‘Are you sure you want to go there?’ asks our cruise ship’s excursion organiser. ‘It’s a bit of a weird show, look, it’s got skulls in it. And maybe you won’t like the music. We can get you tickets to a Ukrainian folkloric performance instead.’
‘No thanks. We know Stravinsky and we’re prepared to risk the skulls.’
I don’t envy Vanessa her job. Probably there will be complaints if the production is too avant garde. With skulls. But if you play safe in the middle of the road you may get run down by a bus.
A couple of busloads of us feel the same, so off we go to the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre to see a fine ballet production of The Firebird and The Rite of Spring.
The theatre is a marvel, the skulls and dancing skeletons remind me of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and we get a fascinating glimpse of Ukrainians on a night out.
It’s the last night of the season and a sell-out, but somehow fifty tickets have been reserved for us (at a premium from the normal box-office price though still good value).
The theatre is one of Odessa’s great buildings and one of the world’s great opera houses, we’re told, like La Scala in Milan (which we haven’t seen) and Vienna’s Staatsoper (which we have).
It’s a scramble to get there in time for the 6.30pm performance. We feel seriously underdressed, surrounded by local people in all their plumage.
The performance is fine, though despite the usual pre-show warnings about switching off mobile phones, many audience members find the temptation too great. After the first few furtive flashes it’s open slather, with people around us posting and emailing and tweeting their shots. It must drive the performers mad, but perhaps they’re more used to it than we are.
Thanks, Vanessa, for organising a memorable night out. We’re sure the folkloric thing would have been good too, but this was special.
The writer was the guest of Compagnie du Ponant. See traveltheworld.com.au