A Night at the Opera with Alice
Wendy Buss 2019

I was given an unexpected treat recently when my elderly neighbour Alice called by with a spare ticket to the local musical society’s latest production of Gilbert and Sullivans ‘The Gondaliers’

I was trying to throw off the residual after effects of a nasty flu and the thought of having to sit through Opera with a wheezy chest and a stuffy head just made my eyes kind of roll up into my head and very reluctant to say yes but it turned out to be just what the doctor ordered and I was so glad I went

Alice is a unique and wonderful character She is 89 years old with a youthful and lively spirit who combines razor sharp insight and intelligence with the air and demeanour of a giddy and delighted young girl with an infectious delight for life and especially all things musical

She lives down the road in a tiny flat completely dominated with a grand piano and lined with paintings some worthless and some apparently quite valuable all jumbled together in a higgledy piggled fashion .Everywhere you try to sit are piles of sheet music and books .

It goes without saying Alice is a musician herself who sang with the Brisbane Opera Company for some years in the 70s .

Alice arrived to pick me up in her late model car looking very glamorous in an entirely appropriate long red slightly understated gown and wearing only one dangly earring because she couldn’t find the other and sporting a picnic basket telling me we re going to dine preshow like in Glyndebourne a beautiful old homestead in the UK dedicated to Opera where dining alfresco with picnics in the grounds pre show is apparently the go

We did stop at Alice’s place on the way so she could resume the search for her other earring but as we pulled up she decided instead ‘Who would be looking at me in the dark ?’and she pulled off the earring she was wearing and we kept going

I couldn’t help but feel with Alice in her red dress and red matching coat and carrying her picnic basket that I was in the company of a rather elegant but girly and giddy and impetuous Red Riding Hood feeling that with her anything might happen and wondering if we might meet any Big Bad Wolves along the way ?

The guys who took our tickets and showed us our seats were pretty well behaved although it turned out it was not like Alice’s understanding of Glyndebourne at all and BYO picnics were not the go and we were not allowed to sit at the tables set up for the diners who were purchasing pre show dinner sold at the venue but they kindly did allow us to eat the picnic Alice had prepared in our seats and we spread our goodies out on a chair between us complete with serviettes, crystal wine glasses and fine bone china plates

Alice had done herself proud and there were little salmon and cream cheese sandwiches crackers and cheese, boiled eggs grapes and red wine .I thought it was just gorgeous and nibbled away happily soaking up the pre show ambiance and thinking to myself even the finest seven course commercially prepared meal would not have brought me more pleasure than the humble but lovingly prepared repast we were enjoying

One big bad wolf dragon lady who was selling raffle tickets tried to shut down our ‘illicit picnic’ and told me to stop eating to which by way of reply I merely smiled at her graciously as I shoved another salmon and cream cheese sandwich in my mouth .Not a chance . It put me in mind later of when I had been dancing in the aisles at a Keith Urban concert at the Hobart Casino years ago and a bouncer had tried to make me sit down and I had simply smiled at him and kept dancing knowing quite simply of the magical powers given to me in the moment when instinctively you know the Goddess of love and light and freedom is in your court. The dragon lady was some what placated and swore off when we each bought some raffles tickets from her.

The Gilbert and Sullivan was delightful. The Gondaliers is all froth and bubble with fun satire about the fancies and follies of nobility and a very predictable happy ending .The production was just excellent and the Maleny singers gave an excellent performance with some truly talented singers in what was an all round warm high spirited joyous and exuberant production .The costumes were quite simply sumptuous and ravishing . It was a light Opera and enough spoken dialogue in there to follow the storyline so for me was a really accessible first live opera experience.
Alice sang along to the performance in her tuneful bright flutey soprano knowing every word having performed this opera herself years and years ago and despite being given to sudden startling solo bursts of delighted applause and standing ovations at odd moments causing suspect glances from the row in front of us  she was entirely charming and delightful company .

I loved the evening and looking forwards to giving a more serious Opera a go .


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