Friday, February 11, 2011

A Night at the Opera

Just a few days after the Imperial War Museum, it was off to London again, this time to experience a real treat that I'd been looking forward to for months: a trip to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. I saw my first opera this past September in Paris (ahhh the very memory gives me shivers of wonder) and have been itching to get out to another ever since. One of the first things I did when I got to Oxford was look up the season schedule for the ROH and start day-dreaming about possibilities.

To my great amazement and luck, not only could I find tickets to a very famous opera that I'd actually heard the music to before--The Barber of Seville--but was also able to get pretty good seats at a price I could afford: so much win! The production I saw in Paris had not only been one I'd never heard of before (Eugene Oneguine, though that almost became better in the end because I had no preconceptions at all and so was utterly blown away) but also a serious splurge for very non-central seats that had had me craning around to see the entire stage and the supertitles at once. Here in London, I was able to get dead center seats, even if they were in the absolute nosebleeds of the theater.

So, on Wednesday afternoon I went straight from my Art in Oxford class (and I really do mean straight - complete with in-bathroom change at the Christ Church Picture Gallery into my evening gown!) to the train station and hopped the first direct service into London (I've found a website, The Trainline, which is a total life-saver and got me a round trip fare into London and back for only £9! Score). I felt a little foolish to be riding the Tube in my floor-length gown with a tatty Barbour coat on top, but was way too excited to get overly hung up on it. I finally got to Covent Garden after about an hour and a half of travel, checked all my civilian gear at the coatroom, and took my first steps into the world of Cultured London.

(A serious "My life be like ooh ahh" moment)

And, my god, was it wonderful. I ascended a grand staircase to emerge into a vast and airy fin-de-siècle-style hall where sleekly urbane sophisticates sipped champagne or politely tucked into some pre-theatre fare. My ticket included a free flute of champagne that I got to enjoy at a gorgeous copper top bar while soaking up the magic of my present situation: I'm generally a pretty rough-and-tumble sort who doesn't wear makeup and doesn't dress up, and here I was, feeling so beautiful and so lucky to be in an atmosphere of such relaxed elegance and glamour. That sounds incredibly corny, I know, but man it was true. Plus it definitely helped that I got numerous compliments from total strangers on my dress!

(Is this real???)

Eventually I allowed myself to get swept up in the crowd that was filing upstairs to take their seats. I did indeed have a very nice, if distant, view, though I was utterly mystified by my entire row's lack of armrests, which seemed like a strange oversight in a setup that otherwise clearly meant to give the viewers a fairly lavish experience. I could hardly complain though, because the theater was so beautiful in a traditional, red-velvet and gilding kind of way--the exact opposite of the Paris Bastille, where I'd gone before and fallen in love, but no less wonderful.

(So beautiful! And you can appreciate the basically bird's eye view I had of the theater)

And of course, after all that build up, there was the opera itself. I would say that I found it to be highly enjoyable, though certainly not as transcendent as my experience in Paris had been. I think, ultimately, that I liked the music of Eugene Oneguine better (I don't think I'll ever be able to think of that opening song, with the women's voices echoing like bird-calls, without goosebumps), though Barber of Seville was certainly nothing to scoff at. I was highly entertained from start to finish and laughed out loud several times--something I wasn't expecting, even though I knew the opera to be a comedy. In all, the three hours passed far too quickly and soon it was with a heart craving for more that I got back on the Tube and started the journey home.

The only downside of my super-saver ticket was that I had to wait around for two hours at Paddington Station for the last train back to Oxford, which meant getting a LOT of odd stares from janitors and security guards as I slowly froze on a metal bench in a frosty open-air train terminal. It was incredibly worth it, though, and I'm doubly excited because I was able to get extremely cheap (read: partially obstructed view) seats for the ballet Giselle a week from today, which means I'll get to go back! Yay! Definitely something to look forward to in these grey and library-filled days... =)

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