La Bohème – The Opera That Goes Wrong

This past week I have been playing for La Bohème with Leeds Youth Opera, conducted by Tom Newall. It’s been a bit of an unbelievable week, so I thought I’d take you through it day by day.

Day 1 – Monday

I got into my car on Monday morning ready for my weekly shift at Chets, only to find that my car’s battery was completely dead. Victor wasn’t going anywhere. Time to run for the tram.

This was very concerning as obviously I needed to get my harp to Leeds for the dress rehearsal that night, and it wouldn’t fit in anyone’s car but mine. Luckily, Tim’s client that morning is a car mechanic and he agreed to look at Victor that afternoon. He diagnosed a dead battery, and ordered and fitted a new one that day! So I was able to take my harp to Leeds. Hurray!

I agreed to give three members of the orchestra a lift back to Manchester that night, and as I was putting the back seats upright in my car, I managed to drop my car keys down the gap between the seats and the floor of the boot. Time for another mini-panic. Managed to eventually get them out and off we went. I just assumed this was ‘one of those days’.

Day 2 – Tuesday

It snowed all day on Tuesday, and I hate driving in the snow, luckily for us it didn’t settle and we got to Leeds and back with not too much drama. Really enjoying the music and being back ‘in the pit’.

Day 3 – Wednesday

Wednesday was performance number one so everyone was feeling a little nervous. We had pretty much a full house at the Carriageworks Theatre and it went really quite well for a first night. Puccini melodies are swimming around my brain and probably will be for quite some time.

Got home around midnight, straight to bed.

Day 4 – Thursday

Another morning shift at Chets, and I was definitely beginning to feel like I was burning the candle at both ends. The car starts but the battery warning light is on, and that meant the battery wasn’t charging, which points to a faulty alternator. I tried to ignore it. I’d agreed to give Sara, Elliot and Ethan a lift to Leeds and you can’t bail just because a warning light comes on.

Amazingly, the light went off as I was going home at lunchtime so I just put it down to the light coming on for no reason.

I picked up my passengers and off we went. Once we hit the motorway, there it was again, the battery warning light. I wasn’t sure how long the battery would last without being charged, maybe we could make it to Leeds?


Firstly, the heated back window stopped working, then the car’s heating failed. Not good when there’s four people in the car and it’s misting up fast. My windscreen wipers stopped working, that’s really not what you want going over the M62 in the pouring rain. The lights on my dashboard went out and finally I lost power steering. Time to pull over and assess our options.

Try not to panic.

Try not to cry.

I’d never broken down before, and I’d never ever been unable to make it to a gig because of my car. I felt awful, like I was letting the orchestra and the cast down, but there was nothing I could do except call my breakdown cover. They eventually arrived around 7:30pm (the start of the show) and told me they couldn’t fix it by the side of the road, where did I want them to take the car?

I could only see one option here, to get the car back to Manchester, what good is a dead car in Leeds? Where would I sleep? How would I get it fixed? We decided to head back to Manchester (at a cost of £90) and performance two happened with no harp, no bassoon, and one fewer violin and one fewer trombone.

I got in touch with Paul, who fitted my new battery on Monday, and he let me drop the car at a garage in Chorlton, ready to be looked at in the morning and fitted with a new alternator. Paul is a hero.

Unbelievably, around this time, a coach I follow on YouTube released this video, is she psychic?

Seriously, go and follow her, she’s amazing.


Day 5 – Friday

I asked Tom to give me a lift on Friday as my car was clearly going nowhere. I quite enjoyed the novelty of not being a designated driver. I’m so used to being the driver, it feels weird to not have that control and to just let someone else do it for a change.

I was really feeling very zen about it all until we got about half way home after the show (which, by the way, went really well). Tom’s car started making a weird noise. It got louder and louder until he had to pull over.

Flat tyre.

I mean, what? Stuck on the M62 two days in a row how did this happen?! We waited in the freezing cold for over an hour while a new tyre was fitted. Got home at 1:30am. Am I cursed?

The funny thing is, we could not stop laughing about it. You literally could not make it up. I’m glad that I wasn’t on my own when my car broke down, and that Tom wasn’t alone when his tyre punctured. When you’re with people it’s easier to see the funny side at it and just marvel at why the universe might be doing this.


Day 6 – Saturday

The final show! Feeling pretty tired and drained by this point. Managed to get there in my car with no warning lights or other drama. Gave Sara a lift home and drove through some pretty horrid fog, wind and rain, but by that point I felt like if I could handle the week up until then, I can handle this.

Home by 11:30pm. Time for sleep and rest. I need rest.

La Bohème is a fabulous opera and it was a great show. I so enjoyed being a part of it. Here’s the funny thing though, the music, and the playing, are the easy bits. It’s the bits in between that provide the biggest challenges. I laugh too at the idea that people in the audience see me sitting behind the harp looking serene, have no idea of the drama involved in actually getting there.


Just one more thing to mention in this week’s post (well done for getting this far!) For those of you who support me on Patreon, they’ve released Lens – part of the mobile app that acts like Instagram Stories. I love Instagram Stories, as you probably know if you follow me, but the idea of stories especially for Patrons is fabulous!

So if you haven’t already, download the Patreon app and have a look. In line with my intention to be releasing more content over there, I’ve changed the structure from donations per video to donations monthly. This means patrons will only be charged once per month, even if I release more than one video. Patrons also get early access to these blog posts and my videos.

So there we are! What a week. I’m spending Sunday recharging and taking it really easy on myself. Cooking some wholesome food, doing some yoga and having a long bath will all probably occur at some point.

I hope your Sunday is a restful one. I’ll see you here next week! Don’t forget to follow me on twitter, instagram and youtube too.

Chat soon,

A x

You may also like

Leave a Reply