So, last night we went to our first Opera in Madrid. Quite possibly, the world’s first socially distanced opera in the world. Verdi’s La Traviata at Teatro Real in Madrid.
I was inspired to go after seeing this tweet from @AnnieBennett – I feel for all the musicians that have not been able to make a single Euro during lock down and wanted to celebrate living once again in a cultural capital for our first proper weekend since moving to Madrid.
I won’t try and give a full theatre review, I don’t have the expertise for that, I go to the theatre maybe once a year, sometimes more if my theatre reviewing mate in London brings me as his plus one, but here is an overview of my experience.
This was a production of La Traviata – a story is set in Paris and centres on a high class hooker, Violetta who is sick with consumption, TB. She falls in love with Alberto and is encouraged to give up her love for sake of the reputation and social standing of Alberto’s family.
You can tell this production would ordinarily have plenty of social scenes and so putting it on stage in an era of social distancing took a bit of creativity, but you certainly got the sense of a party spirit and also felt the closeness between the cast despite the necessary social distancing on stage.
I was surprised to learn I knew one of the tracks, obviously it was Verdi’s Libiamo ne’ lieti calici – which translates ‘Let’s drink from the joyful cup’ and is known as the Drinking Song and I fell in love with the song all the more after reading the translation of the lyrics.
The opera singer playing the lead, Violetta, was outstanding, with a beguiling voice and enchanting acting skills, she absolutely drew you into each scene.
The orchestra was incredible, and all in all I was blown away, and at times moved to tears.
Fair play to the Teatro Real for ambitiously insisting on hosting this production in current times.
From a guest perspective, the adjustments required for social distancing were not invasive and actually fairly convenient. Staggered entry and exit times to avoid crowds and queuing, more space between seats for comfort.
The mandatory wearing of masks isn’t ideal but wasn’t a hardship and a light fitting mask was provided on entry alongside temperature screening and sanitising stations. The interval was longer with more refreshment stations to allow sufficient time for everyone to grab a drink.
ME & OPERA
This was the first time I’ve been to the opera with my husband. I used to have a surrogate boyfriend of sorts with whom I’d do these types of cultural activities.
James Brown, RIP, was the first person to take me to the Opera and we enjoyed an incredible performance at Glyndebourne together moons ago, a historic opera house set in the stunning grounds of a stately home in Sussex. I don’t think you should need your partner to share all of your passions and to do all the things you want to do with you – that’s what friends are for.
And while my husband would have happily come to Glyndebourne with me, I knew it wasn’t his thing. Sometimes it’s better to go somewhere with someone who really wants to be there just as much as you, rather than someone who is simply obliging your whims.
James and I spent weeks readying ourselves for the opera and picnic in the grounds at Glyndebourne, with much back and forth on just the right wines, cheese and treats to bring along to celebrate the day in style. The opera and picnic at Glyndebourne, was the first in a host of activities, I’d choose to do with James rather than my husband, as James would be as excited as I to go to a fancy new restaurant, a wine tasting, the theatre, a new gallery exhibition or on a whisky trip. On night’s like these, I miss James terribly, and know in another universe he would have been there with me.
It’s not that my husband doesn’t like opera, he studied it years ago at music school, he just has his favourite productions, Mozart’s The Magic Flute in case you’re wondering. He had seen La Traviata before and described it as ‘long’ so wasn’t totally excited to see it again. But last night, he seemed transfixed on the orchestra and genuinely enjoyed the production. After a busy week apart with work, it was a lovely date night trip together, I hope we’ll do more of these.