I wake up with an air of anticipation this morning Michael had managed, last evening to acquire the last five tickets for La Boheme, for this late afternoon performance. I have fond memories of this particular opera. Almost 60 years ago, I found myself playing one of the urchins in Act 2, at Sadler’s Wells, , when it was substituted for a performance of The Pearl Fishers which had to be cancelled, at the last minute, due to the Â indisposition of the tenor. Of course, my colleague and I were far too big to be to playing street urchins but, at such short notice, the director had no option. So two 6 foot high youths, in short pants and ragged shirts, were sent skipping onto the stage holding hands in the street scene. (See Treading the Boards at Sadler’s Wells, in the Anecdote section of the blog)
A quiet morning with all the families dispersed in different directions. Even Michael Â left for another measuring expedition with Leonard. Poor young Eammon, with his nose buried, as usual, in a book, was been left to guard over me, in case of emergencies.
We left around 3.00 to pick up Astridâ€™s mother’s wheelchair, which had been kindly loaned to us for use at the Theatre as it was thought it would be more convenientÂ Â than my gutter frame. So it proved. It was the right decision. Not only was the access reasonable for the wheelchair but Â I was given a position in the front row and therefore had a wonderful view of the stage. The theatre Â itself is an enormous high wooden Â barn that had previously been used as a sawmill. It has a capacity of 800 Â and was completely filled. As I mentioned previously, its Â acoustics have the reputation of being the best in Sweden and having heard this opera I can believe that this might Â be true. They have achieved this by a number of cleverly placed acoustic baffle Â boards, under roof level, using a similar technique to that which they used to resolve, a similar problem in the Albert Hall in England, which,when Â Â completed, proved to have very poor acoustics. A magnificent architectural feat, in memory of Queen Victoria’s beloved Â Albert, but a poor music hall. Here they solved the problem by the use a great number of large upside down mushroom shaped baffles which were lowered or raised, to varying levels, to achieve pretty good reception in all parts of the hall.
Incidentally, I got it wrong about the cast, they are all professionals Â who take the opera to other parts of the country and also give concerts etc, here and there, in order to make ends meet. Most of the orchestra were very young and play perfectly adequately . I thought the Rudolfo and Mimi were both superb although Delia, whose businesses is music, rated Mimi the best for various technical reasons. I loved the whole experience, Quite apart from the performance itself, was the location of the theatre, situated as it as in such a beautiful lakeside setting. Â the like of which you are unlikely to Â see anywhere else in the world. The enclosed cosiness of this Â large theatre combined with the soothing music often has a soporific effect causing me to Â nod off, momentarily, from time to time, however I’m glad to say, I did not disgrace my host in this manner. However, my own little weakness prompts me to recount a tale recounted Â to me by Nora. Apparently, she took a gentleman friend Robert to see this same opera in Cork opera house,, some years ago.
This friend was clearly not one jot interested in what was going on on, stage as he spent the Â the first half of the performance fiddling with his iPhone, texting Â or whatever, hidden from Nora, by his side. to Noraâ€™s great annoyance and embarrassment in case. the people behind were distracted by the brightness of the light from the iPhone. Fortunately this young man ran out of people to communicate with and by the time the second half began had fallen asleep, only waking to the thunderous applause as the curtain fell. He turned to Nora and asked “what happened”. Nora smiled sweetly, and replied “Mimi died”. Needless to say. Nora never made the mistake of inviting Robert to an opera again!.
As it was we had been fortunate enough to Â purchase the last five tickets for this performance. And so it was that five foreigners, one Irish one German, one Danish, one Australian and one British, travelling in a French car, set off leaving Simon and Andy with strict instruction to prepare a bumper feast for our return,. The girls did not display a great deal of confidence in the outcome suspecting, we might return and Â find these two would-be gourmet chefs Â comfortably ensconced in the chairs in the garden having consumed the best part of a bottle of whisky and waving vaguely towards the kitchen, Â mumbling Â something vague about supper being ready very shortly. Not a bit of it. We were greeted with the sight of a long table, in the garden, well out laid with the accoutrements necessary for a good meal – Â is my memory deceiving me but did I also see a small bunch of wild flowers on the table? . We were not disappointed. The boys had done us proud. Fortunately, Ruth had joined us for the theatre run and stayed for supper otherwise we would have been 13 around the table which would not have suited the superstitious.
The meal over, I was allowed my cigar and we spent the rest of the evening chatting and sipping some excellent whisky before being driven Â indoors by the evening chill and the beasties which were beginning to bite and irritate ..