After unsuccesfully finding a friend as enthusiastic as me to see Martha Wainwright sing at The Royal Opera House I decided to get a ticket and go anyway. I’m glad I did, it was a new experience full of unintentional hilarity.
Before I left I checked the Royal Opera House site for some more information. No dress code, though it did note “You can wear jeans (although most people don’t)“. I thought this was pretty funny. My jeans have big gaping holes across the knees but I didn’t feel like changing into un-holey jeans so I stuck with it and set about walking to Covent Garden.
I got there in plenty of time and collected my ticket. At first I went to the wrong desk and a rather smug, snotty receptionist told me so. I went to the right desk and the guy there was much friendlier, I got my ticket then went off to mill around Covent Garden for a while. I watched a busker playing Don’t Think Twice, he massacred it with his fake American accent/Bob Dylan impression.
I headed back to the Opera House and went to find my seat. I couldn’t help but feel ridiculously out of place. The bag search lady clearly hated me for having a backpack with a zillion pockets. I stood and waited for the doors to open, the hordes of old people were sitting on a bench and it was really cute watching them shuffle along and make room trying to squeeze more people in.
We went in and I took my ‘restricted view’ seat. If I leant back I truly could see nothing, but if I lent on the ledge I could see brilliantly. I was right at the top, Amphitheater left on the front row. I had about 1cm between me and the ledge anyway, so it was fine leaning forward. I was pretty pleased. I watched people filtering in and wondered about the people down at the bottom in the boxes that cost a couple of hundred £, whether they just really love ballet and it’s a treat for them, or if they’re just super rich. I think the latter was probably the case mostly.
Now, I am disposed to saying please and thank you whenever I see fit. There was one lady who I took an immediate dislike to after she looked at me and bluntly said ‘I need to get to my seat’ instead of ‘excuse me, can I get past you to my seat please’. She was about 50 and pretty haughty and rude. I stood up and let her past and wondered about how some people can get to that age and still have not learnt their manners (!). That same lady would go on to cause some very funny drama that caused me to laugh out loud in my seat, more on that later. Luckily, the seat next to me was free so I could spread out a little bit.
So the first of the three short pieces was Seven Deadly Sins, which featured Martha Wainwright. From what I gather (and to be honest, I didn’t gather much) it was about two sisters, mysteriously both called Anna who look the same (one of them was Martha) traveling across some seedy parts of the USA. The set was pretty cool and had a giant moon that moved around (cool!). The best part for me was all the parts where Martha sang, she really has a spectacular voice. What a talented lady. It lasted about 40 minutes. One thing I noticed at the ballet is they expect you to clap for about 5 minutes after, literally. I think because at gigs you clap after each song the clapping doesn’t build up into one epic clap-fest at the end, like it did here. Because you can’t clap during the show, you clap for about a century at the end while the dancers take about 15 bows. Martha got the biggest claps and she deserved them.
In the interval, aforementioned rude lady came up to me and asked if the seat next to me was free. Indeed it was. She left, and then when she came back declared “My friend is sitting there now.”. I was stunned at how rude this woman was! She didn’t ask me to move my things, she just looked at me and expected me to move them. I did, and internally laughed at how bizarre this all was. The best drama from this lady was yet to come.
The second piece was called Carmen. It started off OK, it had some pretty brilliant dancing from a lady in a big red dress. Unlike Seven Deadly Sins, this had no singing, and for me, soon deteriorated into a snorefest. I think it was partly because it was dark and I was tired. I also started to get hungry for something sweet during this part of the performance. I remembered I had a banana in my bag, but I didn’t know if it was proper Royal Opera House-etiquette to eat a banana during the ballet.
In the next interval, the rude lady decided to pick a fight with an old man a couple of rows behind her. He and another lady were complaining about how they couldn’t see because the rude lady was leaning forward and blocking their view. They got the Opera House staff involved, it was pretty epic! The rude lady went up to their row and started arguing. Clearly fuming, she returned to our row and started moaning to her friend. She was saying about how rude he was and was fake laughing at him, then said loudly “I’m going to lean even further forward NOW!”. This is the point where I laughed out loud at how ridiculous this all was, isn’t this meant to be a civilized affair!? The Opera House staff lady was a bit baffled too, the old man and the lady in the row behind kept complaining to her about it all. The guy sitting in the seat next to me also found it pretty strange and turned to me and said “looks like the drama’s not just down on the stage”. I agreed and said it was pretty funny for me seeing these people double/triple my age being so silly and immature.
Finally the interval drama was forced to end when the final performance started. It was called Danse a Grande Vitesse and was a ton better than Carmen. It had music by Michael Nyman and was really epic and brilliant. The dancers were amazing and I got the impression that they must really, really love what they do. It also made me think about how lucky I am to get to go to stuff like this, I’m sure people all over the world would love to attend a performance at the Royal Opera House in London, and I can just walk 30 minutes and see one with ease. There were over a dozen dancers on the stage, it reminded me of that Feist video. After about 10 minutes of clapping at the end I made a speedy exit.
Overall, I’m glad I went, it was only £11 (good value for 3 hours worth of stuff). I had a pretty good view and it was good to try something new. The walk back was brutal, the wind is so cold. Hopefully it’ll snow soon. Next time Martha performs her songs in London I’ll definately be going. You can watch Martha talking about the ballet here.