Opera – Compositions, Conducting & Consumption
The all knowing master of social media Facebook has just reminded me that two years ago today I received a ticket for The Marriage of Figaro.
This news stirred fond recollections of my upbeat mood upon the vouchers receipt twenty four months ago…… After all, you can’t beat a good wedding, can you?
I had chosen to take in this production after relishing my first experience of opera in 2014, when I counted myself among the audience of La Boheme at the Leeds Grand Theatre.
Witnessing La Boheme brought home to me there are a lot of myths surrounding opera. Dissenters claim it is the last bastion of anyone named Tarquin. From my experience, that was nonsense as there were several people with other names like Rupert, Assigna, Crysanth and Gerbera ……. Although, I might be mixing that up with the hardy perennial shrub names I’d earlier seen at the nearby Strikes Garden Centre.
It has to be said that I found this cultural venture cathartic and spiritually thought-provoking. I particularly surprised myself at how well I followed the plot, this despite speaking no Italian.
For those who are unfamiliar with the plot, La Boheme is the everyday tale of boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love; boy forgets lotto scratch card from Sainsburys; girl goes ballistic; boy goes to pub in a huff; girl contracts consumption; boy has no idea what consumption is……. Errr, to be honest I lost track a bit after that!
As I said above, I didn’t know a great deal about opera prior to witnessing La Boheme, apart from knowing that it wasn’t all over until the fat lady sings. That initially confused me as the portly woman adjacent to me in the audience hummed and sang along with the arias from start to finish. As a result, I thought the show was going to conclude at any second.
I learned several useful life lessons during my inaugural journey into the realms of operatic culture. For instance, I now know dressing in fancy dress and standing conducting with a knitting needle during the performance is frowned upon. …… I’m not sure why as I personally don’t see the harm in trying to keep the orchestra in time dressed as Scooby Doo, but point taken.
A few months after watching La Boheme I found myself in the audience of a second opera (La Traviata) at the Leeds Grand Theatre.
To be clear, I hadn’t intended on being in the audience. However, after taking a wrong turn outside of Primark on the Headrow in Leeds, I found myself in the theatres upper balcony ‘oink seats’ surrounded by a busker, a plump lady and a bloke holding a knitting needle dressed in a Scooby Doo outfit.
For those who are unfamiliar with the plot, La Traviata is the everyday tale of boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love; boy forgets lotto scratch card from Sainsburys; girl goes ballistic; boy goes to pub in a huff; girl contracts consumption; boy has no idea what consumption is!……. Errr, to be honest I lost track a bit after that, as well!
When I finally got to see The Marriage of Figaro two years ago it all went swimmingly. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the vows were exchanged…… I suspected it would be a mistake holding the matrimonial ceremony in a Spanish onion storehouse.
It was a joyous Iberian celebration, during which the chubby lady sat next to me was elated to catch the bride’s posy. Although, I suspect the supposed good luck of catching this small bunch of flowers may be negated by her eating them!
She wasn’t the only one upbeat; the habitual Scooby Doo seemed content scoffing the wedding buffet (I’d never seen a buffet with Scooby snacks before), not to mention being allowed to conduct along to Se a caso madama la notte ti chiamain in Act 1.
Thankfully, unlike the other two operas I’d seen, nobody caught consumption during The Marriage of Figaro. Although, the lead tenor did look a bit peaky at the end.
A widely known arias in La Boheme is the stirring ‘Che Gelida Manina’, which roughly translates as ‘Your tiny hand is frozen’. Well, as there is more than my hands frozen on this chilly January morning, I’m off to put the heating on and don my Scooby Doo fancy dress outfit to warm myself up a bit!