Tosca, Royal Opera House, 09.07.2009


It all started when “somebody” let’s call her….”G” told me that there was a change of cast for Tosca at the Royal Opera House. Deborah Voight was supposed to sing. But she got sick and guess who replaced her… Angela Gheorghiu. It took me a few minutes to decide and them half a day to ask for the permission to leave. From 6th to 9th of July I was supposed to be in Milan for U2 concert and Aida at La Scala. It couldn’t have been better. Milan is closer to London than Bucharest. I didn’t have a ticket for that performace. But I was sure that I could find one. I wanted too much to get in. So I bought a flight ticket from Milan to London and another one from London to Bucharest. After buying the flight tickets I found accommodation in a hostel in Russell Square, called Smart Russell Square. It’s 10 minute walking to Covent Garden and right across the street from Imperial hotel, where G was staying.

And then started the hunt for tickets. There were 3 productions I could see.
1. Tosca on July 9th – with Angela Gheorghiu, Bryn Tryfel and Marcelo Giordani
2. Il Barbiere on July 10th – with Juan Diego Florez and Joyce di Donato
3. Un Ballo in Maschera on July 11th – with Ramon Vargas
4. Again Tosca on July 11th in the evening – with Nelly Miricioiu, Bryn Tryfel and Marcelo Giordani

So you see, a lot of online shopping. Tosca and Barbiere were sold out. First I bought a ticket for Un Ballo, 7 pounds, standing in the balcony. After two days of long waiting and refreshing on the ROH website, the seat plan for Tosca on July 9th opened. This is the sign that there are tickets available (returns). Otherwise it’s written there that there are no tickets available. I bought that ticket without thinking twice. It was a 30 pound ticket but I was not sure about the location. It was important that I could get in.

2 more to go. Barbiere and the other Tosca. And I found tickets for both. And after than I found a third ticket, also for Barbiere. I told G that I have it in my basket. Buying that ticket meant changing flight (her flight). The temptation was too big to refuse. So I bought the ticket and she changed the return flight. After than I found another ticket for Tosca on 11th for her. It was one week in London for her and one week in Milan and London for me.

After attending La Scala and U2 concert, on Wednesday morning I took an afternoon flight to London. I got to the airport about 3 hours and half before the flight because it was impossible to concertrate on doing something else. It was a mixture of joy that I go to ROH for the first time and fear she won’t show up. But it would have been ugly to cancel the cancellation. So I had faith everything would be ok. Got in London at 5:30pm and then rushed to the hostel to take a shower. I had an appointment on Floral Street at 10:30pm. If you haven’t googled for the address yet, I tell you that this is where the backstage door of ROH is. If you’re patient enough here you can meet the stars of the evening.
I met G there. She attended Un Ballo in Maschera by Verdi, with Ramon Vargas among others. I’ll go see this production on Saturday morning. Vargas came in short time. He’s sooo nice. He greated everybody, had pictures taken and signed booklets and programs. Just a note: there are not too many people waiting backstage at ROH comparte to Vienna. Maybe things will change for Barbiere. There are so many stars in that production.
Happy to see G, happy to be in London. When I got off the tube at Russell Square a huge smile stuck to my face. I still have it. I love this city. It’s big, crowded, loud but I like it anyways. If I had a very good job I could live here without any problems.

This was the first contact with ROH. The big night was to follow.

On the next morning we went together to ROH for me to pick up the tickets. No change in the cast. Angela Gheorghiu was there. I had butterflies in my stomach when I got up. Still had them when I got to ROH and had to stand the same feeling for the rest of the day. But it was a busy day. We went to the theatre. War Horses at New London Theatre, a National Theatre production. An amazing play. Go see it. It’s not expensive and the theatre is small. You’ll see perfectly from any side of it.

