Monday, March 04, 2013

Opera and other aspirational hobbies

I have been reminded of the existence of this blog and of how I shamefully neglected it for two years. I was just waiting to have something vaguely interesting to say, but it didn't happen. So I'll blog regardless.
For lack of deep thoughts, wise insights and any ability to do self-analysis I'll just talk about stuff I like.
Starting with opera.
I love opera but never went to see it until last year because I thought that you'd have to a) spend a fortune b) be dressed to the nines c) own a monocle or a diamond necklace and know how to air kiss people. Since I generally dress with my mother's hand-me-downs and jeans bought at the supermarket, I thought that opera was never going to be for me. After reading an excellent book with magic happenings and hauntings at the Royal Opera House (there's always a nerd catch to anything I do) I couldn't wait any longer and made some inquiries. I found out to my delight that it's perfectly possible to go to the ROH without spending a fortune or being a fashionista, even though you might end sitting (or standing) in places that carry dire warnings about vertigo in the online ticket reservation page - although not quite plastered to the ceiling on large strips of fly paper, as I initially feared.

The awesome curtain at L'Elisir d'Amore

I've since seen almost every production from almost every cheap place, but I really earned my strips with Wagner's Ring Cycle last October. You couldn't pick and choose to go and see only one of the four parts of it, you had to buy tickets for a whole cycle of four nights (performed within 10 days). It had sold out the year before on the first day it was put on sale. Anyway, I asked at the box office if they had any returned tickets and yes, they had one! A cheap one too, because it was a standing place on the balcony. The cashier seemed a bit hesitant though, and asked me twice if I was really SURE about having to stand. Why not? I asked, and bought the tickets. It wasn't until the beginning of October that I realised that the whole thing was over 16 hours long, with a couple of nights going on for 6 hours. That's a LOT of Wagner and standing. Besides I wasn't even sure how much I'd like it, being more of a Mozart person.
I ended up ordering a foldable fisherman stool on Amazon and practising how to hide it up the sleeve of my coat (it gave me a nice hunchback look). At the end though, I didn't use it much. There were enough intervals to crawl out, sit on the stairs and consume the wine and food I'd hidden up the other sleeve.
I was a bit anxious about these standing places, because they were right at the back of people who have probably remortgaged their houses to buy their tickets, you see liveried waiters going up and down with trolleys of food, so I was a bit concerned about breathing down the neck of the kind of people with 5 surnames who practice fox hunting with human prey and drink champagne from skulls of dead butlers.
Instead it wasn't like that at all. Since standing through 16 hours of Wagner is hardcore even by the standards of the most passionate music lovers, I ended up next to a bunch of people who seemed to be a TV casting of opera buffs. The most notable were a fat woman in tears, a German gay couple, a guy who directed the orchestra for the whole time (how I hated him) and a weirdo with a fisherman stool. Oh wait, that was me.
What I love about the ROH is you see the most amazing people. Well, it's what I love about London, but the ROH in particular. The other day I went to see Eugene Onegin in one of the cheapest sits in the whole place (it does actually provide an experience similar to being plastered to fly paper to the ceiling, although the audio is great). It cost £7, the cost of two pints of beer. Regardless, there were two guys who showed up in full regalia, wearing Dracula coats (I checked them for top hats but didn't see them, I'd like to think they'd left them at the wardrobe; I should have checked for fangs). How cool is that!?
Last Saturday I went to see the Tosca and behind me there was a crazy lady who first directed the orchestra (is it a fucking habit?) then harangued the woman with her about having been brought to a standing place, since she was the owner of the place. She made a huge scene and in appreciation I left her my seat for the 3rd act (it only lasts 20 minutes, the time for Tosca to jump off the castle, as once performed by Tacobell at Bacon of Hope).
I'm all blogged out, so I go back to camping reddit/r/Simcity and dreaming of the release day. And yes, also drawing another panel. Stay tuned for some more nonsense about things I like, sometime in the next two years.