October 19th 2016
Today I went to the opera. Admittedly, not a standard Wednesday night activity for me by any means. My Grandad wanted to go, and he didn’t have anyone to go with, so I said I’d accompany him.
An opera is, by and large, not exactly what I’d usually consider ‘my kind of thing’, and going in I was quite sceptical, but I thought it would be nice to spend the evening with my Grandad, and it was.
This may sound daft, but the reason I thought I wouldn’t like the opera is because I thought it would be 100% singing. I think that’s the standard, isn’t it? I thought it’d be like Les Miserables where they even sing the “Hi I’m Russell Crowe, how the fuck are you?” type lines. That type of performance annoys me, because I don’t particularly rate song as an efficient method of storytelling.
I struggle to understand lyrics when they’re sung theatrically, and if I can’t understand the song lyrics, and the dialogue and plot of the performance is 100% sung lyrically, then I haven’t got the faintest idea what’s going on.
Fortunately, tonight’s show was different.
We saw a modern retelling of Mikado, which is a Gilbert and Sullivan classic. (all of the words I just said could be, and probably are, incorrect, I don’t know, I heard someone say it) And, yes, there was a lot of singing. But thankfully, there wasn’t just singing. The songs were punctuated well by skits, scenes, and comedic moments often mentioning Brexit.
Because there was periods of prose between the scenes of song, it made it easier for me to follow the story. And story is what always interests me. The songs were good, and all, if you like that kind of thing. But I prefer story to performance. What I like about stage performances, though, is the stagehands, and the whole production of it.
Between scenes the stagehands would come on in ninja suits and move the benches around, put up trees, and build the sets. They were silhouetted by the lights, and they knew that we could see them.
So they made it part of the performance, and punctuated the big dramatic multi-person choruses with these individual moments of comedy in the way that they tiptoed dramatically around the stage, pretended to swim off, and stayed around for too long before being shushed away by the lead actors.
It was kind of breaking the fourth wall, except it’s a stage performance so there’s only one wall – the back one.
The little moments like those, and the niche references, and sarcastic comments are what made it thoroughly enjoyable for me. I mean, it dragged on for a bit, and I’m not a big fan of that kind of music (or any kind of fan, actually) but it was a fun way to spend an evening, and a new cultural experience for me.
And my Grandad enjoyed it, that’s the main thing. Plus, he even won the raffle for a bottle of wine.
Until tomorrow, merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.