Monday, 29 August 2011
Verdi in Shorts
A friend of a friend left us two personal invitations at the artists' entrance of La Fenice in Venice for a final rehearsal of La Traviata. To go or not to go? Forty-degree heat, a train trip then a tramp through tourists; dodging, sweating, running over bridges in my suede YSL wedges (thought they needed an outing), and GG my singing daughter who has opera ambitions in a big shades and a Gazel hat wearing more sensible flat sandals.
We made it. Found the door, the cranky woman, our passes, the door after door after door through the back and we were in there, in the cool of the theatre. Breathing the rarefied air of that other world. About to see an opera that was first performed in that same space in 1853.
Sitting inside of La Fenice is like sitting inside a Fabergé egg. Or a French patisserie layered with cakes. The voices thrust out into the golden air and seem to swill in space, layers of sounds perfectly unfolding. It is a small intimate theatre newly rebuilt after being burnt down in 1996, so that it still feels heavily crafted, a little too pink and gold.
Oddly at first, the singers were wearing street clothes so that it looked a Pina Bausch production on the wrong channel. Only the Russian Violetta, dressed in white, was incandescent under the stage lights. The other singers looked like a supermarket crowd suddenly roused to perform a flash mob - à la Verdi. Floral summer dresses, old jeans and t-shirts, interruptions from the conductor who quipped to family members, while the tenor's twins wriggled in front of us and his beautiful wife mouthed the words.
In a word, overwhelming. Even more impressive than when we had tickets and were perched up there with the gods. Along with a bunch of Venetian doyennes who urged my daughter up to the gilded rail between them. Who criticised the Nabucco cast while I thought they had been brilliant. Heavy jewels and bouffant hair. Chanel jackets.
Afterwards, we had beers. Watched the tourists. Toned down after the adrenalin of the performance. I asked GG if she thought she could give it a shot. Music studies, years of being groomed, corrected, realigned; if she could stand up there and give her best.
How magical to think that each one of those unearthly voices belonged to a man or a woman who was once a child, a child with a good voice and edgy hopes, a child buzzing inside with music.