Considering that my operatic travels to date have been comparatively rare – London alone being packed with so many performances that I already struggle to find the time or money to see everything I’d like to – 2012 so far has been something of an odyssey. Following a flying visit to Birmingham in January for the final Meistersinger of the Royal Opera run, and a trip to Hamburg at the beginning of February for La traviata and Aribert Reimann’s Lear, March took me on opera trips to four different corners of the UK (from Scotland to the south coast) as well as to the usual range of venues in my home city. A further excursion awaits next weekend.

This frequency of travel is not sustainable. I have a full-time job, Monday to Friday office hours on the whole, without a particularly generous leave entitlement. And travelling at the weekends causes me loss of income from my Sunday-morning church singing job, without which I would struggle to afford such trips in the first place. I’ve now built into my budget an allowance enabling me to lose an average of one Sunday’s choir fee every two months – but even then, I find myself wanting to use up many of my free Sundays on weekend singing events elsewhere. Plus, I love my Sunday job – it’s an important part of my life, and I don’t like missing it too often.

But the Hamburg trip in particular – which turned out to be a good deal cheaper than I had feared it could be, and which could easily have been cheaper still – made me yearn to travel more often than I have to date. Before that point, I hadn’t left the UK to see an opera since 2008 when I spent my birthday in Paris with friends, seeing Don Carlo at the Opéra-Bastille.

I work 15 minutes’ walk from London’s Eurostar terminus. Getting to Paris or Brussels is fast, easy, and under certain circumstances cheaper than a trip to somewhere like Edinburgh. If only the Opéra-Bastille, Châtelet or La Monnaie would do Saturday matinees, I might be nipping off on a Friday night on a fairly regular basis, getting back to London by Saturday evening. But no, sadly the standard matinee slot across much of Europe is Sunday, which is far less convenient. There’s another problem, too – few of my favourite singers and directors seem to be in favour in Paris or Brussels! It tends to be a choice between chasing them further afield and waiting for them to pop up in the UK. Until now, I’ve almost exclusively done the latter.

While I’m on THAT subject, wouldn’t it be nice if my favourite singers always worked with one another, and with my favourite directors, to create a brief and well-co-ordinated list of things I long to go overseas for? Or at least in concurrent productions on consecutive evenings, in the same easily-accessible European city…

For now, having worked out a wish-list on the back of an old envelope, I note with some dismay that almost all of my annual leave allowance for next leave year, which runs July-June, is provisionally spoken for. A couple of favourite-singer/ideal-role combinations here, a couple of favourite-director/interesting-project combinations there, and all my time – never mind all my money – is swallowed up. And that’s before some companies have even made their season announcement… At least I know I’m going to have a brilliant time!


2 thoughts on “Wanderlust

  1. Ruth
    I can sympathise. I can find ways of saving money in order to see opera but (like you) I work full-time & my annual leave entitlement isn’t much. And it won’t increase unless they make me a director & that ain’t going to happen any time soon.

    To see a mid-week evening performance in London means two days annual leave & a night in a hotel so I love matinees & Saturday night performances. I can get home the same night from Birmingham & do see WNO at Birmingham Hippodrome. However I did once have to leave to get my train just as the artists came out for the curtain call & I was mortified as I felt they’d think my abrupt departure was a comment on their performance.

    I’ve not been to Hamburg but I have been to Bayerische Staatsoper & it worked out a very reasonably priced trip.

  2. Another factor you have not mentioned that would make Saturday matinees in Paris/Brussels more attractive than Sundays is the Eurostar fares. Sunday evening is peak time for people travelling home from weekend or longer trips, and even by booking fairly well ahead one is lucky to manage to do the return trip for less than £100. Last time I did it which was 20 November last year it cost me £114, I booked the Eurostar as early as I could, within an hour of booking the opera ticket on the opening day. I do not like to risk booking the travel before I have secured the ticket for the performance which is the reason for going. This compares to £69 which was the return fare for the mid-week trip I have just made. The difference of £45 would pay for a night in a very cheap hotel, I stayed in one that was about £50 for a single room with bath & WC.

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