Les Toreadors and Habanera from Georges Bizet’s Carmen are still some of my favorite pieces of music. I remember the first time my parents took my brother and me to see Carmen at the Helikon Opera Theatre in Moscow, Russia. Now, I’m not a huge fan of operas (mostly because I don’t have the attention span to sit in one spot and watch and listen to people standing on stage in pretty much the same place and singing for three to five hours) but the Helikon, helmed artistic director Dmitri Bertman, managed to put on very creative and compelling productions. That, combined with the fact that the theatre itself is very small and intimate, brought a heightened and more visceral level of drama to the operas.
The Helikon was this tiny little theatre tucked away in a pistachio-green 18th century building on Bolshaya Nikitskaya street, close to where we lived. I remember the theatre had matching pistachio-green walls with elaborate gold-plated crown molding and more chandeliers than I had ever seen in one place. The Helikon was my favorite theatre out of all the ones we frequented, and it was where my love for acting first started.
During intermission they’d serve wine and champagne and an assortment of desserts. There was one dessert that I always got. I don’t remember what it was called but it was basically something of huge marshmallow coated in hard chocolate, resting on a wafer. To be honest, it doesn’t sound quite that appetizing to me now, but clearly it was back then! Anyway, I would always get that one particular dessert, regardless of what theatre we went to. We would patronize the Helikon quite often, and after a certain point, the ladies behind the refreshment credenza would start serving up my mutant chocolate-covered marshmallow as soon as they saw my father – with me traipsing behind him – approaching.
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