Just when you thought you were safe! Never fear, I'll be (for me) brief. Count yourselves lucky. If I'd managed to write this post within 48 hours of the performance, it would have been a very, very long one. At this distance I have calmed down slightly. Slightly. We'll get to that.
But the evening did not have a promising beginning. For the very first time in my entire operagoing life, I lost my ticket. Five minutes earlier, it had been in my hand, but when I went to make a final check — I check my tickets obsessively — it had disappeared. Panic. I dashed to the service desk and a pathetically comical scene ensued: me, digging through my bag, reaching through the hole in the lining and triumphantly pulling out ticket after ticket only to find that they were all for other things — Lady Macbeth, Dawn Upshaw, The Magic Flute, a January Butterfly — while the very nice woman at the desk said, anxiously, "I'm trying to find your ticket but you've booked for so many performances of Butterfly, it's just a bit difficult..."
Serves me right for being such a mad person, doesn't it? She did find it, however, and I dashed into the theatre with a minute or two to spare. After such an inauspicious start, I hesitated to look at my cast list in case Cheryl had cancelled yet again. (I've been preparing myself for the possibility for weeks, figuring that even though January's illness would surely be gone by March, it was only 9 days since her final Paris Butterfly, so one might forgive the woman if she wanted a break.)
Cheryl did sing, however. She more than sang. It was that rare phenomenon, one of Those Nights. There was some special little flicker in her entrance — in that pink kimono, in that irresistible smile, in the barely contained excitement of her "Amiche, io son venuta" — which made me suspect that magic was about to happen, and happen it did. This was the Cheryl Barker Butterfly I'd been waiting for, the Cheryl Barker Butterfly to which all others had been leading. Searing and sweet and adorable and devastating — everything I've learned to expect from a Cheryl Barker Butterfly, but intensified.
I could write a lot more. Except that I don't actually think I could. There will be plenty more words to come: with three more performances, I'm afraid that's inevitable. Right now, though, there's really no point dressing this experience up in my fawning and flourishes. I'd rather just to let it sit in my memory and glow. At least until Friday night when, gods willing, she sings again.