Friday, 8 February 2013

Always a first time for everything

Earlier this week I experienced two firsts – my first visit to an art gallery and my first visit to the opera. Yes, yet again I've been out and about trying to participate in things a bit more cultured!

My experience was somewhat mixed. I’d already got the opera booked up from a while back – having purchased ‘cheaper’ tickets in the upper circle to a condensed and English version of La Traviata. As it so happened I was owed some time at work and so I decided to use it on the afternoon to make the most of my day.

So myself and my boyfriend met for a quick lunch and then headed off to the Whitechapel Art Gallery – literally 5 minutes’ walk from my office. The gallery is another amazing free offering from our capital and has a variety of different areas exhibiting various artists, which obviously vary and change over weeks/months.

We got to see the likes of Gerard Byrne , Lucy Cash , the Collection Sandretto Re Rebaudengo , Giuseppe Penone and archives of Aspen Magazine

After spending around 90 minutes in the gallery we both came out feeling pretty much the same – ‘I don’t get it’. I think we can safely say conceptual art is not for me and my boyfriend. However, not to be put off I think next time we shall venture to the Tate Modern or similar to see some more standard art – photos, paintings etc and not random video clips and unclear messages.

Saying that I still enjoyed the visit and was glad I gave it a go and there were parts of Cash’s work and Penone’s that I admired.

As we still had some time spare (and we seemed intent on wearing ourselves out!) we then had a quick search online and saw the Royal London Hospital Museum wasn’t far either and was also free! So off we went.

I thoroughly enjoyed this small but item-packed building. Both of us really felt we learnt a lot about the hospital and healthcare in the East End of London throughout the years. I thought the wall at the end showcasing key and memorable nurses from past to more recent days was also a lovely touch. We only had 45 minutes until the museum closed, but this allowed us enough time to peruse the displays and watch a snippet of one of the informative videos (surprise surprise my boyfriend chose to view the one on the ‘elephant man’!)

By this point we were getting pretty tired and so decided to venture closer to our evening venue and go and enjoy some drinks and dinner. A couple of hours later we emerged from the chain Mexican restaurant absolutely stuffed to the brim and headed off to the London Coliseum (seems my favourite place to be this year!) to go and take our seats for the opera.

This two hour, no interval display was put on by the English National Opera and although we were right at the back of the Upper Circle we had a nice view from our seats. When booking it said we’d have no view of the surtitles (which it turned out there weren’t any), but I said to my boyfriend it wouldn’t matter since the singing was in English. Hm…

To summarise, the theatre was absolutely boiling and upstairs they kept letting latecomers in throughout the whole performance which was pretty off-putting – as were the constant coughers and some man who made very odd noises throughout.

However, to focus on the show itself. Again, I’m not sure if I am a fan of the opera or not. I guess we were expecting a rather more detailed set than there was and I expected to understand more of what was being sung. I had purchased a programme before the show started and tried to have a quick read through of what the story entailed, but it wasn’t until we were on the tube home that I finally got to grips with what we’d just watched if I’m honest.

So what did I learn? Well, the lead who played Violetta was an amazing singer and I thought she performed very well, as did the man performing as Alfredo. The talent could not be denied. However, I’d like to try opera again, but this time see it in Italian (if we can’t understand it in English anyway we might as well see it in the language it’s typically played in) and I’d also sit closer to the stage – whether in the stalls or nearer the front of the dress circle. I’ll also read up more thoroughly on the story outline beforehand. I found I was surprised I found it easier in ballet to tell what was going on through mime and dance moves, than being in an opera and watching people moving and singing.

This is the first time in my cultural experiences venture that I’ve not loved what I’ve seen (the ballet, theatre plays, the costume exhibition), so I admit I was a bit sad that I didn’t come away loving the experience. However, obviously you can’t like everything and before I give up on opera and art I’m going to try different variations first.

So the story this time is to be continued…

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