Tuesdays with Ana: One night like this before I die

In talking with a friend yesterday, I reminisced about visiting the Royal Opera House (ROH) in London a few years ago. It had been my dream ever since childhood to visit England, London, and especially to see the Royal Ballet. The stars aligned just right, and I found myself in the building that (to me) was filled with fairy tales and dreams come true. I haunted the gift shop, hallways, display cases of costumes, and the customer service area.

On an impulse, I stopped by the ticket counter and inquired about upcoming shows. The Royal Ballet had closed for the season, but the Royal Opera was performing Le nozze di Figaro.

Oh, wait? One tonight? I waited with bated breath. Could there be any tickets left?

“There’s one available tonight in the stalls circle.”

The price, of course, was astronomical. Bigger problem: the opera started in less than an hour. I looked down at my tourist shorts and casual shirt in dismay. Sure, the ROH tends to be more casual than other European opera houses, but my dream of attending a ROH opera did not include tacky clothing.

“I won’t have time to change clothes. Is it all right if I wear this?”

The ticket seller waved my concerns away. “That’s fine. But this seat doesn’t have a surtitle view. I’m sorry, but it’s the only one left.”

Who cares about surtitles when I could still see the stage? And in such a good seat, too! Then again, the seat would have to be a good one for that price.

Possibly due to my less-than-costly attire, the ticket seller gave me a kindly look. “It’s a lot of money. Are you sure?”

It was a lot of money, and it wasn’t in my budget. But I hadn’t saved up for six years to go home without taking advantage of dreams come true. “I’ll take it!”

I rushed back to the gift shop hoping to find a libretto or guide for the opera that night. I knew the basic story, of course, but so much of the humor of an opera depends on knowing the timing. I did not manage to find a libretto or other aid (I would have been glad for a children’s book describing the story), but I picked up some more souvenirs instead. Wild with excitement, I wandered around the courtyard taking pictures of anything that moved and lots that didn’t.

Embarrassed at looking like an American tourist too clueless to know theater etiquette, I shuffled into the theater clutching my ticket (which is now proudly displayed on my fridge). I wanted to apologize for my inappropriate clothing, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

Breath taken away, I checked my bag and found my way to my seat. To my surprise and delight, the woman next to me was a fellow American (expat) who gave opera coaching for her profession. She asked me if I knew the story, and I shook my head. I mean, I “knew,” but only in the most general terms. She proceeded to tell me about the story, in depth. I was grateful and touched. I kept wanting to pinch myself, though, to make sure everything wouldn’t disappear when I woke up. Me, little plain old Ana, at the Royal Opera House? It was too grand to be true.

Then the curtain went up…

(WordPress will only let me insert one video, so here is the link: a brief view of Le nozze di Figaro, by the Royal Opera House)

Spellbound, I laughed at the silliness and teared up at the gorgeous music. I have never liked Mozart (long story), but that night his clarity and lightness served as the perfect, frothy, summer fun treat. At the intermission, I went to the Crush Room and nearly fainted. How many times had I read about characters going to the “Crush” at intermission and talking with famous music and ballet critics? I wandered around the new additions and was glad for the loudness of the patrons…I could get away with a little squeal of excitement every now and then.

As the performance finished and audience members trickled out of the theater (or perhaps I should say “theatre”), I couldn’t bear to leave. I murmured to my new friend, “Do they allow photos?” She wasn’t sure, so I nipped closer to the stage and turned around to take a photo (not of the stage, which I was sure would be forbidden) but the seats. An usher came over (here I think my clueless American tourist clothing helped!) and politely told me photography, even of the seats, was not allowed. I apologized profusely and sincerely, and I didn’t have to delete the photos from my camera!

It’s not a very good photo (I took the pictures as fast as I could in case I got stopped), but the angle and lights express my wonderment that night.

To crown the evening, as I walked out and tried (unsuccessfully) to find the nearest Tube station, a pedicab cyclist came by and offered me a ride.

I normally wouldn’t have dreamed of it, but the night was too glorious to end with prosaic, ordinary travel such as the Tube. I paid my money and got in, and I felt like Cinderella carried by her pumpkin coach and mice horses.

