an opera in Wales...


In the days before Sat Nav, we had to plot our route to our gig on a map. I point this out because to set the scene for my next story you need to realize that to absorb where I was to go on a Saturday at 6:00 am before coffee is not my strong point. That day's concert was in the ‘Newtown Cultural Centre’ so I decided to drive to Newport in Wales. (Should have seen the clue in the name really.) After driving around for about 20 min unable to find the 'Newtown Arts Centre' (funny that) in Newport I realised I had picked the wrong town to drive to. Looking at the map I plotted my course to Newtown only 2.5 hours away down the A483. It turns out that the A483 is, in reality, a motorway for sheep. They stood on the road and just stared at you with disdain…not moving. My 2.5 hr drive turned into 3.5 thanks to the sheep. I finally get there only to find everyone was late! (Other people must have found name and sheep challenging too.) Turned out there wasn’t many people to wait for. When I was contracted to play in a production of Aida (a very large scale Verdi opera) I assumed I would be joined by an orchestra of my fellow colleagues. The 'orchestra' turned out to be a violin, clarinet, trumpet, drummer, me and synthesiser to play all the other parts. I say synthesiser rather than a keyboard because - how to describe the sound - if you have ever watched a '70's cop show with that electronic synth sound playing in the background - that. Oh, and did I mention that the 'Newton Arts Centre' is, in reality, a school gym? So there we were the six of us and a cast of five to sing chorus and roles and hold up the cardboard horses (for the chariot scene in case you haven’t seen a real production of this particular opera..)

The best part was - *SPOILER ALERT* - when in the final scene our lovers (operas love to feature lovers and death) are buried alive in the pyramid. I say favourite not because I was thinking ‘yay they are being buried alive’ (well maybe..) It was my favourite because they enacted this by crouching together under the basketball hoop lit by an IKEA lamp with a dimmer switch. Fade…..scene. This sadly was in the days before the iPhone as I would have loved to record this for posterity. There was a bar in the back of the gym though so the punters seemed to go away happy.

So after this eventful day, I packed up my bass for the drive home. Thankfully sheep are not nocturnal so only took me 6 hrs or so to get there.

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Laura CampbellComment