A Night At the Opera

Leah Lee Mills

At least half a year ago, my mother approached me asking whether I would attend the opera with her.  Apparently, while I was at university, she went to several operas with my dad as part of a regular work colleague trip. However, when they asked him about whether he enjoyed the opera, Dad used to answer her colleagues, with, “Well…. they could have done ______ better,” – and so these trips soon came to an end.

Needless to say, my mother hurriedly asked me this time round if I would like to see Madama Butterfly. I had never been to the opera before, which seemed silly considering I practically live down the road from one of the most famous UK venues, Glyndebourne.  I felt a little like I should grab a bite of culture and see exactly why my grandfather used to enjoy opera, so I hastily accepted.

I had always wanted to see what all the fuss was about the Glyndebourne opera house; I heard it was a beautiful venue draped in gorgeous gardens, the brickwork of the buildings old, but not crumbling. Shortly before we left, I was told to put on my finery, and when I arrived I finally realised why. Even in my poshest frock, my finest jewels, I felt a little out of place amidst the sea of expensive tuxedos and fine lace. Everyone around me was clearly somebody, and I was getting a few odd looks my way at the wild fluff of white hair atop my head. Everyone seemed to be holding a flute of expensive champagne, and I quickly explored the beautiful scenery the grounds had to offer.


And boy, were they beautiful.


I found myself having to step over various picnic baskets as people hurriedly scoffed before the show (apparently that is part of the Glyndebourne opera tradition), and as I went from beautiful place to beautiful place, I realised that whoever owned the venue, current or prior, definitely had a thing for pugs.

Pug love – Not a millennial concept.

Apparently on opera days, they open up certain fancy rooms in the mansion of the people who live there. Of course we took advantage of this and had a little poke around. One of the rooms contained (of all things) a giant organ, as well as a possibly sleeping (possibly dead) ancient man in one of the leather armchairs in front of the grand fireplace.


Prior to the show, I had purchased a plain, black lighter and I had had the idea to make a tiny bowtie to stick on it. I knew the shot I would want to have it in, and that was the view from where we were sitting. Mum had warned me before heading out that were up in the gods; I had expected London O2 Arena kind of gods, so as someone with mild vertigo I steeled myself…. However, it was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I quickly snapped the photo before sitting down.

I will not spoil the plot of Madama Butterfly, but when it started up I loudly said, “I heard it’s a comedy,” and got a few worried titters for it. I thought only my mum would hear…

It must be said, I was seated in a relatively awkward location. In the aisle seat, I had to pay for my perk with an irritating safety rail blocking part of my view; due to my strange eyesight, I already have my head at a perpetual tilt, but the angle at which I had to tilt my head to accommodate for both reading the translated cues above the stage and the goings-on on the stage, made my neck sore.  It was amusing to hear how long it took them to sing the word ‘no’, and the lead opera singer clearly prided herself in eardrum-shattering high notes.

During the interval I found myself having to confront a few of my old secondary school teachers who had been sat behind me. Everyone was very surprised to hear both that I had changed my name and actually gotten in, and graduated from, university – especially my Philosophy teacher, whose class I had originally gotten an ‘E’ grade in before retaking (boosting it up to a C, may I add).

The second half seemed to whizz by and I found myself enjoying it (or rather, being sad at it due to the content).  The opera reminded me of seeing a musical in London, but tuneful shrieking rather than gentle singing (and less Guys and Dolls, or not-so-evil green witches flying about). I was very sad to leave the place.

Go to Glyndebourne if you get the chance – for a night at the opera.


Editor: Floss Hafter-Smith


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