I’ve got to admit that I am not a huge
opera fan. In fact, I don’t recall ever sitting through an entire opera. But,
our night at Sarastro in London’s theater district proved that you can takethe opera out of the opera house, and make it fun as well.
Two characters on that rollicking night
helped make the evening especially memorable for me. The first was the woman
who bore an uncanny resemblance to Queen Elizabeth II. When the waiter pointed
her out to me, I did a double take. I assumed that the restaurant planted her
for a laugh. But it turned out that she is a regular customer. As was her
dinner companion who bore a slight resemblance to Prince Charles (especially
when he pulled his ears forward). It turns out that in real life they are both
actors, and not coincidentally the woman has portrayed Queen Elizabeth in TV
and film. Once I learned this, I thought it would be impossible to get them to
agree to appear on camera since I assumed they would not want their evening to
turn into a busman’s holiday. But true to the spotlight-loving nature of
actors, they were both agreeable—dare I say eager to mug it up for the
camera. In fact they would have hijacked
the entire segment if we didn’t reel them in.
My other favorite character was the
stand-up bass player, who in my mind stole the show. The guy reminded me of The
Specials, that U.K.-based ska band from the late ‘70s. He had a crazed look in
one eye and a twinkle in the other. And his rubber face contorted every which
way as he slapped, plucked, kicked and caressed his bass. At one point his routine
got close to an X-rated act—no small feat for someone playing a classical
instrument! During one of his solos, he worked his way around the entire room.
It was hilarious to watch him play as he navigated his enormous bass through
the narrow passages between the chairs, tables, customers and servers. At every
table he stopped to flirt with women and tease the men. Given his outgoing
personality, it wasn’t surprising to learn that he was engaged to one of the
the end of the night the excitement was so contagious that I even joined the
singers in a little aria. While I don’t think my debut operatic performance was
powerful enough to break any crystal goblets, I probably shattered a few eardrums.
Fortunately, our soundman had the good sense to turn off my microphone before I
could do any serious damage. If all operas—and opera houses—were like Sarastro,
I’d buy seasons tickets.
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