ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy

Old habits, new hobbies, and Tosca!


This Monday I went ‘back to school’, as a student that is. I’m doing an intensive Spanish course, cos it was cheap, and it’s my idea of fun. Not surprisingly, it’s turned out to be quite the undertaking; four nights a week, with an energetic, challenging teacher, and a pretty intimidating syllabus. Plus there are (currently) only three of us in the class, so I’ve got nowhere to hide when I haven’t done my homework.
So far my main impression is that it’s really nice to be the student for a change. You get to sit there passively while the teacher is responsible for running the show and being organised and professional and knowledgeable… all those things I feel pressure about when it’s the other way round. The first class was exceptionally fun, I learnt stuff, and left feeling super motivated to give the course everything I’ve got. I swore to myself that I’d do it all properly this time around.
But old habits die hard; and it appears my study ethic hasn’t magically improved since I was a uni student. If we were to be marked on attendance, at this rate I’d already be failing, with one late arrival and two no-shows in the first week of school.
It’s not my fault, of course. I’m in the horribly unfortunate position of having a housemate who works at the Conservatory of Music. One of the perks of her job is regular access to free concert tickets, and I’ve been saddled with the onerous duty of accompanying her to various gigs about town. It’s tough, but I’m rising to the challenge. On Wednesday I cut class to go a piano concert, and on Thursday, the Opera. So I guess my motivations for truancy have altered slightly.
I know little about classical music, except that I like it, and I like hearing it live, which is something I haven’t really done since the days my brothers played in orchestras when they were younger. Maybe the music genes and the height genes are located on the same chromosome, because my brothers are really tall and musically talented, but I missed out on both accounts. But what I lack in pitch and rhythm and coordination, I definitely make up for with enthusiasm…
Unfortunately, Wednesday’s concert was a total disaster. The pianist was a young Dutch girl who’d won several awards, and who was no doubt very competent. But the piano was out of tune, and the acoustics of the hall were absolutely terrible. You could hear every cough and splutter in the audience, so we were all too scared to breathe or shuffle in our seats. But the worst thing was that I was sitting next to the two most horrible little old ladies I’ve ever encountered in my life. They were wrinkly and scrunched up and dripping with expensive jewellery, and they bitched the whole way through the performance. One of them kept noisily fidgeting with a plastic bag she had on her lap. Who brings an empty plastic bag to a concert?! Then they loudly grunted their disapproval at the opening of each movement, sighed ‘finally’ at every closure, and at one point they actually commented ‘how boring’ in the middle of a piece. Luckily the pianist didn’t understand Spanish, as she was already visibly unhappy with her performance. The concert didn’t wrap up until eleven-ish, and I (stupidly) hadn’t eaten dinner beforehand, so the whole night was a bit of an exercise in endurance.
The ‘opera’ on Thursday was another story. Forewarned and forearmed, I made sure to be well fed and caffeinated on arrival. Sadly the opera itself hadn’t come to Segovia, what I saw was live broadcast of Tosca from the Royal Opera House in London. It was held at a brand new cinema complex, which had an enormous screen and state-of-the-art sound technology. I know that in real life it’s probably incomparably better, but I was nonetheless impressed with the set up, and definitely happy to count this as my first ever opera experience. Tosca is a love story, set in Rome, which predictably ends in tragedy. He was an artist, Italian, with a sense of humour, and honour, who heroically gave his life for a friend, and had beautiful dark eyes, olive skin, and wavy brown hair. She…the diva, was all-right, I suppose. Actually, she was pretty damn impressive. They all were. It was a brilliant, unabashedly melodramatic performance, loaded with emotion from start to finish. It appears there’s nothing subtle about opera. At the start I thought it might be a bit over the top, but then I got carried away, and of course I ended up crying at the end. I think I might just be a convert. The cinema will be showing a number of live broadcasts of opera, ballet and theatre over the next few months, so if the task should fall upon me to relieve my flatmate of any more spare tickets, then I’ll just have to do the right thing by her.
Anyway, after last weekend’s Hay festival, this week’s music intake, and my first lot of homework in years, I feel like my poor little head is about to explode. Too much new information, sounds, and experiences. Hyperactive brain activity. Makes sleep tricky. So over the weekend I did my best to reverse the damage. I went shopping in Madrid, read some trashy magazines, and went tapas/wine/bar tasting about town. Just to make sure those neurons don’t start getting ahead of themselves. 

2 thoughts on “Old habits, new hobbies, and Tosca!

  1. Haha… Jean, I do so love the way you can tell a story! I went to a live performance of Tosca a year ago, and it was also my first real introduction to opera (even though you’d think that with my music upbringing I would have encountered it sooner) – was absolutely brilliant! I’m glad you enjoyed it and are getting your cultural fix over there. xo

  2. hehehe a cheeky little post . poor neurons :)

    xxxx m

    On 08/10/2012, at 23:09, ciento volando wrote:

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