Whilst Lucian Mann-Chomedy took in the pre-opera lecture, I sat on a bench in the middle of University Avenue, enjoying a rather exquisite four-cheese macaroni and cheese baked to perfection as I read a very good biography of Tudor matriarch, Margaret Beaufort. Before me was the glass palace to the city’s high arts, beautifully lit. There were no doubt in my mind that I was shortly going to be enjoying a beautiful night at the theatre.
Once inside, I got situated next to Lucian who chatted away in that way that scholar souls tend to drone on about all manner of data that others may find tedious at best but, for having a scholar task companion (Merlin), I have grown comfortably accustomed. Close by, a tall silver-haired man kept on admiring me, even none too discreetly making bodily contact as legs relaxed and splayed open wide; in years past, I would gladly have explored and indulged.
After having made the obligatory Instagram post, I turned off the phone as the house lights faded into nothingness and the magic was begun. Tchaikovsky, you say, how could one go wrong there. The curtain ascended and the most glorious lucid dream this side of the dreamtime then unfolded. The sparse set design courtesy of Michel Levin’s creative genius was both stark and beautiful. Just the right lighting and the desired mood readily effected.
Leaves leaves leaves everywhere, the lighting of which matched the set and costumes. Last week’s production lacked melody, apart from the fact that Tchaikovsky’s music was well-known, there was nothing to that soulless, dissonant affair that drew you in or proved memorable – save it was really god-awfully bad.
During intermission, I stepped outdoors into the cool autumn air to return a couple of calls and pre-order an Uber meal. On my return, Lucian rightly so remarked on what a changed vibe there was in the house to the week prior. Indeed, there was stillness that hung in the air after each aria before the house would break into applause.
The prince’s aria was especially sublime a performance. The familiarity of glorious Tchaikovsky music, melodies long associated with the world of dance were welcome in the world of opera as Alexander Pushkin’s vision was handsomely realised.
After intermission the stark scene was beautifully animated as chairs, costumes and dancing ruled during the ball scene. The ball scene was dominated by classic Tchaikovsky music that choreographers the past century have relished celebrating in dance.
In the final act, one of things that struck me was how void of emotion the opera, Hadrian, the week prior was. Watching Onegin’s love finally profess her love for him after all these years, yet, insisting that she had to carry on with her life, her comfortable life and not leave it all for the man who pined for her was truly captivating. Ahead of me, two rows, were a couple of ladies who during that duet looked at each other, one even wiped her eyes.
This duet totally captured the human condition; it was about love, passion, longing, loss and dashed dreams. We could all relate to it. The passion and emotion tugged at your heart centre. Last week, not only was the music the most irritatingly banal but there was emperor Hadrian seemingly love struck, yet there was never any passion and emotion in scenes between him and Antinous. If you had no clue that this was one of the greatest love stories in gay history, you could be forgiven in assuming that it was an emperor bereft at the loss of his only son and heir, leaving him without the will to carry on. There simply was no connection, between them and by extension the audience… no passion whatsoever. Regardless their homoerotic love, the opera failed to have aroused emotion, passion and thereby causing you to lose yourself and identify completely with Hadrian, Antinous… or both.
That’s what one goes to the theatre for. At curtain call, rather than jump up and flee the theatre horrified as last week, I shot to my feet, clapped and howled my face off. Everyone leaving the theatre was enrobed in warmth and had been inspired to believe anew in love… that’s what great art does. What a truly memorable night in the theatre, this beautiful, passionate opera is with great melodies to spirit you along, long after you headed out into the world in the cool autumnal night air.
As ever, dream with the greatest passion for it is a true love affair indulged with self each and every day. Love yourself with new abandon and push off and start flying because you really are a truly spectacular work of art. As ever, thanks for your ongoing support. I love you more than you know.
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