You may want to just completely skip this post. It's about opera. I won't be offended if you do.
I was looking forward to meeting some old friends in London yesterday, but sadly my stomach had other ideas. Instead, I have spent the weekend in a horizontal position, looking at YouTube clips and catching up with people's blogs.
I found quite a few gems, including this post about Roddy McDowell's home movies, this beautifully-written anecdote and this photograph, which appeals in so many ways.
However, the thing that gave me the most pleasure was finding this (best viewed in full screen mode):
I went to see this performance of Shostakovich's 'Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk District' almost exactly five years ago and wasn't sure what to expect. I had never been to an opera before and had some deeply-held prejudices about overweight singers and overpaid audiences.
I wasn't overjoyed when I discovered that the whole thing lasted for over three hours.
However, it was a truly magical evening and at last, I understood why some people were so fanatical about opera. Aside from Shostakovich's wonderful music, which incensed Stalin so much he banned the opera immediately, I was bowled over by the set design, the costumes and the wonderful singing.
Shostakovich wrote the opera in his 20s and the music buzzes with youthful energy and bawdy humour. I had imagined that the Royal Opera House would attract a rather stuffy crowd, but people were rocking with laughter at the saucy jokes and satirical digs.
I don't like flying, but I'd travel halfway around the world to see this production again. Sadly, the airfare would probably still be cheaper than a seat in the balcony.