Kitchen Chronicles is a weekly series by Barbara Sibbald, a novelist and award-winning journalist and long-time contributor to Ottawa Magazine. Visit Kitchen Chronicles every Sunday for a new instalment — and a tested recipe.
Snow swirls and surrounds Fiona as she slips into the house, slamming the door against the wanton wind.
— Luc? she calls, stamping her boots. Luc?
He pops up the basement stairs, like a gopher out of its hole.
— Fee! How was the opera? Was it Tin Flute?
— Magic Flute. The theatrics offstage were more interesting than onstage, she says.
— Here let me take your coat, honey. It’s punishing out there. Want a cup of tea? I just made it. And I made chocolate drops*.
— Please. But just one cookie. A small one. The performance was beautiful, she says as he fills her cup, but it’s probably the silliest opera ever written. The plot makes no sense, unless you try to cipher it from a Masonic perspective. And then you’d have to be part of that club, which of course I’m not. So really, it’s nonsense to me. But if you just take it at face value — a sort of fairy tale with too many metaphors — and don’t count on all the loose ends to be tied up neatly….
— What do you expect from something written in the eighteenth century, says Luc.
— Now don’t you go slagging Mozart, she says playfully.
— So, what was the offstage drama? asks Luc.
— Oh, I digress. Opera does that to me. I start telling these long convoluted stories. I can’t imagine why! So, Donna and I were sitting in the first balcony, over to the left of the stage. We were into the second Act and Papageno, this hedonistic, rather simple, bird-like man, has given up all hope of winning the woman he loves, the equally odd Papagena. He’s contemplating hanging himself and then someone from the audience cries out: “Don’t!” It’s coming from one of the balconies to the right of the stage. I think it’s a one-off from some overly theatrical opera-goer, or even a child — there were lots of kids there, The Magic Flute is a holiday favourite — then we hear: “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” coming from the same direction. Amazingly, on stage, Papageno didn’t miss a beat. He has the noose around his neck and is about to jump, and then there’s this big commotion in one of the boxes. In the half-light from the stage you can see this woman — she’s wearing a skirt. She’s dangling from one of the boxes. Two men, at least I think they were men, have ahold of her arms.
— What level?
— Second balcony. Enough to do serious damage. So these people in the box below grab her feet and the guys above lower her down to their box. Then there’s a bit of a scuffle and she leaves with someone — an usher I suppose. Meanwhile Papageno is belting out: “Papagena! Papagena! Papagena!” (more…)