Sunday, 24 March 2013

Just a dream

What I am about to impart to you is absolutely true. I really DID have a dream last night that featured Antonio Pappano and a full audience at the ROH. And I did have a stand up row with the maestro from the floor of the auditorium which migrated onto the stage. 
And it was one of those dreams that, when you awake, takes a few moments to be acknowledged as a figment of your sleeping brain.

It also had a complete narrative, it didn't just appear in the middle of another dream; it began, had a middle, an end and there was nothing either side of it. And given recent debates it was perhaps an entirely predictable dream to experience. It went a lot like this....

The lights dimmed in the house, there was a fanfare and the curtains opened to reveal a large, bright staircase with gaudy bulbs along each step; I half expected Bruce Forsyth to appear at the top of it. But he didn't; amid a bright pink wash, the spotlight picked out Tony Pappano, hands raised, a roar of approval from the crowd, his arms raised in the air triumphantly. A big band played. Alongside Tony was another individual who I didn't recognise and who became insignificant and irrelevant.  Tony marched to the front of the stage with cheers, music and applause ringing in his ears. From my front row seat I noticed that in one hand he held a pad of yellow Post-it notes and in the other a pencil. He was wearing a green velvet jacket.

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen!"
A roar in return.

"Tonight I am here, on stage to talk to you about opera. More importantly I am here to get ideas from YOU about what we do to make it more popular!"
More cheers, more applause (I promise, this is exactly how it went. The dream is emblazoned on my memory).

"Every idea you give me I will write on these stickers and they will be placed on the wall in my office. You will shout the ideas, I will write them down. It is that simple".

By now I was already bristling so I didn't wait for him to finish. I stood up.

"Tony, is this bloody serious?" I barked.

Tony noticed me and, leaning forward from the stage, offered calming hand and a fixed smile.

"We all know what you think Michael", he said "but lets give other people a chance to speak."

"What is your top price ticket Tony? Come on, what is it?"

The house had fallen deathly silent but I looked around at them anyway, seeking approval for the question. There was none.

"It isn't just about price is it?" he replied. Tony was still smiling, looking a little sheepish. He looked alarmed when I strode up the indecently handy set of steps in front of me (this was a dream after all). 

"Come on Mike".

"Don't worry Tony, I just want to speak to you. I won't punch you. No it isn't just price. What about repertoire?" 

Things started to get a little surreal here. I told him that he should be doing more Mozart and asked why he had never done Cilea's  L'arlesiana or Giordano's Siberia

"You are not welcoming to people here," I continued.  "You stop people at the door who don't look posh. You don't even give them a refund when you turn them away". 
My grandstanding raised not even a murmur from the house.

"That's not true. We do give them a refund!" he replied.
Tony was still smiling and I complimented him on it. He laughed.

"And what about you slagging off all the singers for being ill? How is that making opera more accessible?"  Dreams often conflate issues. Wrongly.

Tony dropped the smile at this point. I wouldn't say he looked angry but his face was stern. 
"Ha! That's why we are doing this tonight! Bloody singers dropped out and we had to get something on stage!" Huge cheer from the house.

I scoffed at him. "No it isn't!"

"Yes it is! Three of them. All together. And they phoned me from the pub!" 
Huge boo from the house. He was smiling again. 

"You haven't written a single thing down on your stickers Tony. You call that consultation? Not a single word have you scribbled down".

And then the music started again and we both walked off together, up the staircase, through a curtain at the top. When there, he thanked me.

"Great show!" he said. Still smiling. 

James, my producer colleague, was waiting. 

"You tart"' he said.