I cannot remember which opera it was, but I was undoubtedly well into my teens when my father ventured to take me along with my brothers to my first performance. We had been frequently exposed to a range of experiences in the arts including theatrical events ranging from the first pantomimes to Shakespearean drama. But opera seemed to be regarded as of a different nature, something special. Previously only my youngest brother, the most musical of us three and the only one who was musical in a practical sense, had been taken to visit a touring production that visited the Scottish city where we lived. Later when we were still at school our father took us down to London for a long weekend, where on our itinerary were outings to the Royal Opera House (ROH), Covent Garden, to see Aidaand Tosca. I remember the operas, not least because of the spectacle and the music – some of which was familiar to me from recordings – but also because our father took a box. It was probably the first time I had been so close to the operatic stage. I remember being interested to find firstly that the view from a box was extremely restricted and not nearly as attractive as it seemed from other seats. To this day I remember aspects of the productions of course but more than anything the fascination of some of the theatrical effects. In particular I recall the ‘torches’ mounted at the side of the stage. The ‘flames’ around each rim were cut out of a material such as tissue paper or cloth. Illuminated from within, they rippled in a jet of air that hissed up through the torch. I remember being fascinated by this example of theatrical illusion and wondering whether they looked more realistic from other seats in the opera house.