A quiet city

Ticket for the 19 March 2003 performance of Tosca at the English National Opera in London

2023 UPDATE: I’d forgotten that the invasion of Iraq, which, when it began, had been so well-telegraphed, filled us all with such dread. I mean we all knew the exact day and time it would happen, weeks in advance. And London – other cities too – was in a state of alert (maybe not so weird, we were all still basically hysterical about 9/11). The bleak irony of the fact that we Londoners were all freaking out about the risk to our own lives as the invasion that produced almost two decades of chaos and suffering in Iraq was about to begin is, well, bleak. Anyway, what did I do that night? The night the coalition forces were gathering at the Iraqi border and getting ready to deliver what we would learn was called ‘shock and awe’ on the people of that other city? I went to the fucking opera. Original post follows:

Yesterday was my 40th birthday. Juliet and I went to the Coliseum to sob through the ENO‘s Tosca (a City in turmoil, gripped by fear – torture, love, war and betrayal). We stayed at a hotel practically next door in St Martin’s Lane. The hotel was half empty and there were plenty of empty seats at the Opera (Americans staying at home, apparently).

Our cab driver this morning made a cheeky u-turn by Trafalgar Square and jumpy, armed police practically arrested him (British police don’t usually carry guns). The streets of the West End are Sunday Morning quiet (and it’s not just the congestion charging).

No panic, no bulk buying, no drama at all really – just the barely tangible signs of a City’s building anxiety. It’s this kind of tiny shift in mood that slows an economy, trips up a recovery. Watching the rolling news in our hotel room, the empty streets of Baghdad echo and amplify London’s barely noticable slow-down.

(here’s an excellent Ten things you never knew about Tosca from the University of Chicago Press, by the way).

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