Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An Evening Out

Last week, I ran into a newly-arrived family of cruisers at the dinghy dock.  They have two girls Stylish’s age; as soon as they saw each other, the four girls ran off to clamber over the gravel piles by the dock.  Their mom, Nadia*, mentioned they had heard about a free concert by an Italian orchestra happening that evening at the National Theatre.  I looked over at Indy, waving a stick at the three older girls, and at Stylish, her green dress now as dirty as though she had climbed out of a grave.  My wolf puppies at a concert... could they possibly sit still that long?

Growing up, my grandfather had tickets to the Philharmonic, and I would often accompany him.  I loved those evenings, both for the music and the company.  The girls have always enjoyed music; surely this would be fine.  And, worst case, if it all fell apart we could slink out in the middle.  Reminding myself firmly of our boat motto: Just Roll With it, I happily agreed to meet Nadia & co. by the theatre shortly before six.

After a flurry of boat jobs in the afternoon, we jumped into a cab, closely followed by friends from a third boat, and headed to the theatre.  We found the others, and discovered that the concert was, in fact, not to start until seven.  Well, no problem.  Time for dinner, then.  We bought empanadas from a street vendor, and watched as the kids raced around the tiny square.  Once again, Indy kept the five older kids at bay with a stiff, rolled-up palm leaf.  They pretended to be terrified, she pretended to be terrifying, and everyone was happy.

Seven was rapidly approaching, and still the theatre doors were firmly locked.  No, no, the coffee vendor told us, it doesn’t start until 7:30.  Of course not.

Finally the lights came on, the doors were flung open, and we were allowed to file into the pretty theatre.  We found a box with three rows of three seats; with the 3-year-olds on laps, it was just right for eleven people.  (And close to the exit for a quick escape, if need be.)  A prophylactic trip to the bathroom later, we were in our seats and waiting for the show to begin.
Very swish.
Once a squirmy Indy had settled on my lap, I looked to the stage.  It was small, and contained only a piano and, ominously, a microphone.  Well, no orchestra, then.  I pushed my disappointment aside.  The piano was no issue, but the microphone... a microphone meant a singer, and what classically-trained singer needed a microphone in a theatre this size?  Hmm.

Nope, not this time.
We waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Eventually, a small podium was deposited on the stage, followed closely by a man.  After polite applause, he gave a speech in Spanish.  More polite applause, then a woman arrived.  More talking, and then everyone jumped to their feet for the Colombian national anthem.  While I don’t know the words, I know a military tune when I hear one, and this one certainly evoked images of marching in lockstep.  Shiver.

Finally, finally, the woman departed and a fluffy-haired piano player arrived on the scene.  He played alone for a while, and then a slim woman marched out onto the stage.  She was wearing a floor-length sequined dress, spike heels and a lot of lipstick.


The woman grabbed the microphone, gave the crowd a dazzling smile, and poured forth a stream of Italian, looking around the audience.  Several hands shot into the air.  There was a further burst of applause, and a stage hand delivered a portable microphone to a man in the front row.  Being capable in neither Spanish nor Italian, I was a little puzzled, but soon pieced together that the man had volunteered to translate for Lady Sequin, who only spoke Italian.  As the show went on, it seemed his fluency wasn’t quite as advertised, as long speeches were frequently translated in two or three words, or not at all.  Our singer occasionally gave him good-natured, if frustrated, directions, which, judging by the general laughter, were not always followed.  The price of volunteering.

Lady Sequin struck a pose, signalled the piano player, and began to sing in a throaty, cigarette-damaged, voice honed by many, many long years of practice.  And what was she singing, dear children?  Italian chansons.  Ie. lounge music.


Definitely not a classical orchestra.

She gave quite a show, and the crowd – better prepared for the actual nature of the concert than we – was eating out of her hand.  If you have never heard a theatre full of Spanish-speakers belt out “Volare” at top volume, then you haven’t lived, my friends.   Lady Sequin was dancing up a storm, although her very long dress and very sharp heels were not playing nicely together.  The upshot was that she grabbed handful of material in the vicinity of her thigh, hiked up the dress and strode around that way.  The show must go on!

Most entertaining to me was watching Stylish and her two friends sitting in the row ahead of me.  An hour in, Stylish and Sunny were slumped in their chairs, eyes glazed, staring slightly slack-jawed at the indefatigable Lady Sequin on stage.  Poppy, on the other hand, was bright-eyed and bouncing in her seat, clapping in time to “Arrivederci Roma” along with the Colombian-Italian club around us, clearly delighted.  Indy was long-since asleep in my lap.  But my motherly pride insists I note there was not a word of complaint from the less-interested girls.

As Stylish later put it, it was "the endless song.”  By the end, Nadia behind me kept whispering, “is this the last one?  Tell me this is the last one.”  We all were fighting the giggles, not wanting to spoil things for Poppy or anyone else.

Two hours and a three-song encore later, we were out of there.  Not what we expected, and certainly not what I would have signed up for, but a fun evening all the same.

Volare... oh oh....

*Pseudonyms in effect, as usual.

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