Monday, November 5, 2012


Sunday was one of Otago's rare warm days. but at 2/00pm I drove into town and shut myself up in the cinema with about twenty other people. The reason? At 2.45 Movie World would be screening the first opera of the new season. We very nearly missed out, attendance had been poor but letters to the management, and persuading some newcomers that Grand Opera was worth watching saved Oamaru from becoming a total cultural desert.

Grand Opera is no longer a place where fat sopranos and ageing tenors screech eternal devotion.  The Metropolitan Operas are a delight to listen to and to watch, with singers who look and act their parts.
L'Elisir D'Amore by Donizetti is a comedy in Bel Canto style, i.e. lots of , arias, duets, choruses. brilliant stage sets and costumes abd a host of sly visual puns which help carry the cimedy.

At Movie World 3 in Oamaru we saw and heard all this on their big screen, which meant we got a better view than the live audiences at the Met. As well as that we were taken back stage to see the scebe shifters at work. We listened to the chef who produces the meals eaten onstage. They must not ibterfere with the singer's vocal chords. And the costume designers who do incredible research into the times in whuch the operas are set. When soprano Anna Trebchenko dons her top hat she is asserting her authority as a land owner, as early nineteenth century women did. 

The whole thing was brilliant to listen to and a visual treat as well.

An aquaintance made a jibe about me 'wasting money' and thought the singers 'should get a real job.' She did not specify what 'real' jobs were, loading Supermarket shelves perhaps, or writing John Key's speeches? Well the Theatre in general and especially Grand Opera keeps thousands employed in highly skilled work. There are the orchestras, usually sixty to one hundred people; the stage hands  unseen people who creep around huge stages in sneakers;shifting huge sets built by skilled carpebters; there are embroiderers; costume makers, animal trainers. The logistics involved in producing and staging an opera season could make the army blanch, There are thousands of people involved in real and skilled jobs that do not entail killing, rape or torture, well only if it's in the story.

I think that is better than sending half trained boys to fight in Afghanistan..