My friendship with ST was forged in the mid 1980s at Newtown taxi base over our shared interest in opera and classical music. In fact we had been students together a few years earlier in the Arts faculty at Sydney Uni and were in some common courses. He was a slightly older student and shy and retiring; I was a bit of a youthful show-off. So he already knew who I was.
ST devoted much more energy to the opera than I did. I was a weekend night driver. ST drove nights full-time – doubtless with some nights off to go to the opera though I wouldn’t put it past him to have sometimes left his cab for the duration of a performance. A fellow barrister who in an earlier life doubled up cab driving with gigs as an opera extra tells me he used to leave his cab at the rank and slip in to do his stint as an animal in The Magic Flute. Things were more relaxed in those now-olden days.
ST naturally knew when the opera came out on any given night and if he was nearby he would be there to work the Opera House rank. Over the years he overheard quite a few conversations between company members who might have been more discreet if they’d realised how well-informed their driver already was.
ST gave up opera-going about eight years ago when he devoted himself totally to the care of his mother. She died in the middle of last year.
After allowing for a period of grieving, this summer season I tried to coax ST back to the opera. The following, with one omission as indicated, is his response:
Greetings & Happy St Scholastica’s Day.
I’m not exactly fired up for recondite musical tableaux at the moment so I may end up giving the Polish offering a miss. Not sure I know either Honeyman or Gore so that angle doesn’t help either [….] Even checking the brochure for dates enrages me as I see the highly good-natured, not to say personable in any of its misapplications, Jonas Kaufmann so misused, indeed abused, on its cover.
In Spring I was all for “Come back Moffatt, all is forgiven” but am currently reading his book, or at least constantly dropping off (after sleepless nights) over its pages. Many productions go past with no mention at all, even singers like Eva Marton are completely ignored BUT there were EIGHT productions in the Concert Hall, the most surprising for me being Otello & Romeo & Juliette – why none this year? The SSO has ‘squeezed’ dates before and one-offs should use the State. Britten was sometimes used to ‘double’ Concert Hall shows & except for Dream they would all fit in the State, There was much less destroyed in the Ultimo fire than I thought, so sex up some Kalmans, Lehars & Sullivans & use the Royal. The opera theatre’s been closed before for Summer! Mastersingers, Don Giovanni and Boheme have been done in English! Grace was here in 1991 (recession time!) for Turandot. I can’t believe it – did I see her live?! If I need to calm down I boil the kettle & recall that there’s a recital of Rachmaninov & Mussorgsky at Angel Place – but in the mid 70s there was a whole series of recitals in the Opera Theatre – the youth crowd getting Ewer & John Winther. Cheers.
It doesn’t look as though he will be going back.