Thursday, 2 February 2006

Shaggy dog story

The illustrations which have appeared in Other Men’s Flowers lately have been rather dreary, so for a nice change here is a picture of a Pyrenean Mountain Dog (a rather up-market kind of St. Bernard).

The late Bernard Levin told the (true) story of a splendid incident during a performance of Carmen by the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company in Bournemouth. In the middle of the smugglers’ scene a gigantic specimen of this breed belonging to one of the officials wandered on to the stage; it was a friendly beast and had the run of the building of which the theatre was a part.
Many of the audience who were unfamiliar with the opera thought it was a part of the scene and were charmed; others who knew better were doubtless even more charmed. The dog eventually roamed downstage opposite the conductor where it became hypnotised by the baton, which by then was being used partly to conduct the music and partly to try to shoo the beast away.
Unfortunately, he was used to having people throw sticks for him to fetch and was convinced that the baton was about to be thrown. When it wasn't, the dog became cross and emitted a series of mournful barks. These, when added to the cries of 'Piss off!' which the understandably irritated Carmen (who had been surreptitiously trying to kick it to no avail) was contributing to the uproar, finally persuaded those in charge to bring the curtain down.
And not a moment too soon, I imagine, except for those who would have loved it all to have gone on for hours longer.

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