Thursday, February 4, 2010


The year is well on its way and I haven't officially posted my plans for opera in 2010. Here I go!

To make things a tad novel and increase the degree of difficulty (I am turning opera into a sport), at the end of 2009 I decided to set myself a project for 2010. The challenge is to see 52 operas in 52 weeks. This does not permit me to see the same opera twice unless it is performed by a different company. I intend to travel widely to meet the numbers and have put together a loose schedule which I will add to the blog. If I lived in Paris (CDG) for a year I could see 20 operas alone staged by the Opera National de Paris. Then there are those performed at the Theatre Comique, the Theatre du Chatelet and the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. Add to that a trip to Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseille and Lyon, I wouldn't need to leave France!

I have thus far seen two operas. The first was LA BOHEME at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. I was in London for two days for work and being on 2nd January I managed to get off to a good start. I was totally jetlagged but it was a superb performance. It was also perhaps my most uncomfortable night yet at the opera. Covent Garden is not so generous with their seating and without an armrest and seated beside a huge fellow to one side, I was squeezed to the point I almost told him to sit where he paid.

The second for the year was LA SONNAMBULA, composed by Vincenzo Bellini at Opera Bastille, Paris. It was only last night, 3rd February, and it as was the first time I had ever seen this opera. I have listened to the music many times and love its melodious strength and astral dynamism. The performance was impressive with Natalie Dessay in the role of Amina and Javier Camerena as Elvino. The short story is that of a young woman who is about to be married but her fiance finds her with another man. As it turns out, she just happens to be a sleepwalker (the title of the opera) and when this is finally sorted out after a couple of hours her extremely jealous fiance is able to forgive her and they get married after all. Imagine being caught in anothers bed and coming up with that one! I took a few photographs during the evening which I will share with you.

At this point then, you find me in Paris. I only got here yesterday morning after a 12h30m flight from Bangkok (BKK). I was there for a wee 36hours and sadly I was not able to take in an opera. I have discovered that there is an opera company there, Bangkok Opera, and they are doing THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO in June. Who knows, I might be able to get there. The sojourn, hot and humid, did not go to waste. I trekked across the city to buy a student card (I should have asked for the press card as well!) which I have not had for years and also went to see the Thailand Cultural Centre where the Bangkok Opera presumably perform.

I am currently on three weeks long service leave and the first week was spent with my great friend Joe who lives in Beijing (PEK). We had planned to spend a week in Cambodia and we both totally enjoyed the break there. We spent four nights in Phnom Penh (PNH) and three nights in Siem Reap (REP)...alot of drama and noise but it wasn't opera. It seems there is no opera house there and no company. Culturally, however, Angkor Wat did cut it.

I am rather foot sore at the moment. I am staying very near the Metro Filles du Calvaire, a short walk to Republique. I walked all the way from there to the Arc de Triomphe then down the Champs Elysee to Concorde. From there I took rue de Rivoli to Les Halles where I stopped for a swim and later walked from there back to my hotel, the Hotel Beaumarchais...more petit than beau.

Shortly, I will prepare to head out to take an en plein air seat at a nearby cafe for a pre-performance drink. Tonight I am going to see WERTHER by Jules Massenet. Like last night I do not have a ticket but expect I'll get one even though it is sold out. Last night I bargained the price for a 40EUR ticket to 50EUR from a scalper. It was worth it but only the second time I have ever had to pay more than the ticket face value. The other time was in surprise there.

Tomorrow morning I leave early for the airport for a flight to New York (JFK) where I will be staying six nights. There, I have a chance to see four operas including a performance of SIMON BOCCANEGRA with Placido Domingo and LA FILLE DU REGIMENT with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. The intention is to get value for money there.

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