Recently I attended my very first opera. I didn’t, however, fritter away a significant portion of my student loan in the name of being ‘cultured’, or have to dress up to fit in with the Royal Opera House regulars. Instead, I went to the screening of Don Giovanni in Trafalgar Square. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Opera didn’t really seem like my kind of thing, but I was open to having a Pretty Woman-esque experience (where she’s taken to her first Opera by Richard Gere and loves it). I didn’t cry, but I did enjoy it.
The screen was huge, and situated in front of Nelson’s Column. The screening had English subtitles translating the Italian lyrics, making the whole thing a lot easier to understand. On a warm summer evening, it was a lovely thing to do. Almost everyone had picnics, ranging from burgers and wine to the more sophisticated, perfectly packed lunch boxes of quiche and olives.
I imagine that the experience is quite different to attending a proper indoor opera production, but I really enjoyed it. The performance was accompanied by the surrounding hustle and bustle of London, including the occasional noisy plane and siren, but it in someway added to the feel of the outdoor experience, rather than detracting from what was on the screen.
The production in question, Don Giovanni, was probably a perfect introduction to Opera, as it was interesting and relatively simple to follow (although without the subtitles I would have been completely lost). The costumes and staging were amazing. The film clips shown prior to, and in the interval of the screening gave insight into the symbolism of the elements of the stage, which really added to my appreciation of the production. For example, the set mirrored the mind of protagonist Don Giovanni, and this was evident as we saw the ghosts of his myriad of past lovers projected ethereally onto the stage, often in the background of the action. Alongside the projections, the movement of the stage itself as the story’s events headed towards their climax was particularly memorable, reminiscent of the way you might imagine a mind spinning with thoughts. These features of the staging added not only to its aesthetic, but made the production more engaging to those who had not seen an opera before.
Ultimately, it’s free, and it felt lovely to observe Trafalgar Square full of so many types of people coming together to watch the screening against the backdrop of one of London’s most iconic settings as the sky turned from light to dark.
The next outdoor screening is of the ballet Romeo & Juliet on the 22nd of September. A story we all know, it would be a good one to go and see. I’d recommend getting there as soon as the square opens for the event (around 5.30) and finding a good place to sit as it fills up quickly. It’s a great experience, and a way to be able to see and appreciate productions that you might not usually have access to.