Saturday, August 1, 2009

An orb at the Opera

Have you ever been to an opera by mistake? Come to that, have you ever had a birthday present five months in advance?
Since this week's surprising events, I can answer ‘Yes’ to both those questions.
If you've a moment to spare, you might enjoy this story . . .

I’m very fond of Angela, but even she would agree that her IT skills are spasmodic. Some days everything works perfectly, other days . . . well, this is an entertaining example of what I mean.

Angela had a cousin, a talented musician, who, for many years, performed regularly at Covent Garden. On account of this, she had been privileged to know the Opera House as an insider. She had loved the building, loved going backstage . . . the community had felt part of her family.
When her cousin died, Angela retained her love of The Royal Opera House and, a few weeks ago, having received exciting news from her daughter, felt a need to celebrate. What better form of celebration than a visit to the ballet? She went on-line to book herself a ticket.

As I say, Angela's IT skills are spasmodic. Having, so she thought, booked one ticket for the ballet, it came as a considerable shock when, two days later, two tickets arrived in the post!
It was far too late to do anything about it.
She thought quickly and, soon afterwards, I received a phone call.
"Er . . . look . . . ," she said, "I know that your birthday's still a long way off . . . :
"Yes," I agreed, puzzled.
"I was wondering," said Angela, and it all came out . . . the mistake . . .the two tickets . . .
"It's a ballet," she concluded, "quite short . . . but I think you'd enjoy it . . . I'd love to take you as a sort of birthday present in advance . . .?"
I assured her that, never having been to Covent Garden before, I could think of nothing more enjoyable.

A week later we took the bus to The Strand and wandered happily through the side-streets up to the theatre.
Oh, what an incredible building! Do you know it? It felt a privilege just to be able to wander around inside . . . admiring, marvelling . . . regardless of any performance on offer. We had half-an-hour in hand, and, with considerable pride, Angla took me on an extensive tour.
Finally, a little later than we intended, we reached our seats in the auditorium. The lights were dimming, and the overture was about to start. As we settled down, I gave a quick glance at the programme. It was only then that Angela's spasmodic IT skills became fully apparent!
We weren't about to enjoy a short ballet . . . the pleasure that lay ahead was three hours of Verdi's dramatic opera, 'Un ballo in maschera'!
Angela looked at the programme in bewilderment, "But it was supposed to be the ballet . . . ?" she whispered, "Is this all right for you . . . ?"
The curtains pulled back on the opening scene.
"Wonderful!" I whispered back.
And it was!

I need hardly say that the singing was superb . . . the sets visually stunning . . . the direction highly imaginative. It was wonderful. . . of course it was wonderful . . . it was Covent Garden at its very best.

And a highlight of this totally unexpected, advance birthday treat?
I couldn't share it with the other opera-goers, but I can share it with you.
At the first interval, just after the house lights had gone up, a moment when the sense of heightened excitement was palpable and the packed audience sat back to reflect on all they had heard . . . I took a photo . . .

. . . see for yourself . . . orbs clearly enjoy the atmosphere at Covent Garden!