Previously I'd walked through the Thames Tunnel: constructed between 1825 and 1843 it was the first underneath a navigable river built by the father and son pair of Brunels.
The money kept running out so there wasn't enough for a gently sloping access route and instead the two access shafts were converted into entrances with a narrow ramp around their cylindrical sides. After the tunnel got taken over by the tube (and then the Overground railway (*)) the entrance shaft was disused for over a century.
Recently the tunnel got upgraded and as part of that work the shaft was converted into a performing space adjacent to the Brunel Museum. Here I heard The Opera Box perform a number of works, including:
- Szymanowski's Six Songs of a Fairytale Princess
- Butterworth's Six Songs from a Shropshire Lad
- Debussy Ariettes Oubliees
- Berg's Der Wein
- Menotti's The Telephone
It was an amazing experience. The small size of the space meant you were a few metres from the performers and the acoustics were incredible.
In the interval we had an interesting talk by Robert Hulse, Director of the Brunel Museum, about the tunnel's construction.
The Bergs was particularly memorable as the singer walked round with bottles of wine which she gave to members of the audience (almost me, then she veered to my neighbour).
Most moving was the Butterworth, particularly the last, My Team Ploughing, a conversation between two friends, one alive and the other dead. The performer was dressed as a soldier, like Butterworth himself who was killed in the First World War.
The next evening was to be a third concert in an interesting place, namely the Tower Bridge Bascule Chamber but I got distracted by another...
(*) yes I know, this is an underground bit of overground railway. London transport geeks will of course be aware that there is a place where the Overground railway goes under the Underground railway.