‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ on the canal

Before I embarked on my brief dalliance with attendance at sporting events this week, last Sunday I went to one of the free events being put on as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

The Owl and the Pussycat‘ is a short opera inspired by the Edward Lear poem with a libretto by Terry Jones, performed by the Royal Opera House on top of a water barge which I saw beside the canal running through Islington.

I was very excited to see that Terry was there for the show.  I was even more pleased when he smiled at me, although that was probably because I looked so ridiculous sitting on a plastic carrier bag, and inflatable cushion on the pavement with my waterproof jacket on and my umbrella handy; with a union jack paper napkin and plastic champagne flute.

It was a damp day before I even arrived at the little municipal park, but we’d decided that if we bailed out because of the weather, we’d always wonder whether it had been any good or not.  So, in typical British fashion we carried on regardless.

Perhaps inevitably, just as the Owl had sung his first line, the heavens opened and the rain came down as if someone had turned on a tap.  Terry made his escape draped in a see-through plastic poncho, but we decided to tough it out.  We weren’t alone, even as the water created a puddle around me, and the drips off the umbrella of the fidgeting man sitting next to me showered down on my legs, we could see the others around us drawing their legs in and crouching down under anything vaguely waterproof.  I thought standing up would just make me wetter!.

Finally when we were all completely drenched, the rain stopped and they performed the piece in a ‘concert’ version, which basically meant that they didn’t sail away in their beautiful pea green boat.

My favourite bits were the Bong Tree, whose song consisted largely of him singing ‘Bong’, and the turkey who lived on the hill, dressed as an Elvis ready to preside at a wedding

I suppose I’d hoped that I would leave humming a jolly tune, but while I thought the libretto was very witty, I found the score rather forbidding, and ironically, the section I enjoyed the most was the finale when they sang the poem.

I took the bus home, largely on the basis that I usually find it far too warm on board, but didn’t really recover until after a hot bath.

It can be tough, this culture business.

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  1. Love the Elvis.


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