I said to my friends and family afterward, “Everyone should have a night like this before dying.” At intermission in the Crush Room, I thought I might burst with happiness. I’d gotten to do something I’d dreamed about ever since I was little, and I’d never expected it to actually happen. More than that, I was only lucky enough to do it because of a series of coincidences that gave me a night to remember for the rest of my life.

Talking about the night with my friend made me appreciate (once more) the glory of realizing that dream. I’ve had many dreams come true (I am blessed in many ways), but there’s something special about a lifelong dream.

Sometimes, it’s easy to feel sad that a happy moment is over or a person who makes us happy is gone. When things are difficult, I see the difficulty of the present instead of the blessings of the past.

No, every night can’t be a dream-come-true night, but some can. Dreams can come true in small or big ways, and sometimes the smallest ways are the biggest of all. A phone call from a long-estranged family member. The smile of someone who has been ill for too long. Good news when we least expect it.

Tonight (or some night soon), I hope you will have an evening that makes you think to yourself, “I’m so glad I had a night like this before I die.”

What is your dream?

 

Want to learn about opera but feel intimidated? Here’s a great “Opera for Beginners” guide.

And if you have children, read this guide to introducing children to opera.

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27 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Ana: One night like this before I die

  1. Irishey says:

    What an amazing opportunity, Ana. The stars aligned perfectly for you on that evening in order to fulfill that lifelong dream. Very, very cool.

    While there are many places I would love to visit, things I would love to do, and people I would love to meet, I can truthfully say I won’t regret it if none of that happens. I live my best dream ever since D and I were reunited a few years ago. He is a balm to my soul, and makes my heart sing again. I also have my children, who make me the luckiest mother in the world. Both my parents are still living, and I have many wonderful relatives and friends, all of which makes me so grateful. None of these people are perfect, but they are what matters most in everything I’ve ever dreamed of doing. I would love to take all of you with me to see and experience the world, or any small part of it!

    Lovely post, Ana. Thank you for sharing this special memory and how it made you feel to realize this dream. Awesome!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh yes, I was lucky. I think I enjoyed the evening far more than if I’d planned it for months ahead of time. Whenever I try to make something wonderful, the buildup and work beforehand makes me expect more and criticize what didn’t live up to expectations. That night was wonderful because I had no expectations. Everything was an amazing gift.

      I think that’s a wonderful attitude, to have a dream but to be able to appreciate life if it can’t happen. And who knows. Maybe someday we’ll take a blogland tour of the world. πŸ™‚

      Like

  2. sixofthebest says:

    Ana, your beautiful and magical evening at the Royal Opera House, located in Convent Garden, London, England. (nearest tube station Convent Garden, reminded me of my first opera that I saw at Lincoln Center, Here in New York. It was Puccini’s, “La Boheme. Your feelings and my feelings, were the same. Most magnificent indeed. Yes, I agree with you. Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro, is a masterpiece. By the way, I have witnessed an opera at Convent Garden, although not in the plush seat like you had, but in the balcony. My opera was Madame Butterfly.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      That’s right! I took the Tube *to* the theater, but I was too giddy afterward to find my way back. I have never gone to a performance the Lincoln Center, but I would love to. It sounds like you had an amazing time. I wish I could go back more often. Community companies sometimes put on operas and ballets, but audiences don’t always know how to behave (and ruin the experience).

      I felt sorry for those who had standing tickets. An opera is a long time to stand! Still, it was a magical experience no matter where a person was.

      Like

  3. laurellasky says:

    What a great wonderful night. My cousin Richard took me to Carnegie Hall to see Luchia with Joan Southernlan and Richare Tucker. It was a dark opera but Richard explained it all to me. It was kind of funny because Richard Tucker was short and Joan was six ft. lol

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh how fun! I think everyone should get to enjoy the opera at least once. I mean, if I can read about US football and enjoy it (even though I don’t like the game or watching it), even non-music fans should get to try opera.

