One of the items on my list is to see an opera in every major opera house around the world. So far, I have been to performance in New York, Paris, Milan, Toronto, and Vienna and I’m still bitter about the fact that the Bolshoi in Moscow was under renovations for the entire time we lived there! This was the first time I had enough lead time to plan to go to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. And, fortunately, the performance was one that would appeal to my husband.
Tosca is billed as a melodrama but, with its similarities to Othello, it is, in my mind, a full-blown tragedy. Tosca is a reasonably innocent singer, in love with the painter Cavaradossi, who becomes entangled in the destructive web of the malicious Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia. Scarpia, like Iago, oozes unredeemed evil and malice as he lusts after Tosca and seeks to destroy her lover for the least admirable reasons. Sadistically, he tricks Tosca into betraying her lover because, “For myself, the violent conquest has stronger relish than the soft surrender.” Tosca isn’t perfect, she’s a jealous and passionate woman and this proves to be the weak spot that Scarpia exploits.
This performance was conducted by Placido Domingo who took up the conductor’s baton after he retired from singing (remember him from the Three Tenors?). All in all, the performance was stunning.
But, after all that blood, and a gunshot that had me six inches out of my seat, my shattered nerves needed to move on to something kinder and gentler. What better than the second item I struck off my list, Afternoon Tea at the Ritz? Perhaps a frivolous item, but I have long been drawn to the England that existed between the two great wars of the 20th Century. In my mind, through the novels I’ve read, it is a time of elegance and grace now long gone. Tea at the Ritz seems to epitomize that and my occasional yearning to return to a simpler time. There is a great German noun for this, Sensucht which loosely translates into "longing and nostalgia for a far-off home one has never visited". And then I remember there were no antibiotics then and I’m glad to be living now!