SE­RIES On Wings Of Song by Joyce Begg

A fam­ily hol­i­day re­sults in an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence.

The People's Friend - - News -

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.

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