A night of ‘passion for opera’

Guests at the Artscape launch on August 28 of Angelo Gobbato’s autobiography A Passion for Opera were treated not to just one singing Yende but two: Gobbato’s star pupil, Pretty Yende, who was the guest of honour but did not sing and her younger sister, lyric soprano Nombulelo Yende, a fourth-year B. Mus student at the College of Music under Professor Virginia Davids, who did.

However, the evening was dominated by Gobbato’s question and answer discussion with FMR’s 
Rodney Trudgeon about his book and how and when his passion for opera developed.

He was only 3 years old when it surfaced. It began 
with intoning his version of Puccini’s famous aria from La Boheme, Che gelida manina (How ice cold is your little hand), when Rodolfo takes the beautiful Mimi’s hand, but instead the baby Gobbato bawled out, “Mi son gelato la manina”, I have frozen my little hand!

Gobbato’s role in helping Pretty achieve great heights is brought out when he describes how on January 2013 she 
phoned from New York to say she had been engaged to sing Adele in Rossini’s comic opera Le Comte Ory with the Peruvian operatic tenor Juan

Diego Florez but had only 10 days to learn the role and rehearse it.

Two days later, he received this email: “Prof, when I got to the Met everybody looked at me as if thinking: who is this South African girl coming to sing at the Met? “After two days of rehearsals, everybody was asking me for advice and wanting to know how I did it – and it is all due to your teaching which has given me such confidence and ability to perform the role so quickly.”

Gobbato could not miss Pretty’s debut and describes how stunning she looked in a 
purple dress that seemed to have been designed especially for her colouring and personality. She sang superbly and after her first aria, the Met audience were on their feet.

After the performance, there was a long queue outside her dressing room door, but when she saw Gobbato at the end of the corridor, “she 
brushed past the throng and rushed to kneel at my feet, kissing my hand. Feeling as if I could burst with an incredible mixture of joy and pride, I picked her up and hugged her tightly. What right have I to ask anything more of life after that?”

Going the extra mile

Comparisons are odious, but I must say the level of courtesy I received in shops and on public transport in England was remarkable.

Just one example: I was in Winchester’s High Street looking for the post office, now inside W.H. Smith, the well-known chain of books, newspapers and stationery.

When the friendly woman behind the counter saw the pile of black tights and tops I’d offered to post to London , she gestured that I should hand them over to her.

There and then she started folding them cleverly so they made a compact parcel, shot off to find a suitable plastic bag, popped the clothes into the bag, secured the open end with special tape, tried out a pen on the parcel to ensure it wrote on the unusual shiny surface and handed it over to me to address.

I was amazed.

As she weighed the parcel and took my cash, I thanked her profusely for going to so much trouble.

“My dear,” she responded, “I like to do something extra every day to help customers otherwise my job would not be worthwhile.”

Rock on

I was chuffed this week when I spotted a stone hidden in a fallen pine showing a beautiful little fairy with red hair, blue dress and multi-coloured wings. I recognised it as part of the “Cape Town Rocks” initiative started by a group of Capetonians to paint and hide rocks and scatter them around the city.

This one carried the name of Roux on the back.

I couldn’t believe my luck when, two days later, I found another decorated stone in the same vicinity. This time the decoration was a dragonfly with a blue body and pale wings. Unfortunately the recent rain has obliterated the painter’s name.

According to Google, the finder is asked to take a picture of the rock to share on Facebook and 
may either keep it or place it in another public location on public land. Another option is to hide a rock of your own creation with your name and date so it can be determined how long the rock has been in circulation.

Cape Town cable tops

In 2012 when the Emirates Air Line cable car was built across London’s River Thames costing 
R1.2 billion , it was considered a serious competitor to Table Mountain’s famous cableway. However, after being treated to a 10-minute ride across the Thames, I think our cableway has the edge.

Admittedly, I spent the first few minutes nervously studying the brochure rather than looking down at the ships, docks and interesting buildings as the cable car climbed to 90m over the water before descending to the river’s edge 
where the car turned round and repeated the up and down journey home.

Helped by an excellent commentary of the famous buildings and a map, it was a great 
way to have a bird’s eye view of London.
But I was delighted we were not making this journey during 
rush hour when the 10 minutes is cut to five and going faster probably results in the cable 
cars shaking about in the wind.

Pay up

Sign outside a supermarket: “No discounts for senior citizens. You’ve had twice as much time to earn your money.”

fionachisholm@iafrica.com