Saturday, October 07, 2017

A pleb goes to the Opera

First, you need to know that I prefer cinema to theatre, but also that I have been to the opera before. I've seen a Mozart opera - I can't recall the name of it - and I've seen Carmen. Two opera-loving friends persuaded me to go. It was over 20 years ago and I haven't been since. That should tell you something.

Since that time, cinemas have started this cool thing of screening live performances from London theatres. I've resisted these since they started but in the summer I went with Chrissie to see a live screening of Hedda Gabler and it was terrific. 

Our local screenings are in a room above a pub in a village five miles away. There are perhaps fifty black plastic moulded chairs squashed into this room and a giant screen taking up the whole of one wall. It's intimate and friendly, and having been to see three things there now - one of which was the film Paterson - I can see it could become addictive.

I like the cinema because I can see the expressions on the actors' faces, and I am unaware of the audience and so I can become completely engrossed in the film. In the theatre I'm too far away from the action. I can't become involved in the same way: I am watching it and not in it. I am not engaged. I want to be taken over by a piece of fiction, whether dramatised or filmed or on the page. If I'm sitting anywhere but the front row of a theatre, it doesn't work for me. Who me? Demanding? Maybe. But that's how it is. 

This all means that if I go to the opera I've got that whole theatre-difficulty going on, and on top of that, the damn thing is in another language. When I went to see the live screening of La Boheme from the Royal Opera House the other night in the pub, I was on the second row in a small dark room in front of a huge screen and I could see the performers up close, expressions and all, and - fanfare! - there were subtitles translating the words. So barriers to my involvement were dealt with, and I enjoyed it. The story was about ordinary people, the music was fabulous, and the performances were terrific. The other key factor is that I recognised the music because it appears in one of my favourite films, Moonstruck.  

Yes, I'm a cultural low-life: I have never pretended otherwise.

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