Previous readers of my blog will be familiar with my concept of not celebrating Valentine’s Day; it being an enforced day of celebration, too prescriptive and overcrowded and generally underwhelming. It’s not that I am not romantic- I am. It’s just that I prefer my romance to be slightly more original than red roses and chocolates and not synchronised with the rest of the Western World.
So, instead, whether I am flying solo or with a lover or partner, I prefer to treat myself to something that I will enjoy and try and escape the masses.
This year, I decided to challenge myself by going to hear an opera sung in English when the original libretto is in another language- in this case Verdi’s La Traviata at the ENO (English National Opera).
One of the joys of going solo to a performance is the ability to nab a really good seat even if you book a month after bookings open.
Whilst it was a very technically very skilled performance from both the cast and orchestra, I found that there was something lacking in the barrenness of the mise-en-scène, much like a Brecht play. I can appreciate the value of Realist mise-en-scène: it allows for a focus on the music, rather than the stage. After all, one goes to hear an opera, not see it.
Yet part of the joy of opera for me, is to be magically moved and transported to another time and place and the combination of Realist mise-en-scène and translated libretto from Italian to English, just did not work for me.
Last year when at the Royal Albert Hall, hearing La Bohème with a gent (who also happened to be connected to my little Erostek box hidden under my cashmere wrap over our laps), I had tell the gent next to me to be quiet during Mimi’s death scene and sorely wished that it was he who was connected to my electrical box and not my gent.
And true to form, it seems that unless I am at the ROH, I find myself having to correct someone’s bad (read:rude) behaviour. In this case, it was a young woman who had turned up, solo I believe, regaled in diamonds and a lovely mink stole that I surreptitiously and non-consensually stroked at various points as she sat next to me.
As the final curtain fell, she stood up to leave. I could see that she was desperate to be first to get into a taxi and be away…but the audience applause at the end of any opera, or indeed any performance, is not just as much part of the enjoyment itself with cries of “Brava!’, “Bravo!’ and Bravi’ but also a way to show genuine appreciation for those that have sung and acted their hearts out on stage.
So, I put my arm up in front of her to block her exit and said: ‘No, it’s important that you stay and applaud. Sit down.”
I had already figured her to be an opera novice anyway and so without any dispute, she duly say straight back down and started to applaud. I like to think that I have contributed to her knowledge, etiquette and experience of opera as a result.
As I exited the ENO, I thought it might take some time to hail a cab back home but that would be fine- I was still riding on the delicious waves of a most enjoyable evening, even if it wasn’t entirely to my taste. I had appreciated the fine skilled voices and the passion put into the performances. Yet, I turned to look behind me and there was a yellow light aglow of an available taxi just approaching me. I stuck out my arm and hopped in.
I wonder how much longer it took her to hail one after me. Happy Valentine’s Day to me, what a lucky woman I am.
In other news: for someone who is single and doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day- I didn’t do too badly on the card front this year. Thank you to my admirers.