Friday, July 20, 2007

Colonel Moseley's Stereotypes: The Opera Buff

Barry had been devoted to the opera ever since Aunt Margaret had given him a tiny dansette and box of assorted Puccini for his tenth birthday.

His mother’s sister had been a seminal influence in Barry’s early life, steering him away from the rough and tumble of boy’s games to more refined pastimes of music, painting and the arts.

Indeed, it was on trips with Auntie Mags to the municipal art gallery, at the sight of the rippling muscles, stern expression and mini toga of the young centurion in the pre-Raphaelite room that the first funny warm feelings had manifested themselves below that never really went away.

Whilst other boys collected stamps or train numbers, Barry built up his collection of opera records and books. Rather than footballers he worshipped the great divas from Tebaldi to Callas to Sutherland.

As he grew up, his life was punctuated by the plop of Opera Magazine onto his doormat and the construction of more shelves of racking in the lounge, soon overflowing into the spare room to accommodate his burgeoning collection.

He remembers being taken for the first time as a child by Aunt Margaret to the holy of holies, the Royal Opera House. He adored the formal grandeur of all that red velvet and gilt, the glamorous dresses and frenetic gaiety of the laughter and champagne in the rush at the end of the interval.

Time spent in this wonderland of liveried footmen and sparkling chandeliers influenced Barry’s life. His flat, although modest, was plush-curtained, gilded and chandeliered within an inch of its life.

Barry had more dress suits and white tie ensembles than you could shake an ivory topped cane at - and more silk lined opera capes than was strictly necessary in the wardrobe of a chartered accountant.

The crush bar at Covent Garden was Barry’s most favourite place. He adored the idea of so many attractive and like-minded young chaps crammed together in such high spirits for such a sort space of time. He called it “My kind of scrum” and always seemed to make new friends there. Rarely did a visit end without a supper afterwards or a new phone number tucked into his pocket Letts.

On holiday in Gran Canaria each March, Barry would lie in a nook on the dunes near Maspalomas without a care in the world, catching some rays, whilst revisiting a rare recording of The Ring” on his iPod.

At parties, conversation amongst Barry’s circle of opera-loving aficionados revolved around reviews of the latest performances and the niceties of favourite sopranos, lightened by the occasional funny story of diva-ish excess or rivalry.

By the time Barry reached a solitary middle–age, his flat was a shrine to dear Joanie and the divine Maria. Visits there were enjoyable for those in the know, although fans of the Ink Spots or Alma Cogan struggled.



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