Notes from the Underground

“I have tickets for Notes From The Undergound and my sister is sick and can’t make it. Would you like to join me?” read the mid-afternoon text from a friend. Having no plans for Saturday night, I immediately said yes. And then I looked it up. Ah yes, I’d read the novella by Dostoyevsky maybe twenty five or thirty years ago at uni or afterwards. I remembered it was quite bleak, dealing with the story of a man going through an existential crisis. The opening paragraph of the book is pretty full on.

I am a sick man. … I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don’t consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can’t explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “pay out” the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well–let it get worse!

On top of all that, the work was an opera, and I’d read it was “difficult” musically. Nonetheless, I thought it would be a fun thing to do, especially since there were a few other people I knew who were going to be there.

And guess what? I really enjoyed it. Yes, it’s “difficult”. But the narrative of the protaganist was actually clearer than when I’d read the book all those years ago. “I think we’ve all been there in our darker moments”, I said to a friend of a friend when he asked me what I thought of the grim subject matter. And visually, it’s quite spectacular, with a large stage, an orchestra for the most part behind a curtain, and a front of stage with horder-like qualities, as you’ll see from the photograph.

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