My first opera: a lot of fuss over a straw hat
It’s opening night at Wexford Festival Opera, and there is much for a novice to learn: don’t touch the intermission drinks, tiny binoculars are not the done thing, and don’t mess with an Italian’s headwear
It is quite fortunate when you think about it, that opera is an Italian (rather than an Irish) art form. Because if this story happened in Ireland, the whole thing would be over in two minutes.
The intermission, Maedhbh tells me, is when the real action takes place. And if by action, you mean a bunch of mild- mannered people conversing politely with one another then, yes, the intermission that follows is worthy of a Die Hard movie.
An assortment of drinks are waiting in the foyer when we emerge from the auditorium. I briefly consider helping myself to one, but err on the side of caution and wait to see what everyone else does first. This turns out to be a wise move, because it transpires the drinks have been pre-purchased by patrons who didn’t fancy queuing.
I don’t fancy queuing either, so instead I kill some time looking up the Champions League scores on my phone. I’m not intimidated by the great and good, per se. I’m just afraid they might start talking to me.
Eventually, I do talk to one woman, who tells me she is a festival veteran of many years. She expresses disappointment when I tell her this is my first opera. Real opera, she tells me, is about sex and death. And The Florentine Straw Hat (spoiler alert!) doesn’t have either.
Nonetheless, I enjoy the second half of the performance as much as I enjoyed the first. I’m probably not qualified to comment on individual performances. But the Turkish mezzo-soprano Asude Karayavuz’s hilarious performance as the libidinous Baronessa di Champigny is my personal highlight.
At the curtain call, I find myself clapping long past the point at which my hands have begun to ache. My first opera experience is over. Would I come back here again? Absolutely. And in the meantime, will I occasionally try to pass myself off as a bit more of an opera aficionado than I actually am? You’d better believe it.
Because, as we always say in opera circles, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. (No? Well, I’m sure we say something like that.)