“My First Night at the Opera” with Craig Leiper

French brie and cranberry jam, a man and another man at the Alter, Harriet Harman and a first-class honours degree, Donald Trump and an exit wound: some things just go together.

But me, Craig Leiper and the Opera? I wasn’t so sure.

For the first time ever, my Saturday night was spent rubbing shoulders with Edinburgh’s metropolitan elite, a social experiment above all else, was it possible for me to have an enjoyable night at the theatre?

My chosen opera: “The Trial” by Philip Glass, adapted from the novel by Franz Kafka. 


Veg Jalf: D-wicious. A fine, fine wine.

 Pre-Theatre (Pre-Op)

I had all the best intentions, to pre-theatre and do it right: a vegetable Jalfrezi cooked from scratch accompanied by a glass or two of red wine whilst researching some of Kafka’s works on YouTube.

However, the execution left a lot to be desired as I was running late – the large chunks of veg needed half an hour to cook (I still managed to sneak in two glasses of wine).

While the curry was simmering, I began watching a Will Self documentary on Kafka but soon grew tired of his weasel like face and droning voice; although I agree with many of his views, I wanted to see someone poking fun at him.

Clicking on a Question Time highlights video, I grew agitated as Carol Vordeman played the role of “concerned middle England mother” and no one was making fun of Self and his ferret like exterior. Cycling through Youtube videos is a dangerous game to play.

I was getting ready to head off as Andrew Neil’s disgusting, fat, cherry coloured face appeared on my screen, with his cleft chin reflecting in the studio lights like a shiny backside. It was time to go.

I opted for a grey blazer and burgundy shirt top half but couldn’t shake the feeling I looked more “Hearts Under 21’s” than “grande bourgeoisie”.


Delving into the world of Opera. Hard.

Pre-Op (Opera)

After collecting my ticket, I walked down some steps to a bar in the wings of theatre.

There was a hum in the air, a sophisticated hum; people were discussing their expectations for the opera and views on global current affairs aka Trump. No one seemed to be gasping for a drink in the same way I was. But, after a few I really do get on a roll, guilty as charged.

I was slightly irritated by the fact I was attending solo. No one was there to hear my cheeky jibes at the expense fellow theatre goers.

A couple went to the bar and asked for a red wine, the “large” was £5 for 175 ml (which is actually a standard medium glass) but they both seemed a little unsure and chose a small instead. 

They looked like the kind of couple who go jogging together in unbranded clothing, eat butternut squash (even though it tastes like the turnips pretentious cousin) and only make love in the missionary position so God can`t see their faces from above.

However, there would be plenty of time to silently ridicule people during the interval. Now, it was time to witness my first Opera.

The Op (opera)

The stage lay bare apart from a solitary iron bed, below in the theatre underbelly/dug-out area the orchestra was warming up, doing stretches and probably having a laugh at the conductors expense.

The man sat next to me was reading a book, typical. I interrupted him to ask him his thoughts and expectations for the opera. He told me his name was Robin and I had no reason to disbelieve him.”It’s definitely one of Kafka’s most accessible works, I’m really looking forward to it” said my new friend. I didn’t know what to say but I made some intelligent sounds.

Half way through the second act disaster struck: the King’s reached a perfect 24 degrees. My pre-theatre veg jalf lay heavy in my gut and my fourth glass of fine, fine wine was just settling… I fell asleep, in a Kafkaesque way.

The lights went on and applause filled the room, I woke to Robin excitedly asking me “So, what did you think?”

I thought he had caught me sleeping and this comment was a wise crack, but I could see in his eyes he was sincere. Again, I mumbled something about staying true to the book but had a horrible taste in my mouth, time for more wine. NOMNOMNOM


The cast of the Trial. Great bunch of lads.

At the interval I spoke with two medical students, one was really into Kafka and the opera, the other was a pretender, like me. I made deliberate eye contact with him as he spoke:

“Like yeah, I’ve read a lot of Kafka stuff and I think this is a good representation of his work”


Heading back to my seat, I appreciated the ornate ceiling of the King’s and wondered why none of the opera actors were as good looking as the beautiful ginger mermaid with her nipple out, depicted above.

I reasoned that theatre actors weren’t chiseled or athletic because they had spent so long perfecting their craft and had little time for anything else. Their lack of beauty and wealth of talent deserves our respect. The actor who played “Titorelli” the painter had a little bit of something going on:  I requested a rain jacket for my seat.


Titorelli, the painter.  Elgan Llyr Thomas

Final Comments

Everyone should go to an opera once in their life to witness a high end piece of performance art.

Hearing an orchestra play live is genuinely impressive; although it could be improved with the introduction of an electric guitar for some ripping solo’s, dude.

The script or “Libretto” was strong but if they made the couplets rhyme it would have been far more memorable. I’m not looking for “We will Rock you” but come on.

Looking around, I didn’t see a single monocle, fur coat or high end prostitute. Everyone was incredibly middle class and enthusiastic. Shame really.

Glass and Kafka combined to the audiences delight, a real triumph. But, the unsung hero of the night was Leiper: he played a blinder.

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