Saturday, March 03, 2007

Eclipse night at the Opera

After a day of modest sightseeing with our two guests, we attended a fine production of Puccini's Madame Butterfly in the Millennium Centre Opera House. It's great melodrama with a tear-jerking sad end - although I get the sad end confused with that of La Boheme, so was expecting the tragic heroine to die of consumption, not to commit hari-kiri. But then it's ages since I last saw it - probably before liberetto surtitles became commonplace. With opera, it helps to know something of the plot beforehand, if you want to avoid having to read the programme synopsis - generally rendered in small print that's hard to read, even if you have remembered your specs under the gloom of the auditorium lights.

Perhaps it was the way it was produced and acted that made me notice how starkly this opera's portrayed a little piece of the human impact of American colonialism. True, it's a plot that could have emerged from the life of any maritime nation, but given that it was written in the first decade of the twentieth century, by an Italian at a time when Italians were emigrating in their tens of thousands to the USA, I wondered what the impact this opera had on italo-american relations at the time.

Manel asked if I was going to wear evening dress, as she planned to wear a suitable sari to grace the occasion. Which I agreed to do. I was quite surprised to find that I was the only person out of at least a thousand other males who was thus attired. Most guys did smart casual attire without tie. Even the front of house staff were uniformed in casual black tee shirts with logos. I felt more conspicuous than I would have done if I had gone in a clerical collar, as I have done on other occasions when arriving straight from a work appointment to go out for the evening. Normally it's not the sort of thing that would cross my mind to observe, except that I really thought I was suitably dressed for the occasion. But as Clare said - nowadays, anything goes.

We came out at the end of the performance to a clear sky with an already ninety percent eclipsed moon over our heads. Shortly after we arrived home the hour long total eclipse was beginning. Observing it using my father's binoculars (US World War Two Navy surplus bargain from 1955, I remember his pleasure in buying them) was a moment of awe and wonder to share with our guests. The muddy blue brown veil covering the moon's shape made its actual spheroid shape much more distinct. Often the bright blue white light reflecting from a full moon makes it appear as a flat disk, even under low power magnification.

I suspect we shall remember this eclipse long after we've forgotten what we went to see at the opera tonight.

No comments: