Ever the optimist, I am a complete competition addict. I only have to see the word “Win,” and I am off composing ditties, entering photos of my nearest and dearest, twisting short stories to fit bizarre themes, and recording bar codes of tins destined to sit at the back of the pantry for all time. Rather mortifyingly, my success rate seems to be higher in those competitions where chance is everything—no skill required. To date winnings include a set of white towels (excellent for demonstrating to drama queens the permanent nature of a fake tan), a coffee machine, (much excitement about this one, until it arrived and proved to be smaller than the kettle—useful if you had the seven dwarves popping round; limited enjoyment if you actually wanted a full-sized cup of coffee) and a set of surfing lessons. This last one was great fun and introduced my middle-aged body to a whole new set of challenges—not least how to smile winsomely at the twenty-year-old instructor whilst simultaneously calculating whether the amount of water I had swallowed placed me officially in the drowning category.
Besides being optimistic, and obviously competitive, I am also the most dreadful show-off. Give me a twinkle of the limelight, and I’m there, so when I heard about Sydney’s 702 Radio’s opera competition—I was off like a portly greyhound up the track. In what I think is the most inspired competition ever, they asked people to summarize an opera plot in 140 characters—Tweet-sized—with the prize of a walk-on role on the opening night of La Traviata, which is performed on a giant stage in the middle of Sydney Harbour at the end of this month.
The mere thought of the opportunity of nipping on stage, frocked up, in company with half of Opera Australia—in mercifully for all concerned, a non-singing role—was enough to get me stirred into an operatic frenzy. There is the added bonus of four tickets to opening night for my adoring public, or my family.
The fact I know nothing about opera plots beyond the fact that most of them can be summarized with the words, “Bad news Mother, all dead,” didn’t deter me in the slightest. I am now a walking compendium of frankly bizarre plots and have also been introduced to one of the funniest books on the topic—The Times Opera Notes by Robert Thicknesse, who reduced me to the great snorts of laughter befitting a true operatic diva.
Just as well, I’ve had some fun out of the whole thing, because the winner is announced today, first costume fitting tomorrow, and sad to report, the phone hasn’t rung. Time to throw myself on the floor in a travesty of grief whilst reaching for a high note and beating my breast.