stage left. Dame Joan Sutherland was one of the great voices of the operatic world of the last century. At 83 she was perhaps not particularly old but she had been ill and, without opera, I wonder what her life was like.
I met her once, very briefly. It was not at the opera. I do not particularly care for opera although I would never have said it to her. We both happened to be in the same area of the university I was attending at the time. My exchange with her would not even have occurred except that she happened to know my companion. They had both been students together in Sydney. They were both now expatriates.
Dame Joan appeared very pleased to see an old friend and, on learning why we were there, also seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing. On learning of my involvement she asked me questions about "why" and "how" I had become involved. They were not casual questions either but followed up with questions that suggestions she had listened to the answers and wanted to know more. It was the sort of brief conversation I have had a number of times with people who live apparently full, busy and satisfactory VIP sort of lives. They really do not want to talk about themselves at that point and there is a luxury in asking questions rather than having to answer them.
When she had been whisked away my companion said, "She must lead a hell of a life really." I had to agree.
There would have been long hours, physically exhausting rehearsals and even more exhausting performances. There would have been strange theatres, dreadful accommodation when she first began, strange hotel rooms, uncomfortable costumes, roles she did not particularly like or want but felt she had to perform. There would have been the requirement to go on stage and perform her very best no matter how she was feeling. There would have been the adrenalin highs yes but the lows would have much more numerous. There would have been the hours and hours of working alone or with just one other person.
All the standing ovations would not have made up for that. You can be very alone in a crowd of admirers.