SERIES On Wings Of Song by Joyce Begg
A family holiday results in an unforgettable experience.
NORMALLY, the Martin family took their summer holidays in Britain, and over the years had sampled the delights of seaside resorts all around the country.
They had been eaten by midges in Harris, and burned to a crisp in Hastings. They had been rained on in Falmouth and bronzed in Fife. They had also visited Lizzie’s parents in Oxfordshire.
Lizzie and David had never taken their children abroad. They had camped round Europe in a tent when they were child-free, but had no wish to embark on the same kind of break with two teenagers. However, it felt time for a proper holiday.
It was back in the spring that David had raised the idea.
“Once Hannah is at uni, she won’t want to come with us anywhere at all. This might be our last chance for us all to go together. We might even manage to push the boat out and go abroad. What do you think?”
Lizzie was all for it. “You’re right. They’re not little kids now. Where were you thinking of?” David shrugged. “Italy?”
Lizzie could feel her back straighten. Italy! That sounded wonderful.
All the Martins had been on planes before, but there was still a feeling of excitement about having a coffee while watching the screen for their flight.
David had a print-out of the hotel where they were booked in, and read from it with enthusiasm while eating a chocolate muffin.
“A modest family hotel,” he said, “with access to the beach. Local events and places to visit, it says here.” Hannah frowned. “Not sure I like the sound of that. I bet it means loads of museums and historical buildings and things.”
“A bit of culture will do you no harm at all,” Lizzie said reprovingly.
“There might be some Roman remains,” Adam said thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t mind that.”
When they arrived at the hotel, it met all their expectations. The people who ran the hotel spoke good English and were keen to use it.
It was a couple of days into the holiday, after 48 hours of sun, sea, markets and excellent food, that Lizzie noticed a particular item in the evening entertainments on offer.
Apparently there was a town in the hills above them which boasted its own Roman amphitheatre, with intermittent operatic performances.
“My goodness!” she exclaimed. “They’re doing ‘La Bohème’! In an Italian mountain town!” David raised his brows. “Do you fancy going?” “Do I fancy going?” Lizzie repeated incredulously. “To an open-air performance in an Italian amphitheatre? I should say so!”
The children were not quite so enthusiastic, but they could see this might be a one-off experience. The lady who ran the hotel was applied to, and information about tickets was immediately forthcoming. In fact, she booked everything for them, right there in the hotel.
“Ain’t technology wonderful?” David said.
There was little modern technology about the amphitheatre in the hills. Like the town itself, everything seemed to be in miniature. It was still a solid Roman building, but the curve of the seats and the nearness of the stage made everything more intimate.
“If they’re professional opera singers, they’ll deafen us,” David said, settling on his cushion.
“The programme says they’re students,” Hannah said. She looked around. “I don’t see any microphones. How can anyone sing without a microphone?”
“The Romans did,” Adam told her. “The Romans were fantastic.”
“I bet the students are, too,” Lizzie predicted.
She was right. As the non-roman electric lights faded, and concentrated on the stage, the characters emerged from the darkness and performed just yards in front of them. In no time, all four Martins were caught up in the magic of the experience.
The singing was fresh, young and full of feeling.
As the final notes of the opera faded away, and the tragedy playing out in front of them darkened into the night, there was an astonished silence before the applause started. Eventually, Lizzie was able to join in.
“Wonderful,” she whispered, tears standing in her eyes.
Her husband smiled down at her. “Wonderful,” he agreed. Neither of the youngsters commented, but Lizzie was sure that the experience in the Roman amphitheatre would stay with them for life.
More next week.