By Jonathan Bradley

We were lucky enough, this night, to attend the Lagos ‘Sim! Opera’ performance.

The stage was familiar to all those who have attended the various concerts over the years down at the main squares. It had been taken out of mothballs and dust sheets and erected for our pleasure in a temporary home, in the shadow of the Camara building. Roads had been closed, the fencing screen-netted against onlookers, and only the half moon and a couldn’t-be-bothered stork oversaw proceedings on a warm evening.

In line with our current Covid status in stricken Lagos, the event was run along austere lines. The tickets were limited and all seating was spaced one and a half metres apart. Given that most people arrived in pairs, this wasn’t perhaps the best use of space and too often resulted in people leaning across the divide to talk with and to share their experience. We and they are still learning. Masks were compulsory and a fair few of the musicians were similarly clad.

Before I get to the event itself I’ll add just one piece of advice for anyone thinking of attending any similar upcoming concerts. Bring a seat cushion, unless you’ve been over indulgent on the pastel de nata front and have built up some posterior padding of your own. Plastic seating; I rest my case, and my skinny butt

Right, the performance; a good selection of crowd-pleasing numbers from Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi and Rossini. But I’m not a critic, and the main point here is, all the performers and artists were brilliant. The soprano whose delivery would’ve blown wigs off the front row, the tenor who came alive in ensemble pieces, the baritone so much a showman performer you expected a rabbit-from-hat magical flourish. The conductor whose emotive body language made nonsense of the mask he wore; the orchestra who did what they should have been doing for the past year, and loved it. The choral ensemble, barely glimpsed but clearly bathing in an excuse to raid their closets, dress up and soak up some stagelight and moonlight.

It was actually quite humbling, that so many people, almost 40 on stage at one point, were giving so much to so few people (thanks to social distancing), and for so little outlay on our part. I am cowed to reveal what we paid for this privilege, ashamed that our applause would never be sufficiently copious. (Oh, OK then, 5 meagre euros.)

The face mask, a pain normally, managed to absorb a few tears as I gave in to the sharp sting of melancholia, thinking of how many things, people, experiences, life, we had all been missing for so long, presented anew to us by people whose lives and livelihoods had in turn been crushed and sidelined by this damned pandemic.

Thank you Lagos, the best of all places.

Photo © Câmara Munincipal de Lagos