The Opera – My first visit

My first opera was an obscure, for want of a better word, opera written by Nikolai Rimsky- Korsakov at Sadlers Wells in London back in 1948-49. The only part of the opera that I can recall is the “Dance of the tumblers” probably because it seemed so fast and furious. Too, the only music I recall, is the music for this dance.

I went with Uncle Charlie, he wasn’t really my uncle, but he was my dads best friend, and back then children weren’t so familiar with grown ups like today’s children. Well here in Australia at least. 

There are times when my children call me dad, but those times are few and far between, no nephew, niece from the extended family call me anything other than my given name; and that’s how it should be I think, I like that.

Anyway back to Uncle Charlie, he was an industrial chemist, with a love of the opera and classical music. He always came by on a Tuesday night to play darts against my dad, and the neighbour from next door but one, Mr Harris. I’ll probably get around to telling you some stories about Mr Harris another time, but this isn’t the right place for them.

I was considered a bit odd by my parents (and most of my school chums come to think of it), because I liked and enjoyed music. I only really had one close chum at school; that was Turner (John Turner). He was an excellent musician, played the piano beautifully and excelled on the clarinet. Like me he enjoyed the once a term visit by what was commonly called “The Quintet”, sometimes when they arrived they’d be a quartet other times a sextet, but always referred to as “The Quintet”

Turner was allowed free access to the glorious concert grand; a Blüthner, in the school hall, whenever he felt like playing or just tinkling with the keys, he was that good. He taught me to play a few bars of a sweet little piece, and it was not until several years later, I found that the piece was Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”..

I’m getting away from the subject again, back to the “Snow Maiden”, Uncle Charlie had bought two seats to the performance, there was only to be the one, and tried to persuade my dad to go with him. This tickled my father no end, Bolshie that he was; the only song he knew, and that I ever heard him sing, was “Comrades”. anyway, I piped up and said I’d like to go, and so it was. I went.

Uncle Charlie took me up to London on the Underground; (we never ever referred to the Underground as the “tube”), don’t ask me which trains we took, I can’t remember the route, except we went to The Angel Islington, there Uncle Charlie took me to tea at a Lyons Corner House, I think it was called. It was my first ever experience of eating in a restaurant, and I’ve no idea what we had to eat, because I was too excited.

After we’d finished eating, we toddled off to the theatre, I didn’t realize it at the time, but we had very good seats in the dress circle. Four rows from the balcony, and Uncle Charlie pointed out a man and woman, two rows closer in, and directly in front of us and told me that it was the Earl of Harewood, and Marion Stein the concert pianist. ,

The Earl was the eldest grandson of the late King George V and nephew of the King; George VI.

The Earl was regarded by George V as a bit odd, (welcome to the club) as he was not the least bit interested in riding  horses and shooting, the proper pass time for a young man with royal blood coursing through his veins; but in music and the arts. By the bye, the Earl’s name was George also; his full name was George Henry Hubert Lascelles.

He served with the Grenadier Guards during WWII, and was captured by the Germans and imprisoned at Colditz. (There was a film made about an escape from Colditz some years ago)/

This castle prison, was used to house high ranking captured British, and allied servicemen, as it was thought to be escape proof. Douglas Bader was sent there after making one too many escapes, or escape attempts.

Sir Douglas Bader as he became, was a renowned hero.

He’d lost both legs in a motor cycle accident some years before the war, but refused to give up flying, and became a Spitfire pilot. Known as Tin Legs Bader he was shot down over Germany, or it may have been France, captured by the Germans, who didn’t believe that he was the pilot of the plane they’d shot down,

Why? Because Bader’s tin legs were trapped in the cockpit, so he unstrapped them, and escaped from the doomed aircraft.   

The German captors to their credit, sent a radio message to England, saying that they had captured Bader, and would you be so good as to send a new pair of legs, as his had gone down with the aircraft.

A new pair were parachuted in, I believe that the aircraft that took them was given a right of passage by the Germans. If true that has to be one of the good stories to come out of WWII.

Now where the hell was I, I’ll have to read back.

Ah yes, the Earl of Harewood; Hitler signed a death warrant for the earl back in March 1945, but the commandant at the camp wouldn’t carry out the execution, and assisted in the earls escape to Switzerland.

As usual I’ve digressed more than I intended, so I’ll give this blog a bit of a rest, and finish by saying that I remember little about my first opera, except for the dance of the tumblers.

I will write something more of my opera experience later and I promise to stick to the subject, at least I’ll try .

18 thoughts on “The Opera – My first visit

  1. Reblogged this on LordBeariOfBow and commented:

    Thought I’d re-blog something different for a change, naturally I never got around to finishing whatever it was I was going to write, if you get the drift.


  2. An enjoyable historical ramble, MeLud. Once, when my children were discussing what to call me, I said I favoured “Father, Sir”. It didn’t catch on. A portrait of Pat Reid hung in the refectory at Wimbledon College when I was there in the ’50s. He was an acclaimed old boy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A couple of fine Catholic boys?
      As you favoured father I’m surprised you didn’t become a man of the cloth; rather than a sadist masquerading under the pseudonym Mordred

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We were well lapsed by then, Brian

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This story’s plot might not make it as an opera, but it has some good notes to it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. we must be thankful for small mercies, thank you Phil 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You will notice I’m using the comment twice –


  5. Oops forgot to paste the comment!
    I enjoyed the read very much Brian. Harewood House is very close to me about a ten to fifteen minute drive or thereabouts. I love the house and grounds and have visited many times. A couple of years ago, eldest daughter Victoria and I began a tradition of always visiting ‘Harewood at Christmas’. Family photographs are everywhere and are often accompanied with facts and snippets of history. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s okay Sue, better than not commenting at all 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Irena Kowalski 30/04/2019 — 06:16

    Ripper read, could be from the pages The Boys’ Own Annual. And a tale you could never forget.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ira, just another of my rambles that seems to have hit the mark for some reason


  7. A very interesting read! I enjoy when you share your memories/stories! And I always enjoy a good ramble and a good rambler! 😀 🙂
    And I’d enjoy hearing about your thoughts on opera and your opera experiences!
    🙂 😀 😛 :mrgreen: 😎 🙂
    PS…Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” is one of my favs!


  8. Good intentions always count for something…. 🙂 You obviously know too much, remember too much, and have a knack for making it all come alive. Opera or not. As for Fur Elise, it was and still is one of my favorite piano pieces from childhood. 🙂


    1. Thank you Elouise, A great deal more has been flooding back of late, that I’m back to serving up more of my codswallop, and there’s a plentiful supply of salt.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your special brand of salt, of course….🤗😱


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