A few years ago living in London my cousin and I went to see the Tosca at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. We shuffled in amid glances at our scuffed trainers and ripped jeans and found a spot on the floor in the bar to sit and drink our Cokes. I don't know what your expectations of decorum were in the early 1900s and I apologise if our dress and giggly behaviour didn't quite meet the mark but we felt silly and end of term-ish as we were fish out of water. I couldn't believe my eyes when we looked through the programme and saw that a boy we went to school with, Toby Stafford-Allen, was in the performance. I'm sorry to have to tell you that our skittishness continued as I regaled my cousin with stories of snogging Toby Stafford-Allen in the laundry cupboard at a party when I was fifteen.
Sitting in the rather grand seats at the Royal Opera House we dug out 50p for the opera glasses and gazed round at the navy velvet and gold. Luckily the sense of occasion got to us and we managed to exercise some self restraint, calming down to watch the opera you had scribbled down in your villa in Torre del Lago some hundred years previously.
I have to say, we were both overcome with tears during the gorgeous duet Qual Occhio al mondo. We walked out at the end wiping our faces and attempted to haul ourselves back from being bathed in a beauty of such magnitude I didn't really know existed before to the reality of 10pm on a Saturday night in London. My cousin and I have always been very close friends but we felt so much more connected to each other by your music.
A year later my highly adventurous cousin decided to cycle from John O'Groats to Lands End. A mere 1188 miles or so, she wanted to raise money to fund an upcoming trip to Nepal were she'd live in a village and help set up a school (yes, I know, she is an absolute twinkling star). She told me that within a day she was crying and complaining about some fictitious ankle injury as the vastness of the task ahead sat like a mammoth monolith in her mind. She listened to Tosca on her walkman all the way as she cycled. She arrived in Lands End in, I think, 13 days. I can't tell you how proud of her I was. I can feel my heart swelling like a balloon as I tell you.
I spent much of my time in my tiny 1 bedroom flat on Gloucester Road singing at the top of my lungs along with Maria Callas and when the opportunity to see Tosca presented itself again, I jumped at the chance. I went with a friend and spent the entire time aching with emotion. My friend told me I had ruined the performance for the man in front, I hadn't noticed but he kept turning round and tutting in annoyance as I hummed along.
This morning I dug out the CD and felt that love and passion steal into my body like smoke. Thank you, Giacomo Puccini for giving me some of my most cherished memories with my cousin but I really, really just cannot thank you enough for the beauty of Tosca. I wonder what you had experienced in your life to be able to express such love in that way.
Love Jenny Rudd