At 7pm we arrived at the ROH. On a scale fron 0 to 10 my level of impatience riched 10. And going up. No change in the cast. I couldn’t be happier. I started looking for my seat. And when I got there I couldn’t believe that I was that lucky. It was very close to the stage. Stalls circle left, B15. Perfect seat. Nothing in front of me, perfect view of the stage, orchestra and conductor.
10 minutes… five minutes…. The safety courtain raised. Three minutes……. And it started. Only the idea that she’ll be on stage, 10m away from me, made me hold the breath. The first “Mario” that came from backstage was the reward for all the previous cancellations. The side of the set that we can see represent the interior of a church and a double staircase coming down. Upstairs there’s the altar, downstairs there’s Mario working. Tosca comes in a beautiful orange dress. And what a delight that was. It’s very hard to describe. You have to be there, to like it very much in order to understand. Otherwise there are just words.

I was waiting for THE moment. Vissi D’arte. The second act is my favourite. Bryn did his best to be villain (he was better during the second performance, on July 11, but I’ll talk about this one later). Angela’s acting was perfect. She shout at him, ran away, they talked, fought….the tension was higher and higher. There was real hate in Angela’s eyes and voice and all this was to lead to that lament. Vissi D’arte. The moment was beautiful. While the orchestra was still playing she turned towards the statue (if you happened to see the movie, she turns towards a fireplace. The gesture is the same. Only that there’s a statue instead of the fireplace). She touches the statue and the orchestra finishes. There 2-3 seconds of concentration. I see her profile. She waited a little bit, took a deep breath and started. What followed made me forget about everything else. In the end I felt those tears in my eyes. Same as in Bucharest. That aria is really touching.
Then it’s Bryn’s turn to show his best. He has to make her give up. From the peacefulness of Vissi D’arte the music leads to that tragic line.. Questo e il baccio di Tosca. And another moment I expected. When she says “Muori”. Three times. The last one is the most powerful. She said it as if he were still alive and her words could kill him instantly.
The final act is very emotional. I always liked the introduction to Luccevan en le stele. First the clarinete, then the harp and the violins (20 but sounding like only one)….like an enchant and growing stronger and stronger, anticipating the sad lyrics. Giordani did it so well. With all his soul. Lovely. But he too was to be way better on the second night.

I forgot to mention the white dress. The beautiful white one. She looked sooooooo good in it. I like to think of it as a trademark. Angela is Tosca. And this is her dress. Backstage roumor said that there were real diamonds of that cross she was wearing during the second act and that the tiara belonged to Princess Grace. Now I’m sorry I didn’t asked her when I had the chance.
It was again one of those nights that should last forever. After 3 hours I still couldn’t belive that I was actually there. We went backstage. Giordani was first to come out. With his wife and son. Smartly dressed. There were not too many people. About 10-12. It was the first night of the production and almost everybody was sure they won’t come too soon because of the cocktail party. They were wrong. After Giordani Bryn came. He’s so different from the man we saw on stage. He’s tall. And very funny. He talked to everybody there and had pictures taken. After he left some more people left too. There were only 8 in there, us two included. We were waiting for more excitement.

Angela came in less than half an hour. We knew she’d come. She always does. Wearing a embroidered white trench coat and very high hill sandals, she actually made all of us stare. She went behind the window and started talking to people. Most of them went before us. But we had a huge advantage. The language. Usually when she hears Romanian she acts differently. I really wanted to thank her again for Vissi D’arte. This is what brought me to London. I managed to talk. Looking at her. With more courage than last time. They don’t bite. Only that in her presence it’s difficult to act normally. She said two things. After telling her that I came especially for Tosca she replyed “Do you like it that much? Then consider yourself lucky. You have great opportunity. Take the chance”. Guess she’s right. I think she refers to this incredible rush opera is these days. Singers make a lot of effort, travel all the time, perform in 5-6 productions a year. Nobody knows how long they can make it. And now the second thing that made my blood preasure rise. She took the program to sign it. And she said “you’re name is Irina, right?”. I mean…. How could she remember my name? I aksed her. The answer was simple. “You were in Bucharest”. Trust me, this is the best thing that could happen to you. Somebody you admire knows your name. Out of the blue. Unexpectedly. Call it as you wish. I was in seventh heaven again. Then she came where we were and had some pictures taken. We were 4 or 5 people there. It was like a photo session. Somebody asked her just to stay there. To pose. She did that. As nice as it was, this moment had to have an end as the driver was waiting. "Ragazzi, andiamo!"
But the memories will last forever. Thanks. You’re great. And you got another fan. G will join me again someday, I’m sure.

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