I remember going to see Tosca in the Royal Opera House when I was in school. It was one of the many musical highlights I had from a great school, taking us to see interesting and worthwhile things rather than theme parks.
I can remember the set, the place itself, and above all the total pointlessness of the surtitles. I thought the music was drama enough…until this Sunday. You haven’t watched grand tragic opera, dear readers, until you’ve done so with a four year old.
Our commentary went thus:
“Why’s that lady looking so cross, Dad?
“The bloke called Scarpia is being mean to her friend.
“Who’s her friend?
“Who’s Carver Dozy?
“The nasty man.
“The one who’s singing at the lady?
“She must be really cross now.
“She’s singing really loud at the nasty man.
“Is she going to punch him? She looks like she’s going to punch him. That’s naughty.
“No, I don’t think she’s going to punch him. In fact, from what I recall of the plot, punching isn’t the way this is going to end.
“Is that because he’s behind the table with all the candles, Dad?
“No, I think she’s going to do something else.
“Is the candles because it’s his birthday, Dad?
“No, he just hasn’t got electric in eighteenth century Italy.
“Oh. I’d punch him, Dad.
“No you wouldn’t, because we don’t do that, do we?
“Oh. Well if I was the cross lady I’d blow all his candles out.
“Fair enough, son.
[quick exodus for snacks as Tosca picks up the knife]
“The lady’s back, Dad.
“She’s still cross, isn’t she, Dad?
“She’s singing loud again to show she’s cross.
“Dad, that lady looks like she’s cross lots of the time.
“Yes son, that’s what we call a soprano.
“What’s going to be the end?
“She’s going to jump off the castle.
“But she won’t be able to sing if she hurts herself.
“Dad, she’s climbing up onto the wiggly wall on the castle. Is she going to jump off?
“She’s waving her arms.
“Dad, the lady is all wobbly too isn’t she?
“Yes, son, well observed.
“Dad, is the Lady going to jump off the castle?
“Is she going to say “To infinity and beyond”?