Friday, October 10, 2008

Aria Gettin' Outta Here!

Some culture paid a flying visit to Dublin yesterday evening. The Powerscourt Centre, for reasons best know to themselves, have decided that a spot of opera will be just the ticket to the take the consumer’s mind from the recession, and are now offering “Shopera” – a half-hour recital of operatic hits by baritone, soprano and piano.

The Powerscourt Centre itself is a Georgian house converted to a rather upmarket shopping centre. Its middle is scooped out, making it something of a well on the interior. There are rows of shops along the wall of the well, and at the bottom of the well there dining tables, where the consumer whose hunger exceeds his economics may spend five Euro on a cup of tea and a bun.

Directly opposite the till of the coffee shop there is roof which was used as a stage. A stage that contained a piano and two speakers, and, at six o’clock sharp yesterday evening, Mr John Molloy, bass-baritone, Ms. Sandra Oman, soprano, and Ms Mairéad Hurley, piano-player.

Below the artistes, a motley and disappointing assembly for what is, after all, a free show. There was a middle aged couple at the coffee bar, three ladies who had wintered not wisely but too well at a central table, and three pairs along the tables by the wall – two ladies of a certain age, two habituées of the Powerscourt Centre direct from central casting, and two Spanish ladies, who gave not a Figaro for the opera. Just inside the door there was a group of three or four, one of whom gave a thumbs up to the singers, and another of whom wore that mark of Cain that distinguishes the south Dublin middle classes – sunglasses up on his head on a dreary October evening. And in the far corner, hunched over that five pound tea meal, that caustic commentator on contemporary Irish life, His Impossible Excellency, An Spailpín Fánach.

Mr Molloy took in the house with a gaze, and decided to give the people what they wanted. He launched into Non Più Andrai from Le Nozze Di Figaro, a bravura choice to grab the audience from the get-go. Ms Oman matched him with a trilling Je Veux Vivre by Gonoud, and then they both duetted the gorgeous La Ci Darem La Mano, from Don Giovanni.

The result of the golden flow? The habituées left to go about their business, while the table next to An Spailpín was now taken by a couple who found the whole scenario most amusing. The performers gamely sang on over the crash of the crockery, tearing through Rossini, Puccini and a spot of Gershwin at the end. The applause was polite but sadly muted. Perhaps the bad summer means that Ms. Fenty’s Umbrella is the only music that has any meaning in Ireland any more.

A saddened Spailpín faced for home and went out into the night, where the smell of homeless person hung heavy on Trinity Street as the gloom descended on the city.

FOCAL SCOIR: No, I didn’t know until now that Chuck Norris sang opera either. I suppose Paul O’Connell will be at it next.

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