Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dames, Madames, and Excellencies

I'm saving up most of my trip stories for a time when I have better internet, at which point I promise there will be much spillage of travel tales, but I wanted to share this one right away because well... it was bizarre but very cool.


Yesterday I went to the State Memorial for Dame Joan Sutherland. Dame Joan was the most famous opera soprano to come out of Australia in... ever. Her voice is one of my personal favorites and I have several of her recordings on my iPod, including her version of Lucia Di Lammermoor which is freaking awesome. She passed away last month in her mid eighties, and when I found out that there was going to be a tribute to her at the Sydney Opera House while I just happened to be in Sydney and then the tickets were free (I was seriously expecting to pay a hundred bucks for those suckers), I was delighted.

Then the weird thing happened. I do not know how, but somehow I got seated in the VIP section. Second row, stalls. Which, at a State Memorial, means I was sitting with very important Very-Important-People. I bumped elbows (literally) with the Ambassador from New Zealand. I could have reached out and touched the Prime Minister of Australia. I did not, however, reach out and touch her, because even though the Australian Secret Service dudes were much more relaxed than their American counterparts, I do not question their ability to kick my ass six ways to Sunday should I try to lay a finger on Julia Gilard.

The Memorial was really lovely. You have not heard the Australian national anthem until you have heard it sung by a theatre full of opera lovers and a chorus consisting of a bunch of principal singers who decided to join the chore that day to honor Dame Joan. Sweet Bejeesus, boys and girls, that was a freaking epic national anthem.

Beautiful words were spoken, beautiful recordings of La Stupenda herself were played (including this one with Pavorati that I'd never heard before!), and the live opera orchestra played the stuffing out of the overture to La Traviata (which happens to be a personal favorite of mine).

My photo was taken by some of the press members covering the event (doubtless all of them wondering who the hell I was that I was sitting on the end of a row with Those People in it). Then the usher demanded the peons stand back while the VIPs exited and tried to get me to exit first (immediately after madame prime minister and the "excellencies" had gone).

Hilary Clinton was in Australia a few days ago, standing three feet from the prime minister. Then it was my turn. A writer of fluffy romances with no good reason to be put in the VIP section at a major arts/political function. Go figure.

Now, in the next few days, I will be off to New Zealand, where I plan to run into a few members of the British royal family or an A-list actor at the very least.


Kali said...

Can I be you when I grow up?

Vivant said...

Wow. Amazing, surreal awesomeness.

As I was opening your blog, I read a paragraph in Zoe Archer's Scoundrel that is eerily appropriate:

"Certain moments in one's life would always be returned to, even years, decades, later. Some of them were painful - heartbreak, mortification, loss - but there were others that held the clarity and perfection of cut gems, to sparkle against the velvet drape of memory."

Thank you for sharing one of your gems!

Mary Hughes said...

There is something approaching heaven when you're singing in an auditorium full of singers. What an incredible experience! Thanks for writing about it! (But personally I always knew you were a VIP...)