Unwrapping Opera


Thanks to a lift with a mind of its own I’d managed to get a bit lost in the tangled maze of corridors behind the Opera House. It was fun to imagine them on an ordinary working day, filled with a buzz of scales and arpeggios, toe tapping and Kids from Fame-like shenanigans, love trysts and leg warmers. I stopped short of doing a little samba, á la Patrick Swayze, down the length of the deserted hallway… but it was tempting.

I’ve always loved taking a glimpse behind scenes.  Whether it’s the making of King Kong, or just Elizabeth Taylor without any make-up on, it fascinates me how the raw ingredients come together to create the magic of the whole.

So I was inevitably drawn to the promise of “Unwrapping Opera”, when the Artscape Opera House recently flung open all its doors and invited the common public to have a good rummage.

I rounded a corner of the corridor and stumbled upon Michael Williams, Cape Town Opera’s dynamic General Manager holding an interactive theatre workshop for visitors.  A group of about 40 people ranging from children to grannies were attacking each other in song and choreographed street warfare. Some of the tattooed teenagers taking part looked as though they may have had some real life experience of gansterism, but their shining-faced enthusiasm was matched wholeheartedly by those who looked like they might be librarians in their normal lives. Filled with a sudden rush of British reserve, I smiled brightly and edged out of the room before I was whisked into the mêlée.

In the Chandelier Foyer members of the Cape Town City Ballet were giving a short preview of their upcoming production of Swan Lake. Behind other doors, choral tuition was taking place.  I dropped in at an orchestral rehearsal for Madama Butterfly, then caught the end of a talk on set design before craning my neck over the throngs taking in an abridged version of the next opera to be staged, Elixir of Love.  This was followed by a demonstration of stage fighting techniques, a chance to ‘Meet the Studio’, an explanation of operatic languages… and best of all, a chance to try on some real live hoity toity opera costumes.  What a blast!  I feel thoroughly introduced. Now I must just get round to seeing some of the productions. In the meantime, where are those legwarmers?



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