Earworms are funny things. What causes a particular passage of music to stick in one’s mind almost obsessively? I’m thinking about this now because I’ve seen two operas twice in the last couple of weeks and one is filling my waking moments with highly detailed flashbacks. It’s not just tunes. I’m hearing the orchestration and the inflexion of the words. And it’s not the odd tune here and there. It’s great long passages and many of them. The other, although I would recognise most every phrase on hearing it, is not doing that at all. Here’s the odd thing. The one that’s leaving no impression at all is number three world wide in terms of number of performances(1) and is, of course, Puccini’s La Bohème. The one I can’t get out of my head is far down the list at number 88 and it’s Britten’s Peter Grimes (and note that it’s the Britten centenary).
Know I have to ponder whether there is any connection between this and the fact that while all the cheap seats for Peter Grimes seem to sell out, the boxes on fat cat row are half empty.