Monday, March 19, 2007

I'm Starting To Think That 'Opera' Is A Euphemism For 'Getting Drunk'

I'm Starting To Think That 'Opera' Is A Euphemism For 'Getting Drunk'

Dean leads us into the room where a small group of people have already assembled themselves and takes us to seats three rows from the front. The fact that I can say with absolute certainty that I am the second youngest person in the room probably points to its general demographic. That the reason we are in the room is for a pre-show talk on Opera North's The Elixir of Love would also be a pointer.

We sit down, my unease growing, before Dean excuses himself.

I turn to History Boy who, whilst he undoubtedly qualifies as an Opera Buff, seems to be as bemused as me as to why we're sat here rather than in a bar.

"I don't even have my music with me to listen to!"

I shoot it out, trying to keep control of my volume switch. It's a good job I've only had one (double) riccardi so far.

"I've got To the Lighthouse on my iPod if you want to listen to that" he smiles.

If there is a moment in conversation that I would like to hit the pause button then this would be it. To the Lighthouse. On his iPod. I'm sure it's not something to brag about at parties but I can't hide my obvious enthusiasm: I'm beyond impressed. Should you not be aware I am so obsessed with Ginny that she is the wallpaper on my mobile. So Ginny on an iPod - beyond exciting.

Obviously I should say something witty or profound to this revelation.

"You've got Ginny Woolf on your iPod!" It comes out as an almost shriek.

Yep, dignified, intelligent. That should do it.

Either History Boy is more drunk than I thought or has excessive reserves of politeness when it comes to shrieking Woolf fans as he explains how he came to have the novel on there. In the course of the discussion it emerges that his iPod is 30GB.

"That's huge!". Again I seem to be having a problem with volume control.

"What's huge?" Dean asks as he rejoins us.

"[History Boy's] iPod!". I know I should stop there but I can't. There has been alcohol. "And that's not a euphemism". Obviously I am finding this funny so I giggle as I say it. If I'm honest, though, the giggle also denotes the line that I have just fallen head first over. A penis/ iPod joke. Involving History Boy. Inside a theatre. What has my life come to?

Dean starts to laugh.

"I don't know - I don't like to boast but..." History Boy smirks.

I start to open my mouth to say something -

"Hello everyone!" announces the Man at the front of the room in his New Zealand twang.

Saved by the Opera. That must be a first.

What follows isn't anywhere as painful as I had expected. Except the bits where there are what I would officially constitute as being 'opera jokes'. I'd mutter something about geeks but I laugh at 'Shakespeare jokes' so I really shouldn't throw stones.

"Donizetti wrote about 70 operas. So he wasn't like Beethoven who wrote one. Three times".

Everyone laughs. Everyone that is except me. And it occurs to me that this is probably what it is like to sit in a Stoppard play and not get the joke.

"The hero knows he loves her straight away - you don't have to wait four hours like you do if the composer's name starts with W".

There is full blown laughter here. Which makes my own non-laughter all the more obvious. I have to think for about five seconds before I realise they're laughing about Wagner. I'd probably be better going back to my iPod/ penis jokes.

The plot fully revealed the talk comes to an end and we make our way to the theatre bar where History Boy - undoubtedly sensing my slight disquiet - buys the drinks and patiently explains the jokes to me.

As the Grand has no effective method of communicating that their show is about to begin [I don't know, like an announcement or something as every other theatre I've ever been to has] we only realise that The Elixir of Love is about to begin when the bar is almost empty. Consequently I have to run down stairs whilst wearing a dress that I can only just about walk in, never mind run.

I try and catch up to Dean, steaming ahead with the combined weight of knowing the theatre inside out and not wearing a restrictive movement dress, only to pass one of the Attendants.

"You can't take that in".

He motions to my drink. My half full drink.

"You need to get a plastic glass from the bar".

I look at him for a second. I do not know where the stalls bar is. I do not know where the plastic glasses are. I do know that HE IS NOT DOING HIS JOB. I do not mention the fact that last time I came to the Grand - when I got lost because there were no attendants to help - I took a glass into the auditorium. When it comes to DA's Front of House awards I do not expect the Grand to feature highly.

I do the only thing I can do. I walk right past him. He makes no move to stop me. If I were his boss he would totally be emptying the bins tonight.

As I half trot down the corridor another attendant - who is doing his job - comes running after me with a plastic glass. I beam at him. I'm anal after all, I didn't really want to have to go through with the whole glass in the auditorium thing.

"I can't believe he did that - get my own glass!" I mutter to Dean as we enter the auditorium. "I'm a Duty Manager!".

Dean doesn't even need to look at me. "Corinne - be quiet".

And, because I recognise that he might have a point, I am.

Not long after we settle into our seats the production begins. And if last time I'd been somewhat underwhelmed by the incredibly static Orfeo then this time I was utterly charmed by what unfolded in front of me. The Elixir of Love is emphatically a Rom-Com. And if my penchant for Richard Curtis doesn't make is obvious enough, I adore a good Rom-Com. There was a real joy about the whole production, in its wonderful costumes, in its well placed setting and in those little touches in the Chorus when the attention of the audience is supposed to be on the leads. There was also a joke with a banana that had Dean and I rolling in our seats. And if there is to be an award for best placed Red Nose then it has to be given to Andrew Kennedy's Nemorino - so astutely placed was it that History Boy didn't notice it at first.

But if there was a moment that went beyond the sparkle it was in the second act when I cut through the charm and felt what was being sung. I felt it in my core, one of the those utterly euphoric moments that creep up on you every so often at the theatre or at a gig. And even if I had Shakespeare's 25,000 words I would not be able to express it as I felt it - but feel it I did. Every last second of it.

"How can she not love him?" I whisper to Dean.

"He's bald you know".

It's a fair point. But in this moment, with these voices and this music I understood what I hadn't as I sat in the room at the start of the evening. I understood maybe a little of why Opera has such pull for Dean and History Boy.

I understood a little of its magic.

1 comment:

Val said...

Ah, the joys of theatre snobbery, in all its forms - though I have to admit I would fail miserably as an opera snob, never having managed to get beyond Mozart, and that has to be sung in English.

But like you, I relish a good 'in' joke, though I have sat through Stoppard and not got the joke *ahem* 'Jumpers'!!

And, when Dean tells you to, you shut up?! ;-)