When I was a child, Ireland was poor. Today it is the richest country in Europe. In the last 15 years Ireland has witnessed a cultural economic revolution that has changed it's make up and it's people for ever. Culture for me as a child was the Irish language, music, legends, traditions. European ideas of culture were far removed, alien, some how British. Suffice to say I grew up quite broadminded but ignorant of the fine arts. I knew about Leonardo da Vinci but thought the Mona Lisa a quite dark boring image, and when in Paris didn't bother to queue, to look at it.
I am such a commonor for you more classically educated people, and in truth sometimes it is an embarrasment. However I console myself that most of you couldn't sing a traditional air to save your life, nor know how to interact with a crowd of people who might just be listening to you at that time. Right then any process workers out there reading this will have already identified the battle going on in my head.
So here is the mix. Picture me on a Monday evening waiting for my Italian lady in an Irish Bar in Nice. Already the cultures become mixed and confused. My lady is off to practice her Flemenco, (hmm), Savianas, a blonde lady behind me looks at me as I look at her. 'Do you mind if I join you?'. Firworks alarm bells rockets, all go off at the same time. For the first time in 4.5 years, a person in a bar has just felt natural enough to want some company and not give a damn who the company is. Wow feels like home. I replied that is would be great, and yes part of that reply was driven by her exquisit features and amazingly pure blonde hair. I told her I was waiting for my partner to make sure there was no misconceptions from the start. We chatted, she worked in the Opera, in fact she was a singer, in fact she was the second Principal, in fact I nearly fell off my chair. I was flabbergasted, amazed, bemused. What had been a normal conversation between two people turned into a foggy lingustic road block as I couldnt really think of what next to say to the Finish woman opposite me.
I asked questions, lots of questions. In truth she told me it was a job like any other. I laughed. I had worked enough jobs, including on film and TV sets, and been on stage enough, to know well that her life was anything like normal. We chatted. Aqua arrived and the ladies got on well and a moments apprehension was disolved.
FinnLady as I will call her, offered us tickets to the Opera. I jumped at the idea. I had already been introduced to Ballet with mixed reaction. Shirakawi blew me away, and Maillot left me feeling cold and wondering what the hell was going on in his private life.
We offered her dinner. She came to the house, she had never seen roast duck before. I was intrigued. She sang a finish folk song for us, with her opera voice. I didn't understand a word and rarely speechless, I couldn't speak for about 5 minutes afterwards.
Finally the day came. We got to the Opera......Let me say when I write that I am still thinking I am stupid. Me...in the Opera.......yeah right get a life......Me in the OPERA... Not really. Just the best box right beside the stage, (with 3 other ladies aged 50 to 80 in black high heels, black dresses, lots of jewlery, Italian dialect, who my partner informed me after wards were definitely straight out of the Godfather, and most likely related to him. The older lady turned to me at the end of the night and smiled 'Bonsoir', God she fancies me at her age.... I thought.)
Now I understood more or less the gist of the story. I kept an eye on the subtitles above when I was getting lost, but translating from French to English while listening to Italian and looking at heaving bosoms on stage is not the most simple thing to do in the world. It's even more difficult when someone hits a note, and for no reason, that note, pierces your very core and brings tears to your eyes. I was feeling silly. The Wedding of Figaro is a comedy and here I was crying. I was also laughing too. It was an amazing experience. We went back stage. We ran out to the pub later and back in again to the last night celebrations. I walked around like an idiot telling people I was an opera virgin and had just broken my duck, while quaffing champagne from a plastic cup. What a night, I will never forget it.
I could write for hours about the Opera house in front of the sea, the people I saw and met. The things we did, but it's not the reason for writing here. Opera.
Opera....I had heard it would move people, it was indescrible...it's true. When a woman as beautiful as Finnlady, who is short, and funny, opens her mouth and makes you feel you have been touched personally by God in the most intimate part of your soul, then and only then can you say you have heard opera. When she does it a number of times in one performance along with people whom you have never met, then you can say you have seen, heard, and lived Opera... I am hooked.
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