excerpt from 'The Hidden Roads: A Memoir of Childhood' pp. 94–97 (397 words)

excerpt from 'The Hidden Roads: A Memoir of Childhood' pp. 94–97 (397 words)

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The Hidden Roads: A Memoir of Childhood

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One of my father’s colleagues in the Music Department of the BBC was Leonard Isaacs.  He had two children, Naomi and Nicky, and when we were nine my father and Leonard hit on the idea of initiating their four children into opera together.


On a Tuesday morning in late August, my father […] drove us up to London.


After lunch, Leonard led Naomi and me into his music room […] Then the two of them introduced us to Carmen from start to finish, now and then warbling or breaking into a torrid duet, now and then play-acting and waving their arms.  I don’t think I ever saw my father more animated.


Then, in the early evening, [we] set off for Sadler’s Wells.


I was overheated by the time I arrived, and the passionate music, and Naomi sitting next to me, only made things worse.  I talked so much I must have wrecked the performance for the people sitting around me, and several times my father sternly told me to pipe down.

When, at the end of the opera, José confesses that he has stabbed his beloved Carmen, and throws himself on to her lifeless body, Naomi burst into hot tears, and couldn’t stop crying.  Sally thought this display of emotion was altogether excessive and highly embarrassing; I thought it was rather wonderful.


I had been given a glimpse of an intense, brightly lit otherworld, that existed in tandem with my own.


[Later] my father and Leonard told Naomi and me [that] the two of us were to go to the opera the next evening as well!

Die Zauberflöte,’ my father said.  ‘The Magic Flute.’


So, the following afternoon, the whole process was repeated.  First, lunch in the garden; then a protracted playthrough; a short rest and a light supper; and then the journey […], this time to the Royal Opera House.

O Isis und Osiris schenket
Der Weisheit Geist dem neuen Paar

Commands the High Priest Sarastro.  ‘Send the spirit of wisdom to the young couple.’  And again: ‘Lasst sie der Prüfung Früchte sehen … Let them see the fruits of their trial.’

The fruits of this overdose could, I suppose, have been to put me off opera for the remainder of my life.  But, in fact, it had precisely the opposite effect.  There and then I caught opera-fever, and I will never recover.

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