Last evening I attended the concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House. The ticket declared “Strictly no cameras or recording devices”, so with reluctance I left my trusty camera at home.
Shuffling along in the bag check line, I congratulated myself on my wisdom. Those burly security guards would, I was sure, take grim pleasure in confiscating my Canon. However, when it transpired that the bag check consisted of nothing more than a cursory glance at the top of my rucksack, virtue turned to regret. I could easily have tucked a camera much bigger than mine in there, and no one would have noticed. Regret turned to anger once the event began: from the opening notes of the didgeridoo (part of a stunning ‘Welcome to country’ ceremony by the Traditional Owners) and the first dance steps by members of the Aboriginal dance troops, cameras and phones all around me recorded each moment of the entire evening.
It appeared that I was the only schmuck following the rules.
And what images I lost! I have attended other concerts held outside on the opera house’s forecourt, and no doubt will again, but this celebration of our beloved, iconic building will not happen again (well, not until the 50th anniversary rolls around, and who knows where I’ll be then?).
And yet …
There was something curiously liberating in not having a camera. I was freed from the compulsion to record the moment, able to simply let the music and the evening light wash over me, to revel in their inherent transience. The true nature of special moments can no more be captured in pixels than the tension in those notes in the build-up in the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, which closed the evening, can be captured in sound. I’ve attended more performances of this work than I can recall, but my hair still stands on end when 100 powerful voices burst forth with “Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium” (Joy, beautiful spark of the divinity, Daughter of Elysium).
There are some things in life that you must simply experience.
Mind you, when the fireworks exploded low in the sky behind the opera house, and I was standing in the most perfect spot for a shot, I thought, “Sod the transience of the moment, I want my camera!”
(The image below is a screen grab from the ABC News website. Click the link to see a larger image.)