By Jennifer Kavanagh
Last year, British summer being what it is, I didn’t book for the one-night event, walked in, and found it quite wonderful. This year’s summer being what it is, I tried to book, and found it sold out. In fact, sitting in the little queue for returns, I discovered that even after they had put in an extra 200 seats there had been a hundred or so on the waiting list. Result!
This year the show was Verdi’s La Traviata, with an ingenious small band, a sound system that came and went, but again a very high standard of singing from the tiny cast.
High heels sank into the grass, clothes ranged from jeans to evening dress. Some brought hampers; others tucked into the good-looking food for sale. The event is not cheap, but just as I was mentally sneering at the middleclassness of the occasion, I heard that sponsorship had enabled some to come, including a group of young people at the opera for the first time (applause). In the interval I chatted to my neighbours: mostly local residents, though one was a woman from Cambridge who happened to be eating at a local restaurant.
Night fell, the lights and the action intensified. Dogs barked, sirens wailed, and a buzz of chat arose from drinkers outside nearby pubs. People came and went to the portacabin loos, small children romped on the grass at the edges of my vision, but most people were rapt. Not a happy story, but then that’s opera. And this was Fitzrovia: the Post Office Tower looming proudly, a security guard in a nearby office closing the windows, the leaves of the trees above us waving gently in the breeze.
We clapped and cheered, and then I walked home.
Jennifer Kavanagh is the author of Call of the Bell Bird, the World is our Cloister and The O of Home. www.o-of-home.co.uk