Saturday, 20 August 2016

Life, the universe and opera costumes

2 days of sitting around waiting for life to catch up with me again (after a period of working too hard) and life got interesting and stimulating again yesterday. I spent some time working on the NZ Poetry Society's annual anthology (I've got the 160 poems I really like whittled down to 40 I love, and am still figuring out how to fit just one more in without sacrificing a whole page of haiku), and then went off to the opera.

Frankly, I'm not an opera fan. Dad took me to 'Madame Butterfly' when I was very young - too young to sit through the whole thing, but he was an incurable optimist - and I went and saw 'Hansel And Gretel' about fifteen years ago. I don't really remember why, but it might have been a Festival event that my kids' school had cheap tickets for. I can't think why else I would have gone, and it wasn't the best use of my time, even in hindsight.

So when Sylvia (Costumier extraordinaire) mentioned she'd be on stage with the stage manager and other department heads on the opening night of 'Don Giovanni', I was reluctant to commit myself. Wally had no such reluctance - he committed immediately to not going. But then I remembered she still hurts because none of us went to 'Titus Andronicus' (too gory) and I said I'd go if Jennifer would. That turned out to be unfortunate because opening night was at the end of a day when Jennifer was shifting house (as reluctantly as I was going to the opera), her current one being on the market. But she said she'd go, so I said I'd go and eventually I discovered how much it was going to cost me but I booked anyway, because I'd sort of promised.

Jen was knackered, as you'd expect.We took nap shifts - me in the first half, and her in the second - so between us we saw the whole thing. But guess what: even though it seemed a bit flat to start with - Don Giovanni himself was slow to warm up - we both enjoyed it. I was indeed surprised. The singing was in English so we understood most of it, and that helped a lot. There was one singer (Sylvia described her as "deep opera") whose enunciation took second place to her impressive vocal skills, so I've no idea what she sang about, but by and large it was entertaining and I could follow the story. It was actually quite funny - who knew?

The costumes, needless to say, were amazing, especially given that I know what the budget was. In those terms they were miraculous. Sylvia did the sort of job that makes no-one (except her loving family) say, look at those costumes. Had she not, she would have been blamed (by any critics who might have been there) for the production's uneven visual qualities, but as it is she probably won't get any kudos. The costumes just worked, to make the production seamless. I'm so proud of her.

And after I dropped them both off I still had Prime's delayed broadcast of the Bledisloe Cup to look forward to. The opera was lo-o-o-ong (3 hours, including intermission), and I wasn't sure I was going to get home in time, but I did. Wally and I each had a Pineapple Lump every time the ABs scored some points, and we got through the whole bag (though we prematurely had one before Retallick's dive over the line was ruled no try). We ate the last few to celebrate a win of massacre proportions. Given how many players were injured, that's not entirely metaphorical.

As life goes it was a good day.

Don Giovanni, Hannah Playhouse, Wellington; 20-27 August