Cabbages and kings

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John Webber will give a multimedia presentation at Mesa Public Library

By Special to the Monitor

“Cabbages and Kings, Cauliflowers and Callas: The Royal Opera, Vegetables, Fruit and Flowers in London’s Covent Garden in the 1960s,” a multimedia presentation by John Webber, will be from 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday at Mesa Public Library.
The presentation features extracts from the 1994 film of “My Fair Lady” and “Every Day Except Christmas,” a 1957 documentary on the Covent Garden Market. Images of the market, the opera house and opera programs will accompany audio and video extracts of the great productions from 1958 to 1970, amongst which will be the 1958 Visconti “Don Carlos” and the famous 1964 Zeffirelli “Tosca” with Callas and Gobbi, Act II of which was captured on film.
There was Bjorling’s “La Boheme,” in 1960 just before he died, Joan Sutherland’s 1959 and 1960 “Lucia di Lammermoor” triumphs and Tito Gobbi’s “Macbeth” (1960), plus his 1965 “Simon Boccanegra” and Leontyne Price’s 1970 “Il Trovatore,” a revival of the famous Visconti “black and white” production from 1964.
 Webber will look back to what it was like “growing up” to opera while spending many nights and very many early mornings surrounded by the cauliflowers, the cabbages and the camaraderie of the very British “queue” for opera tickets. 
Amongst Webber’s greatest memories of the era was the time in May 1959 when he spent three balmy nights and days waiting to buy tickets to see Maria Callas and Jon Vickers in Cherubini’s “Medea.” 
Shortly after Webber moved to San Francisco in 1971, London’s Covent Garden market, with its all-night cafés and pubs, soon became a vanished world when it was closed down and moved across the River Thames to a much more modern and efficient new facility in Nine Elms in 1974.
 John Webber grew up in England, went to his first opera at the Royal Opera House in 1958 to see Leontyne Price in “Aida” and spent much of the next 12 years hanging out there before discovering that San Francisco also had a great opera company as well.