I unexpectedly fell in love last weekend, seduced by a familiar smooth operator I’ve probably taken too much for granted in the past.
This heartbreaker wasn’t a fella, but a lady, my very own city of Sydney. Having lived here most of my life, I’d become impervious to her charms, a little jaded and concerned she’d lost her soul. The crime, the traffic, the chaos too often becomes all consuming, obliterating the beauty and charm she is capable of offering.
But last Saturday night I rediscovered Sydney’s soul, and found her heart beating loud and clear as she brought to life a scenario which can only be described as “so very Sydney”.
It was the opening night of La Traviata, the $11.5 million extravaganza designed to bring opera to the masses. The audience filling the 3,000 seats erected at Mrs Macquaries Point marvelled at its good fortune, scoffing smugly at the elephant in the room. Following a wet summer, the cynics were sure the rain would be the downfall of such an ambitious project, and to prove it the dress rehearsal only two nights before was all but washed out.
But not on this night. The gods were clearly pleased, bestowing upon us weather so perfect the natural beauty of our harbour and her life competed effortlessly with the 10,000 Swarovski crystal chandelier shimmering above the giant silver stage.
People milled happiily among the pop-up villa of bars and eating areas, or took their seats to just absorb the view. I delighted at the elderly couple dressed sensibly in their cardigans and smart trousers, sitting front row happily tucking into their pre-ordered picnic, their hamper balanced carefully on their laps. Ordinary people, sharing an extraordinary evening. As if on cue, Kerri-Anne Kennerley glided past in a flowing lemon gown, a Hollywood moment for our humble couple who nudged each other in delight before returning their focus to their smoked trout. A lady dressed drably in a parker and slacks squeezed past Ita Buttrose searching for her seat, while Georgie Parker stepped aside to let a young couple in jeans take theirs.
As we waited for dusk and the show to begin, Sydney put on her own spectacle. Radiating glorious hues, the sun kissed the sky goodnight, thrusting our Opera House and her stablemate the Bridge into striking silhouettes. Two solitary stars, so ridiculously perfect they could have been photoshopped into the scene, sparkled above, only to be obliterated as the flying foxes appeared. As these creatures smeared the sky screeching in chatter, invisible cockatoos screeched back from somewhere in the distance, determined it seemed to have the last word. My city was simply stunning, and I had forgotten.
As for La Traviata, the performance held its own against its breathtaking backdrop, cheating though I must say with explosions of dazzling fireworks. But that’s so Sydney.
Walking out I met three elderly sisters from Adelaide, awestruck and thrilled by the evening. We waited together, and waited and waited some more in an endless queue for a taxi, rescued an hour and a half later by a shuttle bus. Aaaaah well, it was to be expected, I explained. It’s Sydney, so very Sydney.