Last Monday was a wonderful night out to see Manon at the Royal Opera House in London. Its only my fifth opera, so I am no seasoned ROH visitor! I had always grown up with thinking that opera was elitist and inaccessible. That isn't the case. Certainly the best tickets in the house cost a small fortune, but many seats are affordable than you would think. Even the seats in the Gods where the music is amazing as it travels up can only cost £10. There is a often a restricted view and the seats aren't as posh but still completely worth it to see and hear music of such quality. And there is the great blessing of subtitles too so you can easily read what's going on in the story!
I have been aware of the story of Manon only in my peripheral mind, mainly of it being the name of Jean de Florette's daughter. Seeing the opera completely expanded that knowledge - like all good opera it's a story of love, passion, loss and death. It plugs straight into our shared experiences of humanity and being alive. Anna Netrebko was the soprano with Vittorio Grigolo as the tenor. I simply can't describe how sublimely beautiful they sounded. Netrebko at full belt made my heart swell and there were such tender moments in Grigolo's singing that it felt as though the whole auditorium was hanging on every note, we were all caught in a collective moment and experience of beauty, purity and truth.
I went to see Manon with James Mayhew, the children's illustrator and author. James is a fantastic artist and his company is always lovely. Largely down to his love of art and his broad knowledge about opera. He has lent me many works and very slowly I am beginning to build a knowledge of the greats. I have always loved classical music - along with a bit of rock, acoustic, folk and some heavy metal... I have eclectic tastes! - especially Schubert, Sibelius, Elgar and Beethoven. It's wonderful at last to begin to listen to Puccini, Verdi and now Massenet.
Here are a couple of pictures to give you a taste of the evening...