Thursday, 21 February 2008

Grimes Shines At The Grand Opera House, Belfast

We got home yesterday about four, after our gourmet burger and chicken at GBB. I reckoned I'd leave about half-past six for the opera. So I changed into a lounge suit and, at the premeditated hour, ventured out in a northerly direction towards Belfast's Grand Opera House.

I strolled in to the Europa Hotel first, for a little aperitif; climbed the stairs to the first floor and the rather opulent Piano Lounge Bar. I ordered a restorative and sat down at a big armchair overlooking Great Victoria Street and Robinson's Bar. There was a party of four at the adjacent table and I could overhear the Belfast man nattering about his trip to Barcelona with its marina and large motor-yachts. He must have been a biker because he was heading for the West Midlands that weekend to buy a motorbike and he was describing, in some detail, his plan for returning home via Holyhead.

At twenty past seven I got up and left for the opera house. I managed to avoid most of the ghastly add-on extension by turning a hard left when I entered and walking straight into the original building, up the wide, sweeping stairs to the first floor where I aimed for my seat in the dress circle, B7. The auditorium was ninety-five per cent full. I still find the beauty of the Victorian auditorium astounding; it must be one of the finest in the Realm.

I'd never seen the opera, Peter Grimes, before. I'd listened to the music with its haunting main theme. Now that I've seen it, I can say that it's definitely not my favourite opera: the props were somewhat austere. The stage was largely bare and dozens of wooden soap-boxes were used in a variety of ways. I suppose they spent their finite budget on the orchestra and the cast. I wondered what the props would have been like at the Royal Opera House, for instance. At any rate, the ambiance of the production was good enough, reflecting a bleak, close-knit fishing community.

The overall performance was very good, judging by the cheering and applause at the final curtain. I noticed that the old red curtain with gold braid wasn't being used; an assistant assured me that it was still there but wasn't in use for Peter Grimes!

So I managed to avoid the monstrous characterless attachment added on to the opera house; I have no idea how many patrons were utilizing it. I enjoyed my refreshments across the street in the Europa Hotel instead.

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