A Night at the Opera

I still have the big backlog of “topical” posts to get through, but after that NAPLAN slog I need a break. So, for today, this lighter one. And so as not to continue to mislead, the post is about a night at the symphony. But there was a Marxist feeling to it, so I’ve stolen the title.

A few months back I took my daughters to see the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It was their first such outing and it was a non-roaring success. An orchestral concert can be hard work for kids, and Eva and Lillian faded a little with the Rachmaninov piano concerto. But they held up well, genuinely enjoyed plenty of the beautiful themes, beautifully played, and they got into the majesty of it all. This post is not about the concert however, but about two incidentals, one funny and one not, both absurd.


We arrived a little early for the concert, so I ask Eva and Lillian if they would like a drink. We pondered the list of non-alcoholic drinks on the board above the foyer concession stand and the girls were curious about the cider. I approached the nice young lady behind the counter:

“May I have a can of non-alcoholic cider, please?”

“Sure.” (She grabs from the fridge what looks very much like alcoholic cider.)

“Um, isn’t that alcoholic?”


“Oh, sorry. I wanted non-alcoholic. It’s for the kids.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not allowed to sell you that.”

“…. What?”

“We’re not allowed to sell non-alcoholic cider to children.”

“You’re kidding.”

(Glancing at the managerial looking manageress behind her) “No, I’m sorry.”

“Because you consider it to be … a gateway cider?”

(Stifling an embarrassed laugh) “Um, yes, I guess.”

“But I can order the cider for myself, right?”

“… Yes.”

“OK, great. May I have a can of non-alcoholic cider, please?”

(Glances back, receives a tired nod of approval) “… Yes, OK.”

“And two glasses, please.”

The transaction was completed without further incident and we left the counter. The kids then laughed heartily until they tasted the cider, which was disgusting.



We sat down in our seats, in the second row of the balcony. In the front row was a young Chinese family: two kids about the same age as Eva and Lillian, their parents and an older man, presumably a grandparent. Later, during the concert, the kids were good: a little restless at times, and the younger one conducting along with the music was annoying-bemusing, but it was all fine. But first we had to get there.

The lights dimmed, the conductor appeared, the audience applauded and we were ready to go. Then, with the music just about to start, the grandfather pulled out his phone to take a photo or a video, the big bright screen glaring back at the people behind.

Muttering “For fuck’s sake” to myself, I had to figure out what to do. The guy was too far to my right to easily reach, and anyway he had an other-culture demeanour which made it seem like a tap on the shoulder may not be readily understood. The mother was half out of her seat, dealing with the grandfather, seemingly helping and definitely not admonishing. I thought about it for a second. Then I kicked the back of her chair, a solid but reasonable kick. No response. I thought about it for a second. And then I kicked again, this time a full-on Malcolm Blight torpedo. There was a response.

What then ensued was the loudest silent fight of all time, she gesticulating “what the fuck are you doing kicking my chair?” and me gesticulating “what the fuck is your father doing with his fucking phone?” But it was quickly over and I won. The phone was promptly put away and it was on with the concert, in peace and in the dark.

At intermission, I decided to quiz an unoccupied and friendly looking usher.

“Excuse me, can you clarify for me the policy of taking photos during the concert?”

“Well, it sort of depends.”


“The artists usually decide the rules for their concert, whether photos are permitted or not.”

“But that’s nuts.”

“Yes, but people will try to take photos anyway, and if we try to stop them then that can be more disruptive that the photo-taking.”

“And so you’ve just given up?”

“Basically, yes.”

“But that’s nuts.”

She shrugged a tired smile, indicating agreement and I left her alone.

So, now I know. Next time, my Malcom Blight torpedo may or may not be within the rules. And, either way, I’ll do it.

5 Replies to “A Night at the Opera”

  1. I just don’t get the 21st Century utter lack of regard for the experience of others.
    I shouldn’t have been the least surprised if you’d said this person was facing away from the stage, filming themselves “reacting” to the orchestra (a uniquely nauseating feature of the contemporary culture of narcissism).

    1. Thanks, Ron. Of course one has to expect (but not accept) such self-centredness now, even if the MSO example was particularly egregious. What astonished me was the MSO simply giving up. That seems, as I wrote, nuts, and inexcusable.

      I went to a musical at my daughter’s school last week and I witnessed zero evidence of the acceptance of such behaviour: they announced before the performance started, “Turn off your fucking phone” (or words to that effect), and I did not notice a single phone light during the performance. If Anywhere Grammar can do it, I fail to see why the MSO can’t.

      1. You’re making a good point. These things can only work if the people who make the rules also enforce them.

      2. The Australian Ballet is quite firm about taking photographs during performances – but still there are always a few who don’t follow the rules. St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney also has rules against taking photographs inside the church, and security guards ensure that the rules are followed. I was in an art gallery in Melbourne some time ago where they had signs forbidding photography – and drawing (which surprised me).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here