Sunday, November 18, 2012

Our Versailles Opera House is more royal than yours

Tourists are long gone at 7:30pm, trying to find refuge against the dark in one of the more or less traditional restaurants around the City Hall, when it's time for the subtle lights of the château to witness a new and different kind of movement. Waves and waves of silent pilgrims, dazzled by the greatness, flow up toward the castle like a forbidden sect going to a decisive meeting. One or two small groups stop at the golden interior gates so they can take one last look before getting in, angry with their cameras incapable of taking hold of so much beauty. "Tourists!" exclaim the others with condescendence as they're heading straight to the right side of the imposing building, barely looking at the lights.

This is The Secret Society of the Versailles Opera House Spectators and tonight they're on a mission.

It's going to play "La cambiale di matrimonio". What, you've never heard of this one?... Neither you did of "Alessandro", "Medée et Jason", "Renaud et Armide" or "Hyppolyte et Aricie". It's because the Royal Opera House of Versailles takes pride in programming unique or less played operas (mostly baroque, to go with the location) and, preferable, some world famous opera superstars in concert (Philippe Jaroussky, Patricia Petibon, Rolando Villazon or Cecilia Bartoli). When going to this opera house, you must understand that you will live a one of a kind experience: ushers better dressed than most of the spectators, who won't ask for a small donation even if everyone else in France does it - they are not paid for their work; an exclusive view of the empty Royal Chapel by night; a 120Eur ticket that includes a cup of champagne; and a royal 3Eur fee for processing the ticket order when buying from their website.

You enter the castle by the right wing, are greeted by an army of overly smiling personnel, have your purse searched superficially by yet another impeccably dressed hostess, then turn right and leave your coat at the cloakroom. You take a brief look at the crowd who came early to sip their champagne in the hall in front of the chapel (with the doors closed by modesty), you then go past the kings of France in their corridor, veiled for the occasion so they won't scare away the garden statues came to hibernate, and there you go: you're about to die and end up in a heaven of diffuse lights, sculpted golden suns and superb acoustics.

Your companion whispers, after regaining their lost speech abilities: "We're walking on the same steps as the sun king Louis IV..." Ummm, actually not quite. Primo, because the opera house was actually built by Louis V and, secondo, because unfortunately we couldn't buy the central places where presumably the king used to sit.

But those are just small, insignificant details, we then thought...



No comments:

Post a Comment