All the Messiahs in central London were sold out on Saturday night - well, the one I wanted to go to anyway - so I wandered into the Royal Opera Box Office foyer making speculative queries about standing tickets to that evening's La Boheme. Clearly, this works occasionally. £8 gave me a standing position in the upper slips with a reasonable view (pictured) of the stage and an excellent one of the pit where Sir Mark Elder was in charge.
John Copley's production is one of the wonders of the West End, a show that has lasted more than 25 years (and the mixed blessing of being the backdrop to the BBC's recent reality-type competition show for aspiring conductors, Maestro). I had come primarily to see friends and colleagues in the cast, not least after having read an entertaining blog post about the shenanigans that go on in the background of ensemble scenes in such a well-worn production. Indeed that celebrated second act was a marvel of the orchestrated stage-scrum, with great detail and sub-narratives that always give way to - indeed point towards - the more important foreground story.
Now that I have taken the opportunity to sing in a concert production of La Boheme myself, I appreciate the difficulties of the score, especially one that demands such flexibility, so to see and hear a high-calibre live performance was a joy. And the perfect Christmas apéritif.