English National Opera: Medea

Last night, whilst many of my cohorts were out partying and getting trashed (not that I’m above that), I put on my nicest frock, and me and my other half went to the opera. 

It’s fun to be snobby and do cultural, sophisticated things from time to time. Especially in London. When you live in the culture capital of…well, I was going to say the UK, but I’d say Europe. Actually, probably the world, but that’s a bold statement. Hell, I’ll make it any way. When you live in the culture capital of the world, it would be a shame not to take full advantage of it. 

So we got to the London Coliseum, smack bang in the middle of theatre land and home of the English National Opera. I was pretty excited by this point, I’d only been to an opera once when I was younger. I saw The Marriage Of Figaro on the TV, and loved it so much I begged my family to take me when I saw it was on at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. And it was fabulous. There were people wearing cravats for heaven’s sake. 

So I had high hopes. We climbed up all the stairs; by the time we reached the top we were breathless and perhaps looking considerably less sophisticated huffing and puffing about the place than when we first arrived. Got the mandatory program and some opera glasses. Mini binoculars in a bag, but I love my random, novelty shizz and we thought they’d be handy sitting up in the gallery. 

Just a side note, you can get cheap tickets to the gallery for about 19 quid on a Monday or Tuesday for some shows. We went last night as we like to do stuff like this on a weekend but, if you’re up for it it’s worth doing. The only full time opera company in Britain, they’re good at what they do…

We each got a Peroni beer in the theatre bar, but the 5 minute curtain call bell was jingling (the most ugly noise you will ever hear) before we were even half way through them. Now I have a motto. Leave no beer behind. So we downed it, perhaps not giving off the refined impression we were going for, and took our seats.

Now, I have to say, they are not the most comfortable seats. If you’re tall, you’ll have to more or less fold yourself up like an Ikea flat pack to fit into them. They’re less than a foot wide so you feel more perched than actually sitting, and the rows are very narrow so even my knees were against the seat in front…and I’m only 5″4. 

Perhaps if you’re willing to invest more money for some comfort, it might be worth getting a seat further down, perhaps in the Grand Circle or Stalls.

Any way, Medea began. For those who don’t know the story, it’s a Greek play (hey, stay with me here), about a sorceress, whose lover – Jason – betrays her with another woman, lies to her face, and leaves her to be banished by the King, Creon, and forced away from her children. So she goes ‘oh no he didnnn’t’, summons the demons of hell and more or less destroys everyone and everything before riding off into Hades with them. Now that, my friends, is a perfect example of ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.

Now, I loved it. The music was phenomenal. Acting was fantastic. Interestingly, it was set in a kind of world war I situation…although some of the costume choices did confuse me. One example being a pair of the monsters that she calls up from Hell…that are bald men, painted entirely red and wearing her costume…a reasonably tight, black dress and black heels. 

Still not sure what the symbolism of that was. But perhaps I’m just being a tad thick. 

The relationship between Creusa (Jason’s mistress and the princess – not Medea’s favourite person) and her father is very odd, but then I suppose Greek plays could be like that sometimes. And no I don’t care to elaborate, I’m sure you can glean what I’m on about!

All in all, a very worthy evening. It did go on quite a long time, and there were certain points of choreography that I felt could have been done better…but y’know. I’m no dancer. They all would have wound up doing the macarena or something if I’d been in charge.

It was nice to do something different, to really experience something. I would definitely recommend visiting one of their productions, if you ever get the chance. For the music, if nothing else. 

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2 thoughts on “English National Opera: Medea”

  1. Yes, yes, the cultural capital is in London and all I managed to see was the Reduced Shakespeare Company (an American touring company). Time was too short as was probably my attention span. I’ve never acquired a taste for opera. After reading your post, I listened to Sarah Connolly on Youtube singing “Such is the price of love”. It’s quite lovely.

    1. London’s so big it can be very difficult to see everything you would like in a short space of time. Maybe one day you’ll come back here for a longer stretch and you’ll have more opportunity to explore!
      I didn’t develop a taste for opera for a while, the first one I saw on TV was terrifying, in Russian and featured lots of bloodstained people stitched together like so many Frankensteins. Marriage of Figaro thankfully turned it around for me!
      Oh wonderful, that was one of my favourite songs. It’s odd, I always thought of Medea as – quite frankly – an evil and completely insane witch. Sarah Connolly brought a certain amount of vulnerability to the role though, and there were times when you could see the inner struggle between her desire for a family and protective instincts as a mother – and her even more powerful desire for vengeance.

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