Tuesday, 8 June 2010

London – Carmen in Trafalgar Square

“I am so excited, I can hardly stand it,” said the woman who sat next to be on the double deck bus that was bringing Wyona and me back to Trafalgar square this afternoon. “My friend has an extra ticket to Carmen at Covent Garden and those tickets are over £100 each. I was going to watch it free in Trafalgar Square tonight and now I get to go to the real thing."


Just then Wyona whacked me on the shoulder, which means we are headed off of the bus. We crossed the street, I said to her, ``Let`s just see if the Square is set up for an opera tonight.``

I was close to trembling I was so happy when I saw the big screen and people beginning to gather on the benches and steps.

"I am not going to stay. I have too much to do at home,`" said Wyona, packing an umbrella, 2 extra scarves, her black jacket, 2 bottles of water, a zip-lock back full of treacle toffees and 2 bananas into her purple treat bag for me. Then she offered to go home and bring me back a blanket and a stool.

"I am going to be fine," I said.

"If Tonia were here, she would be staying," said Wyona as she left.

Gareth Malone was doing some crowd warm-up. "There are 7,000 people here and we are going to be the nation`s largest instant choir, dong a Summer Big Screen Carmen Sing-Along." he said, doing body warm-ups, vocal warm-ups and teaching the crowd the lyrics and even working on their diction and stage presence. 
Toreador, make ready. Toreador. Toreador.
And think on her, on her, who all can see
On a dark-eyed lady,
And that love waits for thee, Toreador,
Love waits, love waits for thee.
I was laughing so hard, for he had thousands of people whipping imaginary capes over their heads to the first line, and having their hands make the curves that illustrate a beautiful lady with the third line.

The screen was at the base of Nelson`s statue. I looked at the curve of architecture of Canada house, the same curve in the Canadian Pacific Building. I watched the foreign flags floating in the breeze, flags from all of the embassies at the Square: U.S.A., Canada, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, and the Netherlands.

TV cameras were zooming in and out over the square, focusing on the mermaids and dolphins who are usually in the middle of spraying water. Those cameras were not to be outdone by pigeons making equally swooping motions, just clearing the heads of the spectators in front of me as the birds rose from the floor of the square to lift themselves to the top of the National Gallery.

I was in the second row of seats. A group of five in front of me had brought their evening meal and were sharing chicken legs, and mini-jam tarts, as well as shortbread and lemon zingers, passing along napkins and Tupperware containers.

The usual noises were around the square: the clock from St. Martin`s-in-the-Fields ringing on the hour and on the half hour, the sound of the sirens of ambulances and the two-toned daa-hee of police cars, at one point even the sound of a 3 gun salute going off somewhere near the Thames. All of those sounded mixed in with the big sound of the opera being broadcast through the square.

As the night began to fall, the pinks and the reds of the sunset were reflected in the clouds to the south. Soon the pale blues and greys of the sky began to deepen into deep night. As the darkness fell, the street lights from the Strand became brighter, their glow casting a long reflections on the still water of the pools at the bases of the statues in the square. The face of the clock in the tower was bright now, the black Roman numerals marking how the time was passing by. 

At the beginning of the second act, when the scene opens with the smugglers surrounding the ship in the water, I could feel the night moisture of the Thames reaching Trafalgar Square. The wind was blowing my hair and I looked around me at the neck scarves rippling in the breeze. People, who had turned their collars up as protection against the wind, now donned their fedoras or baseball caps to keep the chill of the wind from their necks and heads.

"I am not clapping anymore. The performers can`t hear it," intoned the woman who had brought the big lunch. The rest of the crowd did not hold her opinion. They clapped and cheered as loudly as those who were sitting in the Covent Garden Opera House, a few blocks away, where the curtain went down.

Fourteen squares and piazzas across England, Scotland and Wales had participated in this initiative for free ballet and opera, live from the Royal Opera House to the big screens around the UK.

I had a choice when the party was over – take the bus to New Cavendish or walked back up around Piccadilly Circus, enjoy the laughter of the late night revellers along Regent Street and then slip home. The walk was a good time to think on today’s thrill – my second time hearing Carmen this year.



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