Jane Merrick: Her tiny hand is frozen, and it's an absolute disgrace

Over 20 years, only four of 90 goals had seen major progress

Related Topics

While everyone else watched England beat Ukraine on Tuesday night, I was at the Royal Opera House for La bohème. It was billed a highlight of Covent Garden's year: opera's off-again, on-again power couple Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu were performing for the first time in years, two decades after meeting on the same stage in the same production of Puccini's masterpiece.

But, like the football in Donetsk, it was a row about technology that overshadowed the evening. As the overture began, the heavy stage curtains failed for the first time ever, thanks to an electrical fault. A stage assistant, without a microphone, emerged to shout that they were trying to fix the problem. But no one in the upper amphitheatre, where we sat, could hear her, and it took 30 minutes to sort it out. Cue lots of booing, well-spoken shouts of "Get on with it!" and "Speak up!". There are worse places to sit and wait for half an hour than in an opera house – such as a garret room in 19th-century Paris. But elements of the audience insisted on behaving badly. Yes, it is not only football terraces where abusive behaviour is rife, but the red velvet seats of the Royal Opera House. You may think it is a privilege to witness the real-life off-stage love story of two great opera singers turn into the on-stage reunion, in the highly charged roles of a Parisian poet and his consumptive lover. But not for these impatient, ill-mannered posh hooligans. The complaints continued through the interval.

A good education and upper-class background do not make for good manners, it seems: think of the legendary, drink-fuelled antics of the Bullingdon Club, or its most famous alumnus, David Cameron, sneering at MPs at the Dispatch Box. An Old Etonian in Downing Street may not have made posh hooliganism more commonplace, but why should it be tolerated?

If the Royal Opera House made its performances more accessible, might a new, more appreciative audience take over? Covent Garden has tried cheaper tickets, runs an outreach programme, and the dress code is relaxed. But audiences remain dominated by the white middle classes. Cost is not the issue: a decent seat in the upper amphitheatre is £55, but for that you get two hours, 20 minutes of world-class opera. That's 39p a minute. Expensive, yes, but cheaper than top-flight football. The cheapest match-day ticket across town at Chelsea costs £36 for 90 minutes, or 40p a minute. Uefa is charging similar prices for Euro Championship seats.

German football has Mario Gomez, but the greatest tenor of his generation is his countryman Jonas Kaufmann. Find his "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca on YouTube and you'll cry like Gazza. Alagna's rendition of "Che gelida manina" from La bohème can stun audiences like Mario Balotelli's breathtaking side volley against Ireland. Even if we have to wait a bit longer, great opera, like great football, is worth it. Try telling that to the boors in Row G.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions