Tonight on the way to the opera, as we bowled down the Westlink with the ANZAC bridge and the city skyline before us, D was talking to me about life.
“I don’t know,” he said, “is it only me or is life just boring? Maybe it’s different for people who have exciting careers, but I just feel, what’s the point to life?”
I remarked to him that most people don’t have exciting lives; that people who have children, well that is what they achieve in their lives (though surely that only defers the question); that otherwise we just keep living because it’s the thing you do.
“That’s why people kill themselves,” said D.
I disagreed. I said that most people who kill themselves kill themselves because they are depressed about something specific.
D’s life philosophising then became, or so I thought, rather wilder, as he then expressed the view that everyone killed themselves - from the way they ate, or exercised or didn’t or whatever. I expostulated that that couldn’t be true because some people are in fact killed by other people. D wouldn’t allow even this exception, since those who are killed have brought themselves to the point where they were in contact with whoever killed them.
This struck me as at odds with D’s customarily more passive view of fate, but by now we had reached the lights of King St and George St. The rise of King St to Elizabeth St before me offered its own stresses and diversions and I was contemplating where we should park once they were overcome.
We were running late, and ended up at terrible expense ($32) in the bowels of the Opera House parking lot. In the lift I ran into SS, with whom I did Music I in 1978 and whom I probably last saw about five years ago and before that 12 years ago. (Oh my God: do I look as old as she does now? Probably, and then some.) But there wasn’t time to talk. With seemingly few minutes to spare, we dashed off to the Opera Theatre.
And then there was a slight delay. My heart sank as the unwelcome announcement was made: in tonight’s performance of The Macropoulos Secret, the role of Emilia Marty would be sung from the side of the stage (the tell-tale chair and music stand were already there) by Anke Höppner. Miss Cheryl Barker had lost her voice, but would “walk through” (i.e. mime) the part. We were told that this situation had arisen just this afternoon, and the hope or opinion was offered that this should not destroy our evening.
You have to have a nerve to make a speech like that: no explanation was given as to why there was no understudy who could cover the role vocally and dramatically.
Anke Höppner did a good job in the circumstances, though there were lines which she belted out which Cheryl mimed at a different dynamic, and occasionally her accented English was a little odd, but the situation definitely put a damper on the evening and the dramatic effect.
The opera is quite short: two hours and 20 minutes including two 20-minute intervals.
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