Saturday 25 April 2009

From cat hunting to smelting gypsies

14st 10lb, sod it, 2.2 units. Yes, I did have a massive lunch yesterday but I also walked for the best part of three hours, putting together my efforts to exercise the dog and my longish hike to the vet and antique shops. Sometimes (well, quite often, if we are honest) I am reduced to clichés: it’s just not fair.

The highlight of my morning was watching Mrs H, 6½ months pregnant, lying flat out on the bedroom floor unsuccessfully attempting to extricate her cat from underneath the bed. I know what you’re thinking. But, you see, it’s not my cat. And therefore, apparently, my chances of catching her (the cat, that is, not Mrs H, whom I have clearly caught already) would be as close to nil as makes no difference. Mrs H succeeded eventually, at no greater cost than completely sacrificing her dignity and getting covered from head to toe in fluff, and we took our pets to the cattery / kennels before catching a train to Crewe, then another to London, in the company of my mother-in-law. At Euston we were met by my elderly aunt and took a taxi to check into my club for the night, then went out for a ruinously expensive lunch as a suitable prelude to a ruinously expensive night at the opera. However, I had at least purchased the four stalls seats for Il Trovatore some months ago, and the passage of time had dulled the pain considerably.

Our journey to the Royal Opera House this evening was greatly enlivened by two things. First, our taxi driver drove up Floral Street, ignoring a large sign at the end of it reading “ROAD CLOSED: ACCESS ONLY”, then became noisily aggrieved when he found himself at a dead end. This amused me a little, though nothing like as much as Mrs H’s insight when my aunt tactfully explained that I was not invited to my cousin’s wedding party next Saturday. “Never mind, darling,” said Mrs H, “it’s probably for family only. Oh, you ARE family, aren’t you?”

Il Trovatore is by no means my favourite Verdi opera, and I disliked the Royal Opera’s current production so much on a first viewing that I had never been back. I booked this time for complex reasons too tedious to explain here, which is saying something, but although they were originally intended for quite another purpose the tickets seemed like an ideal way to say “thank you” to the two ladies who had done more than anyone else to make our wedding such a popular success. The anvil chorus, in particular, still seemed to me to be a massive wasted opportunity, with 80% of the stage taken up by huge blast furnaces (huh?), and the gypsies huddled at the front implausibly pouring molten metal into moulds with not an anvil in sight. You would have thought the title of the chorus might have provided some small clue as to what was intended. However, there was no doubt that in Sondra Radvanovsky (an American, despite the name) they had found themselves a truly fabulous Leonora; while the silver fox Dmitri Hvorostovky was brilliant as Count di Luna. A large glass of red wine at the interval lifted the vaguely jaded feeling I had endured throughout the first half, and I thoroughly enjoyed the remainder of the performance. I suspect that the entire audience must have experienced something remarkably similar, as appreciation seemed to soar with Radvanovsky, Hvorostovky and even the overrated Roberto Alagna (as Manrico) receiving prolonged ovations at the final curtain. All in all, a good night out. Which, at Covent Garden’s prices, it bloody well ought to be.

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