A night at the opera

A night at the opera

I’ve ridden, driven past these gates
A hundred times and more.
But tonight, we’re turning in:
Parking in the dark and distant corner
Where mere musicians’ old jalopies
Can be discreetly hidden from
The summer season’s picnickers.

We climb up to the circle
In cathedral-goers’ reverence
Enclosed in brick and polished stairs
Five-quid tickets in our unworthy hands
Then for the first – and, we imagine, only – time
We take our lord-knows-how-much seats
In that fabled wooden Oh-my-goodness

And there she is.
One cherished face, one treasured voice
In that bright chorus of three hundred
Raised in jaunty, joyous song.
No soprano’s aria could make
These sparks go crackling down my neck:
No opera at any price

Could summon up this surge of pride.
It is for her –
It is through her –
That we are sitting here tonight,
Transported into wondrous realms
We never would have known
And would not miss for worlds.


On Friday night, our 10-year-old daughter sang in the world-famous opera house at Glyndebourne along with her classmates and Year 6 children from half-a-dozen other local junior schools. The concert was organised by our wonderful East Sussex Music Service (for whom no praise is too high) as part of its annual Great Big Christmas Sing programme, which runs in schools across the county. The children sang a musical based (very loosely) on the Christmas story, specially composed for them by the Music Service’s Director, no less, which they’d been rehearsing in class all term.

Normally, Glyndebourne is a byword for glamour and gracious living. During the Summer Festival, many people arrive by helicopter or chauffeured car, and opera-goers’ picnics are the stuff of legend. On Friday, though, we the Great Unwashed took over. Egalitarianism ruled: everyone in the audience paid just £5 for their ticket. We managed to bag the front row of the Circle, and I wondered how much it would cost to sit in the same seat for a Summer Season opera production. What’s certain is I wouldn’t be able to afford it – and it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun, either. The Girl was beside herself with excitement beforehand and walking on air afterwards – it was a truly glorious evening. (What’s more, we got to sing at Glyndebourne, too: only a couple of verses of Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, but hey, that’ll do me.)

12 thoughts on “A night at the opera

  1. Hi Nick,
    This is such treat, what a wonderful evening that must have been! I bet there were like 600 parents listening with pride 🙂

    I like how you describe the five quid tickets in unworthy hands lol. The Great Unwashed!

    Do they really take helicopters to go for a picnic… That sounds a bit… posh?

    I will google up Glyndebourne.

    • Oh it’s posh all right, Ina. Folks like us don’t usually get beyond the gates at Glyndebourne: those self-same seats we got for a fiver would probably be 80-100 times that price if we went to one of the ‘proper’ operatic events. Silly, isn’t it? There aren’t quite so many helicopters these days (a sure sign that the recession’s really starting to bite :-0) but plenty of people get driven there – some of them by my dad, in fact, who has a part-time summer job driving for a local limo company. It’s a little thing to keep himself out of mischief in retirement, more like a paid hobby than a job, but he gets to dress up in a suit and peaked chauffeur’s hat and waft rich folks around the countryside in someone else’s brand-new BMW 730i. Nice work if you can get it! N. x

    • Thank you, John: interesting that you picked up on that line, which is also a cheeky play on Shakespeare’s description of the theatre as ‘this wooden O’ in the prologue to Henry V – in fact, it’s where the whole poem started, really. I’d never been inside the auditorium (or indeed, the gates of Glyndebourne) before and it was absolutely amazing: all sweeping cruves of beautiful polished wood, like being inside some great ship. I doubt I shall ever get there again, but what a way to experience it!

  2. I felt your joy, your pleasure and your pride all the way through this Nick

    And it left me with a very warm feeling.

    And now I have a new claim to fame – I know someone who sang ‘Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree’ at Glyndebourne! 🙂


  3. This is fabulous Nick!

    What a great experience for you and how wonderful to have the ability to express your memories/thoughts/feelings of such a precious moment in this beautifully poetic way of yours!

    “One cherished face, one treasured voice” – that says it all for me – there is nothing lovelier is there and we don’t need them to be the soloist, or to have the main role, just to see them up there amongst all their friends knowing that you are in the audience watching every move and listening to every note and being immensely proud.

    I can relate to this so much; thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories of my own!

    And all for £5!! Wow!


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