The Observer Newspaper has for some time been showcasing the work of the acclaimed photographer Jane Bown. Last Sunday's portrait was of the famous philosopher and academic Sir Isaiah Berlin, who was on the Board of Directors at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, during the 1980s.
Seeing the photograph, the Scraper was reminded of the following story:-
Sir Isaiah Berlin
Members of the Orchestra had been invited to a reception in the Crush Bar at the Opera House, where the Scraper and a colleague were engaged in conversation by Sir Isaiah. The name Stravinsky came up and prompted the great man to recall the occasion, some twenty years earlier, when the 50th anniversary of the first performance of the Rite Of Spring, in Paris in 1913, was being celebrated at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Pierre Monteux had conducted the premiere and his services had been secured to conduct the anniversary concert.
Stravinsky, who had never admired Monteux, was invited to the celebration.
Stravinsky accepted. He had no intention of attending the actual performance but he was willing to take a bow afterwards.
He therefore contacted his old friend, Sir Isaiah, and asked him to obtain six tickets for that night's performance, at the Royal Opera House of 'The Marriage of Figaro', which customarily had three intervals. Stravinsky planned to leave during the third interval, jump into a waiting taxi and reach the Albert Hall just in time to take the applause.
Unfortunately, this particular production provided for no more than a quick scene change before the last act, and when Stravinsky and his party rose to leave, the usherette rushed up and whispered urgently, " Sir, there is no interval, you cannot leave your seats".
Stravinsky, undeterred, continued the exodus and, from his great height, looked down on the unfortunate usherette, and said loudly, " We all have diarrhoea, we are leaving!"