, divas often aim for a little modesty as they accept the plaudits, but male dancers never let you forget how clever they are.

The opening piece in Munich was Schéhérazade with Fokine’s choreography and a copy of the original set and costume design from 1910. I do love this music, but I was bored. This is my own fault, probably, but a hundred years on and it no longer cuts the mustard.

Next was Poulenc’s Les Biches with Bronislava Nijinska’s choreography. This was better. The music was fresh and inventive, the action subtly erotic, the setting evidently the Côte d’Azur, the men and women so, erm, French. But it was that fi nal piece set to the Pathétique that crowned the evening. Called Once Upon An Ever After, it was a nod towards classical ballet by a modern Australian choreographer, Terence Kohler, and was a conflation of Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Giselle. It was funny, exhilarating and occasionally outrageous — the swans battle with the Wilis! The third movement was a showpiece for the corps de ballet, which was both majestic and riveting.

Not having written on these pages for a while, I’ve had no opportunity to extol the New York Met’s live broadcasts that, in the absence of anything watchable on mainstream television, have become important Saturday events for me. They broadcast live in over 40 countries and to over 40 venues in the UK, with 11 venues in London alone.

My local is the Regent Centre in Christchurch, a gem of an Art Deco cinema come again. now run by a Trust. In January 2008 the 18.00 Saturday audience filled about a third of the theatre. Two years later, people were queuing for return tickets for Carmen. It’s a great experience and I can heartily recommend it. Made possible by HD, it’s a great boon to provincial opera lovers. Next season will include Bryn Terfel singing in the Met’s Ring Cycle. There’s a treat in store!

Recommended film
The Band’s Visit
A film that passed many people by at the cinema, The Band’s Visit is a wonderful tale of an Egyptian police band who head to Israel to play at the opening ceremony of an Arab arts centre, only to find themselves lost in the wrong town. It’s a story all about how none of us is really that different. In particular, the roller-disco scene is a joy to watch.

Client entertaining
Chess-boxing Chess-boxing sounds something of an oxymoron, but a gladiatorial battle of alternative rounds of chess and boxing is a real spectacle. The winner of the bout is the first to either attain check-mate or knock the other contestant out. On my visit, one combatant accidentally left his queen hopelessly exposed and the crowd were baying for blood.

Visit the World Chess Boxing Organisation at www.wcbo.org for details of the next event.