      Like

  4. Renee says:

    Wow, how exciting to see an opera. I have never experienced that live but maybe one day. I love music. Everyone should have that wonderful feeling at least once in their lives. My dream is to see Alaska. I used to dream about traveling the world but realized that wasn’t going to happen so I narrowed the field down to Alaska. I want to take a 14 or 21 day trip around all the parts of Alaska. The closest I will probably get is the travel channel but it sure is beautiful in the pictures. So glad you got to enjoy your special night.

    Like

    • sixofthebest says:

      Renee, in my lifetime I have seen this wonderful world of ours. 150 different countries. Which have included going to the Pyramids of Egypt by camel. The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, by elephant. Walking the Great Wall of China. Seeing a bullfight in Madrid. Spain, Ole. Belly Dancing, in Casablanca, Morocco. Visiting a Geisha house, in Tokyo Japan. Yes, seeing the world can be a wonderous adventure. If only it was allowed to be a peaceful one.

      Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      You can get DVDs for far less than buying an opera ticket. πŸ™‚ It’s not the same, but it is still fun. I think it’s neat that we have similar dreams here–Alaskan cruise, opera. And who knows? Maybe someday you will get lucky and get to travel around the world. I was lucky enough to travel across a good portion of the world, and it all came about suddenly. You never know. πŸ™‚

      Like

  5. Minelle says:

    Wonderful, gosh I could feel your joy in each moment! You painted a wonderful picture with your words.
    I have many lifelong dreams… Sometimes they change as I grow older, some have happened. Paris, the Louvre…
    At this moment I have simple wishes for the next year, not one that is lifelong. It a simple dream to waste not one moment with my mom…. No matter how hard.

    Like

  6. catrouble says:

    What an absolutely awesome evening Ana! I agree with Minelle…I also could feel your joy. You paint such wonderful pictures with your words and evoke such emotion. Most of the time, I feel inadequate to even express what your gift of words means to me. Thank you my friend.

    Hugs and Blessings…
    Cat

    Like

  7. Roz Harrison says:

    What a wonderful story and amazing experience Ana. I’m so happy for you that you had the opportunity. One thing I’ve always wanted to do is a cruise, and and Alaskan cruise in particular.

    Hugs
    Roz

    Like

  8. ronniesoul says:

    Ana,

    What a lovely post. How wonderful, you were lucky to get that ticket.

    Funny, I was talking to my friend only the other day about the Opera House, Its on my bucket list.

    Love,
    Ronnie
    xx

    Like

  9. Julie says:

    Wow, Ana, such a magical evening!

    I have two special dreams – one of them definitely can’t happen for a long time, but fingers crossed on the other one. I’m way too superstitious to say what they are. πŸ™‚

    Like

  10. Katie says:

    Sounds like a very magical evening at the opera for you, Ana! πŸ™‚ I too liked your description of the special event. Your words are a treat in that way, as we are brought right in to the moment. Happy that you had that joy. My folks like the opera. I have an appreciation for it, for sure. πŸ™‚

    I am not sure if there is any one thing that I am looking forward to as far as a bucket list goes. Seeing my kids grow up to be happy and healthy and good people who contribute to the world around them in a positive way, is a very big thing, always on my mind. And a grandchild or two, or more, down the road would be wonderful. Time together, enjoying life as it comes with Rob sounds just right. Spending time with my folks, especially my dad is special to me these days. Great post! Glad that you go to experience that adventure. Many hugs,

    ❀ Katie T

    Like

  11. Ami Starsong says:

    ‘The stuff of dreams’. Yes, times like these are what dreams are made of.

    To look back and be thankful is so good for us. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of always complaining.

    I smile when I think of you in shorts – but who cares. The main thing is that for you is was a magical experience and one you will ever remember.

    I haven’t yet made it to the opera house, but have many times listened with joy to the opera singers singing for charity in Covent Garden in the cafes and bistros, and even in the “stair wells”. I do, however, remember each and every one of my visits to theatres in London; sitting breathless on the edge of my seat in anticipation of either a play or a musical.

    As you know, I should love to go to Verona and sit outside at the opera there. I should very much enjoy to see Madame Butterfly, Tosca, or La Boheme. Perhaps one day I will be lucky. Who knows.

    Hugs
    Ami

    Like

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